We Have Become the Future (thoughts on technology-reliance)

I’m just going to start off by saying that I hate that the word technology has become short-hand for “computer-and-internet-related tech” specifically. The thing is, technology actually refers to all the things we humans use to get along in the world. Clothes on your back? Technology. Fire to cook your food? Technology. Housing? Technology.

But that’s all rather long to put into a title for a blog post. So I succumb, a tiny bit, to popular usage (which, by the way, does not always mean correct usage — hence why dictionaries are not the best source for a word’s actual meaning).

Rabid lexophilia aside — I recently spent over 24 hours with no internet.

This was because our money issues have come to the point where we have to juggle bills according to priority, and we had to leave the internet bill for a long time.

We managed to get the internet turned back on (otherwise how would I be posting this), but for a good portion of 2 days — during most of which I was actually awake and able to brain — I had no internet access whatsoever.

And I felt like I’d lost a limb. Or rather, I felt as I did when I realized that my back injury had effectively cut off a good portion of my life. (Goodbye, racquet-ball and horseback riding.)

I’m not trying to say that the internet has become essential in my life — except it has, in many ways, because I’m trying to make my living as a writer. And in this future of indie publishing, this future of leaving the Big Six behind, trying to build up your career as an author without any sort of online presence is…well, exceptionally difficult. I think, perhaps, more so if you’re on the younger side of 40 — you haven’t had as much time to build up a network of contacts, nor as much practice (and if you’re like me, or many other writers, you have to practice at networking because talking to people comes as naturally as rolling around in jello and yodeling). My mom has much more success in local community-based networking than I do, because she’s had more time to perfect her social skills, and more time to make more friends.

Still, not as essential as, say, food, or water, or clothes or shelter or clean air to breathe. That whole Maslow’s Hierarchy thing. (Which, yes, the internet as itself is not actually on — but I’d say it could be related to or included with the top three or even four levels of the pyramid.)

But I find myself wondering how people survived without the internet — how they survive today without it, for I’m well aware that only a minority of humanity actually has internet — let alone computing! — access. I honestly cannot remember a time when I did not use the internet. I know such a time exists, because I remember when we first got AOL dial-up and were so excited about it. I just can’t remember what that time was like. (Insert caveat here about how most of my childhood memories have been suppressed for unrelated reasons.)

I spent my adolescence on the internet; I grew up here. It has become a part of me. I was on Facebook when it first started. I began blogging on Blogdrive as Jagged. I have been in cyberspace so long it’s become one of my main places to visit. In fact, I spend so much time here it may as well be a second home.

I watched a video recently about Neil Harbisson — a man who was born with achromatopsia (meaning he cannot see any colours). Through the help of a device called the eyeborg, Neil can now hear colours. He’s considered the first officially recognized cyborg because his passport photo includes his eyeborg.

He said something that stuck with me.

One day I started hearing colors in my dreams. Then I understood what being a cyborg meant. It’s not the union between the eyeborg and my head, what converts me into a cyborg, but the union between the software and my brain. My body and the technology have united. It’s very, very human to modify one’s body with human creations.

It made me wonder if those of us who have grown up with computers and the internet as part of our daily lives have not, in some way, already become cyborgs. Or at least the midpoint between non-cyborg and cyborg; that stepping stone between non-reliant on computing technology and physically integrated with it.

I have dreams about the internet. Tetris plays across my eyelids when I shut them.

When I lose the internet for a few days, I wander around in a haze for hours before finally texting my fiance at 4 am to say “What on earth do people without the internet DO?”.

(He texted back “You could play Civ 5, but you’re so obsessed with achievements I doubt it’d be fun to play offline.” But not until the internet was back on.)

I couldn’t even work. I managed to get 1500 words written on Winterborn, but then had to quit again. I actually do a fair amount of research for my books online, and sometimes I just can’t continue a scene until I’ve got a piece of research down. Publishing work? Forget it. I don’t have a master document on my computer of dimensions and such for formatting. I look that stuff up as a I need to — especially as it often changes.

After writing and watching the rest of the episodes of Castle I have lying around (I’m all caught up now; yay) I spun around in my chair and looked at the ceiling of my office. Then I went to bed, because what else was I going to do?

When I woke up, the internet was back on. Good thing, too, because I probably would have gone mad had it been off any longer.

Of course, now that it’s back on all the things I could have done when it was off occur to me. Read. Clean my kitchen. Work on cleaning my bedroom. Organize my things for moving in a few months.

But it seems those things are much easier to accomplish when I can choose to walk away from the internet. I do an hour of cleaning, and then allow myself to read blogs or write blog posts or wander around on social media or watch an episode of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic on Netflix before I start working again. With the internet gone not of my own choice, it’s much harder to do anything else — not just because of the lack of usual reward, but because with the internet cut off I don’t feel 100% myself. I have no balance and can’t find my way.

This is the future that I never saw coming. I wonder what other future I’ll become in 5, 10, 25 years?


Oregon is a dangerous place for us — and I’m not talking about dysentery

Oregon has no state tax. This is like a stranger in a van offering candy to us 14%-tax-beleaguered British Columbians: dangerous, but oh so tempting.

Our trip to Seattle got delayed a bit when we decided to stop in Portland. Mom bought shoes (so what else is new?), we both got books, I picked up a pre-loved copy of Destroy All Humans, and then we may have wandered into the Apple store and I may be writing this blog entry on an iPad.

Wait! Before you write me off as just another spoiled white kid, let me elaborate. The iPad is a business expense so we write it off. We’re not just writers, you see: we’re publishers as well. Katje van Loon (autocorrect changed my name to “Kate” — bad iPad! No cookie) writes books published by The Pack Press, run by Mom, and Jana van Loon runs Stars Above, Stars Below Publishing, which puts out Kaimana Wolff’s (ie, Mom’s) novels and poetry. Each house also puts out books by other people and non-profit organizations, and we offer publishing services to those who wish to self-publish.

We’ve nothing against being self-published, but many contests do — and we want to enter those contests. Same deal for many writers’ festivals: your publisher needs to get you in. Not to mention, as a mother-daughter writing team who publishes each other’s books, we have many opportunities to promote each other — which is much easier than promoting oneself tirelessly. Less spammy, too.

Finally, my mother and I trust each other’s judgement in various areas: she’s an accomplished, professional editor, fantastic at in-person social networking, has knowledge of how to do business and understands finances (ie, how to make money), and has years of expertise in several areas, most importantly law.

I have a near instinctual grasp of our modern technology and know how to utilize it to our advantage. I understand Internet social networking and excel at it as much as I fail at face to face. I know InDesign, and I’m good at cover design and book block design.

We’re both dedicated, determined, and we have keen eyes for errors in each other’s works — you’d be amazed at what sneaks past in the first 7 edits/read-throughs. We help each other shoulder the burden of publishing a book on your own — being an indie author is difficult, time-sucking work, and it is not an easy way to make a buck. You’re spending almost every hour of the day working — sometimes for very little return, at least at first.

You want a good, professional book that people will a) take interest in and b) love or at least like? You have to put in the time or money, and it takes a bit.

So, we bought an iPad. It is another tank for our arsenal on the battlefield of the publishing world. We’ve small publishing houses; we need every weapon available.