I enjoy watching other people work at the Otherworld Diner. Actually, there’s a good reason I enjoy watching other people work there. It’s not that I don’t want to, but basically I’m afraid that I’ll blow something up if I tried it.
You probably know people like me: People who may or may not be on time because their wristwatches inexplicably fail, people around whom mechanical things go wonky for no apparent reason, people who have to accept that fancy machines may not be in their cards. People who have to replace the alternator in their cars more frequently than expected because the darn things seem to wear out faster than the norm, according to the mechanic. People who annoy their employers because they somehow manage to blow up a computer. Or two. Or (wince) three. In three months.
Anyway, people like me lay waste to technology without trying, without thinking, without even taking a second breath. (The second breath comes after something sparks and the device shuts down.) For years I assumed it was just me: I was just the unluckiest person in the world when it came to mechanical stuff.
Then one day I read an article in which it all became clear: It was my electromagnetic field that was at fault. Everyone has an electromagnetic field, you see – if you’re alive, you have one – and basically, it’s like your appendix, in which most likely you’ll never have any reason to notice it. Most likely. Then there are a few for whom that is not the case. Some people have heightened emfields, you see.
People with emfields that are heightened tend to have a problem with watches, have a problem with mechanical, electronic or electrical devices, and really can’t do much about it. Yes! There was a reason why mechanical things seemed to hate me!
And this is the good thing about being a writer – you’re always on the lookout for interesting, quirky ideas. I couldn’t do much about not making things explode, die, or spark out, but I could still make it work for me. So I figured I would use this unfortunate tendency and make it the structure beneath my latest novel, on sale next month.
In Static Shock, people with heightened electromagnetic fields, nicknamed “Readers,” are a twist in evolution, an anomaly in a society that has become technologically dependent. Readers, who are second-class citizens in that society, can’t wear wristwatches, get too close to a TV, nor drive for fear they will shut down the electrical system of a car. As you’d expect, computers become worthless doorsteps quickly around Readers. Career prospects are limited.
Reader Jeanne Muir, who’s spent most of her life as the ward of a university heavily involved in the study of these people, gets a job offer out of the blue, but when she takes it, she finds herself framed for attempted murder. Because Readers are not held in high esteem, she’s an easy scapegoat, and it doesn’t look good for her. Knowing she was set up and the odds are against her, Jeanne can’t let herself be taken into custody — and risks accepting help from mysterious Ran Owata, a fellow Reader who is no longer accepted among their kind. Can she trust him? Does she have a choice?
Static Shock is a fast-moving young-adult adventure story, and I had fun writing it. Everytime the computer sparked out on me, I knew I was going to get my revenge — by telling a story about it! Everytime I got stuck in traffic because the alternator went out on me, I knew I was going to get my revenge—by using in a tale about technology and how it runs our lives. (For instance, this blog post, which you’re reading in a technological format.) If you’ve ever wondered what life without your computer, your smartphone, or your iPod would be like, you might get an inkling in this story.
And that’s why I like sitting on my favorite stool at the Otherworld Diner, watching the coffeemaker perk and the jukebox start up on those classic, corny country western melodies, but keeping far away from them. I think it’s best for us all, don’t you think?