In Search Of…

Art by Sean Phillips from

Art by Sean Phillips from

Investigations are part and parcel of being a creative person especially a fiction writer. Something triggers a thought and that leads to one thing, which leads to another and likely to another.

But what’s the trigger? A piece of conversation. A throwaway line of dialogue in a film. A song lyric. The way a sunbeam falls across a picture in the living room. The way a bird is perched in a tree. The snake that’s ready to steal the bird’s eggs.

Any of these can lead me down an investigatory path.

Like Sara, I love to learn and keep on learning. Like her I have learned to read and appreciate reading for information. I can’t read as much non-fiction as she does (One a month? That’s waaaay beyond me.) but I do read a couple of magazines that get delivered to the house, usually from cover to cover. I’m reading more fiction than ever before, though, and reading a wider range of genres (including literary fiction) more than ever before, too.

Usually if I’m researching the physics I need for a science fiction story I can go far, far afield looking for the fringe stuff. Which almost always leads me to watching hours and hours of UFO ‘footage’ on YouTube.

Recently I started doing some digging on the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights and found quite a few articles that kept me engrossed for hours and hours. Then I went to the Internet to dig some more. Probably lost half a day on that one.

But I’m always looking for the piece of information that will lead me to something else. And maybe that something else will lead me farther off the path I’ve chosen.

I could say that the old TV show In Search Of… was the start of it, but in truth it’s really been part of me ever since I learned how to use the library to do research. The World Encyclopedia – that wonderful, paper version of the Internet – was the best thing ever. I learned more in my time with that wealth of information than I did in any one year in public school. Hands down.

What really gets me going is learning about space flight. Well, I should say potential space flight between the planets and eventually the stars. Investigating ideas about planetary propulsion that’s advanced way beyond the chemical fuel lifters that shot us to the moon grabs my imagination and takes hold. I can spend hours and hours reading up on this stuff. I love going down those paths. I’m like a little kid in a toy store when that happens. Or a candy store. Take your pick.

And all of that, all the research I do ends up somehow informing the story whether I use it or not. It all stays somewhere in the back of my brain for later use. I mean, you never know when a supporting character will need to throw out a useless trivia fact to make himself seem important, right?

Yeah I can kill hours and hours reading on a wide variety of subjects ostensibly for ‘research’ purposes and because I say it can be useful in a story or a novel. Maybe I was influenced more by Leonard Nimoy’s show than I thought. Maybe I’m always In Search Of…


Jason Arnett is a storyteller living in Kansas and writing in the plains of the fantastic. Some of his work can be found at

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