pop fiction – ‘intro’

this is the introduction i wrote for pop fiction: stories inspired by songs, october 2010.

the collection features eighteen stories, including two written by me: ‘disney’s dream debased’ and ‘the only conclusion’.

intrigued? best buy a copy, i reckon.

Intro

Just as a perfectly-formed sentence sends shivers down the spine, so a certain song swells the heart as it reminds you of everything you failed to do when you were nineteen. And just as an intriguing plot draws you into a world you never thought you’d love, so that difficult third album reveals itself to be multilayered and magnificent on its sixth listen.

I call myself a writer, and yet I’m defined by noise; my life is one long Original Soundtrack: a compilation burnt with only me in mind. Literature and music are equally essential to me, and when they swirl together and impact on each other…I believe the results can be exhilarating.

Which is why I – music obsessive, literature lover – scissor-jumped at the opportunity to be involved with the compilation you now hold in your hands.

Pop Fiction: Stories Inspired by Songs owes its existence to three S’s: Singleton, Smith and Strummer. In October 2009, Tom Singleton posted ‘Interception’ on the Arts Council-funded site, YouWriteOn.com, managed by the tireless Ted Smith. The tale was influenced by The Clash’s superlative ‘(White Man) In Hammersmith Palais’ – or, to be pedantic, Joe Strummer’s lyrics. Tom then mentioned his story on YouWriteOn.com’s message board, and asked if other authors active on the site would be interested in writing stories inspired by songs, with a view to self-publishing the results in a collection.

Nine writers committed, and we agreed the format early on: to each contribute two stories; one based on a song of our choice, and one influenced by a specific song, to be collectively agreed. Our readers would not only enjoy tales tied to a range of artists, drawing on punk, rock, pop, reggae and country, but also experience nine interpretations of a single tune, which we all determined should be David Bowie’s ‘“Heroes”’.

YouWriteOn.com played a major part in making this project a reality. The site has, since its inception in 2006, provided a free online platform for aspiring authors to upload their writing, reach an audience and – most importantly – hone their talents, via constructive feedback from fellow writers’ reviews. It offered a forum for us to discover each others’ writing and, via its message board, Tom’s inspired idea. In addition, YouWriteOn.com also provided a painless route to self-publishing, without which Pop Fiction would probably still be an idea as opposed to a fully-realised collection of killer tunes. As a result, the nine of us have embraced the D.I.Y. aesthetic – like our punk precursors – and pushed Pop Fiction into existence.

Aside from YouWriteOn.com, I’d also like to thank Pennie Smith for granting permission to adapt her photograph of Paul Simonon for Pop Fiction. A great book deserves a great cover and, for us Pop Fictioners, it made sense that a set of stories inspired by songs should salute an album on its sleeve. Pennie’s original photo – framed within Ray Lowry’s day-glo Elvis-style lettering for The Clash’s seminal London Calling – isn’t an album cover; it’s rock ‘n’ roll. An iconic moment of creation and destruction, captured forever.

We’re as proud of our cover version as the stories themselves, so I’d like to thank the gifted Stéphanie Thieullent for creating such an effective homage.

*

Reading these stories, it’s intriguing to observe how different authors have responded to Pop Fiction’s premise. Some have taken the literal approach, let their chosen songs seep into the stories themselves. Others have used titles or particular lyrics as their springboard. And a few haven’t referenced their source material at all; the essence of their song is powerful enough to inspire another world. Three-minute marvels re-imagined into three-thousand word contemporary classics.

As a result, Pop Fiction is the most eclectic mix tape you’ll ever receive, lovingly compiled. Here, you’ll discover black comedy, psychological horror and skewed romance, as Spizzenergi, Soft Cell and 23 Skidoo (hopefully) seduce you in the background.

But rather than focus on interpretations of different songs, it’s worthwhile comparing the stories inspired by our collective choice, ‘“Heroes”’. In its most literal reading, Bowie’s tale is one of triumph over adversity, of hope, celebration and resilience. It’s a classic love song, full of worship and dedication. And, yet, ‘“Heroes”’ cuts deeper. Bowie’s lyrics allude to time running out. As the passion in his voice grows, so does his sense of desperation. Mix such a powerful performance with that other-worldly, reverb-drenched tune, and you’ve got a song to stir the hardest heart. Personally, I’d argue that if ‘“Heroes”’ doesn’t touch your heart, it’s no longer beating…but that’s my biased opinion. And surely that’s the point: these songs, and their interpretations, are all individual. Are Bowie’s ‘“Heroes”’ free or doomed? Will their love soar like the song’s tune, or is this their last impassioned stand?

I’m not convinced it matters.

What’s relevant about ‘“Heroes”’ is that, here, the song inspires everything from light-hearted science fiction to elegiac ghost story. What makes a hero is, like so much, subjective.

At the same time, themes unite us as writers: four versions deal with war, whilst my story links thematically with Marc Nash and Lev Parikian’s interpretations. And that’s the power of a great song: it can inspire distinct voices and yet, somehow, compel us to write about the same subject. Even Bowie’s iconic dolphins course their way through a few of these tales.

But, for all our attempts, can we actually do ‘“Heroes”’, or any of these songs, justice? Can we really emulate the emotional power and excitement music inspires, using mere words?

I don’t know. But we’ve tried.

And we’ll try.

Because now, for your pleasure, it’s time for us to take to the stage and perform.

So whack everything up to eleven, put on your best dancin’ shoes, give Pop Fiction a spin…

…and let’s rock.

One Response to “pop fiction – ‘intro’”

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  1. pop fiction now available on kindle « daaanlewis - 10/06/2012

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