There was a neat interview on the radio recently that brought up the notion of the typical family timespan a human “touches.”
It’s something like this: Take the oldest person in your direct family that you’ve met, probably a grandparent or great-grandparent. Find that person’s date of birth. Now consider the youngest person in your direct family that you will meet, and project a likely lifespan/date of death. That span, from the oldest person’s birth to the youngest person’s death, is the longest snippet of the family timeline that you will touch directly. It's probably around 200 years—and I suppose compared to the typical human lifespan, that might seem like a long time. But I was struck by how short it is.
In my case, it starts in 1885, when my grandfather was born. It wasn’t exactly the digital age, but the internal combustion engine had been around for a couple of decades. In printing, monotype machines were coming onto the scene. The first skyscraper was completed in Chicago (where my great-grandfather was living). And in chemistry, the cathode ray, the basis for the CRT, was named.
So the timeframe I touch spans the advent of the oil age to somewhere in the digital age. I don’t really expect to see mass-marketed flying cars (the 1960s vision of the 1980s), but maybe there will be some new, socially transforming discoveries or inventions on par with computers. Even so, that span is short indeed.
In my writing, there are a couple of themes that stem from this idea. The first is connections: Suppose there are other connections backward and forward along the family timeline. What might happen if the connections weren’t limited to this idea of meeting the person during our time on the planet?
Second, consider the specific snippet we live in. Riches of all types, from wealth to health to power, move up and down across the ages. Consider Alexander the Great, or the Roman Empire; and the Dark Ages. Consider the Dallas Cowboys in the 1990s. Up and down.
Now consider your/my snippet of time. We live in an age of wealth and abundance that eclipses every other peak civilization. Tapping the oil wealth of the planet (and, as my old college prof used to say, “burning the candle at both ends”) has given us unimaginable advances in science, medicine, technology—everything. Of course there is still poverty and oppression, but overall, this tiny piece of your family’s timeline is the richest, most prosperous ever.
Theme #2 in my writing is the notion that when our descendants look back generations from now, that will still be the case. My books are action thriller / suspense stories, not stories about peak oil. I also don’t envision an apocalyptic wasteland, by the way: Maybe that happens, but it’s not what I’m writing about. The future world in my stories come after that. Reset the world after the oil age, and consider our connections to that future time.
Most readers on the list have already been introduced to the first book, Gunners of the White Cliffs. Books II and III are also out, Trail of the Gunners and Gunner’s Blade. I hope you enjoy them. I’m working now on a fourth book, a satellite story, something different (but, well … connected.) My new book, tentatively titled, Undine of Deadrise Bay, should be out by the end of the year or early in 2019. See the link on the home page (at the bottom) if you are interested in being an advance review copy reader of Undine. It will be late summer or fall at the earliest, but you can sign up now.