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are we entitled to contemporary accuracy?
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Amanda



Joined: 25 Aug 2008
Posts: 289
Location: the midwest

PostPosted: Fri Nov 21, 2008 11:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Cora wrote:


But it still strikes me as odd when I read a contemporary romance with characters approximately my age, who never watched Star Wars or Beverly Hills 90210 or Transformers cartoons as children and couldn't resist watching last year's live action version, who never were into heavy metal or grunge or 1980s electro-pop, never owned a Barbie or a Cabbage Patch doll and never played a videogame in their lives and never wear anything that might actually by in fashion now. Because while these characters supposedly are of my generation, they don't feel like any people I know because they live in some sort of timeless limbo. And yes, even young people who are into vintage movies, opera, jazz or similar interests usually have enjoyed something contemporary at some point in their lives.


Cora, we must be contemoraries! I was in 3rd grade when Cabbage Patch Kids were the thing to get for Christmas. Sadly, I did not get one. I watched Dirty Dancing tonight for the first time in years. Wow. That is a sexy movie and I was way too young to watch the first 150 times I saw it. What were my parents thinking?Shocked

There is no doubt that anything written by Jane Austen would be considered a historical. I think contemporaries record current events and become historicals as they age. To me, reading something that has aged just gives a glimpse of how things were 'back then'. Be it five years ago or 500 years ago. It's one of my favorite things about picking up an old contemporary.
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Schola



Joined: 10 Jun 2007
Posts: 1867

PostPosted: Sat Nov 22, 2008 4:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Tee wrote:
I agree with you about the movie stars and popular people, xina, because they can fall by the wayside almost overnight. Not too much later, we ask ourselves, "Who's Dan Quayle?" After being the focus of much humor during his tenure as vice president, he silently went away, as do other famous people.


There was a movie made for kids in which one of the characters was asked to name five US vice-presidents who hadn't gone on to be presidents. Being one of the "dumb" ones, the only name he could come up with was Quayle--which totally dates the movie, aye? Wink

Cora wrote:
Of course an author can overdo the references to pop culture, contemporary fashions, etc... (e.g. certain designer brandname riddled variations of chick lit) and there is a pretty good chance that some of them may become dated. But I still prefer that to the sort of bland eternal present found in some contemporary romances where the hero's favourite movie is always Casablanca, the characters always listen to classic rock or maybe are into classical music or jazz and everybody wears jeans and plain t-shirts, because those never go out of style.


This reminds me of the last book I read, which first came out in 1987. Despite no "brand name dropping," I totally knew that the chocolate chip cookies were likely Chips Ahoy, the lime slushies were likely 7/11 Slurpees, and so on. Very Happy It was a nostalgic trip down memory lane and I appreciated the "dated" details.

However . . . There was one scene in which the heroine had a makeover that gave her springy bangs, coils in front of each ear, and a frizzy wave at the nape of her neck. Laughing Nobody today would get their hair permed like that, I hope! A new edition of the novel, with the leads in more modern clothes, has been released recently; so now I wonder if the author had to rewrite that makeover scene.

Cora wrote:
Yes, a reference to contemporary pop culture will probably become dated, but the book will be dated anyway.


What if, like the book I mention above, a popular Contemporary gets rewritten when it is rereleased one or two decades after its first printing? The story will remain the same, but the pop culture references will change. Would the book still seem dated?
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willaful



Joined: 02 Jan 2008
Posts: 1549

PostPosted: Sat Nov 22, 2008 12:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm bothered about the idea of contemporaries starting to be considered historicals, it seems very sloppy and misleading to lump together a book written by a contemporary author with a historical, just because both books happen to be set in the past. Surely there's another term for such a book?

I've never seen "dating" as much of an issue in romance. I'm not really familiar with the ways fans read other genres, but romance fans seem to be heavy readers of older, even out of print books, and still enjoy them. Romance generally feels so out of touch with my own reality anyway, dating of some details barely matters. Laughing
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JaneO



Joined: 17 Feb 2008
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 22, 2008 12:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Actually, I find it disconcerting to see things I consider "current events" classified as "history."
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Karen Templeton



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 298

PostPosted: Sat Nov 22, 2008 1:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've posted my as-an-author POV on this issue before -- in a nutshell, that I'm only trying to capture a snapshot of the moment in which I'm setting the book, and can't be bothered worrying about whether it will seem dated in a few years. Wink

However, what about TV shows in syndication or on DVD? Is an older FRIENDS or ROSEANNE or FRASIER episode any less enjoyable because some of the surface stuff is now out-of-date? Human foibles and relationship issues are timeless, no matter what people are wearing or what means they use for communication. Not that details aren't important, but we can't divorce those details from their context...and that includes the year the story was set.

