[So, You Want To Be Human?] – Technology in Fiction: Just Button Mash Everything

“So, You Want To Be Human?” is the promotional event and blog tour in association with Simon and Schuster Canada.


Table Topic:
Technology in Fiction:
“Just Button Mash Everything.”

Welcome back to Day 2 of Robot Week!

Today I am bringing you a discussion that looks at the usage of technology in the fictional world. This discussion will be modeled after my Think Aloud discussions.


So I don’t know about you but technology in fiction that just works on a whim gives me the case of the stink eye. I can’t even buy into heroes being blessed with good fortunes of hitting the right buttons or perhaps even having some degree of knowledge in knowing what the fuck they’re doing. I’m not saying that they could mistakenly set off the nukes and implode the world but that’s exactly what I’m saying.

Let’s backtrack a bit.

From a character standpoint:

On a basic level, [most] protagonists lack competency in one or more areas. This is fine. It allows them to have the space to grow into where their future selves are meant to be. But it is the fictional abuse of the deus ex machina trope — a thing or event that by-in-large saves the day (or situation) — which makes many plausible story lines and dire situations read completely ludicrous.

Even if you have the most highly skilled team member who is the jackiest of all trades, it can still fall under the trope’s umbrella if there is limited (if any) substance that reinforces their craft and knowledge. The fact that characters just “know things” is baffling and not enough. Moreover, these are typically the same characters who are found easily discarded once their useful life is up (re: saving the protagonist). They did not live their lives just to be a plot device for your technologically incompetent hero, damnit.

But more often than not, it is the hero who is challenged by technology. Tangible (e.g. manning vehicles and artillery) or intangible (e.g. hacking into a computer), the fact is that, from what I’ve experienced, they rarely suffer the consequences of not only incompetency but the whole spectrum of the learning curve. In most cases, we might get an extra paragraph (or chapter at best) of their stress, internal drama, and thoughts of doom and gloom…only to be gifted with the holy grail of The Get Out of Jail Free Card by anything and everything.

I know no one really cares of their “struggles” to get used to new technology but this is really at the expense of thoughtful storytelling. If you were in the shoes of the protagonist and were presented with Random Technology #119, who’s to say you can get it right on the first or second try?


In consideration of world-building and conflicts:

See: I’ve a sense of bewilderment during high adrenaline scenes where you mix the elements of (1) oh shit we’re running out of time, (2) the baddie is just behind you, and (3) cool beans we’re tasked with this techie goodness…now what?

Because unless the plan (and team) has some magical sonic screwdriver or carries around Hermione’s handbag with the Storage Facility Charm,  I would simply say “lol you’re fucked”. Only they aren’t (because the power of story telling compels dangers away). I can [sort of] respect that though. No one (myself included) enjoys a story that just abruptly ends at a random spot because the heroes were too incompetent to get out of a kerfuffle of conflict.

And so the hero knows how to pilot the vehicle; they know how to utilize the technology in their favor; their technical aim lands true; and they especially know how to button mash.

The unspoken caveat is that it does suspend belief when they “crack the code” in mere pages when it is touted as the most difficult puzzle ever, or when things are temporarily resolved in the nick of time. It’s as if the story is inferring that the world kind of just…stops so that the protagonist can take their sweet ass time to get out of an Escape Room.

It’s these sort of things that I’m petty about.

In summary:

So, I guess the moral of dire technological predicament is this: when faced with against a computer — no matter the capacity — find ways to button mash and pretend you know what the fuck you’re doing. Chances are, you aren’t doing anything right at all and it’s merely someone or something else that will save your ass right before the world goes to shit.

Discussion Prompts:

Here are some questions for you to think about to discuss below:

  1. What are some of the toughest technology you had to learn to utilize? (Could be something tangible like a machinery or something intangible like programming language)
  2. Can you think of any book where there’s a character who’s sole role can be considered relegated to “that go-to tech character”?
  3. Who is your favourite character who is relatively competent using technology?
  4. Who is your least favourite character who’s incredibly useless with all things tech and would likely die without their squad helping them along?


But if you’re playing a console game like Super Smash Bros. Melee then seriously button mash all day every day.

This ends today’s Robot Week discussion; which is my own week-long themed blogging event in association with Simon and Schuster’s blog tour. Full details below:



afterthoughtAn // twitter
anotherafterthought // goodreads
picturevomit // instagram


3 thoughts on “[So, You Want To Be Human?] – Technology in Fiction: Just Button Mash Everything”

  1. When I think of sci-fi tech people, I think of the books Stitching Snow, Cinder and The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet. They all had characters who were good at tech. Especially TLWTASAP. There were 2 tech characters in that book and they were really good at what they did. I mean, one of them fell in love with the AI. 😉 Great post as always! And yes, convenience moments in books can definitely be a put off but most of the time it’s a fun ride.


  2. Joey you’ve definitely given me some afterthoughts to think about (hahaha). It seems like heroes always know how to operate even the most difficult machineries, like helicopters and jet pilots and everything in the nick of time just out of sheer luck. I’m sure if I was presented with that option I’d fly to my fiery death, but that’s just me.


Have some thoughts? Leave a comment below!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.