David Ira Cleary. Living in the Eighties. (Asimovs April/May 2012)

Cleary has written a couple of SF stories that have featured pop/rock/punk, and this lengthy time travel story kept my attention due to being firmly embedded in the music of my 20s. Any story that mentions New Order, Siouxsie, The Cure, and The Velvet Underground gets a thumbs up from me.

Having said that, if the story had features hair metal, prog rock or been called Living in the Nineties, I probably would have been unwilling to stay the course of the 24,000 words, as the story, featuring repeated website-enabled trips back to the 80s, in fact featured rather too many trips, and could have done with 4,000 words and one trip less.

The plot is fairly standard for a time travel one – the protagonist wants to go back in time to make changes to what happened that resulted in his girlfriend driving off a bridge and dying. (SPOILER – anyone remotely well-versed in time travel stories will guess where the story leads in that direction!).

But the music, the method of time travel, the characterisation of the protagonist and his diabetic friend who travels to the future to find a cure for his condition, and spotting the subtle butterflywings changes on each return keep the reader engaged. Unless, perhaps the reader is in their teens and has very little knowledge of the bands and fashion styles being mentioned.

Had the story been set in the late 70s/early 80s and featured The Clash, Siouxsie, and Joy Division (all of whom I saw live) and been set in England, it would have been so close to my youth to have freaked me out. In fact, had it done that, the story would in fact have been written by me, but in an alternate world where I didn’t give up my attempts at writing SF in 1976 at 16.

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