Reading, they say, broadens your horizons. So does writing. In fact, it can be even more broadening. Research can take you where your curiosity never would.
Historical fiction demands the most research. The genres that demand less – that can appear to demand very little – are modern fiction and science fiction/fantasy. Modern fiction is about things everyone knows about, and SF about things no one knows about.
In a way, modern fiction is more demanding than SF. After all, if you write about reality you have to be accurate. Sci-fi and fantasy writers just make stuff up. If you write about the New York Stock Exchange and get it wrong, someone will point it out. But who can tell you that you got the Lir Verrian Stock Exchange wrong?
And yet a writer still has to do research, even when he’s just making stuff up. Here are some of things I have researched in writing fantasy and sci-fi stories:
Famous shipboard mutinies in history;
the meanings and legends associated with lilies;
guerrilla warfare – I read an excerpt on the subject written by Mao;
ancient mining techniques (and I have the notes, too!);
how much weight a horse can carry (don’t ask – I forget);
New Year’s in various cultures;
character traits associated with scientists;
how far a horse can jump (eight feet – I remember!);
theories of lightspeed travel;
list of characters in the book Johnny Tremain (it’s a bit complicated);
landslides and avalanches;
theories of who/what the Elves were;
theories of multiple dimensions.