Wednesday, 8 May 2013

TCWT, May 2013: Stick 'Em With The Pointy End!

Egads, it's been a VERY long time since I joined a Teens Can Write Too! blog chain, hasn't it? Ah well, this month's prompt was just too awesome to resist - and now that I'm starting to look for more productive ways of procrastinating on my ever-mounting pile of revision, I've decided to jump back in before it's too late.

“What are some of the coolest/weirdest/funniest/most disturbing things you’ve researched for a story?”

Hooo my stars . . . where to begin?
From a matter of personal experience, I think younger authors often have the more amusing stories to tell about researching oddments for stories - less life experience to draw on and all that twaddle. Allowing myself to critically examine my childhood (for, yes, I can now call it childhood!), though, I think it's more down to the interests of the author as to what sort of hilarity and horror they run into in the name of research.
Doubtless you are all expecting me to tell you some tale of the depraved and evil things I have typed into Google for the sake of finding out exactly how far I can push my poor characters before they give up the ghost. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, the finer points of gangrene, ancient painkillers (a short search for a short list!), the side-effects of various mental illnesses, mediaeval torture methods, which everyday kitchen implements can be used as weapons, how long one could survive after being partially vivisected . . . And that's just within the last year.
Today, though, I think I shall share with you an area of research that I find just as fascinating, and which has the added bonus of being less likely to cost your your lunch.
Weapons. Ancient weapons, to be exact.
I'm sure I'm not the only wannabe fantasy author who has a bit of a thing for swords. I was fairly late in picking up the interest, here, but a few history lessons on the Wars of the Roses and an introduction to the works of Bernard Cornwell and Simon Scarrow soon had me hooked on the intricacies of these glorious old weapons. 
Most of my research centred on European weapons, mostly dating from the late Mediaeval period, because that's the sort of time where I tend to set most of my fantasy stories. But, as much as I loved picking up on the differences between longswords, shortswords, and their "bastard sword" cousins, the moment I got a look at some of the other gorgeous weapon variations, I couldn't stop myself. Sabres, rapiers, scimitars, katanas, heck even stiletto daggers - they've all found their way into my search engine sooner or later.
Of course, I've since progressed into a thousand and one other weapons-based obsessions (I'm currently  having a drool over a glorious variety of historical siege engines; ballistas, scorpions, catapults and trebuchets just to name a few), but swords, I think, will always hold a special place in my heart.
And possibly not for the reasons you might think. Of course I can't help but goggle at the precision, time and energy that goes into these things (particularly blades like katanas or scimitars, which often require special treatment in order to get right), not to mention the simply spectacular messes that have been made with them throughout the centuries.
Most of all, though, I love swords because of their cultural significance. Here in Britain, especially, with every wave of invaders that's come to sit on top of their predecessors and call this damp, misty isle their home, each of them has brought their own worldview and, for many, the sword has played a central role. To many of the invaders who became our ancestors, they were more than just tools; they were status symbols, family heirlooms, things with names and histories of their own that often rendered them just as famous as their wielders - what's King Arthur without his Excalibur, after all? 
To me, the sword reflects so much about life the ancient world; as technology progresses, so does the blade, from copper to iron to steel so sharp it slices on contact. Different swords were worn for different occasions - the tourney blade, the ceremonial steel, and the scabbarded menace that's drunk more blood than Dracula on a binge - and, just as these different weapons reflect different aspects of society, they also mirror the multi-faceted nature of human existence. Humans don't just do one thing and repeat it over and over, we are varied beings who need equally varied tools - and the history of the sword reflects that perfectly.
At the same time, although the weapon itself is long outdated, there is something marvellously eternal about a sword. It's a cultural icon of our time, harking back to an age that maintains a hold on our imaginations even today.
I'll end this shamelessly obsessive ramble with some links to a couple of sites I've found particularly good when one's looking for an easy, yet comprehensive, reference for swords and other ancient weapons:
- "Mediaeval Sword Vocabulary"- courtesy of historical fiction author Sarah Woodbury
- "Mediaeval Swords and Armour" - also by Sarah Woodbury, and full of even more useful links!
Now what about you, readers? Does anyone here share my passion for Ye Anciente Weapons of Murder? And what do all of you like to research best?
~ Charley R

Participants:
30th – http://teenscanwritetoo.wordpress.com/ (We’ll announce the topic for next month’s chain)

25 comments:

  1. *squees at the Arya reference in the title*

    I don't know whether this post makes me want to laugh or run away screaming. xD Weapons ARE cool to research - although I've really only looked up stuff about guns, because I write more science fiction than fantasy.

