While I was writing my new young adult novel, When We Wake, I decided I’d better do something nice for the main character, Tegan Oglietti.
I mean, I was shooting the poor girl dead on the happiest day of her life. Then I was reviving her a hundred years later, in 2128, when she would discover a very different Melbourne, Australia, than the one in which she’d first lived. As the first successful cryonic revival, Tegan was going to be celebrated and reviled, an instant celebrity everyone wanted to use for their own purposes.
To make it up to her, I thought I’d better give Tegan some shiny new toys.
It turns out that when you’re writing about technology in the future, it pays to think about your past. Like many keen readers, I have to have a book within easy access at all times. If I’m getting near the end of that book, I have to have two. If I’m on an international flight or a long bus ride, I have to have three, possibly more. Since I don’t drive, all those books used to make a happy home in my shoulder bag.
Getting an e-reader was unexpectedly great for my posture.
Suddenly, all that weight on my right shoulder disappeared. I had more books immediately at hand than would ever have been possible in paper form, and yet I was carrying something that was lighter than any one of them.
Unfortunately, as a working writer, I still had this laptop to lug around. Tablets are great, and my phone will do in a pinch, but the problem is that tablet and phone screens aren’t big enough for all the things I want to be doing simultaneously. What if I could carry something that could be both small and big enough for me?
What if I could take the edges of a very little computer and stretch it out to be as big as I wanted? Like a piece of Plasticine that was all shiny screen—but I could tell parts of it to be a keyboard or a notepad, and it would obey. It would go rigid if I wanted rigid, or pliable if I wanted some give in it. Then I could hold it like a foldable storybook while I read to my students, or hang it from the range hood so that I could check the recipe while I cooked. And when I was done, I could take the edges of my very light computer and push it back down.
It would be so great for my back!
Ooh! And what if I could just roll my stretchy computer into a tight ball and toss it into my bag? No more heart attacks from setting my laptop case down a little too hard! What if my computer could suck up power from the sun? No more embarrassing power losses midpresentation, with the power adapter far, far away!
How about this: I use my phone’s lit-up screen as a flashlight all the time—usually to find my blasted keys in the depths of my shoulder bag. What if, on my new flexible, stretchable computer, I could wrap that glow around my shoulders like a shawl, and have light and my hands free? Safety feature!
Oh, and what if I could use my new computer to discover a vast conspiracy directly related to my cryonic revival? What if I could use it to record evidence of the nefarious plans the future Australian government had for other frozen sleepers—evidence people would kill to hide?
Wait, that’s not me. That’s Tegan.
I put her through a lot. In my defense, however, I did give her a really shiny new computer.