Every so often I take a step back and wonder how the world hasn't been blown off course by the explosion of the internet.
We have entirely absorbed it into our lives: email, Google, online banking, job hunting, blogging, travel booking, price comparison, information, information, information galore.
One group especially that has been able to take advantage of the internet revolution is the writers of the world.
The other day I was writing a short story and needed a fictitious company name. I searched for my company on the web to check it wasn't already in existence, thus possibly saving me a lot of hassle in the future. Before this information was available at the click of a button I would have had to go... where exactly? I'd have contacted (written to/phoned) Companies House in Britain for a start. But where do I go to find out about the rest of the world? Does it matter for legal reasons? Again, I can research this very question now: the information is all there.
And what would Charles Dickens have done if he needed to know how olives were processed? He would have had to have visited a library and waded through volumes of information to find what he needed. Of course, there is no substitute for decent research but when you just need a nugget of information to bring your short story to life the internet in invaluable in the amount of time and cost it can save you.
I really felt the connective power of the internet when I moved to America a month ago. I logged on and my writing group was still there, albeit five hours ahead of me. So much of the writing community is virtual, whether it is online critiquing groups or writers blogs, that much of the feeling of being alone in the universe is now removed; we have rich resources of advice and constructive criticism at our fingertips.
Submitting work is now increasingly reliant on the internet.
E-submissions of novels are lagging behind (oh, the cost and waste of resources involved in the submission process is just painful!) but new, smaller publishing companies are slowly turning towards the paperless approach.
Thanks to websites such as Duotrope the submission process for short stories/poetry goes something like this:
1) Write tiny, polished gem
2) Search Duotrope for appropriate publications
3) Go to publication website to learn more, read previous editions, find out submission information
4) Submit tiny, polished gem by email
5) Wait an inordinate amount of time for response
6) If paid for tiny, polished gem money flies through the virtual ether into Paypal/bank account.
7) No postage waste or trees cut down; orangutans and polar bears are happy.
The market for fiction has also expanded (despite the depletion of print short story magazines) because of the countless new online fiction publications that can be read from anywhere in the world and the increased access to foreign markets.
I can do all this from anywhere in the world, from a beach in the Bahamas to a bungalow in Reading. If I live in Siberia I can still write and quite possibly order all my books off Amazon, although I don't know how long they'd take to arrive. I can still procrastinate terribly on ICanHasCheeseburger from a houseboat in Vietnam.
The internet is truly magic.