I just read this blog post by Patricia Wrede on research and imagination and thought I'd share.
This is something I've been thinking about for awhile, since I often wonder if I'm over-reaching myself. It sometimes seems outrageous to be writing what I'm writing, about a culture that not only isn't mine, but was mistreated by mine. I'm sure I've mentioned this before. Not long ago, a friend whose culture it is (sort of, though you could argue nobody quite knows precisely what culture that is, as the city which inspired my story disintegrated almost 900 years
ago and everybody argues over where the descendants went and where the
ancestors came from); anyway, this friend warned me that bad things happen to people who over-reach themselves when dealing with such stuff. She casually threw out an ominous warning or two about skin-walkers and other ghostly wreakers of vengeance. And about strange, coincidental accidents.
To those who like to send such curses: I mean my story as a gift. An offering. Please take it as one. Also, as an apology for the evil things my ancestors did to yours.
To Patricia Wrede: Thanks for reassuring me that, no, I don't have to know from personal experience or have been there to write about it, as long as I've done my research and have imagination.
Imagination can make it real. Of course I know that. Does any writer not know it? But your validation gives it authority. So, thank you. Curses are at stake.
Imagination doesn't just mean making things up. It means thinking things through, solving [problems] or hoping to do so, and being just distant enough to be able to laugh at things that are normally painful. [Some people] would call this escapism, but they would be be entirely wrong. I would call fantasy the most serious, and the most useful branch of writing there is.
--Diana Wynne Jones
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