The speed at which life moves these days makes the contemp author's task extremely difficult -- I turned in a book two months ago containing a short scene dealing with the sky-high gas prices, and it's already irrelevant. But who knew, after two years of prices steadily increasing, they'd tumble to half their peak in two months? Rolling Eyes Even so, I can only work with what I -- and my characters -- have at the moment. Otherwise, I'm *not* being true to them or the "period," which IMO is a far greater disservice to my readers than twisting myself inside out in some pointless attempt to avoid dating my work. Smile

Karen T.
http://www.karentempleton.com
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Mark



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 1366

PostPosted: Sat Nov 22, 2008 3:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I strongly prefer to know where & when a story is set, so I prefer stories that include details that let me identify the time & place. Undateable stories or stories set in a vague eternal present are usually less enjoyable. This isn't just an issue with contemporary romances. It also applies to historical romances. There are many historical romances that have such vague time referents that they could be taking place at any time in the 1700s or 1800s. One I read recently was referred to as Regency-set, but there were NO details in the entire book confirming that.
As for when a contemporary becomes a historical, there are two viewpoints. Any event that has already occurred is history, even if it was just a femtosecond ago. Therefore any story told in past tense is historical in that sense. But a clearer distinction is to compare the time of writing to the setting. If a story is set within a few years of when the story was written, it is a contemporary. If a story is set more than a few years before when it was written, it is a historical. By this definition, Jane Austen wrote CONTEMPORARY fiction. By this definition, no contemporary story EVER becomes a historical story--it is just an older contemporary story.
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Cora



Joined: 12 Mar 2008
Posts: 1129
Location: Bremen, Germany

PostPosted: Sat Nov 22, 2008 7:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Amanda wrote:


Cora, we must be contemoraries! I was in 3rd grade when Cabbage Patch Kids were the thing to get for Christmas. Sadly, I did not get one. I watched Dirty Dancing tonight for the first time in years. Wow. That is a sexy movie and I was way too young to watch the first 150 times I saw it. What were my parents thinking?Shocked


We probably are, though I finally got my Cabbage Patch Kid approximately two years past their peak popularity. Still have her, too. And my parents actually wanted to take me to the theatre to watch Dirty Dancing as a treat, because they'd heard it was popular. Except that I had no interest in that film and talked my Dad into overruling Mom and watching Frantic with Harrison Ford instead. Which was probably even less suitable.

All these things are shared memories among people of a certain generation and should be reflected in heroes and heroines supposedly of that generation. Of course there is the danger that older readers might feel left out (e.g. I have to explain the 1980s pop culture in Psych to my Mom), but then my Mom also remembers buying the Cabbage Patch Kid or not getting to see Dirty Dancing, because I didn't want to see it.

Quote:

There is no doubt that anything written by Jane Austen would be considered a historical. I think contemporaries record current events and become historicals as they age. To me, reading something that has aged just gives a glimpse of how things were 'back then'. Be it five years ago or 500 years ago. It's one of my favorite things about picking up an old contemporary.


Jane Austen wrote contemporaries in her time (and the historical novel had barely been invented at the time anyway). However, I agree that the glimpses a novel can give into life in the past, whether it's Jane Austen's Regency, the 1950s high life as chronicled in the James Bond novels or a ten or twenty year old contemporary romance, are part of the fun. Plus, these details provide invaluable sources of information for future historians.
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Cora



Joined: 12 Mar 2008
Posts: 1129
Location: Bremen, Germany

PostPosted: Sat Nov 22, 2008 8:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Schola wrote:

What if, like the book I mention above, a popular Contemporary gets rewritten when it is rereleased one or two decades after its first printing? The story will remain the same, but the pop culture references will change. Would the book still seem dated?


I actually hate it when they do that. In one of the rereleased Janet Evanovich Loveswepts from the late 1980s, there was a brief mention of the heroine wearing a SpongeBob t-shirt, which threw me straight out of the story, because I couldn't figure out how she could have worn a SpongeBob t-shirt back in the late 1980s, since SpongeBob hadn't been around that long. Or if he had been around for so long, then how had I completely missed his existence all those years? If it had been a period appropriate Garfield t-shirt or something relatively neutral like a Mickey Mouse shirt, I wouldn't have been bothered. Especially since things like the absence of cellphones and the internet dated the novel anyway, so that it would have been obvious that it's an older novel, even if I hadn't checked the copyright page beforehand.

I can partly understand it with reissues of older YA novels, where dated references can seem very quaint indeed. Though I read YA novels from the 1950s or even from the 1920s as a child which were full of to me baffling details. However, I quickly figured out that this was an older book (my Mom telling me, "Oh, I read those as a kid, too" was a big clue) and that things were obviously different back then. With one multi-volume series following a girl from childhood to adulthood, I found the publication date of the first book, calculated when the heroine must have been born based on her age in the first book and then always knew when the book was set. Which became strange, since the latter books had to be set smack in the middle of WWII, yet there was no mention of bombs falling or men going off to war, because the book had been published only a few years after the first.

