Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Let's Discuss: Technology In Adult Fiction

I really ought to be able to come up with a better post title than this, but I just can't seem to.  So, anyway, I feel like this is something that has really jumped out to me recently in adult fiction, particularly thriller/mystery type books.  And I'm wondering if it's just me or if it annoys other people as well.

I'm currently listening to Long Gone by Alafair Burke and so far there have been explanations of what a pre-paid cell phone is and why a teenager whose parents won't buy them a cell phone might purchase one; what a Facebook page is and how "tagging" someone in a photo works; and Google Maps/GPS and how a person might use to find a location.

As much as I'm enjoying the book, I find that these explanations totally take me out of the story.  All I can think is "Are there really American readers out there who don't know what Facebook is or have no idea why a police officer might use GPS?"  I've noticed the same thing in other adult novels, but not really in YA as much (for obvious reasons).  It really makes the book feel dated to me - I automatically assume it was published several years ago, although many, including long gone, are very recently published.

I can understand why books intended for adults may need to explain technology in more depth than books for young adults, and I think in many cases it's appropriate (Mira Grant's Newsflesh trilogy for example).  But I'm wondering where the line is?  At what point will authors no longer feel it necessary to explain what a Facebook Wall is?

Do you think we've reached that point?  What technology descriptions do you think are necessary for adult fiction and what do you think authors should assume the general public will understand?


  1. Part of me wonders if they do it in order to make the book more "relevant" to future generations. Because in 20 years, Facebook Walls may be long gone, and these authors don't want future readers to have no idea what they're talking about...does that make sense?

    Even so, I do agree that it makes for an annoying experience when you already know everything about these seemingly-basic technologies. I think if authors are going to use those elements in their novels, they should just drop them in without explanation. So your book will seem dated in 20 years because it mentions Twitter, and people might not even remember Twitter by then? Oh well. Read any circa-1980's Stephen King and the tech is completely dated, but that doesn't mean it's a bad book. If you've otherwise written it well, it will stand the test of time.

  2. Do you read Sue Grafton's ABC Kinsey Millhone series? They are set in the 80s, so the technology is of that time. It's an interesting way to address technology in books.

  3. that kind of description would drive me nuts. if it's some scientific or specific to a certain industry type of thing then yes, explain. Otherwise if the reader doesn't know they can look it up! on the other end, i started reading a series that started in the 80s and im like WHY DONT YOU CALL THEM ON YOUR CELL? oh wait, you don't have one hahaha.