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
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.