This is Teen Technology Week. I am not a teen. When it comes to technology, I am the worst. Left to my own devices I would be writing this on my original Radio Shack desk top with a tractor feed/daisy wheel printer. If you know what I am talking about you are so not a teen either. I got those high grade pieces of hardware complete with lots of floppy disks in 1987. I would still have them if they worked.
But of course the world of technology moves on and on. When the first laptops came out, I fantasized endlessly of the possibilities...why you could write anywhere. I also had to fantasize how to pay for such a fabulous indulgence. Eventually the prices came down (they are still in the indulgence category) but for my never-home-butt-in-a-desk-chair, they are a necessary indulgence. Up until recently (when my daughter finally got her driver's license) I spent 70% of my day in some sort of waiting room (skating rink, orthodontist, tutor's) waiting for her. I flash back to my mother doing the same sorts of things when I was Lily's age. Mom always had a political biography and a copy of Newsweek to keep her occupied while I was at piano/guitar/choir. I have my laptop and Kindle, Apple cell phone with iTunes built in.
Appreciating their value, however, is where my knowledge ends. Nobody at my house is a computer geek. Whenever anything blinks, or bloops, or blacks out, I perform my three known cures. 1) Check the computer cord. Both of my animals like to gnaw on it. For every laptop I've owned, I've had to buy three additional cords. 2) Check the battery. 3) Unplug, replug, reboot. When all else fails, pack everything up and down to my neighborhood mom-and-pop computer shop. Unfortunately, we are on a first name basis.
I am sure my lack of tech savvy stems from my lack of a left brain. I was a terrible science student and even worse at math. My mind doesn't work in logical ways.
This is not just a problem for my writing equipment. It's a problem when writing contemporary YA and MG. I notice there is a big boom of MG and YA books taking place in the 80's. I figured this might have something to do with the age of the author...this was their childhood. However, it was also the age of no cell phones, big lunky computers (without screen graphics), Walkmen and all the other techie tech stuff we take for granted today. Sometimes you don't realize that the book is set in the 80's until you see that 1)no one has a backpack 2) no has a cell phone. Then someone mentions A Flock of Seagulls or Flashdance t-shirts and you think "Oh, this is the 80's." I am curious as to what young readers think about such a curiously primitive world. (Maybe some of you librarians or teachers who know, will tell me.)
Technology is so fluid, it's impossible for me to catch up with what's happening right now. When you are a writer, the lightning speed of every-week-a-new-app-a-new-gadget smacks up against the ploddingly slow world of publishing. Even in the best of times, it's a minimum of two years from signing the contract to seeing your book in your hands. That is, however, after you've spent years writing the book and years trying to sell it. Whatever specific technology you have in your story has probably gone the way of the Discman and transistor radio. The one and only time I thought I was safe was in a short story I wrote for the anthology Such a Pretty Face. Once I had the final draft done I knew the turn around time would be less than eighteen months. Who knew that in those 18 months the world would stop "instant messaging" (IM'ing) and start "texting." Cringe, cringe. cringe. Lesson learned.
Now when I am forced to include technology in a story (and if you are writing contemporary fiction, you will) I am as generic as possible in naming them. No brand names (companies go out of business faster than we can write a book), no model names (there are new ones every year), no specific video games, music sources, etc etc. In writing classes we were told not to include specific TV shows, actors, or bands, because of their transient nature. Being that specific will date the book. The same thing goes for technology.
Somedays, writing about A Flock of Seagulls sounds pretty good.
Don't forget to enter our latest giveaway for Tamera Wissinger's new book Gone Fishing.
Posted by Mary Ann Rodman