As a history major, a history lover, and an author of historical fiction, I am as guilty as anyone else of romanticizing the “good old days.” Sure, maybe those of us who long for a simpler time or the days when neighbors actually knew each other have a point. But the more research I do, the less capable I am of this romanticizing, because you find out some really weird stuff, like how pretty knickknacks could also be used as flea traps that hung around your neck.
Going through the process of independently publishing and marketing a novel, I am simply astonished by what is at our fingertips now. Of course, being a libertarian/voluntaryist/anarcho-capitalist, you’d expect me to be enthusiastic about the greater amount of choice and the dissemination of power. AND I AM.
Do you know how much I paid CreateSpace for my publication process? Since I did all the interior formatting and used my own photos for the cover, the only thing I paid for were the two book proofs I ordered. I’ve already earned back that money in royalties. (I also paid for the copies that I’m having shipped to my apartment that I’ll distribute on my own, but that wasn’t a necessary part of the process.)
From my couch, using my laptop and the Internet, I have potential access to millions of people. My blog gets hits from Brazil, Canada, the UK, and Korea. One of my book’s Facebook fans is in Germany. Others are in Colorado and D.C. I don’t mean to compare myself in terms of substance, but this is the kind of coverage that Shakespeare and Jane Austen and Oscar Wilde never expected in their lifetimes. I can get advice from people I’ve never met or even spoken to. I can turn around and share that advice with a hundred other people with a few taps of my keyboard.
I know that a lot of people complain that technology and a global economy has spread people apart, splitting families, introduced new ways to commit sin, substituted technology for human interaction, and fed our self-centeredness. In a way, those are all correct. But then I’ll watch an old movie, one that’s only 50 years old, say, and I’ll see how people were limited by what their local grocer carried and couldn’t read a book if their local library didn’t offer it. Now a person in remote parts of, I dunno, Manitoba or something can order saffron online for a new recipe they found on a foodie blog, and a person in Venice can go on Amazon and order a book printed in the United States—or even just read reviews and decide if it’s worth it. Then I would dare the naysayers of things like Facebook to try to make it one day in that 50-years-ago world without going insane.
Heck, even watching an episode from season one of Buffy is baffling to me—the library just got a new computer system! Only the school’s biggest nerds know how to chat online! It’s a brilliant reminder of how far we’ve come in less than two decades.
It’s an extraordinary time to be alive.