Monday, April 23, 2007

Cyber Stress

I've always felt I'm a little before my time. Since I was a kid I thought of myself as Future Girl, sort of caught living in the past. I guess that's why I write science fiction. It makes me feel more at home to think about space travel and androids and aliens than to be too firmly grounded in the present.

Of course, the older I get, the more I've come to realize there's something to be said for the simplicity of the past. While technology makes our lives easier most of the time, it also brings its own brand of stress.

Years ago when people beat their clothes on rocks to get them clean, life must have been quite difficult. Now we have washers and dryers that do the hard work for us, but years ago, the rock never broke down. It was always right next to the stream where you left it. It didn't need a new motor or make strange noises when a penny got caught in the agitator. It still worked when the electricity went out, because there was no delectricity to begin with and you didn't have to worry about putting too much detergent in and overflowing suds all over the floor.

Years ago, novelists had it rough too. You had to type everything out and if you made a mistake, you had to start the page over. You were lucky to have one perfect copy of your manuscript and once you mailed it to a publisher, you had to wait to get it back before you could send it anywhere else.

Now, you can make as many copies as you have paper to print. You can make multiple submissions over the Internet and sometimes get answers in hours or days where it used to take months.

And you can save a blank document over your WIP in the blink of an eye. Your hard drive can crash in a heartbeat and those 22 pages you wrote on Tuesday could be gone like the wind on Wednesday.

You could send out that query letter, with the glaring typo in it, to six agents all at once rather than just one, and you can get a paper jam that's so catastrophic that even the technician you call for help has to just shake his head and walk away.

So technology is grand, yes. But it also allows us to screw up in grander ways and have grand snafus that put that rock by the side of the stream, with it's no moving parts and no power cord, to shame.

Welcome to the 21st Century. Proceed with caution.

3 comments:

ERiCA said...

True. How many times have I lost what I was working on due to a power outage? (During hurricane season, we have brief outages a couple times a day. Just for a second or two, but long enough to screw everything up.) If I were writing on a typewriter, I'd still have all those paragraphs of lost prose. Of course, if I were writing on a typewriter, I wouldn't have wikipedia and thefreedictionary.com to help me through... =)

Bernadette Gardner and Jennifer Colgan said...

We have to take the bad with the good, I suppose. I wonder what new catastrophes will await us in the future when technology makes everything even 'easier?'

Lynda K. Scott said...

Great post!

A young friend of mine has lived in an apartment for the past several years but she's now looking to buy a house. The problem? Her apartment has a built-in dishwasher and garbage disposal. Many of the houses she's looking at don't have these innocuous devices.

We've become so dependent on some of our technology that the thought of doing without it is mind boggling. That's kind of scary.