The Crime Readers' Association

Saturday Sixers: Crime Writing in the Future

8th June 2013

Not only are we in the midst of National Crime Writing Month but we are already half way through the Crime Writers’ Association Diamond Anniversary year – yes we are 60! To honour our anniversary Saturdays at the CRA are going to be dedicated to the number 6 and we have lined up a selection of guest bloggers – both readers and authors – who have come up with some very inventive posts for us.

The first is Jackie McLean who is an avid reader and blogs about her love of writing here over to you Jackie!

Till death do us part – crime writing in the future

As the CWA celebrates its 60th anniversary, it’s tempting – and quite lovely – to muse back over the past sixty years of crime writing. But what of sixty years from now? How will the writers of 2073 be crafting their thrilling art?

The settings and the plot lines, of course, will be open to new and exciting possibilities for writers. For example, identity theft and cyber crime would scarcely have entered the imaginations of crime writers in 1953 – who knows what future crimes will emerge that we can write about?

But what about the nuts and bolts of writing itself?

When we think that, sixty years ago, we’d be handwriting our manuscript, or perhaps hashing it out on a typewriter, with lashings of Tipex, could the mechanics of writing sixty years from now be as unthinkable, as fantastical, as the thought of word processing and email would have been back in 1953?

This year, Christoher Brookmyre published his novel, Bedlam, asking the question “What if you’re sucked into another world…” In the book, he contrasts gaming of the 1980s with that of today, and anyone familiar with how computer games have changed over the years can only be struck by the incredible leaps in the quality of graphics.

Well, give that technology another sixty years from now. Could there come a point when the distinction between real life and computer graphics is blurred to the point where we won’t be able to tell the difference?

Current (more credible) theories of time travel focus on this notion. That, given time and technological progress in gaming, we could indeed reach a stage where we are unable to discern the real world from the electronic one. And, just to mess with our heads, how do we know that we’re not characters in somebody’s game a hundred years from now? A vastly more sophisticated version of The Sims, perhaps?

As far as crime writing goes, then, the future of gaming poses particular possibilities. For example, perhaps the masterpieces of 2073 will be computer programmes, so that agents or publishers will sit down and watch the plot being played out in graphic format, instead of downloading draft manuscripts on their Kindles. Does that seem unlikely? As unlikely as telling a writer from 1953 that their agent could download their manuscript onto a Kindle? (A what?).

And for readers, will graphics start creeping into the e-book format and then gradually become the norm, improving to the point where the reader becomes part of the story – for real?

The truth is, we’ll only know when we know. Crime writing in 2013 is at a pivotal moment in its history. The written word rules, but the battle between print and e-format is well and truly underway. Technological progress has been possible because of the ability to share the written word. But now, and in the future, it is possible that technology will alter the very nature of writing itself. The question is, will that be for better or for worse?

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