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Well, Gosh, THIS Would Have Helped

December 9, 2012 at 6:27 pm

File this under "Really Cool Stuff The Web Makes Possible But Doesn't Make Possible Quite Soon Enough To Be Truly Useful To Me."

Or, if that won't fit on the file folder tag, just call it, "GAHHH Why Didn't I Have This Three Years Ago?!?!" for short.

So, as you may know, I spent several years writing a fantasy/sf alt-history trilogy that primarily centers on the Second World War.  And much of that story takes place in London.  Which, as you might also know, got bombed to hell and back.  There was this little thing called The Blitz, for instance.  So I tried to do as much research as I could (or as was feasible) to try to imbue the story with a modicum of verisimilitude.  But since I was writing a story with, let's face it, Nazi superheroes and British blood mages, I didn't go so far as to delve into the British National Archives to pinpoint the historical accuracy of every bomb blast referenced in the story.  That would have been overkill, not to mention back-breaking.

But now that I'm completely, entirely finished with any and all writing work on that trilogy, to the extent that it is completely impossible for me to incorporate new information into the forthcoming third and final novel, an incredibly awesome website has come online.  The Bomb Sight is an interactive map of the complete WWII bomb census data from the National Archives.  It's also available as an Android app, apparently. 

This is amazingly cool.  I've just spent an hour clicking around, and could easily see this becoming a whole-day rabbithole. 

Not that it helps me, per se.  But I'm really glad that while I'm pulling my hair out, the folks behind The Bomb Sight are doing really wonderful work to preserve history and make it accessible with new technology.  My hat comes off to them.

And, hey, this'll sure make life easier for the next person who comes along to write an SF/Fantasy WWII novel.  (I wasn't the first, I won't be the last.)

Sometimes, the universe has a perverse sense of timing.  GAAAAHHH.


DMS December 9, 2012 at 8:25 pm
I was so excited to see a cool app for Android exclusively, but it appears to just be coming soon. Oh well, maybe it will be out before I'm in London.
Brooks December 9, 2012 at 11:47 pm
The Bomb Sight is very interesting. I'm wishing I'd had it while reading Blackout & All Clear. Also, Mr. Tregillis, it's sadistic to remind me that Necessary Evil exists somewhere in its complete form. Okay, sadistic may be a bit harsh but I hate waiting!
Steve Halter December 10, 2012 at 8:40 am
That sounds really neat. The amount of cool, useful and interesting stuff that is out there is really amazing. The rate as well as just the amount at which these things appear seems to be increasing. It is a good time to be involved in progress but for people who fear change, the world must be an increasingly baffling place.
Ian December 10, 2012 at 9:52 am
Dawn: I think it's cool that they're planning to turn it into an app. Why only Android, I wonder? Not that I have any objections. I'm just ignorant about app ecosystems and the various barriers to creating apps for various platforms. I know that getting something approved through the Mac app store can be a lot of work. But, at any rate, with luck it might actually be out before you're walking the streets of London. With luck. Brooks: Yeah! Connie Willis definitely could have made much better use of The Bomb Sight than I could have. Although, her research efforts put me to shame -- I wouldn't put it past her to have delved into the National Archives to obtain the bomb census data first-hand. I do know that she acquired a list of every single vessel (ship, fishing boat, dinghy) that participated in the Dunkirk evacuation. That took some digging on her part. The wait will be over... eventually. In April. I just hope to hell it's worth it. :) Steve: Right on the money, sir. I don't fear change, but sometimes I can't keep up with it, which leads to moments when I am a little bit baffled.
Steve Halter December 10, 2012 at 2:14 pm
Right. I don't think it is really possible to completely keep up with everything that is going on--certainly not in detail.
Mike December 10, 2012 at 5:18 pm
The data there is just for the first Blitz from 7th October 1940 to 6th June 1941. Later in the war, London was hit by nearly 10,000 V1 missiles and more than 1,300 V2s. It's incredible that anything survived. Of course not all cities were so lucky - Plymouth and Coventry were almost levelled, and then the German cities were reduced to ash. I wouldn't even like to think what a similar map of Berlin would show. BTW. Ian, if you like that period of British history, I thoroughly recommend the alternative history novel 'Dominion' by C.J. Sansom which has just come out.
DMS December 11, 2012 at 10:00 am
I suspect from the description of their mobile website that the App will just be a slicker GUI for navigating the same content. So iPhone users will still get to use the mobile site, but not have pretty buttons and a special icon. If you'd like, I can write you quite a lengthy email about why we don't develop for iOS, but the two biggest barriers are cost of entry and the lack of distribution options.
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