Having just awakened from a jumbled bunch of wacky dreams (no doubt inspired by the copious amount of food I ate yesterday at THREE different Christmas meals – oof), I feel oddly inspired to tackle a writing conundrum. I have my own opinions about it, but I’m curious to know your thoughts.
Here’s the thing. Whenever I’m reading a mythic fiction (or whatever you want to call it) novel that is set in the modern day, I cringe if the author makes mention of technology that dates from after the 1990’s. And even that is a bit much for me – I prefer it if the tech somehow never evolved past the 1960’s. I can handle the occasional mention of a computer, if I must – a laptop mentioned in passing or an email received at an internet cafe in Spain will not throw me off the story entirely. But if the author were to bow to the reality that most American teenagers have cell phones, ipods with feeds to youtube, facebook accounts, twitter, and goodness knows what else that I’m too old and fuddy to know about, said author would put me off his or her book completely.
The thing is, facebook and cell phones and all of that are terribly useful. I love them in practice. But in theory… I despise them. They are not poetic and they get in the way of good narrative! I mean, how many young adult plots would be destroyed if our wayward heroes all had cell phones and could just call each other (or their parents) at the crucial moment? And frankly, despite the amount of time I spend faffing around on facebook, I can think of nothing more dull than reading about someone else faffing around on facebook.
There are always ways to wave your hand dismissively at tech and explain it away. The way technology works is so mysterious to many people that a simple wave of the hand and a “the town is in a valley so cell phones don’t work there” works wonders – indeed, my cell phone stopped working when I was last visiting my parents in their little town. And there’s always the convenient excuse that faerie magic disrupts the signal, or some natter like that. But frankly, mention of these excuses for the lack of tech bothers me almost as much as the actual tech.
Which brings me to my pet solution, which I employ in the young adult novel I am currently trying to finish. I call it plugging my fingers with my ears and going lalalalala. I just don’t mention cell phones or the internet. There is a brief comment about a laptop, but we do not see the offending machine. And in the context of the novel, I think it works. The book is set in a tiny and remote French village, and when I was there in 2000, I didn’t have a cell phone and there was most certainly no wireless internet. It isn’t beyond the scope of reason that there isn’t much tech in this town. But that isn’t always going to be the case. And I’m afraid that if I keep writing YA fiction, my ear plugging lalalala solution isn’t going to work, because teens who have grown up with a cell phone glued to one ear and an ipod to the other aren’t going to relate to a supposedly modern world where these things don’t exist. Unless maybe they long for such a world?