I’m taking time away from fiction writing for a bit (Relax, it’s just the next 2-3 weeks.) to work on a small paper and accompanying construction notes for a speculative medieval European style devil mask creation for an SCA Arts and Sciences display in the beginning of March.
You look at me weird. “Huh?”
I’m writing nerd words a bit like a college paper.
Now you’ve blinked, looked back up at the first paragraph and re-read it, perhaps with your lips moving silently. “I didn’t realize you’re a graduate student,” you say.
“Then why are you doing it?”
I let myself get talked into it. One of my many hobbies involves researching European masking traditions from the medieval era. From my laptop. Because I don’t have the money to travel or the credentials to reasonably expect a museum to respond to my request to “take item X out of storage so I can look at it.”
As I tippy-type away on my tiny paper, painting the medieval devil mask in very broad strokes and muttering to myself (Is that Bodl. MS 5072 fol. 28 or 28r?), I can’t help but snicker.
In my fantasy novels, several of my primary characters are nerds, just like this. There’s action and a villain (not the librarian, although some of the looks those people give makes you wonder if they aren’t), a pinch of romance and whatnot, but at the heart of it all, I seem to need at least one primary character who doesn’t just like books, but enjoys and understands obscure research. The guy who says “Give me a few days in a library and I’ll have it figured out.” The scene in The Lord of the Rings (movie, not book) where Gandolf is in the bowels of a forgotten archive looking for a half-forgotten journal.
My inner nerd and PhD wannabe.
I can wax on forever on this subject. I can talk about the hours I’ve spent looking through digitized museum collections of illuminated manuscripts for margin art confirming mask usage and design. I can show you my Amazon Wish List in which most of the books are dry dissertations that might significantly reference masking, but haven’t purchased because … well … there’s that money thing. I’ve got accounts with jstor.org and oxford journal to dig through back copies that have been scanned and put up online, and though it’s been a few years since I’ve had time to do any of that, I get excited when I think about diving back into it all.
Even the smell of a library can get me excited when I walk through the doors.
Perhaps I write some of my nerdy characters in order to live the thrill of discovery in a library vicariously through fictional means. I mean, if I design the world and the library and the character, of course that means they’ll discover the secret journal on a shelf somewhere.