I’m working on a short-fiction anthology of stories inspired by music called Pulp Rock. Back it here, and read on for more details.
Musicians are huge nerds.
Ever since I first heard Robert Plant sing about Gollum and Mordor in the Led Zeppelin song “Ramble On,” I’ve been aware of this fact. But it doesn’t begin and end with Led Zeppelin. Jimi Hendrix was a fan of comic books and sci-fi—“Purple Haze” was supposedly inspired by some ray-gun the guitar legend saw in an old movie (though drugs is still the more likely explanation). Frank Zappa was a fan of monster movies and old pulp magazines. Rush devoted side-long songs to sweeping epics based on sci-fi, fantasy, and classical mythology, and closed their career with Clockwork Angels, a concept album based on a steampunk novel Rush drummer/lyricist Neil Peart wrote with his friend, novelist Kevin J. Anderson. Blue Öyster Cult collaborated with Elric author Michael Moorcock, who wrote lyrics based upon his series of fantasy novels. Metal bands like Amon Amarth take their name from Tolkien, and write songs about Norse mythology and folk legends, while others like Blind Illusion explicitly feature lyrical content inspired by Tolkien, Moorcock, and other fantasy authors. Jazz-funk legend George Duke released a fantasy/sci-fi album called Guardian of the Light. One of the most explicit examples of this phenomenon can be seen in the band Coheed and Cambria, where each album is a chapter in a larger space opera written by frontman Claudio Sanchez. In fact, the band is named for the saga’s two main characters.
It’s important to note that this cross-pollination did not begin with rock music. Composers like Wagner, Gluck, Montiverdi, Handel, and Mozart wrote operas based on classical Greek and Roman legend, as well as German and Norse folk tales and myth.
I know I’m missing countless composers, artists, and bands who are influenced by books. This post isn’t about listing all of them. It’s about an anthology I am working on to show that this influence can also go the other way: Pulp Rock.
The written word has always been a powerful inspiration for music-makers. Author and Pulp Rock contributor JD Cowan has written an excellent post about this phenomenon at his blog, so I’m not the only one who has seen this connection, not by a long shot.
As a musician as well as a writer, it’s interesting that I’ve found that not only lyrics to music I like have sparked my imagination, but the soundscapes themselves. I don’t know if kids still do this anymore, but I can’t tell you how many times I put on some headphones, cranked up some of my favorite music, and just lay back on my bed and let my mind go where the music lead me. I do not have full-blown synesthesia, but sounds trigger different sensations and thought patterns in a very visceral, physiological way. Many a times have I seen things with my mind’s eye when listening to music, including instrumental music or lyric-less passages in songs. And this is as someone who has never used a mind-altering drug in his life.
I’ve long had an idea of writing a series of stories based upon various works of music. This morphed into the idea of creating an anthology of stories written by several writers who are also musicians or hardcore music fans, and seeing what inspiration they can take from music.
Pulp Rock is a love-letter to music, and will feature ten exclusive tales inspired by music, musicians, and the aural soundscapes our favorite artists have created. Some of the writers are musicians themselves. Some of the stories are about musicians. Others feature music as a story element. Some have neither, but are inspired by music nevertheless. Genres range from fantasy and science-fiction to horror and adventure. The cover will be painted by In Search of Sacha author/illustrator Manuel Guzman, who also made the trailer for the project, as well as created the covers for my books The Last Ancestor and The Second Sojourn (read my interview with Manuel here).
Take a look at the full list of contributing authors and their stories at the IndieGoGo page and then pitch in to help make this project a reality.