Research—a search for truth, or finding material to write about?
For a writer, the honest answer should be both. Most of the time, I find the process of research to be tedious and time-consuming. The ordeal of finding credible sources and comparing what they say to other credible sources, and trying to sift through each to find a grain of reality, is something that makes me dizzy imagining the process. Don’t get me wrong—I do love finding out about things I am interested in, but doing research because I love research is not what I am about.
After acknowledging this little tidbit about myself, I will confess that if a topic arrests my attention and I perceive profit in its discovery, I will pull together all my childish enthusiasm and head toward its discovery and enlightenment like a raging bull seeking to impale the matador and his ever-tempting red cape. As a writer, this enthusiasm strengthens me to take on this monumental task of research for the purpose of obtaining material to put into my stories, since for the most part I choose to write about things that can happen in the real world. I voluntarily subject myself to rules I can’t break and guidelines I must adhere to. For instance, in our world it is not available, at this time, to jump into a spaceship and head off to Alpha Centauri (4.37 light-years away from Earth), engage in an epic battle with an armada of space pirates, and be back home by the end of the week. Therefore, no amount of research into space travel and space combat is going to be of any profit to me because there is no real data to illustrate this scenario. Now, if I were a science fiction writer, I would find a plethora of well-documented and believable theories on space travel, space combat, etc. I would choose to make my story believable and entertaining. But since I am at this time not seeking to write science or fantasy fiction, my lanes are set and the rules are plain.
In my last few novels, I delved into the practice of slavery—not only the enslavement of peoples from the Africa Continent, but also the human trafficking of peoples from multiple cultures. The subject intrigues me because of the monstrous emotions it invokes in people. The wrongness of a person, group, or culture believing they somehow are privileged to own another human being to do with as they please, including their buying and selling, generates deep and powerful feelings in most people, thus making for fantastic subject matter in a literary endeavor. But when one takes on a subject of this magnitude, one has to check everything to ensure the facts in the story line up with the real world. But it does not stop there. Though facts may be accurate, one will still need to check perception and attitude toward those facts before deciding whether or not to utilize them. Why? Because although facts may say one thing, people’s attitudes and preconceived perceptions about an emotionally hot topic will dominate how the story is received. So, we writers have to decide—do we want to challenge the popular notion about a subject and present a different aspect when the facts in our research actually do back up our premise, or should we just present the story with the same general feelings and opinions that are popular for the subject? Excellent question! The answer is not an easy one though, because—although writing in itself is an art—selling our writing is a business. If people don’t agree with, or worse, hate our premise, it might have a drastic impact on how well the story does on the market.
This brings me to my latest writing opportunity. You see, the recent research on the culture of slavery and the human trafficking of peoples indigenous to the continent of Africa has opened my eyes to a whole new level of understanding and enlightenment of this phenomenon. What I have found is quite controversial to say the least. An eye-opening source I came across was an article by famed civil rights leader, Dr. Marcus Garvey Jr., titled The Arab Muslim Slave Trade of Africans, The Untold Story. In his exposé, Dr. Garvey discusses that although the European and Western world took part in the slave trading of African peoples for just over three centuries, the Arab and Muslim world did it for fourteen centuries, and some still practice slavery to this day. In his article he affirms that the slavery of the African people in the Western world was initiated and propagated by the Arab and Islamic world; that it was they who reached out to European societies in the beginning of the 13th century, and later the Americas, to purchase slaves from them who were seized from the Africa Continent. Although the United States abolished slavery after the Civil War in the 1860s, it took countries like Saudi Arabia another century to do the same (1962). Dr. Garvey contends that although some Islamic lands have officially abolished the slavery of African peoples, it is still practiced and institutionalized under the guise of contractual labor and indentured servitude in those cultures. His biggest concern was that, in his opinion, this reality is almost completely ignored by the Western world. Dr. Marcus Garvey Jr. died in Wellington, Florida, in 2020 after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease.
He and his father, Marcus Sr., both spoke against the institutionalization of slavery in the Islamic lands for most of their lives. They postulated that although the civil rights movements in the 1960s went a long way to helping peoples of African descent in the Americas being treated more equally culturally and lawfully, it should never have overshadowed and blinded Western eyes to the plight their fellow Africans were suffering in the Islamic lands of the Middle East. Upon further research into Dr. Garvey’s findings, I saw that he believed that since Islam was becoming so popular with African Americans in the United States who looked up to and idolized such figures as Muhammad Ali, the boxing heavyweight champion of the world, and Malcolm X, the famous civil rights leader, both converts to Islam, that tainting the homeland of that religion in the minds of the converts was something the faith’s leadership wanted to avoid for obvious reasons.
So now we come to my newest book, The Living Legend. I felt that this type of knowledge and understanding of world sociology could be a great backdrop for my story. In the book, I tell the background story of one of the principal characters in my “The Last Enemy” series and the two prequels. His name is Captain Tommy Williams, and he is an African-American man who is a successful and influential United States Navy SEAL Captain. In my newest book I tell the story of how he was labeled The Living Legend from the very start of his career. Without giving any more of the story away, I will simply say that the above revelation into the modern-day slavery of African peoples in the Islamic lands is the main theme. Hope you enjoy the story when it gets published in the winter of 2021!
Research—a search for truth, or finding material to write about?