I was just going for the joke.
In Hollywood.bomb (now available on Amazon), I have a character named Stu. He's the new guy: a little odd, but who isn't in the software world? He rides a recumbent bike to work, doesn't own a cell phone, and grows most of his own food. It isn't until the guys get to know him better that they learn that there's a purpose behind these choices. He's a Neo-Luddite, someone who resists the steady advance of technology. In his case, he's chosen to only use technologies invented before 1920 as a way to simplify his life. The fact that he makes his living as a computer programmer is only one of the many complexities hiding under the quiet surface of Stu. The fact that it provides many opportunities for entertaining dialogue as his colleagues quiz him on which technologies he will and won't use is why I love this little character quirk.
The joke? Be patient, little ones, we're getting to it.
In Chapter 9, Stu is confronted about his self-proclaimed beliefs by Frank, the resident curmudgeon, who's been doing a little research:
"OK, Mr. Techno-Ambivalence. I researched this Luddite thing on the web, and there are no rules that say you can use some technology and not others. It’s butter churns and wooden pegs or nothing. So what’s the real story?"Stu looked up at him calmly. "I’m Reform."
"We're Reform." The punch line of countless jokes told by my Jewish friends and in-laws, the explanation for decades of bizarre and unorthodox behavior.
"But Bubbe, I don't understand, why did you wrap the baby in bacon?"
"Don't worry, dear, we're Reform."
Trust me, that joke killed at my son's Bar Mitzvah.
So, while exploring what it would be like to live as a technological holdout in a high-tech company, I thought I'd throw in a little in-joke for my friends and family, and they enjoyed it. Imagine my surprise today when one of my readers emailed me to let me know that she was Googling "Reform Luddism" after reading that chapter in my book. My response was, "That's a thing? I thought I made it up!"
So, yeah, it's a thing. Who knew?
Not only that, but if you read the description of Reform Luddism in this Huffington Post article, you'll find that it pretty much describes our friend Stu to a T. So not only did I make this thing up, apparently I guessed pretty accurately how a person who decided to become a Reform Luddite would live. Minus the 1920 cutoff, of course: that's my conceit, though there's nothing to say that a Reform Luddite couldn't decide that 1920 marked the demarcation between helpful and intrusive technology, so I guess that Stu still fits the mold.
It's fun to see how the same idea can evolve in two completely different places, even for very different reasons. I wanted a laugh, they want a more genuine lifestyle. But as columnist Blake Snow says in the article:
"They still appreciate the conveniences of the information age. But they favor analog, offline experiences more. They distinguish simulated from authentic life, and recognize the importance of both, while striving for the latter."So as long as we can agree that not all technology is bad, then I think we'll all get along. I, for one, am extremely grateful for new publishing technologies like blogs and the Amazon Kindle, so that I can share these ideas with you (and hopefully provide some entertainment in the process).
And those rumors of violence in the recent history of the Neo-Luddite movement, do those affect Stu? Well, you'll just have to read the book to find out.