Some may claim this to be all-too similar to a previous Soul Curator that I did on writing. And, yes, while the action this playlist is supposed to score is the same, I feel that writing science fiction is something completely different from the standard mode of writing. In a way, you need to make yourself leave Earth. You need to be able to break rules and then glue them back together again. The Albums To Write To Soul Curator included albums that (for me, at least) kept the mind focused and eliminated distraction; this, however, stands on different grounds. The key to writing great science fiction (or any imaginative fiction, for that matter), is to be able to tap into the fantastical parts of your mind. Whether you come up with something that is grounded more in reality or doesn’t adhere to anything this planet has heard of is completely up to you. And these are albums that can help you reach that mode of thinking.
Tesseract – Altered State
Progressive rock/metal and SF often go together hand-in-hand, and while an album by Yes or maybe even the new Vektor album could arguably be better examples of that premise, I felt that this album showcased science fiction more in its presentation than in its concept. The lyrical content isn’t traditionally what we think of as “science fiction;” rather, it feels almost more dedicated to New Age thought than anything (read Eden’s great article on New Age if you haven’t already, by the way), and that’s fine, because I’m here to talk about the music, and Tesseract showcases some mind-blowing tunes in this album.
And I’ll be honest: I’m not a big djent fan. I’ve found the genre as a whole to be bloated with unoriginal ideas and songwriting. However, I’m not adverse to the genre as a whole; when something good comes along that tingles my put-this-in-your-ears-because-it’s-amazing sense, I’m more than willing to admit it. Altered State lives up to its title impeccably; you feel as if you’ve been sucked out of this reality while listening to it, and forced to simply watch as the laws of physics themselves disintegrate right in front of you. Ashe O’Hara, despite his short stint as Tesseract’s vocalist, gives this album his all he’s got, turning his voice from a lyrical transmitter to a full-fledged instrument, making the album soft, spooky, and even sad, in all the right places.
It might not be your traditional album to write science fiction to, but Altered State nonetheless stands (for myself, at least) as a way to open your mind to new possibilities.
Steve Jablonsky – Ender’s Game
As ludicrous as it sounds, you can actually be inspired to write science fiction from reading/listeneing/watching other SF. (Who knew, right?) And what could be better to write science fiction to than the score from a movie based off of one of SF’s most critically lauded novels ever?
Although the movie this score is tied to was nothing short of a rushed disappointment, I can’t help but love the music that Steve Jablonsky wrote for it. From the beginning track of “Ender’s War” to the ending reprise, “Commander”, I become enthralled. Jablonsky aurally creates a world that, while full of grandeur and accomplishment, is bordered by simple (and delicate) sense innocence and childlike wonder.
Honestly, I have listened to this album on repeat when writing; everything you want in science fiction, from an incredible setting to complex characters to themes that touch upon human nature itself is expressed through the compositions in this score. If you have a kernel of an idea for a space opera or similarly epic work and wish to expand it, this is the thing to listen to.
The Haxan Cloak – Excavation
Story time: I was in high school when the infamous video game Dead Space came out. Day in and day out I was told that this was quite literally the scariest game ever made, that this was true horror. So, naturally, I played it, and, as recommended, played it close to midnight with all the lights in the house off. And you know what? It was overhyped as hell; aside from the horrible controls it was boring and about as scary as a newborn puppy.
I say all that because this album—The Haxan Cloak’s follow-up to his self-titled debut—is actually pretty creepy. In fact, it’s downright terrifying if you’re in the right mood. Every track uses silence to its advantage, striking with what can only be described as black noise when you think things have cooled down, and generally making you think your house is haunted.
Can this relate to writing SF, however? I would say absolutely. Most people tend to think of the big names—Star Wars, Star Trek, the writings of Asimov and Clarke, etc.—when thinking of science fiction, but there’s really so much more out there. Not everything is grand, full of spaceships and astroid colonies and galactic federations; sometimes the best science fiction out there takes contemporary life and twists it just enough that suddenly everything is thrown into chaos and disturbing doubt. And both of those qualities can concisely describe Haxan Cloak’s music. You never really quite know what’s coming at you when you listen to it, and that makes it perfect for SF scenes needing that extra boost of something dark and spooky.
There are some other albums worth that, while not deserving of a full-fledged blurb on this post, still should get some sort of recognition. If you found the above interesting and helpful for writing, check out the following:
- The Algorithm—Polymorphic Code
- Graeme Revell—Aeon Flux
- The Future Sound of London—Lifeforms
- Dan Terminus—The Wrath of Code