So here we are, in the middle of a 21st century convenience-laden tropical paradise, and I can’t access my preferred info streams. Can’t get to the web. Internet has been down for two-and-a-half days here, and before that I was on a kind of self-imposed fast—partly because there’s plenty else to do, party to see how I reacted.
Well, after less than a week, I’ve started to get antsy.
In Neal Asher’s excellent, Gridlinked, the protagonist, a badass interstellar agent, works in tandem with the government’s super-network AI, which feeds info to his brain directly. He’s experienced this massive data dump his entire adult life—kind of like one of those Japanese cartoons in which the guy can see readouts on power levels, distance, defenses, attack capabilities, etc. of whatever he’s fighting—and when the government turns off his gridlink, he loses it. No more instant data on whatever he’s viewing, no more computer-driven probabilities on courses of action. It’s an interesting fictional conundrum that speaks to our continuing reliance on instant information.
In my case, we’re hampered only on the convenience level. We still have cable TV here. I still know all about the local weather, about the Bhuto assassination, more than I’d care to know about the presidential candidates, bowl games, and E! celebrity gossip. My still phone works; it’s not like we’re in isolation here. What I’m lacking is the ability to check prices on this island’s many activities, tours, etc. (because they sure don’t advertise them in the local papers), so we can decide what to do. I also want to buy a new novel to read, and I’d really like to cross check some of my favorite review sites once again before I head to the store. I’d like to check on Illini Rose Bowl preparations, and the bball team’s recent cupcake special. Maybe a quick read on how the U.S. soccer players in Europe are doing. Check one of my pal’s holiday book sales figures. Download the software updates for the wife’s new mp3 player. Nothing vitally important. But it does make you wonder how you’d react to real media isolation.
In the traditional fantasy genre, with a medieval level of technology, with the characters usually starting in some out-of-the-way place like the Shire, or some backwoods inn or village, the story really starts to move when someone new comes to town. Because everyone wants to hear the news. Everyone wants the latest. Dark Riders in the West? Strange folk in the County? Rumors of a new King to the South? Better head down to the pub and have a listen. In those worlds, the slowness, the unreliability, the dearth of good information all plays a vital role in the narrative. And a lot of authors have a hard time with this. That’s when you get your magical solutions, like crystal balls, scrying mirrors, long-range telepathy, etc. At least that way, the wizards, princes, and important types can more effectively hatch and execute their schemes.
As far as our own vacation scheming, it’s simple: we need the web. And we’ll have it soon, one way or another. As of this posting, either the cable modem on site will have been fixed, or I’ll have broken down and headed to Starbucks. Then this latest glorious entry will have officially gone from Word to blog.