Once upon a time… I discovered the secret to happiness; I downgraded to a $.99 phone. That’s cents- as in “less than a dollar.” It made calls, kinda. I could hear people on the other end. Mostly. And my texts were limited to one-word responses. There was no internet. No Facebook. Nary a selfie to be had.
It was glorious.
I’d downgraded from an iPhone4 (I still have it if anyone from the Smithsonian is reading this), and I still used a first-generation iPad (now serving as a doorstop-sorry). In my humble, middle-aged opinion, one of the coolest features was the GPS tracking, which allowed me to find my device should it be stolen (not likely) or lost (just shy of regularly). This was before GPS was a standard-issue on phones; before the apps that let you see your children’s location- and the speed at which they traveled to get there. I was so impressed with the “find my phone” feature, I wrote it into one of the chapters of my current WIP.
And now it’s a problem– and not only because I’ve clearly been working on this book for, what amounts to, ever.
Nowadays, if a teenager has a cellphone, they probably also have a parent threatening them to keep the GPS locator activated lest they be invited to pay for their own phone plan. …that’s not just my house, right? My problem in the WIP stems from the father not remembering until the sixth scene that he can track his son’s location with ease. Now, if your kid goes missing, it’s likely to be one of the first things you check. And that kind of wrecks havoc on my story.
So it begs the question- or at least *I* am begging the question, “How much technology are you writing into your fiction, and will including it leave your work pathetically dated?”
I’m not talking the Jules Verne-level of imagination and writing fantastical machines into existence. Fiction has been filled with dreamed-up technology that made its way into reality. Dick Tracy’s watch isn’t terribly impressive anymore. And “Hal, open the pod bay doors” isn’t as thrilling as “Alexa, order a pizza.”
Period pieces benefit from technology reminiscent of a more innocent time; a kid with a transistor radio in the 1960s is far more charming than one obsessing over their MySpace page in 2005. Handwritten, hand-delivered notes are more romantic than a text–calling cards over talking into the Ring doorbell camera. I can keep going, but it’s only going to show my age, which is apparently “pre-Industrial Revolution.”
Someone recently asked me if I would change my story to better reflect a post-COVID19 world, and I had to think about it. The pandemic currently raging around us is going to leave an indelible mark. I do not know exactly *how* we’re going to change, only that we will. This leaves me with three options; reflect the changes, make my setting era-specific (i.e., pre-COVID or pre-cellphone), or keep writing like those things never happened.
Perhaps I can lessen the role modern (read “soon-to-be-outdated”) technology plays in this story. I can feasibly craft the dialogue to hint at the misuse of the available technology versus highlighting the current state of said technology. Or maybe I’ll write the adults in this story as borderline-clueless but well-intentioned dinosaurs when it comes to applied sciences. Maybe they’ll be the kind of people who find joy in landlines, forget GPS on phones is a thing, and for whom iPads are better used as doorstops.
So, what say you? How are you including, or eschewing, the modern technology that defines our world but may ultimately date our work?