Back in March 2016, the technology news site CNET published a 5,500-word story about a female social media star in Silicon Valley who ended up getting kidnapped by the owner of a taco truck. He handcuffed her, put her in the back of his truck, and forced her to run a social media campaign that advertised his tacos. Crazy, right? That’s because “The Last Taco Truck in Silicon Valley” came from the mind of a fiction writer.
Largely known for only publishing technology-based news, CNET has taken a wide left turn into the world of fiction. This first story was the beginning of Technically Literate, CNET’s online publication. All of their stories are published exclusively on their site and feature unique perspectives about technology.
Their latest piece, “Amos Abrams Dream of VR Tenure,” was published on November 17, 2016. They’re still pumping out content eight months later, which is pretty cool (even though they’ve only published six pieces total). This idea of tech-based fiction reaches an untapped audience: those who love fiction and fantasy that involves technology. But now, instead of having to scramble and scrounge for pieces they may only be slightly interested in, readers can find a decent amount of it all in one place.
At least, that’s what I thought.
The few stories I’ve read haven’t been as coherent as one would think. It seems more like a starting place for some fiction writers, and maybe that’s because CNET’s presence in the fiction realm is only beginning. Right now, they’re just trying to acquire writers. But is it worth it to publish content that only slightly has to do with technology?
After reading through “Happy This, Congratulations That,” I came to the conclusion that the story itself wasn’t bad. There were some good parts, some awkward parts, some funny parts, and some parts that made me do a double-take; however, the only part that included technology was the background information. (Spoiler alert) The character’s husband was cheating on her, and she found out through his phone. There were texts and photos that clued her in, and he supposedly flushed the phone after she found out.
While the author, Lauren Fox, has written three novels, appeared in The New York Times, and is fairly reputable, it wasn’t the type of content I was hoping to see in Technically Literate. I wanted to explore more, to read about how technology played a key role in someone’s life. And even though Lauren’s story held my attention, the technology wasn’t pivotal. It could be taken out of the story and replaced with something else, and the takeaway would have been the same.
I’d like to see more stories like the female social media star who was forced to run a social media campaign for the tacos. That story plays off of social media as a whole and how it works within our society. A few texts and words from a phone that gets flushed isn’t a piece that I would consider to have a “unique perspective on technology.” Maybe if that discovery had flourished and grown into something else—like a hatred for texting, despising phones and modern communication and all they stand for. (That might be a little far-fetched, but you get the point.)
You have to admire CNET’s ambition, though, and their desire to find credible writers. It’s impressive that someone with Lauren Fox’s background would want to write for a tech site that’s testing fiction waters. Honestly, I’m considering following them through the upcoming months to see what other kind of content pops up.
After all, it can only get better from here, right? The answer is yes, provided that CNET solidifies a direction they want to go in. If they advertise pieces that have a unique perspective on technology, then they should deliver stories that follow that description. Otherwise, it’s just misleading. The pieces they publish should be unlike any others—and frankly, I could probably find a story like Lauren’s on another online publication. I bet you can, too.