For reasons of raking in a movie deal and resultant monies, I am writing a Thriller instead of keeping at my last over a Historical novel. I am - of course - awash in technology in the Thriller (some of which I make up). In the Historical I have fast horses and sailing ships. No (new) technology needed. But, when most of us in our everyday lives cruise the internet, look at smart phones and get information within a minute, is it necessary to write these scenes in contemporary novels? Probably.
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He Hit Send: On the Awkward but Necessary Role of Technology in Fiction
“Can the hoary trope of mistaken identity still play in the age of Google images?”asksAlex Witchelin theNew York Times Book Review. Witchel is talking about the premise ofMichael Frayn’snew novelSkiosand soon answers herself: “Well, no,” she says, “but since the author is Michael Frayn…it’s tempting to cut him some slack.”
Is it? Maybe — it’s fiction, after all, and that being the case Frayn can do whatever he wants — but as a reader, and a writer, I wonder about that slack. More generally, I wonder about works of fiction that take place in a world identical to that which you and I inhabit, except for one thing: technology is all but ignored. I’m not referring to Luddite authors here — toJonathan Franzen’srejection of e-booksand Twitter. I’m talking about whether a character in a literary novel set in the year 2012 need even be aware of Twitter, or at the very least, email.
It isn’t hard to make a case against including technology in fiction.
First, technology can be awkward to write about. Also, to read about. The jargon is clumsy: download, reboot, global positioning device. It’s embarrassing, really. So I understand an author’s impulse to avoid littering pages of otherwise lyrical prose with the bleep-boop-beep of tech speak. For this reason, authors often forgo current technologies when they want their characters to communicate with one another, or to reveal important, plot-forwarding information. I get it. What could be less romantic than a text message?