A Body Of Texts

by Zoë Pollock

Allison K. Gibson weighs the pros ands cons of mentioning technology in fiction:

First, technology can be awkward to write about. The jargon is clumsy: download, reboot, global positioning device. It’s embarrassing, really. So I understand an author’s impulse to avoid littering pages of otherwise lyrical prose with the bleep-boop-beep of tech speak. For this reason, authors often forgo current technologies when they want their characters to communicate with one another, or to reveal important, plot-forwarding information. I get it. What could be less romantic than a text message?

Fiction allows for a certain level of restraint, after all, where the author need not include a protagonist’s every bathroom break or end each scene with the characters saying goodbye. Why then, if it’s common practice to avoid including other unglamorous functions of characters’ daily lives — like said bathroom break — is it necessary to show them texting and refreshing their inboxes? Think of it this way: in most cases, a bowel movement will not move the plot forward; an email will.

On that note, the author Will Self recently gave an interview raging against disembodied fiction:

In a way, it’s just as simple as nobody ever having a shit in a book whereas it seems to me that the condition of somebody’s digestion is of almost paramount importance to their mental state. So much fiction seems disembodied to me, and so connected with a kind of cultural and political establishment, in whose interest it is that we be disembodied—particularly in Anglo-Saxon culture which is so antipathetic to sexuality, sensuality, and bodily experience.

If you write a novel in which nobody has a shit, nobody pisses, farts, cuts themselves, nobody has an awful fugue where they are aware of their blood circulation or their swollen liver or the wheeze in their lungs or the spot on the line of their jaw—what are you saying about the world at that point? You’re saying that the important thing is nothing to do with embodiment. You’re saying that the important thing is that we’re not like animals, whereas of course we are animals.