Prior to visiting the historic battlefield for the first time back in 1997, Audrey and I watched the 1993 film Gettysburg in order to give us a bit of context. We ended up going back to that pivotal Pennsylvania town two more times before moving back to Edmonton in 1999, and watched the movie several more times. Eventually I ended up reading the Pullitzer Prize winning novel that the movie was based on, Michael Shaara's The Killer Angels. It's a great read that does a brilliant job not just of illustrating a critical battle, but of doing so from a multiplicity of human perspectives, and in a voice faithful to the period.
Yesterday I read a fascinating article called How to be Prolific: Guidelines for Getting it Done from Joss Whedon, wherein he reveals the methodology by which he turns out what has been, at times, prodigious amounts of quality work. As grueling as television production can be, he stresses 'filling the tank' when one can: reading, watching and absorbing works from outside your normal patterns or comfort zone.
It was while filling his tank in the two weeks between seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer that he read The Killer Angels, and came away with the idea for one of my all-time favourite television series, firefly.
Firefly wears its antebellum/Reconstruction theme way out on its sleeve, which suits me just fine, but the idea that one novel could inspire both a faithful historical reenactment as well as this unique space-western is absolutely mind boggling. It also serves to remind just how long it has been since I read an actual factual paper book, allowing myself to be tied up with essays and articles online, and comics aplenty via my iPad. I mean, it's still reading, but it is diffuse and diverse, and I hope to get back into books soon.
In the meantime though, it is quite a good article.