Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Rolling into the future...by RM Greenaway

The world is changing faster than you can write - technologically, politically, environmentally etc. How do roll with the changes in your fiction? 

I often wish I had set my series in an alternate reality. There could be old-style telephone booths alongside solar highways, and you could smoke wherever you want. Imagine the freedom? Imagine not having to spend hours studying bylaws and maps, zooming in and out of Google Earth, trying to decide where you can realistically place your shooter, or whether he or she is allowed to light up a Rothmans after the deed?
Should I have done like Ed McBain, and invented a city? 

Maybe. On the other hand, readers do like to recognize their world in their fiction. I know I do. Also, the imposition of reality can stir things up for a crime writer, lend credibility, add new plot angles, and increase the tension.

Speaking of tension, I just spent a lot of money on a brand new laptop. (But I love it!)
(Pixabay image) Resistance is futile....
Setting it up last night, this laptop not only spoke to me, in a casual, almost flippant way, but then directed me to stare into the camera so it could memorize my face, so that instead of keying in my code to unlock every time, it recognizes me. Isn’t that amazing?

In fact something went wrong and it does not recognize me, and I have to key in my code anyway, but it’s the beginning of the brave new age where computers subjugate us completely. I’ve heard AI is now writing pop songs – yes, pop songs, is nothing sacred? -- and mainframes are communicating with each other in a language we humans can’t decipher. I think Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk, and Bill Gates are right, and we should be getting a little nervous. 

Some positive worldly advances pose minor difficulties for writers who set their fiction in reality. It’s unavoidable, but exploding air-bags give car crashes an unwanted comical twist. And the cool scene where the hero lights up a cigarette is now all but out – I keep harping on smoking because my copy editor just red-circled a section and told me that actually, no, this guy can’t smoke in a public park, even way out in the middle of nowhere. If it was the villain being told to put out his or her cigarette, it wouldn’t be a big deal, because he or she would just ignore me, but this happens to be a law-abiding cop who has just sucked in the poison (though he’s trying to quit).
So what do I do now, give him an e-cig instead? It just doesn’t have the same panache.

A major challenge brought on by new technology is the damned cellphone. It’s now virtually impossible for my protagonists to get into dire straits, or for victims to go missing, or bad guys to avoid getting triangulated. It’s awful. So far a phone can get lost or broken or run out of juice, but pretty soon we’ll each have a 24-hour tracker embedded behind our ear -- and then what?

It gets worse. In the near future, cars will be driverless, speeders eliminated. Cameras on every street corner, nowhere to hide, no wild car chases, no crime....

... what do you think lies ahead for crime writers?


Paul D. Marks said...

All these modern conveniences really do make it harder to write crime fiction, don't they, RM? I guess we'll just have to figure out clever ways to void them.

Susan C Shea said...

Love this post! I will say that, as a cell phone user since forever, it is entirely possible for me to
1. Forget to turn the call silence thingy on again in the morning or after the movie
2. forget where I left said phone
3. leave the house without it and realize I can't google the address I'm looking for as I circle what I think I remember was the right block.
4. Forget to charge said phone and wind up with dead phone at the moment I was supposed to call and tell someone I was arriving.
5...oh, you get the idea. The tchnology may be amazing but not all people are. In my books, reality still gives me plenty of latitude.

Dietrich Kalteis said...

There's always historical crime fiction. Back in the days of phone booths and hot rods.

Unknown said...

It gets harder every day to outwit technology, Mark, but won't give up trying.
Me too, Susan! Thank god for human foibles.
Yes, Dietrich, great for you, you master of research and time travel, but it's too late for me! I should have thought about that before lodging my series in the present.