Written by: Ethan H. Gaines @lastbestpress
For each generation, there has been a novel to capture the spirit of those who lived then. Think The Great Gatsby or The Things They Carried; these books captured maybe not the ideas or experiences of every single person, but they did capture the overall position of the generation.
I recently was thinking about my own generation, the Millenial Generation, and what that novel would be. I couldn’t think of any but began looking at Millenial authors and what they were putting out. The popular ones, at least, were putting out largely nonfiction works, memoir-type stuff. I’ve got nothing wrong with that, it’s just not what I like and I feel hesitant to put the experiences of an entire generation on the shoulders of a memoir. One article I read took the stance that there can be no one novel to sum up the generation.
The reasons weren’t given, but I think I have an idea as to why. The generation given the name “Millenials” were born between 1981 to 1996, a span of fifteen years. I fall close to the end of that (1991). What I find so interesting are the extreme changes that took place in the eighties and nineties. In the eighties, the personal computer (PC) came to homes along with video games. You could watch movies in your home instead of going to theatres. The Cold War ended bringing about a new age, Spice Girls told you what was what, the focus of who the enemy was changed, and so much more.
I remember when there was no internet and I remember when I didn’t have a computer at home, which was a pretty good chunk of time. I filled it with books and loading notebooks up (in case you were wondering what I did with my time). I played video games but never got absorbed with them. I played outside and worked outside. Social media blew up and now everyone is an expert and a celebrity.
When I first got a blog, my girlfriend at the time mocked me because it was still largely frowned down upon. YouTube was nowhere near the powerhouse it is now, and being paid for posting home videos (vlogs) was unheard of. I went to college for secondary education (never finished) because I didn’t think you could seriously pursue a writing career at the time.
All of this to say that the experiences of the Millenial Generation are so unbelievably vast that it would be difficult to condense the experiences into one work. Perhaps our generational novel wouldn’t be one novel but several. An anthology, if you will, of how our ideas and personalities were shaped. Many criticize us for being lazy and entitled, while that may be true for some, it is not true for all.
My Millenial friends are all hard workers, sometimes working more than one job to support themselves and/or their family. I know someone who is so passionate about social justice and writes eloquently about it, I know another who advocates for Native Americans, and I know others who run their own businesses. We never asked for those ridiculous Participation Ribbons but were given them despite that, but regardless we’re characterized by wanting the metaphorical Participation Ribbon.
With everything Millenials have seen and witnessed, it’d be a multi-volume anthology of what has happened. I was speaking to a journalist who I admire for his work, and I was asking for advice about writing military fiction as someone who hasn’t served and the possibility of being discounted due to being an “unpatriotic, liberal” Millenial. He said, “Hell man, Millenials are the ones who fought (and continue to fight) the GWOT.” I had already suspected that since I knew several people who went and fought. That just adds one more tack to what Millenials had seen or done. The anthology would be full of social justice, techies, foodies, hipsters, soldiers, and every other thing you can think of. It may be full of controversy, but that’s what writers are here for, right?