Later on, I found out that some of those old YA books had been slightly updated, e.g. politically incorrect bits were cut out and one series had its location changed from a pre-1945 part of Germany in what is now Poland to a town in West Germany (oddly enough, other books left the old locations which no longer existed with those names in, leading to some baffled searching of the atlas trying to figure out where the hell this thing was set). I am okay with those changes, because I can't see how such books could remain in print for a YA audience otherwise. Plus, they left the period flavour intact.

However, adults should be able to check the copyright page and change their mindset accordingly. I have gritted my teeth through the casual racism, antisemitism and sexism found in many older novels, but I accept those as part and parcel of the time. Though I still wish Georgette Heyer had not written all those moneylender scenes.
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Cora



Joined: 12 Mar 2008
Posts: 1129
Location: Bremen, Germany

PostPosted: Sat Nov 22, 2008 8:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Karen Templeton wrote:
I've posted my as-an-author POV on this issue before -- in a nutshell, that I'm only trying to capture a snapshot of the moment in which I'm setting the book, and can't be bothered worrying about whether it will seem dated in a few years. Wink

However, what about TV shows in syndication or on DVD? Is an older FRIENDS or ROSEANNE or FRASIER episode any less enjoyable because some of the surface stuff is now out-of-date? Human foibles and relationship issues are timeless, no matter what people are wearing or what means they use for communication. Not that details aren't important, but we can't divorce those details from their context...and that includes the year the story was set.

The speed at which life moves these days makes the contemp author's task extremely difficult -- I turned in a book two months ago containing a short scene dealing with the sky-high gas prices, and it's already irrelevant. But who knew, after two years of prices steadily increasing, they'd tumble to half their peak in two months? Rolling Eyes Even so, I can only work with what I -- and my characters -- have at the moment. Otherwise, I'm *not* being true to them or the "period," which IMO is a far greater disservice to my readers than twisting myself inside out in some pointless attempt to avoid dating my work. Smile

Karen T.
http://www.karentempleton.com


When rewatching an older TV show I used to love, I find that some are still as good as ever, even though the hairstyles, cars, etc... are dated. While others just have me wondering what the hell I was thinking. And it has nothing to do with the quotient of horrid 1980s fashions.

And don't worry about the gas prices. People will always complain about gas prices. Talking of which, there is a German pop song from the early 1980s, the lyrics of which contain a line about how a car freak would still be rising his car, even if gas was 2.10 marks per liter - a price that seemed inconceivably high at that time. Now the price for a liter of gas is higher than that and has been for some years now.
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Schola



Joined: 10 Jun 2007
Posts: 1867

PostPosted: Sun Nov 23, 2008 11:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Cora wrote:
Schola wrote:

What if, like the book I mention above, a popular Contemporary gets rewritten when it is rereleased one or two decades after its first printing? The story will remain the same, but the pop culture references will change. Would the book still seem dated?


I actually hate it when they do that.


Me, too! Evil or Very Mad

Quote:
In one of the rereleased Janet Evanovich Loveswepts from the late 1980s, there was a brief mention of the heroine wearing a SpongeBob t-shirt, which threw me straight out of the story, because I couldn't figure out how she could have worn a SpongeBob t-shirt back in the late 1980s, since SpongeBob hadn't been around that long. Or if he had been around for so long, then how had I completely missed his existence all those years? If it had been a period appropriate Garfield t-shirt or something relatively neutral like a Mickey Mouse shirt, I wouldn't have been bothered.


I'm someone who likes the dated details. I'd quiver with happiness to read about a Garfield shirt . . . but that's just my nostalgia talking.

Quote:
Especially since things like the absence of cellphones and the internet dated the novel anyway, so that it would have been obvious that it's an older novel, even if I hadn't checked the copyright page beforehand.

I can partly understand it with reissues of older YA novels, where dated references can seem very quaint indeed.


Speaking of which . . . Did you know that the Sweet Valley High books are being rereleased? They've been updated so that Elizabeth types her newspaper articles on a laptop instead of a typewriter, and everyone has mobile phones!

My only reaction is puzzlement. Is there really still an audience for the relatively wholesome, occasionally bland stories of the eternally sixteen Wakefield twins, in an industry where Gossip Girl and related series have cornered a huge share of the market?

Quote:
However, adults should be able to check the copyright page and change their mindset accordingly. I have gritted my teeth through the casual racism, antisemitism and sexism found in many older novels, but I accept those as part and parcel of the time. Though I still wish Georgette Heyer had not written all those moneylender scenes.


I believe similar scenes were taken out of the Nancy Drew books.
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Beth W



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 168

PostPosted: Sun Nov 23, 2008 4:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

One book drove me up the wall. The time difference between Montana and California kept throwing the heroine off. According to the book, it was a two hour difference, but it's really only an hour.

