How to Avoid Being Flattened By the Steamroller of Progress
by L. Jagi Lamplighter
Recently, a friend sent me an ad for virtual keyboards. If you haven’t seen one, it’s a rather nifty device. You put it on your desk, and it casts a red light image of a keyboard on your desk. Then you type on it, as if it were a keyboard, and letters appear on your screen.
Only, to my friend, the existence of this device was a bit of an embarrassment. He’s a science fiction writer, and five or ten years ago, he wrote a book where he predicted virtual keyboards. He made them up.
Back then. They were science fiction.
Today, they are fact.
Where does that leave him?
How, he wondered, do science fiction writers stay ahead of science fact?
No Escape for the Scientifically-Challenged
I felt for him. I had kind of been there.
I myself am a fantasy writer. You would think I would not have this problem. Alas, even we fantasy writers are plagued with being outrun by the march of progress.
When I first started the Prospero’s Daughter series in 1992, I wanted to make my main character, the five hundred year old Miranda, daughter of Prospero from Shakespeare’s Tempest, seem rich and capable, so I gave her a whole pile of nifty tech devices—not anything as wild as a James Bond gadget, but fancy, hard-to-get stuff that was extremely cutting edge.
By the time the book was published in 2009—I owned all but one of those devices.
I also had a scene where I wanted to show that she was very busy and very capable. So, back in 1992, I gave her many computers, all working at once.
Then, multi-tasking came along. Nobody bothered using more than one computer anymore.
Okay…I updated. I gave her a lot of printers all clacking away. Clacking, mind you, because back then, we were talking about dot-matrix printers. They made a lot of noise.
Couple of years later, I went back to revise the book, and printers weren’t so loud any more.
In the long run, I threw up my hands. I got rid of her high-tech office entirely and gave her an old fashion office with a huge desk and geese honking as they flew by outside.
I wasn’t even inventing the technology, and I couldn’t keep up.
So, what does an author do to actually stay ahead of the invention curve?