1. OurJud

    OurJud Contributor Contributor

    May 21, 2009
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    Describing future tech

    Discussion in 'Science Fiction' started by OurJud, Jul 30, 2015.

    I already have my own solutions and methods for these situations, so I suppose this isn't a direct question, but more a request for thoughts and opinions.

    It concerns the descriptions and workings of future tech, and how far those descriptions need to (or should) go. I don't mean on a plausibility level (explaining the inner workings and such) but just their basic description.

    If I wanted to write a scene in which a character watches television, it wouldn't be necessary to describe that television. I would simply say 'Jack sat down and turned on the TV'. Everyone knows what a TV is, and everyone can picture 'Jack' carrying out this action. In the same way, I want to be equally simplistic, even when the story is set in the future and involves future tech.

    However, it would be wrong of me to write 'Jack sat down and picked up the dooblefurker from the coffee table' and presume everyone would understand and be able to picture this. But at the same time I don't like to see the introduction of new tech followed up by long explanations of its appearance and function.

    The reason for this may be considered silly by most, but in my head a future-set story is still something that happened in the past. It's still a story you're telling to someone after the event, and because of that the reader would already be familiar with a dooblefurker, in the same way we are with the TV.

    Yes, a future-set story is full of predictions and imagined tech, but I don't want it to read like some kind of prophercy... as though I'm predicting the future and having to explain things like tech, because the reader is still in the past and hasn't encountered them yet.

    To me it's a glaring contradiction - even illogical - to tell a story about the future, in past tense, and yet have to explain tech to the reader.

    I get round this by keeping tech to a minimum, and giving them names which hint at what they are and do. So, for example, the TV becomes the 'display' - a huge floating projection acting as the central hub for all entertainment. This way I could say something like 'Jack sat down and flicked on the display. He checked for new mail and bla bla bla...' and safely presume that the reader would use their own imagination to picture this 'display', working out from its name and how the character is using it, to imagine what it might be.

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