Guest Post: “A Snakeskins Book Soundtrack” by Tim Major
Today, we’re pleased to welcome author Tim Major to the BiblioSanctum as part of a blog tour to celebrate the release of Snakeskins, his new speculative fiction thriller from Titan Books. A timely and suspenseful sci-fi novel, it has been compared to classic John Wyndham as well as TV shows like Humans with its themes of cloning and rejuvenation technology and their repercussions on society as well as the individual’s sense of identity. The book is set to hit shelves May 7, 2019 so mark your calendars! In the meantime, please check out this guest post by Tim and also be sure to visit the other stops on the tour!
A SNAKESKINS BOOK SOUNDTRACK
by Tim Major
I write to music. I understand when writers don’t or can’t, but I do. Nothing with vocals, mind you, and generally music that’s barely music at all: drones, washes and distant thuds. But I wouldn’t be without that background. I’ve become used to snatching short periods of writing time between nursery and school drop-offs and the need to do my day job. By far the quickest method of putting myself in the right frame of mind is to put on one of my totemic writing albums. Biokinetics by Porter Ricks, What?? by Folke Rabe, or Grapes from the Estate by Oren Ambarchi.
But I use music in an additional way for my writing, too. Once I’ve finished a first or second draft of anything of novella length or longer, I put together a playlist. The track selection bears little relation to the music I listened to while writing the story, for the most part. In theory, it’s a soundtrack – to an imaginary film adaptation, I suppose, with tracks related to particular scenes or characters. But what started as an indulgence has, over the years, become a genuinely useful part of the process of completing a piece of writing. Often after completing a draft it’s difficult to take stock of what you’ve created, and particularly the types of amends that would help improve it. Beta readers are an obvious solution to failing to seeing the wood for the trees, but I would tend to involve readers only after completing later drafts. So, at this early stage, creating a soundtrack inspired by the story is only partly a distraction – it also helps me pin down my intentions and to establish an overall tone.
My novel, SNAKESKINS, is about a group of people who spontaneously produce clones every seven years – these clones continue to live for a short a time. It’s a parallel-world alternate history, too, as this phenomenon has dramatically altered Britain over the previous century since it began. Though there are three viewpoint characters, the soundtrack focuses in particular on teen Caitlin Hext, who experiences her first ‘shedding’ and whose relationship with her Snakeskin forms the heart of the novel, but I also tried to convey the slight wonkiness of an isolated Britain running around thirty years behind our world.
Click here to listen to a Snakeskins soundtrack Spotify playlist. And here’s my reasoning behind the choices:
- Hello Stranger – Elkie Brooks
Title-sequence music to establish the uncertain benefit of Snakeskins clones, including the lyric: ‘It seems so good to see you back again’. The 1963 original Barbara Lewis is one of my absolute favourites, but I chose the Elkie Brooks cover to suggest Britain’s self-imposed isolation.
- On Parade – Electrelane
Caitlin’s theme, showing her increasing political awareness. It’s an anachronism, but the post-punk feel fits the era pretty well, I feel.
- I Have Walked This Body – Susanna & Jenny Hval
Caitlin’s shedding ceremony. Partly chosen for its suitably ethereal tone, both otherworldly and threatening, and partly because of that incredible title and lyrics that evoke the weirdness of the situation: ‘A basilica of stone waiting for skin’.
- Seneca – Ipek Gorgun
A dark, anxious track to reflect journalist Gerry Chafik’s and government aide Russell Handler’s disillusion and growing understanding about the political situation surrounding Snakeskins and Charmers. This could be Gerry’s theme: serious and sickened.
- Hey, Who Really Cares? – Linda Perhacs
Any of the three main characters might listen to this indulgent track, particular Caitlin as she ponders whether her Snakeskin is an ally or an adversary.
- Outline – Aluna George
Caitlin’s first proper encounter with her Snakeskin. A non-diagetic track, I suppose.
- Is It Like Today? – World Party
Russell’s theme. I’ve always loved this track, though I’m aware how MOR it is. Naïve Russell would love it without any sense of irony, but then would gradually find himself puzzling over lyrics such as ‘Blood just looks the same / When you open the veins’ and over the course of the novel the repeated phrase ‘How could it come to this?’ might become his mantra.
- Only a Shadow – Cleaners From Venus
Even more than the World Party track, this establishes the ‘background tone’ to the novel, with Britain having stalled technologically, with C90 cassettes in place of CDs and MP3s. And of course, the lyrics match Caitlin’s experience: ‘Only a shadow, only a shadow, only a shadow, but she looks like you’.
- Willow – Rosie Parlane
Like the Ipek Gorgun track, this is a background to all sorts of goings-on in the plot. No spoilers.
- I Launch An Attack… – Marina Rosenfeld
There’s an attack. And it’s launched. And this track is magnificently weird. Incidentally, I thoroughly recommend the EP that this is taken from, P.A./Hard Love).
- When We Fall – Beak>
Goodness, now that I’ve started writing these descriptions I realise there’s not much I can say about the latter tracks. Ah well. I love that the beginnings of this track echo the fingerpicked guitar of the Linda Perhacs track, before turning all motorik.
- Immaterial – SOPHIE
End titles. I have to say that I wasn’t so much of a fan of SOPHIE’s recent album, until picking it for this playlist on the basis that I could imagine Caitlin Hext listening to it and because the ending of the novel ought to be upbeat. Despite this, and being another massive anachronism, I think it feels more than appropriate. The lyrics include: ‘You could be me and I could be you / Always the same and never the same’, which is spot on.
Tim Major is a writer and editor from York, UK. His love of speculative fiction is the product of a childhood diet of classic Doctor Who episodes and an early encounter with Triffids.
Tim’s SF novel, Snakeskins, will be published by Titan Books in May 2019, followed by a short story collection, And the House Lights Dim, which will be published by Luna Press in July 2019.
Tim’s earlier novels and novellas include Machineries of Mercy(ChiZine), You Don’t Belong Here (Snowbooks), Blighters (Abaddon) and Carus & Mitch (Omnium Gatherum). He has also written a monograph about the 1915 silent crime film, Les Vampires (Electric Dreamhouse Press). His short stories have appeared in Interzone,Not One of Us, Shoreline of Infinity and numerous anthologies, including Best of British Science Fiction and The Best Horror of the Year, edited by Ellen Datlow.