Just finished reading Stephen King’s IT, as I do every few years, and got all sniffly at the end, as I also do every few years. The Dark Tower series is a more ambitious and sweeping work, and certainly does more with world-building, and I love a lot of it, but for my money IT is King’s best: a really compelling look at childhood and friendship, at the power of belief, and at some extremely creepy forms of horror.*
Nostalgia–even nostalgia for times that could be scary beyond all reason–is another major theme here, and it’s the one that caught my attention most on this read-through. The book’s timeline is split: roughly half of it happens in 1958, when the main characters (then eleven) meet the titular Eldritch Horror/Creepy Clown, and half happens in 1985, when they’re called back to finish the battle. I read the novel this time in 2011: roughly as far from 1985 as that year is from 1958.
The thing is, the 1958 scenes read very clearly as “past”; the 1985 scenes, for the most part, feel modern. There are a few off notes to a 2011 reader–characters looking for pay phones, the generosity of tipping a cabbie five dollars–and a couple attitudes toward gender and sexuality, q.v. asterisk below. (And to my mind, Richie being uber-famous as a DJ seems odd, but then, I haven’t listened to radio since high school, really.) Otherwise, though, there’s nothing that really throws me out or makes the 1985 setting seem dated.
Is the difference that there haven’t been as many changes between 1985 and now as there were between ’58 and ’85? The Sixties were pretty world-altering…but so were the nineties and the early twenty-first century, in a lot of ways. Is nostalgia a function of the characters’ ages? Childhood, I think, is pretty innately nostalgic for adult writers, but at the same time, there are references and foreshadowing bits in the 1958 sections of IT that aren’t there–can’t be there–in the ’85 section. Maybe the key’s in those–or in a combination.
I’d like to try setting a novel in the alternate-eighties or early nineties sometime, to see if I could do the nostalgia/retro thing closer to modern times, and with adult characters–the late-twentieth equivalent of steampunk, perhaps. And if Alternate Victorian is steampunk, and alternate fifties is dieselpunk, what *would* alternate eighties be? Punkpunk? Moneypunk? Cokepunk?
Something to think about during meetings, anyhow.
*It also has some issues, for the record: there’s one scene at the end that most people will find all kinds of squicky, the attitudes toward race and homosexuality are well-meaning but problematic at times, and there’s a trope that bugs me that I’ll talk about next post. For the record.