You see, like most - actually, I assume virtually all - writers, I use the internet constantly and continually, not just to submit material, but to check facts, spellings, and names. Not to do real research, mind. A long time ago, having reluctantly revealed I wrote, I was asked what I wrote about. I gave my stock answer: death. Why? Because it required no research.
And, whilst science fiction by no means defies research, I tend to see something worth knowing and riff off of that, rather than actually dig into, say, recombinant memetics or neuroparasitology.*
No, my fact checking is there to give a gloss of authenticity. I think of it as finessing. If a character can relate a couple of ideas about the Punic Wars, then he probably has a dozen, even if the author stopping reading the wikipedia entry when he'd collected his brace.
I have a story that, like one or two houses I've owned, I've just finished extending. It's called 'Knights of the Spherical Table'. The story has existed as a flash piece for about three years and has been a near miss a couple of times. Some really nice feedback from Avily Jerome at Havok Magazine included the thought that she'd really like to know what happens next. As is my want, on reflection, the story fell into the trap of stopping after act 1, at the point the main character is just waking up to their predicament.
So, it's now a far more rounded 3000 word piece.
As well as checking basics - in this instance, what postcode is Chingford in? what's the nearest hospital? - I always check my names to see if they actually exist; I'm quite capable of naming my protagonist or antagonist Britney Spears without realising the significance.
In this case I didn't expect 'Knights of the Spherical Table' to fail to register any hits; indeed, it's not even my phrase. It came up in a sermon at church, as a a throwaway quip about taking King Arthur's Round Table to a whole new dimension. But, putting the phrase into Google, I was surprised at how few hits there were, and how dumb most were: some tosh about role playing characters, some more similar tosh, and even more dwarf-tossing here, worth quoting in full:
A new King has taken the thrown and everyone in my Kingdom must like and obey me. IF you disrespect the King or question the King you shall have your head chopped off IMMEDIATELY by one of the Knights of my spherical table. I will also have Jester's, a Queen, Slaves, a Mighty Castle with a moat with crocodiles in it that eat people i don't like. I will have women beckoning to have intercourse with me, because i am the King. Anyone that try's to overtake the thrown will be killed immediately, or if i suspect a take-over incoming i will barricade my walls and my my Archers shoot you in the face, we will find you and if you live you will be banished from King Thilz's Kingdom forever.!
Best is this hideousness, which puts any bad purchase around the $300 mark you've ever made into context.
All of this leaves me wondering whether these have been written by real people - who, somehow, know the more technical word 'spherical' but have somehow mistakenly used it for 'round' - or algorithms. I had settled on code, possibly real English translated into Korean and back again, until I remembered (whisper it) that half of the population is of below average intelligence. Scary, huh?
And that's the moral of this posting: without gatekeepers, what's out there represents the total spectrum of human intelligence.
Yes, of course, there are representatives of those above the arithmetic mean. Okay, as far as I could see there's only this cartoon, which does show an understanding of the English language:
and there's also this video, which I flicked through on mute, so there may a quip-a-minute commentary that puts it all in context, but otherwise it just seems to be children hitting each other. Which we're all fully in favour of...
All of which implies that, maybe, the monarch above with jester's and women beckoning for intercourse may also be above average. Even more scary. Or, perhaps, this is just a phrase around which the dumb cluster. Like 'President of the United States' or 'low-fat'.
I'll ponder on.
* Just to illustrate my whole big thing point, these phrases were gleaned just be Googling for lists of obscure scientific disciplines, not by any real knowledge on my part. Just how shallow am I...