Archive for September, 2011

Twenty years from now nobody will remember the iPhone. Take it from me I know.

So if you write them into your novel pretty soon it’s gonna sound dated.  No matter how good it is, there’ll be this tiny voice in your reader’s mind saying: ‘Isn’t that a bit naff?’ It’ll be a bit like watching one of those awful 80s movies. You know the ones. They go shopping and start doing a stupid dance routine while they try on embarrassing clothes.

If you are writing fiction set in the present day it’s hard not to have your peeps checking their text messages, looking up stuff on the web or playing angry birds; but do they have to do it with a Macbook Air?  What’s wrong with using a laptop?

Okay, I’m being a bit didactic. It’s not that simple is it? The way I see it some things are acceptable and some things aren’t. Brett Easton Ellis used Patrick’s obsession with label and brand as a theatrical device and it worked. It got on my nerves but it worked; and some technology brands have woven themselves so deftly into the fabric of our lives that they are indistinguishable from other nouns or verbs: hoover, tweet or google anyone? But iPhone 4? I don’t think so. What’s that going to sound like when Apple are bought out by some small start-up from San Salvador and are renamed Paw Paw?

Harry Potter was absolutely fine zooming around on his Nimbus 2000 cos no-one’s making them anyway so they can’t go obsolete but Lisbeth Salander’s iBook 600 with 420 megs of ram was dated before the book even came out. She might as well have been wearing shoulder pads underneath that perm. You see when a character does anything else, like wears a suit or walks into a bar it’s timeless. You can either update it in your mind’s eye or you can project it back to the time it was set. But old technology? In my book that’s a bit naff.

What do you think?


The smoke seeping in from under the diary room door was making the atmosphere more and more acrid with each rasping breath. It wouldn’t be long before I blacked out. It was action now or curtains for me.  I took a run and smashed the door off its hinges and dived out into the room as a salvo of bullets from a plasma rifle annihilated the wall that had been my refuge. I rolled across the floor until I reached the sofa where I hid.

From where I lay panting, I could if I wanted to look up the skirt of one of the two half-naked female contestants who were seemingly unaware of the pitched battle raging around them. They talked about their breast implants and hair extensions as burning fragments of the ceiling tiles rained down onto them. I was more concerned with the trail of bullet holes inching its way across the floor towards me as one half of the push-me-pull-you pop hydra Jedward got its range in. I stuck my head up and let off a couple of volleys from my chaingun but all it did was ruffle a few hairs at the tip of its quiff. It taunted me from behind a pillar, every time I got close the haircut would disappear and another one just the same would appear on the other side along with more plasma bullets heading my way.

Ammo was running short, from now on I had to make every shot count. I was momentarily distracted by a beeping sound and a bolt of searing plasma just missed my head.

I never thought of myself as a competitive type, mainly because I was so crap at sport when I was a kid. I was especially rubbish at anything that required you to connect a foot or a bat or a racquet with a ball. I wasn’t a high jumper or a cross country runner or a sprinter, the prospect of getting puffed out or covered in mud just didn’t float my boat.  Recently however; I’ve come to appreciate that actually I am very very competitive.

Every morning for the past year and a half, I have cycled across London from Waterloo Station to my office in Canary Wharf  and back in the evening. When you start it’s a scary thing to do. London is a huge Metropolis teaming with cars and people and being on two wheels makes you feel fragile and inconsequential, but after a while you realise that actually it isn’t that bad. In fact at most junctions in central London cyclists outnumber cars and what ones there are travel quite slowly.

The same can’t be said for the bikes however; every light change unleashes a tempest of wheels,  Lyrcra and testosterone. (I don’t subscribe to the Lycra personally.)  It’s utterly compulsive, you might convince yourself before you set off that you are gong to take it easy but at the first junction all that falls by the wayside.  I always arrive at my destination out of breath and hot enough to burst because I’ve raced all the way.

There’s a rigid pecking order out on the streets: the racer boys with their shaved legs and gaunt faces, the narrow-handlebar-metro-types with their iPods and their deathwishes, the middle-of-the-roaders on their middle-of -the-road bikes with mudguards and pumps and bells, and then there’s people like me on our folding commuter bikes. We know our place. We might have legs of steel and super fast bikes locked up in the garage at home, but because we travel in from the shires on commuter trains we are encumbered with these folding parodies of bikes. Don’t get me wrong I’m not knocking them, the Brompton Folding Bike is a marvel of design and engineering. From the way it tucks itself up into a package so neat that it draws gasps from tourists to its astounding strength and stiffness when you ride, there is nothing to compare. The problem is however, the wheels are too small and it isn’t very fast. No matter how hard or how fast you pedal you are never going to keep up with those racers.