Lately I’ve been on a sci-fi/urban fantasy kick. And by lately, I really mean the past few years. It just sort of showed up and then decided to stay. Accordingly, I’ve found a few sources to help me along as I’m plodding through my writing projects. I’m sure they’re supposed to be for more intelligent, academic pursuits, but they certainly suit my purpose for chasing potential muse-rabbits down their plot-holes.
The Medieval Bestiary is exactly what it says it is. And it has some fun graphics. The site itself is a bit out of date, but it’s dealing in old lore and folktales so the information isn’t terribly likely to have changed too much since it was put up. Everything sources back and usually has neat quotes from ancient texts, just in case you don’t like their summaries.
Encyclopedia Mythica is a bit more straightforward and less graphically-inclined than the Medieval Bestiary. It’s set up like a wiki. In my poking around between the two, the Mythica seems to cover a broader range of topics. It includes an option to check their references but it doesn’t have the same handy quotes right there on the entry page.
And then there’s WolframAlpha, which is a cool little quick-fact generator. Type in a topic and it will do a breakdown of the information for you. For example, type in the name of a city and it will return with a page full of stats and demographic information and random facts useful toward the goal of writing about them. Very user-friendly, rather like Google.
A friendly warning: All of these pages are rather easy to get lost in, just like tvtropes.org, tumblr, or urban dictionary. One search leads to another which leads to another and before you know it you’ve lost an hour to looking up if bears really pee in the woods or if that’s just a fairy-inspired wives-tale.