Vollman on the Internet and Technology:

You don't like computers very much.

I think they do a lot of good but they do considerable harm. It's great that the Oxford English Dictionary is on CD-ROM and you can do a search, for instance, by the date a word came into the English language. Those are great tools for writers. But I have to say, as things get more computerized, as it gets easier to generate words, it seems to me the quality of the words is going down.

You read things that are produced on a computer and due to that very ease, it seems like the words are considered more perishable. The thought is sloppier. It's more spontaneous but less valuable.

S: What do you write on?

V: I start by writing in a notebook and then I transfer from a notebook to a Macintosh and I take my time. I think that hard copy has got to be the most important. I don't really like the idea of interactive novels

S: I don't think you have to like the idea of interactive novels. They're not inherent to the idea of doing something creative on the Net. It makes sense for media to gravitate towards the Internet because its still more of a communication device. Who knows what it will mean for fiction.

V: The communication aspect of the Internet is really good. But it's important to remember that's not sufficient for creating data. The creation of data doesn't just involve, say if you're a reporter, just sitting down at a keyboard and calling up a bunch of sources which means getting other peoples versions of the truth. It means you have to go out there onto the street yourself and find out what's going on. A lot of people don't do that.

The soldiers of the opium king in Burma sneered at Thai and Western journalists because they wrote about the opium king all the time but they never met him. They did all their work from air-conditioned hotel rooms by phone, fax and modem. They were too lazy, too scared or too inexperienced to go and walk though the jungle to meet him. That means their stories are inherently biased. They're no more true than the stories they were told and they're going to be less true because they're one more step removed. So I see a real danger with that stuff.

The ease of communication is good, if you have a good product that comes from somewhere else. Like, if Emily Dickenson could have been on the internet, that might have been great. She could have stayed in her attic, sent all these poems out and maybe felt like she had more friends.

If someone were to write a story about Emily Dickenson by interviewing her though the internet, however, I don't think it would be as good as if they could go there and meet her face to face.