Same book, the heroine realized she didn't have cell phone reception (in aforementioned Montana) because she didn't get a dial tone on her cell phone. Cell phones don't have dial tones!

Then, later, the hero was injured and had to get something like 10 stitches - yucky injury but nothing bad. The medical people wanted him to stay overnight in the hospital because he might get an infection. You don't stay overnight because of stitches, and you're most likely not going to get an infection that fast anyway!
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Cora



Joined: 12 Mar 2008
Posts: 1129
Location: Bremen, Germany

PostPosted: Mon Nov 24, 2008 12:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Schola wrote:


Speaking of which . . . Did you know that the Sweet Valley High books are being rereleased? They've been updated so that Elizabeth types her newspaper articles on a laptop instead of a typewriter, and everyone has mobile phones!

My only reaction is puzzlement. Is there really still an audience for the relatively wholesome, occasionally bland stories of the eternally sixteen Wakefield twins, in an industry where Gossip Girl and related series have cornered a huge share of the market?


Yes, I heard about that and I wondered about it, too. Now I read a lot of those books during my teens and enjoyed them at the time, but I was never under any illusion that they were particularly good. Plus, I always preferred bad girl Jessica to priggish Elizabeth.

Even if they update details like laptops instead of typewriters, the books will still seem very much like products of their time. And since there is so much better YA stuff out there these days (not necessarily Gossip Girls, though they could be better than they sound), the only market are mothers and aunts who remember them fondly from their youth and buy them for the teengirls in their life. And honestly, I'd rather buy them a Sarah Dessen or Barbara Ferrer or Meg Cabot novel.

Quote:

Quote:
However, adults should be able to check the copyright page and change their mindset accordingly. I have gritted my teeth through the casual racism, antisemitism and sexism found in many older novels, but I accept those as part and parcel of the time. Though I still wish Georgette Heyer had not written all those moneylender scenes.


I believe similar scenes were taken out of the Nancy Drew books.


I always assumed that the edits in the Nancy Drew books concerned mainly details like outdated car types, though I could be wrong. I only know those books by reputation, never actually read them, since they didn't make it over here.

The edits made to some older German YA books are apparently a bit more extensive, since you wouldn't want to expose any modern youngster to pre-1945 stuff unedited. One popular series lost an entire book, set during WWI and supposedly filled with patriotic fervour. The WWI events are summed up in a page or so in the later editions. According to a friend, who did her exams on that topic, the German editions of Enid Blyton's various series (Famous Five, Secret Six, the Adventure series) have also been edited to remove any WWII references, particularly those about the kids napping German spies (now changed to politically neutral smuggler rings).

But removing politically problematic and offensive passages from YA books is okay with me, especially since all the books in question retained their period flavour and very much had that "different time and place" feel. Plus, you can always go back as an adult and research the unedited originals, like my friend did.
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veasleyd1



Joined: 02 Dec 2007
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 26, 2008 9:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

In one fairly recent romantic suspense (by which I mean the last five years or so), written by, IIRC, an Australian author, she had a major plot point depend on having either the h/h see a message from someone left in the classified ads **on the front page of the Washington Post.**

Now, American newspapers do not put classified ads on the front page. The paper is online, so she could have checked.

What's more, it was a "throwaway," just like so many historical inaccuracies are throwaways. Nothing would have failed if she just said "in the classified ads section" without specifying the page.

It's as if a flyover effort to increase verisimilitude actually ends by decreasing it.
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bavarian



Joined: 16 Jul 2007
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 26, 2008 4:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

IMO one of the main problems for contemporary romances is the fast developement in our electronic envirement. Read a book 20 years old: no cell phones, no pcs in every home, no Internet and so on. There are so many changes in our every day life caused by these developements. Think of genetics too! Today you can say who is the father of a baby. It's not so long ago, there always remained a bit of uncertainty.
But: A good book, a good story always remains a good book with or without cell phone!
Some of You mentioned product names often used by some authors. As I'm not living in the US for me these books are not enjoyable! I can't tell if the mentioned chocolate is an especially good or bad one, if the shoes by a certain designer are very fashionable or just the opposite. It makes reading quite difficult. In this context I could also mention the naming of TV shows and TV celebrities not known in Europe.
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Elizabeth Rolls



Joined: 26 Mar 2007
Posts: 1076
Location: Australia

PostPosted: Wed Nov 26, 2008 6:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
In one fairly recent romantic suspense (by which I mean the last five years or so), written by, IIRC, an Australian author, she had a major plot point depend on having either the h/h see a message from someone left in the classified ads **on the front page of the Washington Post.**


How bizarre. Even here in Australia we do not have classified ads on the front pages of our newspapers. Advertising maybe, but not the classifieds. (It wasn't me!)

Elizabeth
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