You’ve written a book set in the modern day. You get an agent. You get a contract.
But by the time your book comes out, the technology you’ve used is outdated.
It’s happening too fast. Mobiles turn into Blackberrys, which turn into iPhones, which turn into… well… who knows? Give it a few months, and I’ll have an answer.
Ever laughed at a book or a movie that uses a floppy disk, or a VHS, or a discman? Someone’s going to be laughing at the technology in your book in ten years time, I promise you.
So how do you keep up with it? How do you have your characters acting contemporary, without losing your target audience within a few short years?
Unfortunately, we can’t tell the future. We can’t know what’s going to happen next. Here are a few techniques I use to avoid this potential migraine:
Set your story in the near-future
Just near enough to have a few technological extras (fully-automated supermarket checkouts, identification tags, DNA scans, etc), but not so far that it’s unrecognisable.
Use minor technological details
The more you throw in, the easier the book will become outdated. Keep mobiles and music usage to a minimum. Even mentioning CDs and DVDs is risky, because it won’t be long until they'll be commonly available online.
Replace technology with something else
Harry Potter, anyone? Muggle devices couldn’t be used at Hogwarts, but there was certainly enough magic to make up for it.
Ban technology in your setting
Schools don’t allow mobiles in class. If you want, take it a step further. Have your particular institution ban all IT devices (as long as they have a good reason for it!), and save yourself the think-work.
It’s all in the detail
If you’re writing for young adults especially, you can’t take technology out altogether. Did you know most teenagers don’t wear wristwatches? They use their mobiles for the time. (As a teacher, I can tell you, it’s maddening). Mobiles have also replaced alarm clocks. And about a dozen other things.
Don’t even get me started on social networking sites. Look at what happened to MySpace. Be careful what you use, because it won’t be around forever.
What about you? Any other ideas for how to keep up with technology?