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    1. Don't run away! I won't use my mace on you, promise! ;)

      I write a bit of sci-fi . . . but I always get distracted by gorgeous rapiers and such instead. It's a good thing I don't do straight sci-fi, usually more of a historical bent, otherwise my characters might as well use sticks for all I know about operating their weapons xD

      YAY SOMEONE GOT MY ARYA REFERENCE! *dances for joy*

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  2. OH, CHARLEY! MY COMRADE IN ARMS! (Pun intended) I LOVE SWORDS!

    I've done sword research. My Drake Elliot series is modern day fantasy. The first book is a quest for a sword (the sword of Drake's dragon-slayer ancestor) and the second book has Excalibur in it (owned by a descendant of Morgan La Fey who will be in the rest of the books as will his sword.)
    I'm glad to have some new research sites for swords. Thank you!

    Now, I need to get a sword. I don't have one. I don't have a bow, either (I'm a sorry excuse for a Robin Hood).

    ~Robyn Hoode

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    1. I want a sword, too. We shall have to go questing for swords of our own, between the two of us!

      That series of yours sounds epic!

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    2. Well, would you like to come to America or shall I come to England? I prefer the latter. :) Oh, wait! I've got it! We'll go to New Zealand! Any place where they can film The Lord of the Rings and Narnia and The Hobbit is sure to have some swords lying around!

      Thank you. The series pitch is (currently) "A boy who has been double-dipped into a fairytale world and cursed to be a dragon every night, fights to return his life to normal."

      ~Robyn Hoode

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    3. Yes! New Zealand it is!

      Ooooooh, that sounds absolutely wicked! I'm a sucker for transformations and curses . . . and dragons, of course ;)

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    4. To New Zealand! Death or Glory!

      Thank you. :) I love dragons.

      ~Robyn

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  3. Researching weapons is always fun. Even more fun to get and try them out.

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    1. OH YES. Even if I did nearly shoot the instructor when I did archery . . . and am too weak to lift a full-size two-handed broadsword . . . and was publically humiliated in proving it . . .

      I shall have to tell that story sometime, methinks.

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  4. I think it's safe to say you're a fantasy writer? You're brave. Fantasy combines both research and a rampant imagination, and you seem to have both. Congrats!

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    1. Fantasy, among other things, but it's certainly my greatest love. Thank you so much! If only my degree of research matched up to the ambition of what my imagination wants to do, hee hee!

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  5. Now I really want to write something with swords in it. Thanks for those links!

    I didn't get the Arya reference until I saw Neville's comment, but I think I do now. (This is the Arya from Eragon, right?)

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    1. I think Neville's talking about Arya from Game of Thrones! :D
      (Though I have read Eragon, the first fantasy book I read!)
      And Charley! This post is really nice. I'm so in the mood of killing off one of my character with these!

      -Vee

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    2. Thank you both! I'm glad my links are helpful. And do let me know what manner of fun you have killing off your characters - swords have so many lovely possibilities on that front *grins*

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  6. I completely forgot about the blog chain, especially considering I reminded myself about it this morning. I need to write my post.

    Swords are much more impressive than the search term I'm probably going to post about, which I don't know yet. Congratulations on being awesome even in the privacy of Google.

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    1. Ehehe, thank you very much! I look forward to your post.

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  7. Welcome to the ancient and storied world of the sword! And I have to agree that Britain has the upper hand in that arena... Swords had become officer's regalia by the time they crossed over here. But if you ever get a chance, look into some of the old German/Spanish broadsword manuscripts... they'll show exactly how swords were used!

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    1. Ooooh, thanks for the tips - I'll be diving in there the moment i can extricate myself from the revision I really need to do or else, hee hee!

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  9. Oh, the Knight Shop, I like that one. I gave you the link to that in like 2011 when I was first researching The Quiet Ones :D

    Damn. You didn't go for the fun topic of research that I suggested. Maybe some other time?

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    1. Eyyyyup, that I did! I haunt the place fairly regularly now. Because I've decided that Ikarus needs rapiers in it, dammit! xD

      Errr . . . maybe some other time. In a parallel dimension. In the year of NOT ON YOUR LIFE.

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  11. I was recently researching...icecream flavours. It was like personal torture (but I found some seriously delicious looking flavours...settled on strawberry cheesecake, too, by the way). But weapons sound like a much nicer thing to research. Really. I mean, knowing the correct sword for a certain era is less torturous then mouthwater icecream flavours (I'm never looking that up again).

    Ack! I should have joined in this chain. It has so many devious subjects to delve into... ;)

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    1. Ehehe, ice cream eh? How fascinating!

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