Thank goodness for Google. I’m working on a sci-fi piece, and it’s set in the Houston area in 2006. I needed a golf course so I googled “Katy, Texas golf courses” Google didn’t let me down. And in case you’re curious, there are five.
Using the map feature I could look at the street layout and figure out what house I wanted for my character.
With that figured out I happily went back to my story, only to be kicked out again a minutes later by the thought — but was the golf course there in 2006? Sigh. Back to Google to confirm that, yes the course was there in 2006.
That is certainly one advantage of writing pure fantasy — I can put anything anywhere I want, dammit. If I want a cafe in the middle of a town I can do it because I made up the whole town! Which is not to say that I haven’t had a few memorable Google searches writing fantasy. One of my favorites was trying to determine if you could still talk if you have had your throat cut. (answer: it depends.)
In some ways writing fiction that is anchored in time and space reminds me of writing structured poetry — when you are constrained by the boundaries of, say a sonnet, your mind can actually find a different sort of freedom. Maybe it’s because a mind with no boundaries could become paralyzed from the possibilities. Whereas I’m stuck with the fact of the thing — what was the best cellphone in summer 2006? What was playing on the radio that year?
You won’t hear me complain! Because think about it — I don’t have to make up a device that carries voice and text and fits in the palm of your hand… I can just google “cellphone 2006” and get my answer.