Gen X, Your Storytellers are all Dead or Retired

No New Tales to Tell

It strikes me recently how many of the Artists and Storytellers I grew up on are no longer telling new stories. When I think back about the things that shaped the world when I grew up, all the wave 1 MTV artists, all the movies, all the books that I loved and then think about where the creators are today. Man, it gets depressing fast.

Music

  • Michael Jackson
  • Prince
  • Madonna

Books

  • Isaac Asimov
  • Robert Heinlein
  • Harlan Ellison

Movies

  • George Lucas, Star Wars
  • Steven Spielberg, E.T., Indiana Jones, Jurrasic Park

Business

  • Steve Jobs
  • Bill Gates

Sports

  • Tiger Woods
  • Michael Jordan
  • Andre Agassi
  • Pete Sampras
  • Joe Montana

There is almost no one on that list still telling stories. Creating part of our story, providing our context.

Passing of the Mantle

What does it mean when the people who have always told you stories stop telling stories?

George R. R. Martin has described much of his work as being in many ways a response to J. R. R. Tolkien. His pen name even mirrors his predecessor. He read his stories and then responded with what was in his mind a better version. He did not like the Gandalf the Grey to Gandalf the White plot line. He remembered reading it and feeling it was a cheap cop-out to have him come back and basically be the exact same as before with just a different color robe.

So in his version, he made sure Lady Stoneheart was very different from Catelyn Stark. He made sure that every time Beric Dondarrion was raised that he bore a scar and was changed. If you die and come back, that should leave a scar.

In music, look at the catalog of Cheap Trick, The Ramones or even Nirvana. Kurt Cobain would describe his process of taking what used to be punk and reinterpreting it for a new generation. Similar to what the Ramones and Cheap Trick did to doo-wop and early “golden oldies” rock and roll. They retold those stories, updating the lyrics and changing the amount of amplification and distortion.

In the movies, J.J. Abrams has taken over the mantle from both Spielberg and Lucas. His retelling of Star Wars in The Force Awakens takes the formula from the originals and modifies it in ways that he wants, and tells the story that he wished was there the first time.

Time to tell your stories

As I survey the end of the era I was raised in, I wonder what stories need to be told now? Which ones do I need to tell? What ones do you need to tell?

While I researched this post– exhaustive research I assure you 🙂 — I noticed this tidbit.

J.R.R. Tolkien passed away in 1973, G.R.R. Martin started writing in 1970, and won his first awards in 1973.

The take away for me is this:

When your storytellers stop, it is up to you to pick up the mantle, tell the story. Creation is a conversation across time. The prior generation has said their piece. Now you need to answer.

So my challenge is this, Stop consuming others creative output, and start making more of your own.

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