Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Talking About My G-G-Generation

A week from today I reach a milestone birthday, my 40th. Between being very busy at work and trying to finish this current draft of Across Two Universes (I have two more scenes to go!), I haven't had much time to dwell on it. (There will be no midlife crisis this week; my schedule is already full.) Still, the milestone has made me think about my generation, Generation X.

We seem to be a forgotten middle generation, neglected in favor of our more popular siblings, the Boomers and the Millennials. In terms of size, Gen X was a baby bust, and my year, 1970, had the lowest birth rate. I like to think that makes me a rare specimen. I think my generation was most discussed in the news back in the 90s (and dismissed as slackers), though Time ran an article on us two years ago. We may be ignored, but we aren't slackers any longer; we do the quiet, practical work that, as Jeff Gordinier, Gen Xer and author of a book on Gen X, puts it, "keeps the world from sucking."

So, does the generation you're from have an impact on your writing? The changes in technology I've lived through have made writing a book much easier. When I started high school, I had to use a typewriter (and I learned how to type on an actual typewriter too). I went off to college with a cheap computer with attached printer my parents bought from a home shopping network; I never did figure out how to create a paper longer than 5-6 pages on it, and I had to search all over for special printer ribbons and thermal paper. My laptop today doesn't come with its own printer, but it does so much more. Plus, of course, the Internet makes research, networking, and promotion possible on a new level. I think attitudes also play a key role. I grew up during the second wave of feminism, when we were all supposed to be "Free to Be You and Me." I'm a feminist, I enjoy attending WisCon, the world's first feminist science fiction convention, and I try to convey feminist attitudes in my work, even if I'm writing about men.

I know of a few speculative fiction authors from my generation, such as Jay Lake, Naomi Novik, and Mary Anne Mohanraj. Can anyone name some others? Perhaps someday my name will be mentioned too. Guess I'd better finish Across Two Universes to increase the chances of that happening!


Eric said...

This is particularly interesting for me because I'm one year behind you and just "celebrated" my 39th. You've prompted me to put up a post about it now.

Oh, and to answer your question, I am positive that the generation gap has an effect on my writing. I struggle with trying to make my writing relevant, particularly since my characters are rarely if ever in their late 30's/early 40's.

Great post, Sandra.

Sandra Ulbrich Almazan said...

Good point about character age, Eric. Most protags in the novels I read are in their 20s or early 30s; I don't find too many SF novels dealing with middle age and beyond. If I write one, will the readers come? ;)

Ann said...

Yes I think if you write a novel with an older protagonist the readers will come. The 20 something MC needs to be redressed and only we as writers can do that.

I don't think my age is relevant in my writing. But then I never gave it much thought. Now I will be more aware and may end up contradicting myself.

Sandra Ulbrich Almazan said...

Ann, I wonder sometimes if it's easier to write adventures about 20-somethings. By the time one gets to the 40s, one most likely has a steady job, mortgage, spouse, and kids, all of which make it a tad difficult to do adventurous things. (Though taking a toddler to the store can be an adventure at times.) Still, life doesn't stop once you reach middle-age; there's still a lot of change possible in a person's life. I think it's an area that's not explored much in SF, and I think more can be done with it.

Barbara Ann Wright said...

Being born in 1977, some put me with the Gen-Xers and some with the Gen-Yers, but I feel a lot of what you're saying. I had a type writer in middle school/junior high. The only reason I had a good computer in college was because I married a computer programmer. I also write about people significantly younger than me, but I think that's because I've fooled myself into thinking I had their energy at that age.

Emily Ann Benedict said...

Congrats on your birthday. :)

I'm afraid I'm in the generation behind you and sometimes I think we have an even worse name than yours...Lazy, technology junkies comes to mind. ;)

But the generation we grow up in definitely affects our writing, from method to style. When people tell me I should write historical fiction I tell them I don't know how to live without a cell phone and neither do my characters. ;)

Maria Zannini said...

Ah, another feminista.

I arrived in the generation before yours, and had the dubious honor of seeing women before and after the Women's Lib movement.

What a difference a few decades make.

I don't think my age affects my writing, other than giving me a deeper well of personal experience to draw from.

As for older characters, I throw them in there as secondary characters. It makes the story that much richer and realistic.

Jackee said...

Congrats on almost being done with your book! That's great!

I was born in 1977 but I still notice a great difference between me and my youngest sibling who is 11 years younger. I was just ahead of the big phase of saying "like" every other word and I (hope) also ahead of the Generation "Me" mentality. But I still feel the gap with teens today.

And happy belated birthday!

nomadshan said...

Hope you have a great 40th. Just had mine in late March. At work I do feel like a fogey sometimes, when a Gen-Y coworker wants respect I don't feel they've earned. But I bet every generation feels the next one hasn't paid their dues yet.

Outside of one short story, I haven't written a contemporary teen MC yet, but if I did, I'd have to really think about the world they were born into -- what technology is a given to them, what events shaped their early childhoods. I'm sure what I write is informed by a childhood flavored by disco and teens years that began with Red Dawn, ended with Dead Poets Society, and was stuffed with John Hughes in between.

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