Katrina Gray: So, Lynn Beighley. Or should I call you @lynnbeighley? @geek seems like a cool group. Do you have to be a geek to join? Are nerds, dorks, and goblins also welcome?

Lynn Beighley: You may call me either one, as long as you pronounce my last name correctly. It’s pronounced Beighley.

Thank you. We take umbrage with the word “cool” and we use words like “umbrage.”

Do you have to be a geek to join, you ask. Do we exclude? Us?

See, we remember standing on a field of dead grass, in the scorching Texas sun, at recess, waiting to be chosen for a volleyball team. We were always the last ones chosen. Always. Except once, but that was because Tina had her arm in a cast. We swore that we’d never judge, we’d never compare. We welcome nerds, dorks, goblins, and even jocks. Yes, even them.

Everyone is welcome, except maybe trolls.

Hang on while I recover from junior high flashbacks….Okay [phew]: Your slogan is “Intellect and romance over brute force and cynicism.” How does this capture the essence of @geek?

I’d like to answer in the form of a YouTube video.

It’s about embracing your inner wide-eyed child. Be the Doctor, not a Dalek. Be a Bugs Bunny, not Yosemite Sam. Be the Marx Brothers, not…well, you get my point. Be clever and open-minded. Eschew anger and force. (I don’t mean The Force, of course, us geeks, we like that kind of force. Because we’re geeks. [Where was I? Oh yes. ])

The world is, on the whole, an amazing place. Us geeks and nerds, we’re fascinated by shiny things, we’re obsessed with seeing what’s inside. We’re mesmerized by robots, even though we really want to take them apart.* We explore technologies, not because we want to be powerful, but because they’re neat!

*Don’t you hate how, when you take things apart, you always have leftover pieces?

How do you see technology changing writing and writers? There’s the development of Twitter fiction, and also the growth of writing communities (Fictionaut in da hizzous!), and the list goes on and on….

There are two things that worry me and many more things that delight me about the future of writing and writers. Geeks, we like lists. First,

Things That Worry Me About Technology and Literature

1) We’re losing our attention spans. We want it short and to the point. Will there continue to be enough of an audience that novels can get published? Are we losing subtlety in our desire for brevity?

2) Paper books, made from dead trees. I love paper books, but I’m writing this on my iPad, the same infernal, wonderful device that I read most “books” on these days. I miss the heft of a book, I miss the smell. No, I’m not buying that stupid perfume, because it’s not a book.

3) I worry authors will make even less money than before. I know, a true writer writes, it’s not about money, blah blah blah. But I’d certainly like to make a living wage from my fiction writing so I could afford to do more of it.

4) I want self-publishing to become more viable, but I’m afraid truly wonderful writing will be buried in the huge pile of mediocre writing. Not that there’s anything wrong with mediocre writing, I create it all the time.

Things That I Hope Technology will Enable

1) Maybe more people will read.

2) Maybe people will read more.

3) Maybe self-publishing will become viable.

Take me through your brain process when you read an old story or novel that was written pre-all-this-stuff. You know, where people are twirling phone cords and adjusting rabbit ears on the black-and-white television. Where a fella could have a good old-fashioned affair that did not start on Facebook.

See, you’re dealing with an old geek. I remember a time when there were these machines called typewriters. And I’ve heard rumors of a primitive device known as a pen. And I must confess, every serious romantic relationship I’ve ever had started in person. So it’s all new to me, this online dating malarkey. But I’ve heard rumors.

I admit that I have many people I call friend that I’ve never met in person. Fictionauts and @geek members Erin Zulkoski, Boudreau Freret, and Marcus Speh. And many, many more. I have more virtual friends now than I have flesh friends. Interestingly, I almost typed “real” instead of “flesh” but that’s not accurate. My online friends are real friends. At least it seems that way on this end.

I once wrote a poem about why I will never have a cell phone. Something about loving the feeling of rushing home to tell somebody something, saving up all that energy and letting it explode. Six months later I got a cell phone. Hmph. Do you have a similar story of how technology crept into your life when you least expected it? Or have you always embraced it?

I know exactly what you mean! See, I had the iPhone 3 and I got a chance to write an article on the iPhone 4. So I had to decide, do I upgrade and get the article gig, or do I stick with my old faithful primitive iPhone 3.  24 interminable hours later, I bought the iPhone 4. So yeah, like that.

There are fleeting moments when I wish I wasn’t constantly surrounded by computers, phones, media on demand. But I’m not ready for intervention. I can give it up. Yeah. Anytime I want.

Right. Of course you can. Well, hey, I had planned on asking another question, but I have to go check my Twitter. You can just say something witty and charming and interesting, and I will smile and nod.

@Katrina_Gray Highlight of my day: spotted motorcycle with sidecar. Low point: there was no cat in it.

Katrina Gray checks in with Fictionaut groups every Friday. She lives in Nashville with the writer John Minichillo and their lovechild. She is the editor-in-chief of Atticus Review, and she blogs about mostly non-literary things at www.katrinagray.com.

  1. MaryAnne Kolton

    Oh Lynn, now I no why you were able to tell me how to put pictures with my stories. I am hopelessly old school, although I do have an iPod and a cell phone – I miss writing letters and I’m afraid real, living breathing books and people will go away somewhere and never return. Your comment about having more virtual friends than, well, in person friends is so true. You are truly funny and this was so good. Thank you Katrina and Lynn Beighley – pronounced Beighley.

  2. Marcus Speh

    thanks for going to the geek, girlz. … being a trueGeek (the wikiName type), i put “beighley” into googleTranslate and a woman with a kind voice pronounced it “begg-leah”. i waited a little, changed from “english” to “japanese” and i got something that i can’t even type…this is just the kind of fun that we geeks like to have, innit? – those of you who only know @lynnbeighley via fictionaut don’t know the first of her virtually infinite geekdom: this woman writes fantastic computing textbooks, too, not just fiction. i know because i use them in class at university. whenever i do that i snicker (like a geek – can you picture it?) because i know who lynn REALLY is. i may even send this interview to them to see what they say. except, they’re all geeks so their attention span doesn’t let them engage with anything longer than one screen full of text. what was i gonna say? sorry, my online therapist is calling.

  3. Erin Zulkoski

    Lynn, you should have kept with “real friends” instead of “flesh friends.” I’m actually a bot programmed to be snarky and geeky. Sometimes I feel emotions as you “fleshies” do, but that’s just a glitch in my hardware that is currently being worked on.

    Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to reboot–someone tried to install Adobe Reader on me for the eightieth time. Silly fleshies.

  4. James Lloyd Davis

    Lynn, delightful interview, witty, positive, upbeat, friendly, cheerful, generous. I share your concern about the future of writing, but grant that good writing will always prevail.

    Oh, and thanks for clearing us up on the proper pronunciation of Beighley. I believe there is or was a courthouse in London, England by that name. “The Old Beighley.” I googled it, but it seems to be universally misspelled. Another example, I suppose, of why one should always be wary of information found on the internet.

Leave a Comment