You Can’t Stop the Music

I have a drastically eclectic music collection. Seriously, you should see the playlists on my MP3 player. Rihanna, Sting, Beyonce, Evanescence, Within Temptation, the Pussycat Dolls, Disturbed, Tina Turner, Peter Gabriel… I don’t pick music for the genre or because of some dumb peer-pressure urge to feel trendy; if I like the lyrics or the sound it goes in my list.

And some of it influences what I write. Petite popular songbird, Rihanna has resulted in two short stories and gave me the title for a book. (Admittedly Chris Brown wrote it, but Rihanna made it famous.) Russian Roulette produced a short story about one of my City of Heroes characters, and Disturbia continued her story as she rescues someone who has discovered the big city has a dark side. Disturbia remains the theme tune for the dark underside of the Thaumatology universe.

Linkin Park… I’d love to write some more stuff based on their songs. New Divide gave me a three episode short story detailing the mental decline of a superhero. The imagery in the song was perfect for the idea I had had, and the idea had sprung from listening to the song. (Rihanna’s Russian Roulette spawned a story in the same sort of way.)

Book 10, The Other Side of Hell, started out as just “The Other Side,” a name taken straight from the Evanescence song of the same name. Evanescence (and Within Temptation, and Nightwish) produce evocative songs, wonderful inspiration material. With Evanescence I found their second album a bit of a disappointment (there’s about one song I enjoy listening to from it), but their third is really back in the land of the good stuff. You can find the lyrics for The Other Side here: The sentiment behind this is what kicked off the final form of book 10.

Book 9, Dragonfall, has a theme tune too, though I’d got the plot worked out and a lot of the book written before I was watching some old videos on YouTube and came across the Within Temptation video for Stand My Ground. Within Temptation are a Dutch band and maybe not so well heard of in the US, but well worth the listen if you like Goth Rock. (They’re more consistently good than Evanescence.) Stand My Ground is one of their older tracks, but an awesome anthem.

Book 11 has a theme too. Go see if you can find Storytime by Nightwish somewhere.

Character theme tunes; what do I think of when I think of music for my characters? You’d probably be a bit perplexed by that collection. Ceri and Lily share a Beyonce track, kind of the theme of their relationship, Sweet Dreams. Why? Just think back to the way they started and lay that against the chorus:

You could be a sweet dream or a beautiful nightmare

Either way I don’t want to wake up from you.

Faran gets Bad Things, the Jace Everett track which a lot of people will know as the theme music from True Blood. Yes, True Blood is about vampires and Faran is an incubus, but just think about it… Seriously, if you’ve never heard it, look it up n YouTube and tell me that’s not Faran.

I haven’t thought much about the other characters. Anyone have any ideas for themes for the Thaumatology characters? I could do with some recommendations.


Inspiration – From Where?

Where do you get your inspiration from? For art or writing, or role-playing, or any other creative outlet really, there has to be something to inspire you to create. So what is it?

For me it’s many sources. I’ll focus on the Thaumatology books here, but I’ve written fiction in other genres which came from other places. I like mixing genres, especially with something like superhero fiction which is heavily influenced by both sci-fi and fantasy.

I’ve been fascinated by magic, the systems and mechanisms of magic, since I was a kid. I created rule systems for fantasy role-playing games, I read books on various different forms of magic. I don’t believe any of it, but it’s a fascinating subject. The first book I ever wrote was a fantasy (and no one will ever read it, it’s terrible, but I was a teenager). Urban fantasy did not really exist back then and I turned more to sci-fi. The first thing I remember seeing which had that mix of fantasy and the modern-day was a game, Mage: The Ascension, where “magic” was the ability to manipulate reality by will alone and “technology” was a form of magic which the general public had bought into so just about anyone could do it. (It’s a nice concept, but it starts to break down if you look too closely.) At around that time, David Eddings’ books were giving us “The Will and the Word,” another reality manipulating magic. Ursula le Guin’s Earthsea books feature magic which manipulates the world through language. This kind of relatively detailed, internally consistent magic system is a big influence on the magic in the Thaumatology series. What I wanted to do was write a story about people doing fantastic things, sure, but also about people trying to work out how magic worked; applying science to magic, that’s what my stories are about.

Which brings us to the other influence on these tales: Wikipedia and the Discovery channel. More specifically, quantum physics, string theory, M-theory, the Standard Model of particle physics… The list goes on. Try looking some of this stuff up. It reads like a fantasy novel combined with badly translated VCR instructions! Reality is a fascinating place and it seems like the more we understand it, the less we know about it.

Null thaumatons, the particle Ceri sets out to discover in Thaumatology 101, are based upon gravitons. Gravitons are the force particles responsible for gravity (if they exist). They are hard to find because they don’t interact with our world much. That’s why gravity is a comparatively weak force compared to the other forces, like electromagnetism. Gravitons are supposed to be closed-loop strings, and that’s what null thaumatons are too. My science would likely make a particle physicist weep, but this is fantasy not a scientific paper. Take a load of science, add a fantastic twist, and out comes the science of magic. There’s more to come in the next book; Ceri’s world has a magical equivalent of the Higgs boson…

So that’s where my inspiration comes from. What about yours?