“Embryos develop fingerprints three months after conception.” This factoid is one among the notes jotted down on Post-Its and scraps of coffee-stained napkins strewn across my desk, kitchen table and nearly every surface of my apartment, all for the purpose of enriching my shoebox-full of manuscripts. When I reach for a bank statement on the kitchen counter, I spot something scribbled under my account balance. More factoids: “Rasputin’s enormous phallus was stolen by a cult of Russian expats who believed it would bestow them sexual vigour from beyond the grave.”
Despite the dozen academic articles collecting dust on my nightstand and my bookcase shelves collapsing under the weight of overdue library books, most of my research, without a doubt, is conducted via Google. Therefore, I accept the perhaps dubious title of Google scholar. As a veteran web surfer, I have pronounced myself lay expert in an eclectic variety of fields, most of which are utterly devoid of any practical value in everyday life. This includes the Marxist defense of shoplifting as well as the socio-political evolution of syphilis. Each loaded page of search results thrusts me into a digital matrix of information (and possibly disinformation, too), which I hope to process and transmit to the reader. There’s no getting around it. Research must be done in order to speak credibly and coherently about a given subject. Even if I were to get away with winging it, I would be looking over my shoulder in fear of a fact-checker pointing out that, for example, Australia, not Austria, is home to the koala
“Write what you know,” it is often said, but the truth is that only so much can be drawn from the narrow scope of lived experience, especially for those of us who are not world-traveled fighter pilots or seasoned revolutionaries. What we do have is Wi-Fi and in the storytelling business, the Internet, if used correctly, can be both the magnifying glass and crystal ball through which the world becomes somewhat more comprehensible, one bizarre and enlightening fact at a time. Who are the strange and elusive folk who really believe the Earth is flat? What causes otherwise decent people to act like barbarian marauders once they step foot in a Costco? Google seems to have the answer to every possible question. Figuring out whether or not the wisdom is accurate is where the real work begins.