Monday, March 17, 2014

The Erotogeek Speaks

By Lisabet Sarai

Like many of my generation, I have a love/hate relationship with technology. I'm a geek. I'm a Luddite. I'm definitely not "wired".

I make my living working with computers, designing and writing software, and teaching other to do the same. This isn't the career for which my extensive education supposedly prepared me, but the after burning out in that field, I discovered, almost by accident, that software is magic. Shazzam! You begin with nothing but abstract concepts, yet the finished product profoundly affects the real world – controlling airplanes, monitoring vital signs, fighting environmental degradation, connecting people in disparate parts of the globe.

In a way, programming is like writing. You begin with ideas but end up with an artifact that can move people to tears or stimulate them to the point of orgasm....

Anyway, back to technology. My knowledge and skills are pretty useful tools for an author, at least these days. For instance, back in 2006, before EchoSign and other on-line contract sites existed, I wrote a web script that let the forty plus contributors to Cream: The Best of the Erotica Readers and Writers Association create customized contracts they could print out, sign and return. I maintain my own website, coding the HTML by hand. This saves time, aggravation and of course money, when I want to do an update. I have tools for managing and resizing images and can make rudimentary covers (though I'm a total novice when it comes to Photoshop). I can turn a spreadsheet of reader information into a mailing list in ten minutes. I even understand (more or less!) how to make Blogger do what I want (most of the time).

Given this apparent sophistication, it may surprise you to learn that I don't own a smart phone. I don't use Facebook for marketing. I don't Tweet. I finally got a laptop with a web cam, at the insistent urging of my siblings, but I still haven't gotten Skype video to work correctly.

I read ebooks in PDF format on a cheap seven inch tablet that doesn't even have the ability to connect to the wireless Internet. I don't play computer games (other than an occasional guilty round of Fruit Ninja!) I still write personal letters long hand. When it comes to technology, I am definitely not on the bleeding edge.

Part of my reluctance to get involved with the latest gadgets and online fads is financial. I can't afford to carry around a device worth five hundred smackers, given my propensity for being absent minded. I'd lose the darn thing in a week – if I didn't drop it into the toilet! Another factor is time. As you might have noticed, whenever you add a new electronic tool or toy to your arsenal, you end up spending hours, days or even weeks learning to use it, customizing it to your needs, and (in some cases) trying to make it function at all.

On top of all these practical factors, though, I have a deep mistrust of technology. You know what they say about people who work in restaurants: when you know what goes into the food, you lose your appetite. I know from first hand experience how messed up software can be. Even with the best intentions and the best management, it's not possible to write bug-free programs. In the real world, software is written by teams under tremendous pressure to get their product to market. They're forced to cut corners and take shortcuts to meet their deadlines.

Meanwhile, it's all too clear to me that all the supposed technological advances and exciting new trends are driven primarily by the profit motive. Social networks do not exist to connect you with your friends and loved ones. Their primary raison d'être is to sell advertising and make sure you see it, with the secondary goal of gathering as much personal information about you as possible. Sure, e-commerce is convenient for customers, but most importantly it allows sellers to cut their costs, reduce the amount of required staff, and capitalize on impulse buying, based on the data they collect about your history and preferences. Google Maps? Sure, it's fantastic to be able to look up the route to someplace you've never been (though I've found dozens of location errors in my own searches), but you'll have to screen out all the irrelevant commercial entities who've bought listings.

Then there are the true criminals – hackers and gangsters who profit by stealing your personal information and selling it to the highest bidder. Viruses, worms, trojan horses, botnets, spam, adware, key loggers, network sniffers, password crackers, phishing.... It's downright scary. Have you heard about the virus that locks up your computer until you pay a ransom? Creative, I must admit. But honestly, these days you have to be more careful venturing out onto the Internet than you do having sex. Too bad there are no condoms for web browsing.

But back to the topic...

It's an unfortunate truth that if you're an author, and you have any interest at all in selling your work, you can't hide from technology. There are many potentially useful blogs and articles about how to use modern media to market your books. Believe them or not, as you choose. It's far more difficult to find straightforward, readable explanations about how computer and internet technology works, with enough background to help you weigh the benefits and risks of different approaches.

Here's where the Erotogeek – my alter-ego – comes in. I've written a book on this topic, called Naughty Bits: The Erotogeek's Guide for the TechnologicallyChallenged Author. You can download it, absolutely free, by clicking on the link above. The book is a compilation of a year of columns I did for the Erotica Readers and Writers Association. It's full of examples as well as my admittedly jaundiced opinions about technology hype.

Reading Naughty Bits may help you deal with your own technical conundrums. However, it will also make my personal ambivalent feelings about technology abundantly clear.


