Once in a while–a great while–the urge comes over me to clean the closets. When I do I find all kinds of things that I’ve forgotten. You’ve been there, right? Most of the stuff, of course, has been forgotten because it deserves to be: a tabletop “convection” oven that was supposed to free one from hours of kitchen drudgery, a collection of 47 state quarters in a purple faux velvet covered case, a poem I wrote based on a favorite piece of clothing. Actually, the poem wasn’t bad, but I couldn’t show it to anyone because it had a bad word in it (really a bunch of asterisks, but you get the idea); it was written in response to a prompt I found online. You never know where such things will lead you.
Among the fluff, I’ve found a few stories I felt comfortable with back in the good old days when I wrote them. Some are finished, some are stuck in that limbo of “I really like the words that got him here, but how in the world do I get him back out?” I might go ahead and finish them, but the one thing I find as a rather firm barrier to progressing any further at this late date is technology.
One really great story possibility gets lost on the second page when my protagonist can’t make his way through a crowd to reach the phone booth. Phone booth???? Why, my critiquers ask me, didn’t he just use his cell phone? Oops, I mean smartphone, or is that obsolete, too? I might as well consign this story to the rubbish heap right now. By the time I figure out how to create a crisis with his hand-held device, someone will have come up with a way to communicate with brain waves.
For the moment, I’ve decided the key to all this is to add a line to all my old stories. Right at the very beginning, top center, bold and italic, every story will begin with a date: August 1985 seems to work pretty well for now. No computers in everyone’s hand, no mobile phones except for the wealthy who had them hardwired in vehicles. It might seem kind of strange, especially for today’s younger readers, but it saves pages of rewrite.
I’ll see you again, after the commercial.