Friday, September 5, 2014

Science Fiction & Rock and Roll


One of the first lessons I learned as a science fiction writer was that it was extremely hard to sell a SF story about rock and roll.  Editors didn't want it.  Worse, they'd rather condescendingly lecture you on the absolute lack of overlap between people who read science fiction and people who listened to rock music.

That was in the early 1980s -- late enough, one would have thought, for the message to have gotten through that rock music was a popular art form.

And things got better . . . approximately never.  There have been either one anthology in the English language (Rock On!  edited by Paula Guran) or two (In Dreams, billed as a celebration of the 7-inch single and edited by Paul J. McCauley & Kim Newman, may or may not limit itself to rock and roll; plus, it included horror stories) of science fiction stories about rock and roll and that's it.

So I'm particularly pleased that "Touring," a tale of Elvis and Buddy Holly and Janis Joplin getting together for one last concert, which I co-wrote with Gardner Dozois & Jack Dann, is included in Alternative Rock, an honest-to-God sci fi rock'n'roll anthology.  Published in France by Editions Gallimard.  In French, of course.

The other stories are:

"The Twelfth Album" by Stephen Baxter
"Red Elvis" by Walter Jon Williams"
"A Dead Singer" by Michael Moorcock
"Snodgrass" by Ian R. MacLeod
So it's a good selection of stories.

In the meantime . . .  How long has rap been around?  Have you noticed that there aren't many science fiction stories about rap music either?

Above:  The book with and without a promotional wrapper.  Looks great either way.



springer said...

Hey, I saw that on the shelves in France when I was on vacation this summer.

Richard Mason said...

Since I just watched it a couple of nights ago, I will mention that there is a tiny smidgen of hip-hop in "15 Million Merits," the second episode of the British TV sf anthology "Black Mirror."

DaveAx said...

Re "How long has rap been around?"
Far longer than "rap music", in short.
A few references you may want to check out:
Rappin' and Stylin' Out: Communication in Urban Black America; Thomas Kochman, ed.; University of Illinois Press, 1972.
"Get Your Ass In the Water and Swim Like Me": Narrative Poetry From Black Oral Tradition; Bruce Jackson; Harvard Press, 1974.
The album "Hustler's Convention" by "Lightnin' Rod" (who was also a member of The Black Poets, under another name), circa 1973.

David Stone said...

I don't get it... there must be dozens if not hundreds of rock albums based on science fiction and fantasy themes or concepts. Heck, Bloodhag even recorded an entire album devoted to SF authors. Does anyone tell rock musicians that no one who listens to rock music also reads SF?

Ken Houghton said...

In Dreams definitely counts.

If you look at the sales of SF R&R novels,* you understand immediately why no one is willing to take a chance on budgeting anthologies.

But I suspect shorter forms--J. R. Dunn's alternative history novella in Asimovs lo those many years ago might be an outer limit--are better for the melding. (The Laura Nyro story in In Dreams is, what, four pages?)

Rock Operas are rare. Rock Operas worth the trouble of listening for pleasure are rarer. So may it be for novels.

*Think Glimpses, Armageddon Rag, Wrack and Roll, and probably a Spinrad novel I'm forgetting the title of (not really Buig Jack Barron; did he expand "The Big Flash" into a novel?). The closer you get to science fiction (v. fantasy/mimetic fiction), the more difficult defining the audience is.

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