Four Technologies That Sound Really Dumb In Allusions In Fiction

There are a lot of impoverished writers out there with an axe to grind against the big bad Internets. I’m sympathetic, I swear, but when the vendetta seeps into their books, it usually sounds kind of silly.

4. Netscape

Because shoehorning in references to obsolete browsers is the only way people will know your book is set in 2000.

Egregious example: “‘You’re in this crazy industry where people eat each other alive. No, wait’—she stopped Emily from interrupting—‘it’s in all the newspapers and the chat groups. Microsoft taking out Netscape. Veritech suing Janus.’‘You heard about that?’ Frankly, Emily was surprised to hear that Jess followed any news at all.” —Allegra Goodman, “The Cookbook Collector”

3. Screen names


In “Super Sad True Love Story,” Gary Shteyngart creates a creepy dystopia by tweaking and renaming contemporary technologies. But IM screen names are already pretty much obsolete—it’s like one of those seventies sci-fi movies where all the characters have car phones.

Egregious example: “JUNE 19.EUNI-TARD: Sally, are you bidding on the gray ankle boots at Padma? SALLYSTAR: How did you know?” —Gary Shteyngart, “Super Sad True Love Story”

2. Twitter

I’ll just let this example speak for itself.

Egregious example: “There was plenty of tweeting on Twitter, but the chirping and fluttering world of nature... was one anxiety too many.”—Jonathan Franzen, “Freedom”

1. The iPod

Creative capitalization always looks ridiculous, especially in a novel with highbrow pretensions. And seriously—if you want to show up some soul-sucking, attention-span-depleting, electronic factotum, the iPod is not your ideal target. Waiting for mine to provide directions using its sluggish WiFi connection is the most strenuous exercise in patience I’ve had since 2003.

Egregious example: “If he was listening to his iPod or playing a video game, or when he was able to connect, browsing online, it was—to her—as if he wasn’t there.” —Sigrid Nunez, “Salvation City”

—Abigail B. Lind is the incoming Books Editor. She is a Luddite. Her name means Fountain of Joy.


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