The research for developing the backdrop in Clemency is encapsulated for the reader in Chapter 7. Here, our lead characters and the reader are openly exposed to the facts surrounding the demise of the ship, and the conditions under which the operation is about to take place. I haven’t hidden anything. Why? Because I believe that there is a difference between research and discovery; between facts and circumstance. One can spend all the time they want researching what a Liberty ship looks like, and make all the plans they wish for dissecting it. But to be in its presence is a completely different matter.
While it is true that the lead characters have the entire mission laid out for them, the actual environment would turn out to be nothing like the facts they had been given. They would be forced to slip from research into discovery, and no two things could have turned out to be farther apart. Research is by its very nature reliant on given facts. Sometimes these facts are derived from previous explorers who make discoveries and bring information back with them. This was at least partly the case in Clemency. But many times, research is contained within sterile conditions. We might know everything there is to know about an object, but we cannot know what it will do in a given environment. This was also the case in Clemency. No level of research could have prepared any of our characters for what they would find when they arrived.
This leads me to the consideration of the term access in fiction. As I touched on last time, I believe that powerful fiction is derived from truth and truth is derived from experience. To derive experience, one has to have access to circumstances which in turn, unlock that experience. Research in fiction is critical to establish plausibility, but access is critical in establishing a backdrop of realism that will engage a reader and propel a story from the realm of plausible to the realm of convincing. It is not enough to know all there is to know about an object, and to be able to blurt back the rote facts about that object. These facts are awash in the public domain.
I have done the research and I have lived the moments. Thank you for coming along with me.