Author’s Note: I will be out of town from the 24th to the 28th of May. This means I will miss Friday’s Ruminating On. To appease those of you that care, I figured I would post to the blog now, instead of completely skipping it. You know I love your mugs. Yes, even the ugly ones. So, here we go…
Ruminating On: Technology
I’m a big fan of gizmos, video games, cell phones, laptops, tablets, ereaders, and things with blinking lights that attract my ADD, but I couldn’t care less for technology. Now, before you scream at your computer screen, “Wait! What’re you rambling on about? They’re the same thing!”, let me explain.
I love toys—dirty minded folks, please leave through the side door. I am, pretty much, a big kid. New tablets and cell phones are all shiny and pretty, with crisp graphics and easy to use interfaces. I’m a man that loves to use his fingers, so sliding them around and actually getting a reaction is just awesome to me. Wow, this blog is going to appeal to all my gutter-minded readers. Oh well, moving on.
What I don’t enjoy is the technology these electronics carry installed upon them. You have Facebook apps, Twitter apps, LinkedIn, Tumblr—the list goes on and on. This means that no matter where you are in the world, at any moment in time, if you can find an internet connection, you can contact whoever you want. That poses a great dilemma to the traditional horror scribe. In a world of ever expanding connectability, my job is getting harder and harder. I have to account for all these new devices and connection options when writing my fiction. Several cheats can be used, but I don’t want to use them. I’m sure at some point I will, but then I’ll get emails to the tune of, “Thought you weren’t going to use that copout?” and then I’ll end up having to cyber-hunt someone down and eMurder them.
Some examples of what I consider cheats, are:
#1. The battery’s dead: No one has a charger? Really? Which leads me to sub-cheat a) The power is out! Oh no!
#2. Even in this day and age (Stephen King I’m talking to you, too. Seriously, why don’t you own a cell phone?) your character just chooses not to have a mobile device. Funding isn’t really an issue anymore, as most companies will give you a free phone, or charge you for whatever you pick out, on your first bill. As a man who used to hop from one company to another every two months without paying his bill, trust me on this. I know, I’m an jerk. But I’ve changed, Ma, really I have. I’ve seen the error in my ways, and all that 12 step stuff bad-people-who-want-to-be-good-people say. I was homeless for a little while, too. But that story is for another time.
#3. For some unexplained reason, no one’s cell phone works. Now, unless your characters are out in the mountains, the desert, or the wilderness, there’s probably no reason for them to not have service. Even then, they probably will. I would much rather read about a lack of signal because of the absence of towers, than I would some supernatural reason. It just seems all too convenient. “Oh Lordy, we’re stuck in this apartment complex, and a demon is after us, and does anyone have a cell phone, and what do you mean you don’t have a signal! We’re in downtown Los Angeles!” I realize, that in Dastardly Bastard, no one has a signal, but that’s because of the location, not the monster. So shuddup!
Horror—for me anyway—is about atmosphere and isolation. My chore is over coming the fact that, nowadays, people always have a way of calling for help. There are simple answers that are not cheats, but they become over used, as well—e.g. even though your character can call for help, they still have to wait for help to arrive. But, unless you want to end your story when the authorities respond, you’re going to have to explain why they can’t get to, or help, your character. Some people believe 911 is a joke (thank you, Flavor Flav and Chuck D) but it is a thing and for the most part, it does work.
Then we have 3G and 4G. This irks me to no end. If your character finds a mysterious item, substance, bit of text, or a strange science experiment, they can do an internet search on the fly. Yep, I believe Google’s killing the mystery star, just like video committed radio-cide. A writer used to be able to tell their reader something and said reader would just follow along without too much protest, as long as the writer was competent in his delivery (Michael Crichton was famous for that), but now, with devices like Kindle Fire and Nook, information is just a swipe and type away. You can go directly from your ebook, to Google, and find out whether or not it’s actually possible to clone a dinosaur using a frog and a friggin’ mosquito. It makes me want to slam my head into a wall, really. Talking about technology, not asexual dinos.
Of course, I see the other side of this, as well. Technology is making writers tell better stories. We’re having to up our game and explain more. We’re required to ditch the simplistic and focus in on what we should have been doing in the first place—suspending disbelief in a logical fashion. Just because cell phone tech and internet search engines exist, does not give writers the right to cheat. Authors must make note of their content issues and overcome. If not, they risk losing readers.
So, if I ever cheat, let this diatribe be my formal apology. But also know that, at one point in time, I felt the same way you did. Hopefully, that day never comes, and I remain a reliable storyteller.
Yeah, technology sucks. That’s just my opinion. One lowly horror writer’s attempt to describe why he has it so rough in this day and age. Forget the fact that I’m doing what I love.
I know, you feel so sorry for me; right?