Beam Me Up Scotty
Recently I read my novel Tire Grabbers into an audio format in a sound studio. It took weeks.
“We’ll produce it as an MP3,” the Studio Director said. “Less expensive.”
“Good idea,” I said.
“It will be one disc instead of seventeen,” he said.
“Excellent,” I said.
He gave me an MP3 disc to take home and audio proof, and when I stuck it in my CD player, nothing happened.
“It doesn’t work,” I told him over the phone.
“What do you mean?” he said.
“It doesn’t play,” I said.
“Well, I put it in my CD player and nothing happened.”
“That’s because it’s not a CD,” he said.
“What?” I said.
“It’s an MP3 disc. You need an MP3 player.”
“It looks like a CD to me,” I said.
“Listen,” he said. “Put it in your computer and download it into iTunes.”
“What?” I said.
“Then you can play it,” he said.
I did what he told me and fifty files popped up. I had to play them one at a time, so there was no way to test for continuity. Seventeen CDs was beginning to sound like the way to go, and I called the Studio Director and told him so.
“No, no,” he said. “You just need an MP3 player. I’ll loan you mine, come by the studio in the morning.”
He was in the control booth when I arrived, and he signaled thru the glass that he’d be with me in a minute. He was all smiles when he came out.
“Sorry about the confusion,” he said.
“No problem,” I said.
“Here,” he said, and took something out of his shirt pocket the size of a candy bar. “I’ve got earphones, too,” he said.
“What’s that?” I said.
“My MP3 player,” he said.
“Is this some sort of joke?” I said
“What?” he said.
“You can’t get a disc in that,” I said.
“What’s wrong with you?” he said.
“What’s wrong with you?” I said.
We stared at each other across a yawning chasm of technology, his face a mix of impatience and alarm.
“Trust me,” he said. “Remember how I told you to download the disc into your computer?”
“Yes,” I said.
“Well, now you download what’s on your computer into the MP3 player. The tracks will cue each other, it will play with continuity. That’s how it works.”
“How can someone play it in their car then?” I said. “That’s where people listen to audiobooks, in their cars. On their CD players.”
“They burn CDs from the files on their computers,” he said.
“Burn CDs?” I said.
“It’s too complicated,” I said. “No one’s going to go thru all that.”
“You’re wrong,” he said. “People do it all the time.”
I walked around for a week with plugs in my ears and the MP3 player in my shirt pocket and listened to my fantasy novel about an inhospitable future on a device from that future, and when I was done I sat in the dark smoking and staring out the window at the moon.
“Beam me up, Scotty,” I whispered, and wondered how long it would be before that would be possible.