Thursday, February 26, 2009

Dated Pop Culture

Okay, Bob was right.

When I first wrote Ninth Wave, I wanted to have Brenna use TV and movie references. Having her make those references was part of a character quirk I wanted to use, partly because at the time I didn't have as good a handle on her as I should have. When I turned in the manuscript the first time, my agent told me to remove all those pop culture references because they dated the book. Well, when they're current, that's no problem, but years or even decades later? I am currently reading a perfect example of how those kinds of pop culture references can date a book, just like Bob said. I'm glad he made me take out the movie references in my novel.

I'm reading books by two different authors who wrote back in the 1980's, and while I get all their pop culture references because they're from the time frame when I was in high school and college, not everyone who reads those books will find them familiar. My daughter certainly won't, though she's heard at least some of the music. For me, reading them is like a blast from the past, and I'm not sure whether I actually enjoy it or not. The stories are both great, but the dated culture...well, let's just say that I think I prefer to read about things either in the present or within the last decade, rather than things that are obviously from twenty to thirty years ago. Alternatively, I'd rather read about something very, very old--so old that it seems new again.

That said, even when it isn't a reference to pop culture, something else will probably date the books being written today, whether it's the make and model of a car, a style of phone, a computer, or just about anything. That's the only problem with modern urban fantasy. Twenty years from now, the tech of today will be obsolete, and these books, too, will be dated. The stories will still be great, but it'll be my kids reading them and saying, "Wow, what a blast from the past."

No matter how much people may gripe about epic fantasies set in vaguely European medieval cultures, these stories are fortunate enough not to be dated in quite the same way as stories set in a time frame that living people can actually remember. It may be that the medieval stories will one day seem fresher than the pop-culture-laden stories of today. I guess in about twenty or so years, we'll have to see.

No comments: