Technology in Stories

As TV Tropes has an entire page about, cell phones are still hard to work into stories for some reason. Maybe we’re all still used to them being part of the future, like in sci-fi TV shows and such. One of my favorite books about writing, How Not to Write a Novel by Howard Mittlemark and Sandra Newman, makes mention of this–in the past nobody had cell phones, and there are lots of stories from back then that would be totally different with cell phones. If you’re writing in an era that has them though, you at least need to remain aware that at least someone probably has one–unless you’re dealing with my dad in which case he might’ve forgotten or intentionally left it at home. Or you’re dealing with me, who hates all phones and refuses to have one. But I still have a tablet, and I’m at least gonna email somebody, even if they don’t respond.

My first two novels, Slubes and Darmenzi, featured protagonists from a small village–only a couple characters even have regular phones. So that wasn’t much of a big deal… except in retrospect I’m not sure why Zeth didn’t have one, but does have a phone in his vehicle. Ah well, what’s past is past. Maybe he was trying to hack his phone and install wings on it or something and he broke it. He doesn’t live at a place where he could buy another one, anyway.

In Wandering Fortunes, the protagonists again begin living in a very rustic area, so they have no cell phones. Then they move to the big city… so of course they’re going to get cell phones! Now I have to deal with this malarkey! Well, the first time it really becomes pertinent it actually makes more sense for them to not have them–they’re put in prison, of course their stuff’s going to be confiscated. But for the most part I actually have a note while editing, and one of my passes I actually keep cell phones in the back of my mind. “They have them, is there a reason to use them?”

Now then, the reason I didn’t call this “Cell Phones in Stories” is I also apparently have trouble remembering that cars are a thing. At New Zhopolis the main characters are always running around; initially they don’t have a vehicle, and at a big city I suppose I can imagine traffic being so bad that it’s easier to get around walking. It’s also particularly troublesome when there are few parking spaces. But you know what probably does exist? TAXI SERVICES. Buses! And if you’re going halfway across the city you’re probably not gonna run there!

A lot of times this probably doesn’t matter because you’ll show the characters once they’ve arrived, not on the way, but you’d better believe I had a chapter where they ran halfway across the city and when I started editing I was like “why are they running halfway across the city?? they’re in a hurry so they won’t wait for a bus but did you know there are services now where you can call (maybe with a cell phone??) and someone will drive to where you are to drive you somewhere??? I’ve used one before! what? no i’m not talking about uber. i think these are local. although an uber service would definitely be something you could easily have in a story, but honestly the only difference between it and taxis i can imagine is one of them probably isn’t unionized, and obviously you should make sure your fictional characters are properly unionized. what were we talking about? who are you, anyway?”

Anyway. Check your email. Then check your spam folder. Thank you.

Now up, Wandering Fortunes chapter 7: The Obsidian City

Chapter 7 of Wandering Fortunes is now up. The Obsidian City, New Zhopolis, finally appears! Big city! Tall buildings! Dim lights!  Innumerable residents! Numerable but still a pretty high number of species! Subways, districts, roads, vehicles, orators, scam artists, grumps, racism, and jerks, jerks, jerks!

Wait, somewhere along the line that took a turn for the worse. Will the big city turn out to be all that it promises to be? Or will it turn out to be more than that and it turned out we just didn’t hear its promises right the first time?

As always, I post these chapters early for $3+ patrons on Patreon, so this chapter has been available for a couple weeks now and patrons will be able to see more of Alden and his friends’ adventures in The Big City in just a couple weeks. Even if you give just one dollar though you still get to see things early, as I post weekly updates that include a snippet of work much further ahead. You can take a look at a bit of chapter ten already!

Character Profile: Professor Zeth

The second main character of Slubes is a slube 32 years old; he’s an inventor, an engineer, and a slube of science, although his status as an actual Professor is somewhat ambiguous. Hailing from a major city on an island north of Nottle, he is somewhat worldlier than the other two main characters, aside from the fact he’s kind of a scatterbrained goof-up and his competency is sometimes called into question. He’s always got a chipper attitude, though, and is a whiz at mechanics—he just doesn’t have much common sense.

In Slubes, he’s been living in Nottle in obscurity, studying the crystal at the focus of the novel. It’s he who brings the others together to rebuild it after it shatters, and it’s he who has the transportation they need to do so in a timely matter. The Transpide is a vehicle of his own design fitted with gadgets and gizmos to help them on their way—it’s just lacking some very important features like rear-view mirrors!

Excerpt after the break!