|The past is another country. But the RECENT past is more foreign, at least in fiction
||[Jun. 9th, 2014|01:16 pm]
I'm reading a book from 2002 called YOU'VE GOT MURDER, but Donna Andrews. It's a mystery novel by virtue of a. being a mystery, and b. being published under the Berkley Prime Crime imprint. But it would have been just fine to publish it as a science fiction novel, too, if someone had wanted to, as the amateur detective in question is an AI.|
The thing is ... the world of 2002 feels slightly more alien to me than the world of 1972 of AN UNSUITABLE JOB FOR A WOMAN, and much more alien than most of the Perry Mason books. And MUCH more alien than most of Charlie Stross's near future stuff.
The AI is trying to work out how to communicate with her human friends when they're not at their computers so they can type to each other. They could maybe get cell phones, and the AI could listen in, but how would she talk back to them? She can't really do voice synthesis well enough to make it work. So instead, she'll have them have pagers, so she can text them what she wants to say on the pager. And one of them is going to try to find a digital camera so he can get a record of some of the stuff she wants to see. (The AI is a mystery novel fan, and fortunately the corporation which built her is also scanning books and OCR'ing them, so she can read them, and she notes that she's kind of like Nero Wolfe, in that she can't actually GO anywhere, so she's joking that she's using her friends as Archie Goodwin.)
And the idea that a cell phone, a thing to receive texts on, and a digital camera are all uncommon-enough to require some thought, and also, that they're different things just feels so weird to me. It's close enough that it feels more alien.
I guess it's like the uncanny valley. It doesn't bother me that the Continental Op needs to find telephones to check in with people, and it costs him non-trivial amounts of money to call other cities, so he does it as little as possible. Or that Brother Cadfael doesn't turn on light switches. The radio program "The Black Museum" recreates (to a radio drama degree of accuracy, which is to say, not much) actual cases from Scotland Yard, from 1875 all the way up to the most modern days of 1951, and I'm fine with those.
But 2002 is too close to be different, and too far away to be the same. Twelve years. That's all the time it takes for the world to feel strange to someone who was THERE for it.
Okay, fine. The 1972 of AN UNSUITABLE JOB FOR A WOMAN also feels pretty weird.