The Internet Archive is a treasure trove. Right now my browser informs me it is undergoing maintenance, but when it’s up (it should be up briefly), you can listen to Old Radio shows, you can peruse pulp magazines, and you can find a number of excellent resources for your writing and your games.
For instance, let’s consider the catalog of books by Arnold Wright, former journalist of the Times of India and then London editor of the Yorkshire post, who made a nice career for himself as an author of reference books about the East.
Through a friend, I discovered Wright’s munumental Twentieth century impressions of Hong-kong, Shanghai, and other Treaty Ports of China, that is exactly what it says on the label: 800+ pages of three-columns, small-writ historical and geographical reference and trivia, fully illustrated with sepia-toned art. It was printed in 1908, and it has a certain art decò feel to it.
This will come really handy as I finally get to work on The Ministry of Lightning.
But there’s more from Wright in the Archive, and both Hope & Glory players and masters (and authors!), as well as anyone interested in the Raj might like to take a look at Bengal and Assam, Behar and Orissa : their history, people, commerce and industrial resources, that Wright edited from notes by Somerset Playne and J.W. Bond.
Once again, a beautiful 800-pages book with all the in-depth information you might need, and then some, about India and the Raj. Fully illustrated throughout. The book was published in 1917, and can therefore be takes straight to the gaming table if you are doing a historical game (say, a call of Cthulhu campaign set in 1920’s India), while it needs some work to be adapted to steampunk and pseudo-historical settings.
And then why not take a look at Wright’s 1917 book Early English adventurers in the East, that at 340 pages or thereabouts makes for lighter reading, but it’s a huge source of inspiration.
There’s more, in mister Wright’s opus, that sounds promising. Baboo English as ’tis writ Being curiosities of Indian journalism, from 1891, might be a good source for offbeat scenarios or short stories. Annesley of Surat and his Times: the true story of the mythical Wesley fortune might also be worth a look, and no self-respecting Sandokan/Emilio Salgari fan can ignore The Malay Peninsula: a record of British progress in the Middle East, from 1912.
Or even better, Twentieth century impressions of Siam: its history, people, commerce, industries, and resources, with which is incorporated an abridged edition of Twentieth century impressions of British Malaya, which was published in 1908, and looks gorgeous (and it’s 0ver 650 pages).
Paper reprints are also available, but an evening spent among the stacks of the Internet Archive might be a cheaper alternative, and sort of a digital treasure hunt.