I’ve just finished the third Black Dagger Brotherhood novel and am halfway through the fourth. As it was the latest in a long line of books that violated this rule, (okay it’s not a rule but maybe it should be), I feel compelled to post about it.
Unless your book is set during a specific time period, don’t get detailed when referring to technology–any kind of technology, particularly computers.
Why? Because technology changes practically at the speed of lightning and nothing is going to date your work faster than outdated references. Or worse, references that are flat wrong. In the fourth Black Dagger Brotherhood novel, V and Rhage are off to gather up a lesser’s jar and in his apartment V finds a laptop. He checks it, finds that it’s encripted up the wazoo, then he shuts the cover an unplugs it. This vamp knows his technology and is not going to be so stupid he doesn’t properly shut the computer down before transport, even if that does mean dematerializing (and I suddenly am wondering how bad the defrag process is once he dematerializes with computers–clearly it’s too early in the morning for this tech geek). As someone who knows computers, that instantly pulled me out of the story because it’s wrong.
There was another instance where an operating system and actual computer specs were referenced. Another no no. Granted, it’s taken Bill Gates YEARS to get Vista out after popping out Windows 95, 98, 2000 and ME in quick order. But operating systems will change. Someday in the distant future, Windows might not own the monopoly anymore and do you want your reader in 2030 to scoff at you? No. Most stories, unless they’re a Tom Clancylike thriller, do not necessitate detailed explanation of computer operation. Most modern readers are familiar with computers, so assume they know what you’re talking about and be vague.
What about not so common technology?
In the last incarnation of HOC, I made use of a couple of different technological tools–one, a machine that produced a 3-D holographic image that looked real to my heroine and the other, a directional acoustic weapon that basically produced a beam of sound that broadcast the voice of my heroine’s dead fiance to make her think she was crazy. What I found that was among romance readers, they were more inclined to believe in the 3-D technology (which doesn’t exist) than the acoustic technology (which does). The truth is, that kind of 3-D technology is still just a movie special effect redolent of various incarnations of Star Wars and Star Trek. The acoustic technology (which has a name, I just can’t remember it right now), is being used/tested in military applications. In the latest incarnation, I left all that behind (mainly because I found other ways for the bad guy to psychologically torture the heroine).
Now if you’re writing some kind of Urban fantasy or science fiction novel set in a world of technology all your own making, knock yourself out. But if your story takes place in the real world, particularly in our time, do yourself a favor and don’t focus on the familiar technology.