It’s interesting, isn’t it, how so few writers include modern stuff like the iPhone or Twitter in their stories.
My Avery Cates novels are sci-fi and thus by law chock full of all sorts of specious technology and psuedo-science. But I write other stuff, and lots of it. In those more reality-based, mainstream works, I actually purposefully avoid mentioning technology explicitly as much as I can. I don’t have a defined theory on this, but in my own reading I find that the easiest way to jolt someone out of a narrative flow is to mention some bygone technology that is no longer even the slightest bit relevant.
This may just be me, of course, my own experience, limited and shallow. It’s my blog, sadly, and limited and shallow is pretty much what you’ll get. I read a lot of older fiction, early 20th century stuff. Like, for example, Wimsey mysteries by Dorothy L. Sayers, of which I’m fond. The first book in that series came out in 1923. Strangely, I find very few things in those books jolt me out of my immersion in the story, and I realized that this is because most of the world described in the story still exists today, more or less similarly. There are cars, there are telephones, airplanes, world wars, etc. Most of the place names are the same, as are the drinks, food, clothing, etc. Not exactly the same. You do have to overlook some details, but in general, especially for the lazy minded (like me) it’s similar enough that you could set any one of those books in the modern age and change just slight details.
Certain things, like the aforementioned cars, planes, and phones, have existed for so long in basically similar forms that they don’t even seem like technology any more. They’re infrastructure. And thus I don’t hesitate to include them in stories. I don’t usually mention cell phones, or even computers, or, heaven forbid, the Internet. These all seem so recent and likely to be supplanted by newer and more garish forms, so I worry that having my characters rocking out to iPods or texting on their Sidekicks will make the story look very, very old in about ten years.
Naturally, I am no technological prophet, and may be wrong as often, or more so, than I’m right. Screw it.
As a result, a lot of my stories are set in a weird sort of 20th-century-on-a-Star-Trek-episode time frame. It’s obviously a modern city, but it’s kind of a lame one: No one has a cell phone, no one Googles anything, everyone walks or takes trains (okay, it’s a New York-on-a-Star-Trek-episode thing). I like the atmosphere this creates. I like the unrushed pacing that a lack of modern tech allows.
Of course, I myself am a slight luddite who hates cell phones, has never sent a text in his life, and thinks the iPod is a fucking abomination. So maybe I’m just engaging in some wish fulfillment in my writing. I mean, hell, no one has a cell phone in the Avery Cates book either. Hmmmn…..