  1. Yeah, I'm a computer Luddite. Like you say, it takes so much time just to stay abreast with technology that we never accomplish much before that science goes beyond us. I just reach a level then hope I can keep up. I've heard somewhere that they're targeting Macs now.

    And, BTW-- Thanks so much for your generosity in compiling 'Naughty Bits'. You are a big part of ERWA's success in helping writers be what they can be.

    1. I'd never want to go back to the days before computers. However, I *think* I have gotten beyond feeling ashamed of my lack of trendy devices.

  2. I'm waaay below you in tech savvy. Way below almost everyone. I had become pretty much proficient in Word and editing applications, because that's what I have to use, but now I have a relatively new computer (Macbook Air) and updated Word program, and I'm still trying to figure out where all the things I need have gone. I should invest in that book called something like "The Information That Should Have Come With Your Computer, but Didn't," If there's a recent enough edition. (I never bought one, but I've had some good tips from an acquaintance who did.)

    And i don't have a fancy cell phone for the reasons you cite, Lisabet. I have an ancient Tracphone for emergencies and family contacts while I'm away from home, and I'm amazed that I haven't lost or broken it in the five-plus years I've had it.

    1. Hi, Sacchi,

      There's a whole series of tech books called "The Missing Manual". These days you don't get any kind of manual at all, because everything is supposed to be "intuitive". Hurumph!

      I actually don't know how I'd manage without my cell phone, though I use it almost exclusively for communication. Of course, you live in western Mass, where I used to live. Do they have cell phone coverage there yet? Didn't the last time I checked!

  3. Thank you, Lisabet. The information you provide is immensely useful. And I'm skeptical about social media as a means of publicizing our writing because 1 (as you say) that's not really what it's for, and 2) We could spend whole days on Facebook, Twitter & numerous Yahoogroups, and never have time to write fiction ever again. It's so refreshing to find an "erotogeek" who will share information without trying to sell anything.

    1. I'm terrible at selling things.

      I give away more of my books, I think, than I sell. Oh well... at least they'll get read!

  4. Love 'Naughty Bits' - I dip in and out of it regularly :-)

  5. Yeah on the cell phones. I bought a 'smart' phone but it was too smart for me. Momma's now using it (like a champ) and I went back to a flip-phone for myself. Hardly anyone calls me on it since I quit doing business on a regular basis. But it's just as well. As others have said, if we kowtowed to tech all the time, nothing would be written at all.

  6. Condoms for web-browsing? I LOVE that idea! How else are we supposed to be safe when every click might invite a virus to disrupt our lives? I'm lucky because my husband is an engineer and he does all of my "tech-support" for a "modest" price (Huge grin on both of our faces!) And 2 of our sons still live at home and can help out with stuff that's too counter-intuitive for husband whose mind, as was mine, was forged in a pre-touch-screen world. He's learned and forgotten so many computer languages to write code, but he quotes "Machete", "Machete don't text", to explain why his text responses usually consist of a single letter, like "K".

    I'm totally paranoid about clicking on unknown sites because he's had to de-bug my laptop a couple of times, and he berates me, "What kind of sites do you visit?" Hey, I write erotic smut, honey. Sometimes I click on sites that turn out to be porn, but a fellow or sister author advocated a quick peek. Our security system is up-to-date and pretty good about keeping most bad things at bay, but I have ab-so-bloody-lutely NO FUCKING IDEA how the whole computer/internet/interface thing works. I'm an English major, old-school, and I can analyze the shit out of any piece of literature written in English, and my special talent is explaining complicated concepts in a way that younger folks can grasp them. But technology? Um, not my forté.
    And Daddy X, we have flip-phones also, husband and me. Our two sons who live at home have Trac phones bought at a drug store because they refuse to pay for more expensive phones. The two who have smartphones have always been more tech-savvy, and they buy their own and pay the monthly charges themselves. But it's always hard to understand their words when they call on them. Somehow the idea that the more shit you put into a phone, the harder it becomes for the person you are talking to, to understand you, seems awfully counter-productive...but what do I know?

    1. Alas, Fiona, you don't even have to click these days...

      My computer reverts to a known state whenever I shut it down, so that viruses etc that do manage to get on board will be wiped out. But I shouldn't let myself get complacent... I had an infection about a year ago and my DH and I lost huge amounts of time.

  7. Hi Lisabet!

    I've always admired your tech saviness and penchant for tossing me weird stuff you read. I love it when we noodle on stuff together.

    I share your skepticism about technology. I've begun to see especially how advertising has changed and become more targeted and insidious. I think that I lack something by not promoting myself much on the internet, I know you work at that. Someday I think I will, but right now I'm just trying to pile up stories. i also share your suspicion about social media, mostly as you say because I see how often it seems to cut people off from each other in the real world. We still need that human touch,


  8. I love your food/restaurant analogy, and I love the interesting contradictions in your relationship with technology.


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