Sunday, September 22, 2013

Wired Love: Let's Chat

I've been in science in technology my whole life. As such, my dating life has been carried out online for a lot longer than eHarmony, and OKCupid have existed. I used to be up all night using Linux's talk and write with my boyfriend back before browsers had the capability to display background colours. (Yes, people, there was a time when all you got was grey. That was when you weren't using a text-based browser like Lynx. I'm old.)

Back in the day, no one I knew outside the Faculties of Science and Engineering flirted over the internet (or even the LAN, as the case may be). Hell, even as late as 1998, not many people I knew exchanged extensive emails and online chats with potential romantic partners. I mean, sure, there were chat rooms and whatnot, but the popular opinion was that they were populated with pedophiles and rapists rather than horny computer science majors trying to impress each other with their knowledge of obscure operating systems.


That said, I've never read a book where the protagonists met online, spent most of the book never meeting face-to-face, but yet fell in love -- that is until I read Wired Love.

Wired Love is about Nattie and Clem, two twentysomethings who meet and carry out an extensive courtship online, much to the annoyance of their coworkers and customers.

The catch, though, is that Wired Love was written in 1879 and the "online" in question is the telegraph line. Nattie and Clem fall in love using Morse code.

The book is told from Nattie's perspective. She's bored at her job in the telegraph office, and one day Clem, at another telegraph office, tries to outdo her by sending her a message so fast that she has a hard time transcribing it. Nattie gets pissed and indignant and tells him that he's an ass. Clem apologizes, and they strike up a conversation. The conversations follow the usual courtship patterns: questions, elusive answers, teases, irritations, apologies, etc. The thing with a telegraph line, though, is that everyone on the line can hear your messages. The other operators on the line start getting annoyed with Clem and Nattie's flirting and try to shut it down.

Nattie, meanwhile, tells her friends all about this, and they have a hard time understanding, much as my friends never understood when I told them about the chats I had with boyfriends online ("Couldn't you just call each other?" "OMG No! What would we talk about! Plus that's so forward! I'd be too scared!")

The novel is surprisingly modern for something written in 1879. Nattie and Clem's conversations could be used in any modern-day RomCom, if anyone ever cared to make a movie about a girl sitting infront of a computer typing messages to some guy and then telling her friends about it.

I really liked Wired Love. It was a cute, easy read. And unlike the piles of Edith Wharton books I've been reading, Wired Love has a happy ending, which was a refreshing change. (Did you really think it would have an unhappy ending?)

In case you want to read Wired Love, it's available free from Project Gutenberg.

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