My friend, Diana Beebe of Mermaids Don’t do Windows, blogged last week about trying to undo what she learned in typing class, back when we used to double space after typing a period. This reminded me of a blog post topic I’ve been mulling far longer than was actually needed.
- Technology in books and film.
I think about the dangers of specificity every time I see the movie GoldenEye. Remember the moment (mild spoiler alert!) when the geek-masquerading-as-a-good-guy brags about his 14.4 modem? It might have been cool when the movie was made in 1995—no, by the time the movie released we’d moved on to the 28.8, based on this timeline. Ouch.
Most of the time I feel like I’m old tech. I remember the crank dialed phones where you had to talk where the phone was, not where you’d like to be. Oh, and party lines anyone?
In my comment on the post, I mention that I am “as old as dirt” and while there is dirt older than me, I feel older than really old dirt when I think back and realize how very much has changed.
My two grandmas went from horse and buggies to seeing men go to the moon, and lived long enough to see early desktop computers and those suitcase cell phones that seemed so cool at the time…
My personal journey begins about the same time as Godzilla—is that a plus or a minus?—and b&w television. I played on dirt roads, and wrote my first story on a typewriter you had to POUND to get the keys to hit the paper. Yes, there is a reason “they” call it pounding out a story. That story was two paragraphs long and exhausted me rethinking being a writer for several years.
There are still writers out there who type and even some who write their first drafts by hand. I would not lie about this, even though it boggles my mind. And makes my fingers cramp in sympathy.
I understand the compulsion to fight change, because if you have a way to get the Muse going, you don’t want to mess with it. Unless it gives your hands major CRAMP. And then you need to come to an accommodation with the Muse. IMHO.
Ahem, back to books and tech.
So, when I wrote The Spy Who Kissed Me and my Lonesome Lawmen series, particularly while writing The Last Enemy, technology was changing so fast I was having to update my character’s laptop and online options almost weekly. Okay, maybe not weekly, but it felt like it was that fast at the time. I finally gave up trying to keep up and tried advancing the technology. And I got a bit more…vague in my descriptions to try to keep the book from feeling too dated.
To put it in perspective, I went online in 1993 or 94, certainly was online by 1995. And yes, I had a 14.4 modem, a 28.8…
The Spy Who Kissed Me (written and SET in 1992) released the first time in 1998 and no one was bothered—at that time—that my character preferred a typewriter. The Last Enemy was published the first time in 1999 and the tech was thought to be kind of cool.
Technology isn’t the only thing that can make a work feel dated, though it is the most obvious. The real world as setting is also hitting a moving target, though it tends to change slower than technology. Unless it gets hit by a hurricane…
I am happy The Spy Who Kissed Me is still in print, but some people discovering the book now weren’t born during the First Gulf War. Okay a lot weren’t born and yes, Virginia there were two Gulf Wars. (If you don’t recognize the Virginia reference, well, I feel old as dirt again.)
Am I sorry that there are parts of my back list that are a bit dated? No, I’m not. I wrote both books for readers then. I couldn’t see the future, and in fact, the future of books back then wasn’t that great if you were a small beans, aspiring writer. The chances of my books getting published, let alone still being available to readers…well, it was a dream, a faint hope.
And that setting was what shaped my characters into who they were. If I went back and updated them, they wouldn’t be the same people anymore, just like I wouldn’t be me with Godzilla and dirt roads and huge, old typewriters.
So, are you old tech or new?
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When Pauline isn’t feeling old, or writing about adventures in space, she is fictionally revisiting New Orleans, the setting for her new, romantic suspense series called The Big Uneasy. The first book in the series released the end of March in digital and will release in print and audio this summer. Relatively Risky is currently available in these online bookstores: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Sony Reader Store, All Romance eBooks, Kobo and Smashwords.