First you use machines, then you wear machines, and then…?
Then you serve machines. It was obvious.–John Brunner’s Stand on Zanzibar
A few days ago I mentioned I had spent half a day online.
Half a day. That’s a lot of hours.
It upset me.
There I was, teary-eyed because I couldn’t get offline.
Ridiculous, I know.
I don’t look like an addict. I don’t/can’t drink. I don’t/can’t take drugs.
I’m now like a character in an SF novel.
Suddenly the computer takes over and….
No, it’s not 1968, the year John Brunner’s Stand on Zanzibar was published, but everyone should read this postmodern science fiction classic.
As Brunner knew, the computer can be used for the good or the bad.
And so I went offline for several hours yesterday to read.
I almost finished Miklos Banffy’s They Were Counted, a Hungarian classic written in the ’30s, the first of the Transylvanian trilogy. Set in the last years of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, this brilliant novel shimmers with vividly detailed descriptions of parties (one lasts 100 pages), hunts, gambling, politics, and adulterous love. It is reminiscent of Tolstoy’s War and Peace and Anna Karenina, two of my favorite books, yet somehow I hadn’t made much progress this month. It was all the online stuff.
I read 100 pages.
I am relieved.
I am still here.
Yes, the same person I always was. A reader.
I value my online friends, their emails, and their blogs, but being online can be addictive.
When you’ve been off the computer for a day, you know what hurts your eyes? Twitter.
It looks like this:
Europa Editions @EuropaEditionsOur first ever hardcover at @banksquarebks in CT–looks delicious! Also catch @JonCG at @TheIvyBookshop tonight! pic.twitter.com/5kGi47TlL8
What the f___ does that even mean? (though I love you, Europa Editions!)
FOR GIRLS ONLY. My vivacious cousin the librarian has gone on four dates this month.
She has gone out three times with a guy who used to be “in the military.”
“What does that even mean?” I ask.
“He’s 40, a retired…officer?”
We dragged in a table from the porch and I arranged my plants on it.
There! A Christmas cactus and three geraniums.
Having the plants there makes me want to look at the computer screen less.
“He’s very reliable…seems to be…and pays for everything…but…”
There is always a “but…”
“But he was half an hour late and…there was lipstick on his shirt.”
Probably his own lipstick, I thought despondently.
“And then he admitted he had been on another date…”
I knew this story wasn’t going anywhere I wanted it to go.
“Well, at least he was honest.”
“Honest? Do you like him?”
She was quiet. No, not that much obviously…it’s October…find someone now or you’re alone all winter.
“Honey, no!” I said absent-mindedly.
Story, characters, sadness. That’s not what we’re all about in my family.
And we’re not really much about the military, either.
We looked at her latest match.com email.
“You have 16 new matches… Because you interacted with ____, _____, and _____, we think you may like these matches.”
“It’s better than hanging around in a bar,” she said in a quavering voice.
Is it? Yes, of course it is.
We start reading profiles.
“Maybe I’ll just have a tiny drink,” she says.
I forbid drink, but give her an oatmeal cookie.