It seems an incredible irony that the more developed our society becomes, with the undoubted benefits of technology and communication, the less kind it seems to be (There ought to be plenty of advantages for the crime writer in that!). For example, with the mobile phone came theft, intimidation and bullying, as schoolchildren were quick to discover; camera-enhanced phones only worsened the problem, as ‘happy-slapping’ ensued.
Now, as the phones become smarter and smarter, people’s capacity to exploit them for malicious purposes seems to grow and grow. How different was the mobile-less world of my childhood, which had only public telephones with buttons A (which you pressed to speak once the call got through) and B (to get un-used money back). Even then, the human mind was looking to exploit an opportunity: young children (self included!) always nipped in to press button B in the hope that someone had forgotten to retrieve their pennies (the big coins of pre-decimal days) and there were naughty ways of clicking the receiver to make free calls (though I was too young to master them!). Nevertheless, I don’t think people were particularly at risk from using a telephone box, whereas now a mugger on a bike will snatch a phone from someone’s hand and make off with it; parents now provide their children with a phone to improve their safety and by doing so increase the risk of danger.
For me, mobile phones are a very mixed blessing, as some excellent and very humorous bloggers of my acquaintance have recently confirmed. I hate having to listen to other people using them, which they seem to do all the time on train journeys; the battery on mine is always flat at the time I really need to make a call; my husband’s phone is invariably switched off when I call him (Read into that what you like!); someone rings when I’m taking a quiet walk in the countryside; I could go on and on. Worst of all, though as an owner of one I ought to be completely au fait with how it works, I’m not conversant with its finer capabilities and I certainly know that I won’t be using it as a plot device any time soon, because there would inevitably be a glaring technical error for all to laugh at! I’m not keen on procedurals, anyway.
2 thoughts on “No, not the best plot device for me…”
I think the other problem with technologies like phones is their capacity to date a piece of writing. For a visual parallel, take the scene in Pretty Woman where Richard Gere is walking barefoot on the grass taking a call on his cell phone – which has the proportions of a brick!
I remember being very struck when studying at university in the 80s that in her novel The Last Man, Mary Shelly envisaged the end of humanity resulting from a cholera epidemic. I was reading the novel in the early days of AIDS awareness – making the scenario suddenly less outdated than it had done for the previous cold-war generation, for whom the predominant threat to humanity was nuclear not biological.
All plot devices carry inherent risks, and not just those of a lack of understanding on the author’s part!
Hello, Sheila! Those bricks in films are funny! You’re right – they do date their context. Your point about ‘The Last Man’ is an interesting one; the relevance of the plot to subsequent generations may certainly change. ‘Frankenstein’ has become, with the developments in science, even more significant today. However, I can’t claim to be aiming for universality!
Thanks for dropping in and for your comment; it’s interesting to hear other points of view and to interact with readers of the blog!