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Here’s a story which floats, or attempts to float, in a realm that’s neither SF nor fantasy. Nor, plainly, is it realistic. Yet it’s set in a fairly everyday suburban world, and the people, at least most of the time, seem to lead the kind of lives that many of us—at least if you exclude the bitter milk and the fat uncles—would recognise.

The twisted naturalism of “Grownups” is something I’m proud of, and is a trope I’d like to visit more often, but have generally found very hard to achieve. Done properly—a feat I may or may not have managed—a slight but profound sideways step from reality can seem almost inevitable, but there are all sorts of issues, the need for logic, internal consistency and some kind of explanation usually being high on my list, which can get in the way. I remember frequently wondering whether “Grownups” could possibly work when I was writing it, but every time I returned to it, it seemed to lead me on. If the finished product does work, the reason is simply that, despite its oddity, it felt, and still feels, oddly real to me. The reason, to be honest, being my own experience of growing up.

Physically as a teenager, I was what you’d call a “late developer”. When other kids were shooting up and growing fuzz in all sorts of unlikely places, I was still a small, squeaky-voiced kid. The experience probably only lasted a couple of years, but that’s a long time at that age, and its strange, and a difficult, place to be. By the time I was about sixteen I was convinced that, like Bobby, I would never grow up. And part of me welcomed this, and didn’t really want to, which was the kind of world I found myself re-entering as I wrote “Grownups”; a place where sex seems comical and peculiar, childhood passes far too quickly, and adults are self-obsessed and strange. In many ways, I suppose, it’s somewhere I still recognise, and have never quite left.

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