Sunday, October 25, 2009

Google Earth (or the stars, or Mars, or the moon)

It's easy to be seduced by Research!

When I wrote my first draft of my first alien romance, Forced Mate, I got carried away by the fact that there is (or was, in 1993) still a type of plane just big enough to carry a stretch limousine across the Atlantic, but small enough to take off from an abandoned World War II airbase near Cambridge (UK), and fly below radar all the way to Las Vegas, Nevada.

An amateur pilot mapped out the route for me.

Eventually, I came to see that there was no logical reason why a romantically minded space alien would abduct his heroine from Cambridge in the UK and take her (kicking and screaming) to Nevada, no matter how curious he might be to see how Siegfried and Roy made tigers disappear. Duh! He'd take her to his mothership.

Another researcher told me that the most plausible place for a spaceship (a smallish shuttle) to land in the UK would be on Salisbury Ridge, close to Salisbury Plain (and Stonehenge). I've lost touch with that researcher, unfortunately.

So, now I'm on my own, trying to find Salisbury Ridge. I'm using Google Earth. There's a place called Ridge at Chilmark. Another possible place to hide and lose a spacecraft appears to be in the Nile Clumps... I hate to make things up, if I don't have to do so!

I took a spin on Google Earth. My first destination was Ridge, Chilmark, which does look possible, but is a bit far from Stonehenge. I can zoom and bank to view the terrain with a hawk's eye view or with the perspective of a galloping sauropod... one with poor eyesight.

Seriously, I can see hills, trees, fields, crop circles, overgrown gun emplacements, drone launch pads (circular). If I wish to, I can see churches, pharmacies, ATMs, Holiday Inns, roads, fire hydrants... and more. I can also view photographs taken  by tourists.

Sadly, some of the really cool things, such as "pimples" (of the anti-tank kind) that were posted on the Google Earth 3 version, are not on Google Earth 5, but GE5 has more whizz bang stuff and links to Wikipedia.

While virtually scouring the surroundings, looking for places to hide a star-fighter, and enjoying images of stormclouds over Stonehenge --and very useful photos of forks in minor British roads--, I found a fitting backstory for my latest hero. Now to check it out.

There's a Google Earth Community with forums and chats and groups, not to mention a Search function that is everything you'd expect from Google. It's possible to meet a potential source in whatever part of the world interests you. This is too cool!

I daresay, the only reason the CIA hasn't tried to purchase Google (if it hasn't) is that it would be too expensive. And, of course, the CIA like anyone else can use it for free.

Google Earth doesn't stop there. You can look at Mars. It's a separate download. I haven't done that. I doubt I'd find men there, anyway. You can look at the stars, which is a great way to finally get a handle on astronomy and the placement and shapes of the constellations. Finally, there's the Moon and it has flags and icons denoting info dumps, and all sorts of good and useful stuff on its surface.

If you haven't tried it, I heartily recommend it.

Rowena Cherry
Space Snark TM

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