Thursday, March 25, 2010

Foil on the Rabbit's Ears

By Kelli Stanley

Has technology made my life as a writer easier?

Yes and no ...

Research-wise, the internet's a godsend. OK, hold up your hand if you've ever used a card catalog! I loved the things, but being able to access bibliographic information in a twinkle, plus resources like digitized photos from the San Francisco Public Library History Center and Google Maps and moonrise time for May 25, 1940 and ... well, everything--it's miraculous. I mean, I remember the days when my father used a slide rule, when UHF TV was a big deal (round antenna, anybody?) and one of my high school graduation presents was a nice new Sears electric typewriter.

(Our basement collects typewriters. Every time I venture downstairs, I find another one. I think we're breeding them.)

Social networks are a wonderful thing, too. You can meet fabulous people, stay in touch with old friends , chat, actually have more interaction virtually than you will in a whole day at the office. You can buy virtually anything or drool over a collection of something (flashlights?) belonging to someone else (a handy thing for research), learn about your family's history and find long-lost relatives. Even look for whomever you had a crush on in high school. It's all there, all the time.

And that's the downside ... as it is in any frontier, the internet is a dangerous place. You have to be very, very careful, and any figure who is even infinitesimally in the public eye (which would be most writers), that means treading a path between getting out and about to let people know about you and your book, but also building up barricades to protect yourself physically, emotionally and psychologically from those who would do you damage. And that kind of finesse takes time and energy, and we all know how short those two items are on anybody's list of supplies.

I think technology has made life both easier and harder for writers, thus achieving a kind of post-modern, 21st century equilibrium. 'Cause y'see, technology is always cool ... but no matter how cool it is, we're still dealing with the human beings who use it, for good or for not so good. The good generally outweighs the not-so-good, in this, as in everything else.

It all comes back to people, dahlinks. And like Doc on Star Trek, I'm comforted by the thought. :)


Sophie Littlefield said...

i think you're right about the balance that must be struck between promotion and protection. was just reading a review of a book - can't remember where or title of course - that's a serious treatment of the aftereffects of the first wave of the Internet's effects on society. and the author makes the point that anonymity is the villain in the whole scenario.

i'm not sure i buy that 100%. i think there are social movements which occur because people have a voice that they would not otherwise be brave enough to use, and the savvy author can find information about their readership's tastes and desires that way. BUT all you have to do is listen to the tapes of some of those cretins who've been calling congresspeople and making threats - anonymous threats, of course - to see the ugly, shocking, brutal, sub-human other side of the coin.

anonymity brings out the inner bully.

and i would like to say it's a "them" issue - but the truth is that all of us have an inner bully, and all of us must take care to keep it in check. in general, signing everything one says and does - owning up to it - is a good way to keep oneself in line. but few of us are strong enough to always make that choice.

Shane Gericke said...

Civilization is the welcome restraint that keeps us from punching the people who so richly deserve it. If we didn't have that, we'd be an unholy mess. It's why I never respond anonymously to a blog item, even on topics that set my bile a-boilin'. It's too easy to rip people to pieces when your name and reputation are cloaked like a Romulan bird of prey.

Saumya said...

I completely agree with you about technology. As an aspiring novelist, the Internet both distracts me and provides me with limitless resources that I definitely wouldn't have had access to before.
Lovely blog and good luck with your writing!!!

Joshua Corin said...

I agree with you, Kelli, about the internet being a double-edged sword. Information overload can be so intoxicating and given the porous nature of this 21st century internet-village we all now live in, good fences don't make good neighbors.

And yet...raise your hand if you've received a stalkerish email...

Yeah, some liberties can be very pricey.

Kelli Stanley said...

Great point, Soph, about temptation and anonymity! And yeah, I've been shocked at the level of vitriol that is dished out on a daily basis, and even more shocked at the LACK of shock over it.

I mean, whether or not you support the politics of an elected president, in what world could it be considered acceptable to actually pray for his death?? What happened to respect for the office?? To respect, period??

The only thing that comforts me is the knowledge that such nastiness isn't completely new. It's just more. And viral. And facilitated by the internet.

You don't have to look too far to find noir fodder, let me tell ya ...

Kelli Stanley said...

Shane, you made me smile--as usual. :)

Super-heroes and gunfighters (and Captain Kirk, of course) are the wish-fulfillers who do get to punch the bad guys in the face, and in order to maintain civilization ... while they simultaneously live outside it.

Gee ... you think maybe we all create wishfulfillers of our own? ;)

Kelli Stanley said...

Thank you, Saumya! :) And thanks for stopping by Criminal Minds!

Good luck with your novel, and keep in touch--let us know how it goes! :)

Kelli Stanley said...

Josh, you ever notice how rural areas attract a fairly large percentage of criminals or criminal behavior?

For some, liberty means the liberty of being able to get away with murder ... or meth labs, same thing. Away from the prying eyes of congested urban life. The irony, of course, is that you can be just as anonymous in a city as in a rural area--perhaps more so.

Just be careful, my friend ... sometimes cranks are a potentially serious threat. Walk softly and carry a big stick (preferably with a taser on the end). ;)

Terry Stonecrop said...

Yes, we have to take the good with the bad. The public eye is scary. I'm not even published and it scares me.

I love the foil on the rabbit's ears!

Rebecca Cantrell said...

OK, I'm raising my hand for using a card catalogue and getting a stalkerish email. Who knew those two things were so closely linked?

Great post, Kelli!