28 Jan 2010
Doldrums

Other than work related stuff, I’ve pretty much been offline for the last few weeks. That is to say, I’ve let a lot of messages scroll below the fold and have not kept up with my news feeds. Nor have I spent much time on my personal projects, such as Japanese, or configuring my new laptop. It’s all been used up on life’s little necessities or being sick.

What little spare time I’ve had I’ve used to catch up on my woefully neglected dead-tree book reading.

I’ve noticed that science fiction authors usually get computers “right”, in the sense that they are either so advanced that they are out of our reality, or are kept fuzzily in the background, like furniture.

Popular novelists, on the other hand, sometimes go overboard in describing the details of the PCs or other computers that the characters are using. I don’t understand why they go into so much detail; maybe they need the word count. Once a novel is several years old the equipment, instead of being cool state of the art, just seems so, well, cringingly quaint, that it disrupts the flow of the story and unnecessarily dates it.

The only other place I’ve noticed such level of detail occurs in detective or adventure novels, where some authors describe the weapons used in such loving detail — about the only things they leave out are the serial numbers — that they overshadow the characters of the story. You know, where “gun” in “He drew his gun and shot the evil dude.” is replaced with a two paragraph paean to a Taurus Millennium Pro series 9mm with titanium slide, memory pad grips, Heinie ‘Straight-8’ sight, 12-round extended capacity magazine, …. you get my drift.

Which, is kinda creepy, but I don’t know enough about guns to know whether that should make me break out in a sweat or think what a loser the hero is. But I do know I’d much rather read that the hero simply “logged onto his computer and send the critical data file to his trusty partner” than to have an agonizingly detailed description of him booting his 640K Pentium with two floppy drives, daisy-wheel printer, and 2400 baud modem, converting his data with WordStar, compressing it with PKZIP, logging on to CompuServe and taking 20 tense-filled minutes to send it to his partner randyredhead@aol.com. Arrrgh.

Category: Daily-Grind
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