Friday, April 07, 2006

It's the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine

Chris Naron asks a good question for Friday:
What I want to know is why there's rarely ever good rock music in futuristic dystopias. It's always jazz, classical or electronic boing boing music. Are we to believe an f'ed up world won't have some kick arse metal?
I think music is one of those areas, like religion or food, where most SF writers only know enough about it to embarass themselves. Either they assume things in the future will remain pretty much frozen as they are now, in which case we get the Executive Officer of the Enterprise playing Dixieland jazz on a trombone (a trombone?! Why not a sackbutt or a krummhorn while he's at it?), or else they still haven't recovered from the 1960s and feel obliged to write lines like, "Ars Narklefuss was the swingingest qwonzitar player on the whole South Coast froodinhop scene." Or else, worse, they really haven't recovered from the 1960s, and write stories that are thinly disguised paeans to Jim Morrison and Grace Slick.

Most writers can't envision the future of music, because they have no grasp of its past. (Did you know that Bach's minuets were the hot dance tunes of their day? Did you know that the Romans had hydraulic pipe organs in their coliseums, and some putz was at the console playing the Roman equivalent of "Charge!" and "We are the Champions" as the score went Lions 6, Christians 0?) Heck, even musicians can't envision the future of music, because it's a recipreversexcluson. As soon as some pretentious git stands up and says, "I am the future of music!" we all know, well, his career is over.

As proof that it's impossible to envision the future of music, I challenge you to find me one work of fiction from before 1980 that describes today's hip-hop scene. (Hey, there's a story idea for you: a secret government program is launched to send an agent back through time to kill Vanilla Ice, so that there will never be an Eminem...)

In any case, right now I'm trying to think of just one example of a story set in the future in which the music is both important to the story and not embarassing, and I'm having trouble. Brad Denton's Wrack and Roll? Nah. Tim Power's Dinner at Deviant's Palace? Nah. Norman Spinrad's Little Heroes? Ack! Ack ack!

Can you name one? Please?