I think I know why old people get grumpy

Apart from the aches and pains that increase with age, which obviously would make anyone grumpy. But Tim and I have noticed something in recent months – that things we thought that everyone knew aren’t actually as obvious as we thought.

I mean, I’m used to the fact that not everyone knows the frequently strange and obscure things I have learned in my travels, and I’m never surprised when something even *I* think is odd knowledge isn’t recognised. But there are some things which, for people of my age group, are just things that everyone knows, surely? It’s shocking and disconcerting to discover something you thought was common knowledge turns out to be obscure or even irrelevent to someone under the age of 25.

This came up recently when Tim needed to explain Scott of the Antarctic to someone. When he told me, my first thought was “but he’s mentioned in the Australian Crawl song ‘Reckless'” – and then remembered that this song is from the 1980s and may be just as irrelevent as the doomed explorer to the person in question.

More and more often, things I thought that everyone knew turn out to be things that only people of a certain age know. Another friend was gobsmacked when he had to contextualise who the Nazis were for someone – when the penny finally dropped the person said “Oh! The Bad Guys!” as though she only understood World War II and the Holocaust from the perspective of someone who had only seen it in Hollywood movies.

I was naturally reminded of some of the older books I read – Jane Austen, PG Wodehouse, Shakespeare and Arthur Conan Doyle – and wondered about the references in those stories which were commonplace to the author and their contemporaneous readership, which are nigh on meaningless now. It doesn’t diminish my enjoyment of their work, though it sometimes requires that I do a little research. (It was amazing how much funnier Blackadder the Third became once I’d read a book on the Regency period., for example. That Mr Curtis knows his stuff.)

I wonder now at what elements of my own ignorance may have surprised my parents and grandparents. Did they have the sense of the world being not so concrete as they thought it was? In what ways have I appalled my elders by not knowing, or caring much about, things that were considered essential to an education in their day?

It brings a new light to the problem of writing contemporary fiction and wanting to put current references into the work which, in my experience, editors don’t like very much. They fear it will date the work, pin it too much to a particular time. It shows a charming confidence that people might still be reading the thing in a decade and wonder who these bands and celebrities and TV shows are that are referenced so glibly. But if you are writing for a young, contemporary audience, restricting yourself to referencing only pop culture that has lasted the distance in the last 20 years is going to date the book – or at least the author – before the decade is up.

I have vowed to be less gobsmacked at the things people don’t know. The only reason I know some of this stuff is because I read voraciously and talk to people a lot. I also vow to maintain my curiosity about what’s going on in the world *now*. I don’t want to suddenly find out that all my reference points for art, culture and history are dusty and irrelevant. That doesn’t mean I’m going to abandon the history that I know, or cease using it – but I intend to keep the weaving the thread, from past to present to future, pulling in the strands from every place I think can help me to tell a story and keep it rich, deep, detailed and relevant.

Fly by Night and Sacrifice now on Kindle

I mentioned a post or two ago that my novella Fly By Night was now available on Kindle. Today I can announce that its companion novella, Sacrifice, is also available

If you have a Kindle, or the Kindle application for your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch (or if it’s available on other devices) you can now go straight to the Kindle store and buy one or both novellas. Just follow the links! The novellas cost US$2.99 each (around AUD$5 or £2.20)

Jeff Popple’s review of Fly By Night appeared in The Canberra Times on Sunday 4th April 2004. He said:

These nicely paced stories combine appealing characters, mystery, social commentary and a touch of humour in a readable mixture that maintains the right balance between entertainment and reflection. Fresh and enjoyable, the book also makes an interesting change from the familiar, and usually predictable, mainstream crime-fiction offerings.

Cover of Fly By Night novella on KindleFly By Night (Frank and Milo) (first novella, Kindle)

Successful musician Frank Capriano returns home to Perth for his mentor’s funeral, along with his band-mate and lover, Milo. Frank’s old friends are having money troubles and are trying to make ends meet through smuggling, but that turns out to be only the tip of the iceberg. Soon they have a murder to content with.

Cover Sacrifice novella e-book

Sacrifice (Frank and Milo) (second novella, Kindle)

Frank and Milo, performing as Duo Ex Machina, arrive in Melbourne to promote their new album, only to be distrubed by headlines blaring ‘Second Murder in Botanic Gardens: Police suspect anti-gay killing’. Before they know it, the two musicians are juggling a heavy public relations schedule with yet another murder mystery and threats against their own lives.

If you have already read the stories, it would be great if you could go to Amazon and write a review for one or both of them!

Thanks for your support, and please feel free to pass the message on to anyone you think would enjoy the books.

Words are like oxygen

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