Sunday, 13 December 2020

Low-tech: The long view

Snowy road near my house
As a reader, I'm sometimes jarred when I'm reading a novel and the technology the characters are using is slightly (or significantly) out of date. 

I confess that, in spite of having read several excellent novels lately with texting in them, I can't help feeling that five or so years from now, maybe fewer, that's going to seem quaint and a touch old-fashioned. 

It may be hard to believe that texting won't always be a thing, but once the telephone was seen that way. When I was a teenager, telephones -- the kind with dials, or maybe push-buttons if your family was a step ahead -- were the main way friends and I communicated. The fight for phone time in a crowded house, "party lines" where your neighbours could pick up the phone and listen in on your conversation, "extensions" in other rooms where your brother could pick up the phone and listen in on your conversation, that seemed like it was here to stay. So did record albums.

As a writer, I often face the question about what to do about technology in my novels. It's easy enough if I want the novel to be time-specific, like Shelter was -- set in the 1960s and 70s. But in Red Fox Road I wanted the time to be more or less now. That is, now, whenever now happens to be for the reader. That's why I go for the low-tech option, as much as possible. Unless it's important to the story, I want to keep the technology in the background.

 The number of Keurig cups in landfills could circle the
 planet ten times. Don't get me started on tea K-cups!
Also, one of my themes in Red Fox Road and in the novel I'm working on now, Green Mountain Academy, is about the failure of technology. It's not that I'm anti-progress, or anti-innovation, quite the contrary. But I see, especially in the context of climate change, that we've used technology in many cases for cheap tricks, for junk that's literally messing up the planet. We could do so much better as humans. In Red Fox Road, Francie says "Not everything new that humans invent is better than the thing before it." Coincidentally, I agree with her! I think we need to be more responsible about how we use technology.

Getting out in nature, away from the noise of my various competing devices beeping, ringing, pinging and chastising me -- seeing the long view, literally, reminds me of how important it is.

 

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