A different time

I’m still just in the note-making stage but I will probably have to stop kidding myself sometime around next week, and just admit that I’m starting on the next novel, otherwise it sort of makes the word-count thing pointless.

Anyway, here’s the thing.

I’m writing a book that is set (at least partly) in 1990, as you would already know if you’d read the Prologue. It’s also set (at least partly) in Western Australia, and while yes, dreameling, it is meant to be the actual for-reals real world, it is also slightly fictionalised to avoid naming real people, real copyright-protected places, and so on. If you want to pretend that makes it into a whole separate fictitious alternate uni- or multiverse, you go ahead and live with your inexpressible sadness and paucity of spirit (not talking about dreameling this time).

Anyway, I’m writing what I know, in a lot of cases here. It’s based around a group of friends who, well, you go with your own experience wherever possible so I’ve changed a few details but basically kept it real, or made-up-but-close-to-real. For example, I was a young adult in the mid-to-late ’90s, so the story of a young(ish) adult in 1990 is, I figured, more or less the same. I remember 1990, I just couldn’t legally drink then.

And I need to keep reminding myself that The Simpsons wasn’t much of a thing back then, at least insofar as Australian television was concerned. It started in December ’89 so it was just sort of entering stage left.

What I have found myself having trouble with is the classic “I know, attitudes were a bit backwards then. It was a different time” thing. Even relating, fictitiously, some of the conversations or expressions or attitudes from the ’90s (and I should stress at this point that it was admittedly older people who were guilty, and they were talking from a different time altogether) … I’ve found it makes me cringe, and more than a bit. You see a lot of the same sort of thing in movies bade around that time, so this isn’t really a new thing. It’s just surprising how much things actually seem to have changed in the intervening … shit, decades.

I’m left with the options of:

a) Tidying it up

b) Throwing it out there as-is (or as-was), and then adding in some sort of narrator / footnote disclaimer[1] saying hey, it was the olden days, don’t judge them

c) Just dropping the bombs of sexism and racism and homophobia and general shittery and letting the shrapnel fly where it may

[1] And yes, sorry (dreameling, again), there is going to be some of that action. I don’t know if I’ll make it the dreaded omniscient external narrator, but it will certainly be addressing the reader far more directly than in The Final Fall of Man. We’ll have to work on how I handle that, I suppose.

I suppose I am leaning towards (c), if only because I can then depend on my editors to rein me in. It was just a funny shock, at the time, as I was going over old notes and consolidating some older pieces, to suddenly realise that holy shit, if anyone said anything like this today, they’d want to make sure nobody was recording it or was about to repeat it on any sort of social media, because it would be the end of them.

It was 20 years ago. It really was a different time.

I’m from a different time.

And that’s okay.

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