Thursday, January 20, 2011

I love keycards

Okay, I have a problem, people.

Keycards. I love 'em.

They're one of my favorite tropes in stories and I'm not exactly sure why. Seriously, as I think of the books and stories I've written, I realize I lean way too much on the venerable keycard.

During the introductory scenes of one of my books, a character expresses his love for "advanced technology." What is he doing? He's showing someone how to use a keycard!

In another book, a character has to go to a sublevel. How does she get there? You guessed it: keycard!

Yet in another book, a character (in a sublevel!) grants some visitors access to another room by swiping his keycard.

This is a sickness. Keycards aren't that exciting. I know this; I have a keycard. You know what it does? It gets me into the building where I work. That's mind-boggling in its awesomeness, isn't it?

I know I'm not the only person with an affinity for keycards; they play roles in countless movies and books. Yet I can tell you that in three of the four books I've written, there's a scene that involves a keycard. It's almost like a calling card for my work! It's completely absurd.

The keycard epidemic seems to have left my short stories alone for the most part. I can only think of a couple of stories that involve keycards. I have about 30 stories, and only three of those feature a scene with them.

Am I that uncreative that I yearn for keycards in every story?

Here are some possible explanations:

I have too many secret places: Two of my books have secret laboratories. One is a government facility, and we all know how government facilities...especially ones with secret projects...love extra security. The other is a privately-run lab. It's super-super-super secret. Security is a requirement...and how best to keep the place secure than by limiting access with KEYCARDS!!??

There's a subtext I'm hitting people over the head with: I'm giving readers access to my world in a figurative sense by allowing them to read my work. To make that more real, I create worlds in which keycards are must-have items, a "key" that grants readers entrance into my universe.

I've seen too many "secret facility" movies and have run out of good ideas of my own: This is entirely possible. I've seen a lot of spy movies. Perhaps I'm projecting those onto my work?

I think they're cool, even though they're not: Nothing is awesome with a side of awesome-sauce like a freaking keycard! How awesome is it to have a card that lets you into a place no one else can go (well, other than the 200 other people that work in the building)?

I never had a keycard as a kid: This is a possible explanation. When I was a kid, my parents let me roam freely around the house, unencumbered by the requirement of needing a keycard to get into the bathroom. Perhaps if they'd given me one back then, I wouldn't find keycards so novel?

It's Michael Crichton's fault: Sure, blame the late author of Jurassic Park. It's not like that book or The Andromeda Strain or any of his other high-tech books ever involved secret facilities and keycards.

So, I've made progress tonight. I've realized I have an addiction to keycards. Any suggestions on how to fix this?

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