steepholm (steepholm) wrote,

Poop poop!

Emerging technology is a dreadful Siren for a fiction writer. Nothing dates faster than the future. How many films from the '60s and '70s have been rendered ridiculous by room-sized computers a-flicker with lights and reeling with tapes? How many trendy yuppies had the line of their jackets spoilt by mobile phones the size and weight of bullion? Then of course there’s the problem of inflation...

It's not an entirely new problem. I've just been reading "Lord Beden's Motor" (1901) by J. B. Harris-Burland, in which the narrator experiences a terrifying night-time drive, courtesy of the eponymous peer. It's full of descriptions like this:

"What the deuce is it?" I said.

"You'll see when we come up to it," the Earl answered, between his teeth. "We shall go faster in a few minutes.""

We were, however, going quite fast enough for me, and though I have ridden on many motors since, and occasionally at a greater speed, I shall never forget that ride along the Kelston Road. The powerful machine beneath us trembled as though it were going to fall to pieces


We dashed through Kelston like a streak of light. It was fortunate that all the inhabitants were in bed. Then we shot out on to a road leading across the open moor, which stretches from here to the sea, twenty miles away, and I remembered that eight miles from Kelston there was a steep descent into the valley of the Stour, and it was scarcely possible that we could escape destruction. I quickly made up my mind to overpower Lord Beden and gain control of the machine.


[Lord B's response] "If you meddle with me we shall be smashed to pieces. We are going at forty miles an hour, and if you distract my attention for a single instant I won't answer for the consequences."

Forty miles an hour? Night-time or not, that's somehow a little deflating.
Tags: books, maunderings
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