We are the revolution, by James Grady

We are the revolution.

In reading and writing and ‘rithmetic. In culture and entertainment, news. And fun.

Fun: like the kind of novels I love to read and write.

EBooks and cyber-journalism – I didn’t ask for all those changes to come in and wipe out the way things had always been, things I loved like books and newspapers.

I’m a silver-haired wolf. Computers were things on Star Trek and now, even though I use a computer for work and pleasure, like most of the people on our whole planet, I don’t truly understand how they work. Or like them. Science fiction schooled me well on what the machines we build to make our lives better can do to – I mean, for us.

Besides, I loved the “dead tree” way of getting my kicks and revelations with fiction and my facts with good journalism. I love the crinkle of a newspaper that’s tossed onto my front porch before I get up every morning. I loved going to libraries and wandering through shelves and stacks of bright-jacketed books. Oh, but mostly, I loved going to bookstores, to be dazzled by what was brand new that I never heard of and look: “They reprinted that classic Ross Thomas novel you loved so much but that I lost on that airplane!”

The feel of a book. The heft. The smell. Why would you want to give up such love?

But, come to find out, I love this new cyber world of eBooks.

I love that it gives me more great things to read faster and cheaper and with an almost mind-boggling huge galaxy of great choices.

I love that now, thanks to Mysterious Press, why yes: the classic Ross Thomas novel that somebody left on an airplane is just a click away.

And I love the cyber revolution as a writer.

The easy stuff to love is how so much mindless drudgery of writing is gone. 

I wrote my first, I don’t know, nine books on typewriters. I once told a reporter that chapter of my 20th century life should be called Blood On The Keys. Even though most writers can’t resist changing and improving something each time they write it, in the old days, there came a point where you were re-typing whole manuscripts just to get them legible and organized and coherent enough for you to edit them, before they got retyped with as few errors as possible for a publisher. Computers – “word processors” – transformed all that and wiped out 80 percent of the drudgery and physical, often painful work of writing.

Even better, with everything from Delete to Copy to Spellcheck…Wow!

What that lets me do as a writer is connect faster, better, and I think more completely and clearly to my readers. 

When I write a description of a sign, I can change the font so the Old English sign actually looks more like my story wants it to. Computers mean I can give the reader a more visceral experience, make you feel my story with the same tricks – I mean, techniques – as poets who with….

                        ….their line breaks,

                                    their funky

                           layout

                        their spelling daze

                        dazzle delight dismay

                        so we feel something.

I first fell in love with “cyber readin’ & writin’” as a cultural commentator and journalist for AOL’s groundbreaking so now gone “internet newspaper” PoliticsDaily.com way back in… oh: less than nine months ago as I write this, a lifetime in this cyber world of instant communication.

As a “cyber journalist,” I discovered I could open windows for my readers that “dead tree” print journalism kept nailed shut. I started using hyperlinks to give my readers a choice of going deeper into what I was writing about or how I was seeing it – and not always in an orthodox way.  

Such innovations are just about to break their way into novel and nonfiction “book” publishing. I can hardly wait! 

But while I’m “waiting” – and writing – this new world of eBooks has given me a chance at more fun and freedom – especially via the Mysterious Press. A great book is like a dream lover: once is great, but twiceah.

Now, cheaply, quickly I can revisit Ross Thomas or Adam Hall or James Ellroy or Thomas Cook or Donald Westlake classics. And keep them forever, easily and conveniently and not in a way that they gather dust I need to clean.

My father grew up plowing a Montana family farm with horses and lived to see a man walk on the moon. Even with some college training as an engineer before WW II, he could never grasp some of the fundamental principles of space flight, and so for years, he let that keep him from plugging into the awe and wonders of the heavens being opened up before him. And then he just let go of what he didn’t need to know (how the satellites could carry enough fuel to circle the earth for years). He just started to enjoy what the new technologies brought him. Then he smiled more.

You don’t have to know how computers complicate the internal combustion engine of today’s cars beyond the old muscle machine you drove as a teenager to turn a key and get a great ride today. Same thing with eBooks. You don’t need to know how they work or have some kind of kinky love for computers or the internet to click a few times and end up having a great read delivered to you without you needing to walk out in the rain.

Besides, it doesn’t matter if we love eBooks or not.

They are not our tomorrow.

They are our today.

And we should be getting the most fun out of this time as we can.


James Grady

James Grady is the author of screenplays, articles, and over a dozen critically acclaimed thrillers, including Six Days of the Condor, which was turned into a 1975 film, Three Days of the Condor, starring Robert Redford. Four of his books--Six Days of the Condor, condor.net, The Nature of the Game and This Given Sky--will be available through MysteriousPress.com on November 22.

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