5 Awesome SFnal Songs/Albums

Last week, it was unlikely lady heroes. This week, music. We’re still editing Runaway Star and Dianne listens to music while she works…which led to some contemplating about why some music worked for editing Runaway Star and other music didn’t. And that, combined with this article led us to talking about Science Fiction music in general.

Now you get to enjoy the benefits of all that sidetracked conversation! Five of our favorite SFnal music pieces, in no particular order:

1. Blade Runner, Vangelis

The Blade Runner soundtrack is a classical composition inspired by the gritty futuristic noir world of the movie. With dream sequences and, in some versions, sound effects from the movie, the album draws the listener into Ridley Scott’s vision and doesn’t let go.

2. Tron, Wendy Carlos

Wendy Carlos did her notable early work on an instrument that was one small step (the invention of the transistor) away from being Science Fiction when it was invented—the Moog synthesizer. She composed and recorded the music for A Clockwork Orange and eleven years later scored one of the most influential SF movies of the 20th century, Tron. A ground-breaking film that supposed another reality inside the world of the computer, Tron’s imagery was supported and amplified by the futuristic soundtrack.

3. The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, David Bowie

The human manifestation of an alien being with a message of hope. As an album concept, Ziggy Stardust is definitely unique. Its pre-apocalypse story is classic pulp SF, with space travel, anti-matter aliens, and dream epiphanies.

David Bowie’s impact on SF and pop culture has been far-reaching. “Major Tom” from “Space Oddity”, an earlier SF-themed Bowie song, has become a recurring pop culture icon. He is also referenced in Bowie’s “Ashes to Ashes”. “Ashes to Ashes” is the theme song for the eponymous time-travel/mind-twist series that is sequel to “Life on Mars”, named for and featuring an earlier Bowie song.

4. Rocky Horror Picture Show

Very few people are unfamiliar with the Rocky Horror Picture Show. The musical mutant offspring of classic SF movies, the score features a song praising the “Science Fiction Double Feature” staple of theaters and drive-ins. Queer and quirky, RHPS is the dramatic tale of two ordinary Earth kids in love caught up in the machinations of a transvestite alien scientist on a quest to create the perfect man for himself.

5. “Highwayman”, Jimmy Webb

While the Wikipedia entry doesn’t address the SFnal aspects of this classic “outlaw country” song, it’s easy to see where the science fiction appeal comes in. The song follows a reincarnated man through four lives—a highwayman, a sailor, a dam-builder, and a starship captain.



  1. Oops, until Dianne gets a chance to fix the post, here’s the first link: http://discovermagazine.com/2011/may/05-music-makes-brain-happy-hungry

    1. I’m working from my phone here, but did that fix it?

      1. Yes, it did! Thanks. 🙂

  2. Good music is important to movies, and I’ll admit to having memorized just about every song of the RHPS soundtrack 🙂

    I can’t write with music playing in the background, but several of my stories have “theme” songs. Pink’s “Sober” was running through my brain while I wrote the latest WIP (former drug addict character) and her “Who Knew” was the song for another.

    Fun post! Thanks 🙂

    1. I know a lot of people who can’t write to music, and some who can only write to instrumental pieces. I find that if the lyrics tell a story, I have trouble writing to it (too busy paying attention to the story in the song), but otherwise, it actually helps me get into the right mindset for writing.

  3. Good call on the Bowie. 😉

  4. I can’t write to music, but I do use it to inspire or get me in the mood for certain scenes. I’m familiar with all the ones you mentioned except ‘Highwayman.”

    Cool list!

    1. I figured “Highwayman” would be the least familiar to people here, given the genre. 😉

      Growing up, my grandfather loved outlaw country and would get together with friends around the piano/guitar to sing it, so I have a lot of good memories of music I wouldn’t necessarily otherwise listen to.

      It’s fascinating how authors’ relationships with music are so varied. If only I had the spare time to research, it would make a great paper topic!

  5. I keep meaning to pick up the soundtrack to the new Tron. It sets such a great mood for writing SF!

    1. I keep meaning to *watch* the new Tron. Not having seen it makes me feel like a bad SF fan…

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