Waiting for the Other Foot to Land

I managed a PC store many years ago when PCs were so new that most people didn’t have a clue what to do with them. In fact, that’s the question potential customers asked me first. What saved the industry since there was very little software out there was the spreadsheet program, VisiCalc and later Lotus 123. I would ask the businessman (it was almost always a man) some business questions and then craft a spreadsheet template to handle some aspect of that business. As an example, I had a customer who owned some gas stations. I showed him how to keep running calculations of the number of gallons of gas pumped, his price, and his profit. Since the spreadsheet instantly did the calculations, he thought it was a miracle.

Fast forward a bit. I became an expert on the subject of local area networks (LANs). In fact, I answered for a while to “Stan the LAN Man.” In any case, year after year the IT press would proclaim the new year as the “Year of the LAN.” The reporters forecast incredible growth because suddenly companies would grasp just how useful a computer network would be to their businesses. Of course, it took around five years for the market to explode. I wrote one of the all-time best selling books on LANs (5 editions and several foreign editions), and yet almost no one grasped the significance of LANs for years after products became available.

Fast forward again. Today everyone seemed wedded to their smartphones. The hottest button right now is mobile payments. Yet, while there are so many startups that I can’t count them, the industry hasn’t quite lived up to the hype yet. Of course, it’s immensely complicated because of the all the moving parts that have to work together SECURELY to satisfy the banks, the merchants, and the customers. Yet. there is progress in the field. I suspect that this market also will explode, but long after some of the early prognosticators thought.

Market researchers are part of the problem. I know because that was yet another one of my several careers. The way the game is played is that a market analyst writes a report predicting the growth of a new market. No research report sells if the analyst predicts just luke warm growth. If that’s the case, why should a company care enough about that market to buy such a report. So, many research companies tout reports that predict enormous growth. While the companies I worked for tried to keep a tally of just how accurate its analysts were, many analyst firms specialize on outrageous forecasts. One reason is that startups buy such reports and take them to investment bankers to prove that their market is about to explode.

I once had a major investment bank as my customer. All the investment banker wanted was a couple of hours a month to run other companies’ and research analysts’ forecasts and technology claims past me and have me do a reality check for him. So, no wonder most media think next year will be the year of XYZ. They’ve been reading the press releases of market researchers who don’t keep tallies on their accuracy but just want to sell lots of reports.

I’m in the writing business now, and it’s an interest contrast to the technology business. It’s more like the NFL.  In the NFL, when a football team wins the Super Bowl, every other team tries to copy its methodology. So, for example, now that the Seattle Seahawks have won in part because of very tall corners who play bump and run defense, other teams are rushing to hire the same type of personnel.

In the writing world, some writers jump into genres just because they are popular. I can’t believe the public wants more vampire books or more books about dominance and submission, but apparently that’s what many writers believe. They are always driving 100 miles per hour while looking into their rear view mirrors. Publishers look at what’s currently popular and ask for more until they no longer can sell that type of product. Since traditional publishers take a year or more to publish a book, it’s likely they’ll always be a step behind the readers.

I tend to try to push the envelope in my books. Silent Partner, coming out in May from Pen-L Press, welds together a police procedure format along with a paranormal element, a ghost. I can’t tell you how many literary agents told me they couldn’t sell the concept even though I promised them that the ghost doesn’t upset the rules that in a police procedure novel, the detective has to solve the crime logically so that readers can understand and appreciate the logic and feel satisfied that the writer didn’t play any tricks on them.

Since I already have written a sequel to the book, I suspect I’ll be waiting for the Year of the Police Procedure Novel with a Paranormal Element for far longer than I should have to do so because trends always take longer than you think before they become real trends. Meanwhile, I’ll keep writing and hope that one of my books catches the public’s fancy and sales ratchet up.

By the way, Audible now is selling an audio version of Journey to a Different Planet read by a wonderful actor. If you have kids who love Minecraft and planning a trip. consider taking the audio version along to make the miles go faster.

Echoes of Time Past

Recently I went through all VHS tapes and audio cassettes to decide which ones warranted being converted to DVDs and CDs. One revelation was just how horrible a photographer I had been over the years, but a far more important revelation had to do with the nature of the material. I found an old tape that had been created from even older family movies.

I saw myself at thirteen in a scene with my parents that I distinctly remembered. Here was a tape version of reality coexisting with my very sharp picture in my head despite the fact that my memory was over fifty years old. I also found an old audio tape of my son reciting the ABCs at the age of two or three with the voices of myself and my wife in the background. Once again, I had remembered the scene and here was audio tape proof of the event.

What struck me was that writers and scientists are getting much closer to agreeing on the nature of time. At one time scientists subscribed to a strictly linear theory of time; things happened and then new things happened, never to repeat again. Writers, on the other hand, long have been known to write novels where characters jump back and forth in time, depending on their thoughts. To the reader, these events sometimes seem to all coexist.

Today scientists are moving toward the view that our minds make sense of time by viewing it chronologically, but that in reality young Stan, older Stan and currently aged Stan all exist simultaneously with no one period more real than the other. Think for a moment what happens when you view your spouse or your child. You often see a face and then watch it morph as your memories project what that face looked like at various ages. See your wife of thirty years? You might look at her and instantly see the girl you dated, the girl you married, and various other iterations of her over the years. Who is to say that one version is more real than the others?

Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. described a similar version of time in his bestseller, Slaughterhouse Five. Proust and Joyce were preoccupied with characters’ memories. Perhaps we don’t have to invent a time machine because all reality is there despite the fact that we only view a small slice of it at a time.