Viable Paradise: A Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers' Workshop

Suggested Research Reading For Aspiring Fantasists

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Part II: The Nonfiction Stuff...Or, In Quest of Real Toads For
Your Imaginary Garden
Dorothy Hartley
Lost Country Life
A wealth of information on life in rural, pre- to early-industrial England. (Want to know what tenterhooks really are? This'll tell you.)
Food In EnglandFood In England
Tells you what is actually in all those big iron pots so deplored by Diana Wynne Jones.
Elizabeth David English Bread and Yeast Cookery
A truly scholarly cookbook. The entire first section is devoted to the history of grains, milling, yeasts, and breadbaking. Find out why Rumpelstiltskin said, "Today I brew, tomorrow I bake," and what is the relationship between bread and beer, anyway?
Harold McGee On Food and CookingOn Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen
Tells you which fruits grew where and when, and why those, and how carrots used to be purple and why they turned orange, and what did the Romans really eat, and gets into the real science of it.
Margaret Visser
Much Depends On DinnerMuch Depends On Dinner The Rituals of DinnerThe Rituals
of Dinner
Two books on the history of food and dining, from an anthropological/
sociological perspective. (Cultures where the main cooking fat is olive oil are different in a lot of ways from those where the main cooking fat is butter: how and why? Stuff like that.)
Fernand Braudel
Read any or all of his big books on the renaissance and the development of modern capitalism. Here are a couple of titles: ConnectionsThe Wheels of Commerce Structures of Everyday LifeThe Structures of Everyday Life
Bernard Grun The Timetables of HistoryThe Timetables of History
for all the obvious reasons.
James Burke ConnectionsConnections
PBS series on the history of science and technology. Good for giving you an idea of what kinds of things existed together at what level of tech and why.
Terry Jones CrusadesThe Crusades
A four-part documentary series.
M.D. Warren D. Bowman,
Reata Bitter (illustrator)
EMT BookOutdoor Emergency Care: Comprehensive Care for Nonurban Settings
For maiming your characters right, and for giving them plausible symptoms. It'll also tell you more about medicine than most physicians knew before the 20th century.
Paul Veyne The History of Private LifeThe History of Private Life
Four volumes, full of good stuff. The past is another country sometimes, if not another planet; space aliens live there.
Eliot Wigginton (editor) FoxfireThe Foxfire Books
Oral histories of life in Appalachia, in times that weren't pre-industrial but in some ways might as well have been. The earlier volumes are especially recommended.
Nathaniel Bowditch New American Practical Navigator
Bowditch's book has been through multiple editions, keeping it up-to-date, but its historical section still contains instructions for older methods of navigation (using birds; using a backstaff; using an astrolabe; other weird stuff). If your character is going to sea, Bowditch will help you match the level of nautical tech to the rest of your setting.

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