As a writer, I spend almost as much of my time researching my books, stories and blog posts as I do actually writing them. Over the years, I’ve needed to check out things like the population of Miami, the year The Day Of The Triffids was published, the names of characters in the film 28 Days Later, how hurricanes work, what a pneumothorax is and how to treat it, how diseases are transmitted, what the symptoms of rabies are and how long they take to develop, what a pyrocumulonimbus cloud is , how to use a medieval weapon called a pike (which, I found out, is potentially very effective against zombies!), and many other weird and wonderful things.
Like many writers, when I need to find out something new, or remind myself of something I’ve forgotten, I often turn, in the first instance, to Wikipedia. In the last few years, it has gained a reputation as the place to find out anything you need to know, or at least to provide a starting point for looking deeper into things. I also routinely link to Wikipedia articles within my blog posts when I want to point people in the direction of more information on any given topic.
One of the main strengths of Wikipedia is that it is completely independent and is self-funded by donations from its users. This means that there’s no commercial bias, no distracting advertisements, and no risk that it will ever push information to the fore simply because someone has paid them to do it.
This is not to say that Wikipedia is perfect, I would be the first to admit it has its faults, but its funding model keeps its information free to anyone who wishes to access it, and as untainted by commercialisation as it is possible to be in the modern world, and this is important to me as a writer. I need to known that the information I find during my research is as unbiased and accurate as I can get. Only then can I go on and write the articles, blog posts, short stories and books that I want to be able to write, while still having a firm foot in the factual. I also need to know that if I point people towards a web page or site for more information, that it will give them that information rather than try to sell them something.
In many ways, Wikipedia has become the living embodiment of the concept created by Douglas Adams in the 1970s of an electronic guidebook that contained information on anything you could ever want to ask (and a few things you mightn’t want to!). It might not have the comforting message of Don’t Panic! on the cover, but none-the-less Wikipedia has become our generations very own Hitch Hiker’s Guide To The Galaxy. Indeed, Douglas Adam’s went as far as creating his own version of this type of universal, user-driven database of knowledge, H2G2, launching it two years before Wikipedia was even founded.
For these reasons, once a year, around this time, I make a donation to help support Wikipedia and help keep it running on its current non-commercial basis. The amount I donate depends on exactly what type of year I’ve had, but I feel it’s important that in some way, I give back to this resource that has given me, as a writer, so much over the previous 12 months.
If as a writer, you use Wikipedia as part of your research on a regular basis (or indeed if you’re not a writer, but regularly use Wikipedia never-the-less), I would ask you to consider doing the same. It doesn’t have to be a lot, and in some ways the giving is more important than the amount, but consider giving back to this resource which many writers, and indeed many other people, rely on so much to provide them with unbiased, accurate information about almost any subject they wish to learn more about.
From the author of For Those In Peril On The Sea, a tale of post-apocalyptic survival in a world where zombie-like infected rule the land and all the last few human survivors can do is stay on their boats and try to survive. Now available in print and as a Kindle ebook. Click here or visit www.forthoseinperil.net to find out more. To download a preview of the first three chapters, click here.
To read the Foreword Clarion Review of For Those In Peril On The Sea (where it scored five stars out of five) click here.