Friday, February 06, 2015

Age and Time

The plan for today/the weekend is Get Stuff Done. There will be an epic Home Depot trip this afternoon to prepare for a lot of little repair projects and get some painting supplies. Since I'm going to be at a convention this weekend, I figure Friday morning will be a good time to paint the bathroom since I won't have to sleep in the room next to it for a couple of nights. That means finding the right paint color. I've spent years with paint color cards stuck on the wall, trying to decide on the right shade of blue, but since I'm planning to sell soon, I now need to try to match the same white used in the rest of the house. And then I need to do a lot of cleaning/organizing. I've been invited to a party/house concert Saturday night and am still on the fence about going. On the one hand, it's something I'm interested in and might even be good for me professionally because the attendees are well within the target market for my writing. On the other hand, it's a bit out of my comfort zone (performing may be required), I'll only know a few of the people there, and getting home could be interesting, as the freeway between there and here will be shut down that night (I know the back roads, though). We'll see what condition I'm in after a day of Getting Stuff Done. I'll either be energized or collapse on the sofa.

Meanwhile, I've noticed a trend in my entertainment interests lately, and when I notice a trend I have to analyze it to figure out what it is I like about it. Then I have to see how I can use this in my work.

So lately I've found myself really interested in stories about people who are much older than they appear -- not like me still being asked for ID when I buy wine at the grocery store, but people who are centuries old but who look 30-something. And not vampires. Mostly, humans who've had their aging arrested somehow or who have been made immortal, but who don't have any other superpowers.

I think it started with Doctor Who and Matt Smith's version of the Doctor (though he doesn't really count as an ordinary human made immortal), where he looked very young but played the role like he was an old man. It really kicked into gear, though, when Rory spent 2,000 years as a kind of robot, then the universe was rebooted so he was never killed in the first place, but somehow he still had the 2,000 years of memories. They didn't come near making use of the potential of that, but there were moments when you got the weight of those 2,000 years in this young man.

There was the short-lived series New Amsterdam, with the immortal cop -- a Dutch soldier from the early days of settlement on Manhattan cursed with immortality. Now there's Forever, with the doctor made immortal a couple of centuries ago and now working as a medical examiner. Both of these series include one of the elements that I think fascinates me about this trope -- the role-reversed parent/child relationship. In New Amsterdam, there was the elderly man who was friends with the hero and who turned out to be his son. In Forever, the hero's close friend and father figure is actually his adopted son, a baby he rescued from a concentration camp at the end of WWII. This relationship is at the core of Forever, with the son sometimes looking after the "young" father as though he's a son (and that's the way the world sees them), but then when they're alone, they sometimes have those parent/child squabbles, with the seemingly younger man griping about the older son's fondness for that modern jazz music and the seemingly older man whining "Daaaaaad" when his father warns him not to do something. Doctor Who had a similar age-reversed family situation, with Rory and Amy's daughter being a couple of decades older than they were (due to time travel, though, not weird aging).

Then there have been a couple of versions of the Captain Hook story that have played with this, to varying degrees. It was most effective in the novel Alias Hook, in which Hook was immortal in Neverland, and over the centuries he did eventually grow up after watching generations of Lost Boys come and go. They sort of touch on this (but not as effectively as they should) in the version on TV's Once Upon a Time, where Hook spent a couple of centuries in Neverland not aging, so he's one of the oldest characters on the series, but played by one of the younger cast members. This mostly comes down to a few age jokes, as they barely remember that he's in a strange world, let alone a man out of time, so it's frustrating to me as a writer. They completely wasted the potential in another age-reversed relationship, where one of the Lost Boys he looked after and connected to ended up outside a curse that froze time for 28 years, so when they were reunited, the boy he knew was older than he was. Sometimes I really want to stage an armed takeover of the writers room for that show. The characters should sue them for malpractice.

So, why do I find this fascinating? I think as I get older, I find myself thinking of age and what it really means. I don't feel any different mentally or emotionally than I did as a teenager, even as I see gray hair. I took one of those "what's your real age?" online quizzes about your interests, and it gave me an age ten years older than I am. And yet I still get asked for ID to buy wine. Making a character's age extremely out of whack with his/her appearance is a way of exploring the concept of what age really means, if it means anything. I'm not sure why I'm fascinated with the out-of-order family relationships -- maybe a metaphor for aging parents? -- but I think it's mostly that it requires some creativity in writing. It takes characters out of neat little boxes and forces them to adjust.

I'm not sure how I can use this in a story, since it's probably less effective in print than it is on the screen. You see characters from the inside in a book, and no matter how many times you say that someone looks 30, if they act 100, that's what readers may see. I do have one idea in mind that involves someone being frozen in time for a long time -- a kind of Groundhog Day existence -- but I'm not sure how that will manifest. I think it'll mostly be more like time travel, suddenly being dumped into a strange environment, though she'll have made a lot of use of all that time to have a decent array of skill sets.

But that's a backburner story until I finish a few other things.

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