Reviews, Views and Adventures in Content Creation

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Present Is the Past

The ever-accelerating evolution of technology and social media has, I think, rendered contemporary novels set in the present instantly dated upon publication.  The expanding use of smart phones, Twitter, Facebook, and even tablet computers make even the most recent novels seem almost quaint. 

I first took note of this phenomenon in Stephen King's 2009 novel, "Under the Dome" about a New England town suddenly and mysteriously cut off from the rest of the world by a huge invisibly and impenetrable dome.  While the residents of the town were able to access the internet, the story included a sub-plot involving a small town newspaper and efforts of the powers in charge to put it out of business.  The publisher/editor of the newspaper, we learn, stubbornly (and conveniently) refuses to go online with the publication - even when she's trying to communicate important news to the stranded residents. In this day and age, her attitude seems nothing but contrived for dramatic purposes.

I'm currently reading "Skippy Dies," a darkly subversive novel set in a contemporary Irish boy's school.  While I can't claim even the most basic knowledge of Irish school life, I can't help but wonder about the underlying social media fabric that would run through this story in reality, but is virtually ignored here.  I'm absolutely enjoying the book, but I'm still curious about the extra dimension social media would add to the story.

Of course, novels by their nature aren't produced instantly, and the nature of social technology is such that even a a novel written to today's reality will already be dated a couple of years down the line. For years, cell phones have caused countless headaches for writers of contemporary thrillers, as placing someone in peril is a bit tricky if they can instantly call for help.

Creating fiction reflective of our world, at least in a technological sense, is becoming ever more elusive. At least for me, it's also a reminder, I think, of the exciting fundamental changes in our social and technological lives.

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