The first thing I do when I get a new kernel of a story is start compiling a playlist for it. I don’t know if I could write without music; it’s a huge source of atmospheric and linguistic inspiration, and quite frankly, I name a lot of stories after songs. In honor of what I owe to music, and because I spend so much time making these playlists, I’ve decided to share a five-song soundtrack for each story I publish.
“Only Unity Saves the Damned” is named after a political slogan, not a song, and like its cousin-story set in another freakish-mundane small town in Nebraska, “Absolute Zero,” was born essentially fully-formed. I think that like “Absolute Zero,” it’s a story whose themes and characters had been fermenting in me since I spent my tortured adolescence in Nebraska (there are things I love about the state – well, mostly the football team – but my Nebraska stories are all cold, moody, alienated, and in this case a little angry [“Bored,” “Ticks and Leeches”]). What really kicked this story into gear was listening to the latest Swans album (The Seer) – in particular, the track “Lunacy.” I can’t remember if I decided to name my trio the LunaTicks before or after I heard this song, but it is truly the nucleus of this story in every sense. “Right Where It Belongs” is one of my favorite mood-pieces of all time, and hits on this story’s themes of (self-)deception, buried truth, mental entrapment. And “All The Trees of the Field Will Clap Their Hands,” well… besides Sufjan Stevens’ trademark creepy-quaint northern Americana that defines so much of Big Ten country, trees are a pretty big deal in this story.
OUSTD – ha, ousted – is in Letters to Lovecraft, edited by Jesse Bullington.
“Lunacy” – Swans: Break the chain hide within innocence (not innocent), innocent in no sense, eat the beast, keep him in, take the blame, speak the name (lunacy, lunacy) / kill the truth or speak the name (lunacy, lunacy), your childhood is over
“Bored” – Deftones: Get bored, I get bored, I get bored, I wish for a real one
“Ticks & Leeches” – Tool: Suck me dry, my blood is bruised and borrowed, you thieving bastards, you have turned my blood cold and bitter, beat my compassion black and blue / I hope you’re choking, I hope you choke on this
“Right Where It Belongs” – Nine Inch Nails: What if all the world’s inside of your head / Your devils and your gods, all the living and the dead, and you’re really all alone? You can live in this illusion, you can choose to believe, you keep looking but you can’t find the woods while you’re hiding in the trees
“All The Trees of the Field Will Clap Their Hands” – Sufjan Stevens: And I am joining all my thoughts to you, and I’m preparing every part for you