The other day when I interviewed the massively talented Erik Norlander about his Galactic Collective projects I found - almost by chance - that we had more in common than I had originally imagined.He, like me, is a Science Fiction buff. So I decided to dig further. I put Erik on the spot. What were his favourite Sci-Fi books? And how many of them had inspired his magnificent compositions.
5. Neuromancer - William Gibson
William Gibson will go down in history as the man who invited the cyberpunk genre. He invented the term cyberspace in 1982 and a few years later wrote this his debut novel which tells the story of a low-level hustler called Henry Chase living in the distopian underworld of Chiba City in Japan. He falls foul of his rather dodgy employers and gets involved with a shadowy mercenary underground. My son-in-law Gavin is particularly fond of this book, as is Erik Norlander, who says:
"Neuromancer, I haven't written anything based exactly on this book, but my oft-played instrumental, "Neurosaur," also originally from my 1997 Threshold album, borrows a bit from the title, of course. I think "Neuro-anything" must at least make a slight bow from the waist in the direction of Mr. Gibson".
4. Foundation - Isaac Asimov
Isaac Asimov is usually considered to be one of the ‘big three’ science fiction authors, together with Arthur C. Clarke and my personal favourite Robert Heinlein. Possibly his greatest series, and certainly my favourite, are the the Foundation Stories; seven novels published between the 1940s and the 1990s, which tell the story of Professor Hari Seldon who formulated a new discipline called psychohistory which used the statistics of human behaviour over the massive canvas of the entire galaxy to predict the future. These are marvellous books, and it is not surprising that they have been influential within rock music. Paul McCartney claims that the second version of Venus and Mars from the eponymous album is based in part on reading the Foundation Series. Also very much inspired was Erik Norlander:
"Foundation, of course links to the song, "Trantor Station," on The Galactic Collective DVDs. This song first appeared on my Threshold album in 1997. In 2003 I released a super deluxe special edition version of the album called "Threshold - Special Edition" where the original album was thoroughly remastered and many bonus tracks added. One of the bonus tracks is called "Return to the Ruins of Trantor" and is based on a story later on in the Foundation series."
3. The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag - Robert Heinlein
Now we come to my personal favourite author, and surprisingly Erik chose quite an obscure book from Robert Heinlein’s remarkable canon of work. Quite a few people ( including me and – believe it or not – Charles Manson) have written songs based on his 1963 visionary novel Stranger in a Strange Land. However what Erik has done is – as far as I’m aware – a first:
“The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag, there is a wonderful short story therein called "And He Built a Crooked House" where a forward-thinking architect builds a 4-dimensional tesseract house in the Los Angeles suburb of Laurel Canyon (very close to where I grew up, actually). I wrote a song for Rocket Scientists in 1995 called "Brutal Architecture" based on that short story, and that is also the album title. We reissued a re-mastered version of Brutal Architecture in 2007 on a 5-disc set called Rocket Scientists - Looking Backward. The 20-minute epic, "The Dark Water," that appears on The Galactic Collective DVDs (along with the "even more epic" 24-minute "The Darker Water" ;-) began on the Brutal Architecture album as the Berlin School atmosphere pieces, "Dark Water Part One" and "Dark Water Part Two" ... and having absolutely nothing to do with the Robert Heinlein story that inspired the "Brutal Architecture" song and album title.”
2. Dune - Frank Herbert
Dune by Frank Herbert is described by Wikipedia as being the world’s best selling science fiction novel and like the Foundation Series – it is set more than 20,000 years in the future when humanity has settled upon countless habitable planets. The most valuable substance in the galaxy is a spice called melange which is only found on the desert planet Arrakis which is covered in a hostile desert populated by ferocious fighters and giant sand worms. If you want to know more, buy the book.
Unsurprisingly, there are many links with rock music. Alejandro Jodorowasky, the man behind the immensely wonderful ‘El Topo’ planned a version of the film in the mid-70s. This would have featured Pink Floyd, Magma, H R Geiger (the dude who designed the cover for Brain Salad Surgery) and Salvador Dali amongst others. Sadly it was never made. However, some years later it was eventually made featuring Sting.
It has inspired songs by Iron Maiden and Dream Theatre amongst others, and unsurprisingly, Erik Norlander has also gone in on the act:
"Dune, I've written two songs based on this novel, or rather series of novels to be perfectly accurate. The first one was "Forever Nights" on the Rocket Scientists - Revolution Road album from 2006, co-written with guitarist / vocalist, Mark McCrite. The second was "Jessica" from the Lana Lane - Red Planet Boulevard album in 2007. And then in a very odd turn of events, in 2008 I was asked to write and produce a progressive rock album with latter-day Dune co-author, Kevin J. Anderson. The album was not about the Dune universe at all, but instead based on a new series of novels Kevin was writing called "Terra Incognita." The album that I worked on was called "Roswell Six - Beyond the Horizon." It has nothing to with Roswell, New Mexico, but I came up with "Roswell Six" as the working title of the project for a variety of then relevant and humorous reasons -- never intending for a moment that the name would be permanent -- but the others on the project loved the name so much that I was overruled, and that became the project name."
1. The Demolished Man - Alfred Bester
I have to admit that I have never heard of this man, but his 1953 The Demolished Man is a police thriller set in a future world in which telepathy is relatively common. Just reading the synopsis on Wikipedia has inspired me to go out and get a copy.
"The Demolished Man ... I haven't published anything based on this one yet, but one day I just might!"
The books are all available on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk (often remarkably cheaply).
...BECAUSE SOME OF US THINK THAT THIS STUFF IS IMPORTANT
What happens when you mix what is - arguably - the world's most interesting record company, with an anarchist manic-depressive rock music historian polymath, and a method of dissemination which means that a daily rock-music magazine can be almost instantaneous?
Most of this blog is related in some way to the music, books and films produced by Gonzo Multimedia, but the editor has a grasshopper mind and so also writes about all sorts of cultural issues which interest him, and which he hopes will interest you as well.