Music of the spheres: The Daedalus playlist

I had a blast doing the #sffwrtcht (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers Chat) on Twitter Tuesday night. The transcript is already up at the #sffwrtcht site, and I’ve seen previous chats posted on other blogs as well, including SFSignal. (Hey, it’s SFSignal’s 10th anniversary! Well done and congrats!)

One of the questions from the chat asked whether I listened to music as I wrote. I don’t, actually. I’m quite accustomed to writing in any number of environments, from mellow to chaotic — so much so that I tune out all too easily, as my wife can attest. (“Mike. MIKE. I’m talking to you.” It’s a blessing for a writer, but a curse in many other ways.) Music is just one more thing to tune out.

That said, I draw inspiration from music, and when I’m pondering writerly things, I find music helps. In fact, there have been a number of pieces that informed The Daedalus Incident. Here’s some of them. (Note that this will probably expose my somewhat dated musical tastes to snark. So be it. I like what I like!)

“The Cave” — Mumford & Sons. You know how Firefly had a Western twang to its soundtrack? I often think of songs like this when I think about the 22nd century Martian mining colony in my book. I think of old coal miners from the 1930s, out in the mountains. This one is particularly apt, and not just for the obvious title. It also speaks to a couple of the characters and their relationship. (I’d say which and how, but I don’t want to get too spoilery. If you’ve read Daedalus, you can opine in the comments section.)


“Shipping Up to Boston” — Dropkick Murphys. “Climbing up the topsails, I lost my leg!” Take a folk song about a peg-legged sailor and give it to a punk band. This little playlist has a few songs of the Celtic-punk/rock variety. There’s a huge Celtic influence in many sea shanties, at least to my ear, and songs like these provide a nice dose of adrenaline.


“Suite #1 for Cello in G, Preludium” — Johann Sebastian Bach. In the film version of Master and Commander, this is playing when the crew of HMS Surprise first arrives at Galapagos. I could hear it in my head as HMS Daedalus first made keel-fall on the wondrous world of Callisto.


“Ballad of the Beaconsfield Miners” — Foo Fighters. Another song that just fits the mood of my Mars colony perfectly. At least until everything goes to hell.


“What’s Left of the Flag” — Flogging Molly. A really great song, both for flavor and theme. Lyrically, it’s very much an Irish rallying cry, but for Daedalus, it sounds like a sped-up shanty. Makes me want to turn the main deck of HMS Daedalus into a mosh pit. (Don’t worry…I didn’t do that in the book.)


“Symphony No. 31 ‘Paris’ in D Major” — Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. I am, by no means, an expert in classical music, but I know what I like. And for those parts in the book where I really wanted to feel a period, late 18th century vibe, this was a good listen before I sat down to write.


“Heroes” — David Bowie. Musically, this song doesn’t fit into the worlds of the book at all. I don’t see characters listening to it, and I don’t hear it on the soundtrack in my head as I read. But…thematically, this sums up a major piece of the book. Daedalus’ protagonists aren’t Chosen Ones. They don’t have superpowers. They actually aren’t anything too special, except for their determination and devotion to duty and to one another. They can be heroes. Just for one day.


“Beaton’s Delight” — Ashley MacIsaac. I saw Ashley MacIsaac perform live in the mid 90s, and this Cape Breton punk fidder is just incredible. Dude destroyed three bows during his set, beat his guitarist in a soloing duel…just amazing. A lot of his pieces would work for this playlist, but I chose a more sedate one. Yes, this is sedate.


“The Planets: Mars, the Bringer of War” — Gustav Holst. There was a point early on in my development of Daedalus in which I wanted to have each of the Known Worlds correspond to their movement in Holst’s masterpiece. That didn’t take, but this movement is spot-on for Mars and the events I’ve placed there. Click on it and imaging two frigates, guns out, soaring through space toward each other, ready to rain alchemical shot upon the other’s hull. Boom.


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