If We Can Sparkle He May Land Tonight


In the late 1980s I became obsessed with a movie called Labyrinth starring a man named David Bowie.  My parents appeared to recognize him as some kind of celebrity, but to me, at the time, he was only Jareth, The Goblin King.  Labyrinth was one of a number of 1980s films that augmented my nascent love of fantasy and cemented it as a foundational part of who I am.  It was only later that I realized that I had been watching a rock legend dance around in a movie aimed at children.

Last night, I played Starman for my son, who is three years old.  We danced to it in front of my laptop.  I had recently downloaded David Bowie’s newest album, an eerie, atonal, masterpiece of symphonic jazz.  Like so many other people, I had no idea he was even sick.

My wife woke me up this morning to tell me he had died.  The irony was not lost.

I was a Bowie fan long before I even knew I was a Bowie fan.  When it came to music and art, he was always a central figure for me, looming in the background like a quiet alien.  First as Jareth, then as a musician, and later as a symbol of what it means to be an artist.

We all thought he was immortal.  Yes, he lives on through his music, but, appropriately, there’s something more to be said about that.

Listening to him on satellite radio this morning, it occurred to me that Bowie has been broadcast into outer space by radio and now satellite for over four decades.  His voice has been traveling through space at the speed of light (or the speed of life?) since at least 1969, when Space Oddity was released as a single.  That means that Space Oddity has traveled approximately 47 lightyears into outer space.

The nearest star to our sun is Proxima Centauri, which is approximately 4.24 lightyears away.  The first transmission of Space Oddity has traveled over ten times that distance.  What does that mean?

David Bowie is literally a starman.

Classical Music for Writing

I present to you my playlist of classical music for writing.  As you can tell, I prefer comparatively lively classical music, especially when listening to it for inspiration.


Playlists for Writing

Next to Starbucks and, you know, the ability to transform thoughts into written language, music is a writer’s best friend.  Now, I know what you’re thinking: there are different schools of thought on this subject (is there any subject where there aren’t?).  Some writers must have music playing while they write, some can only listen to a certain type of music, and some eschew music altogether.  I’ve gone through all of these phases myself.  But one thing I can say for certain is that music has informed all of my writing in one way or another, even if it was only as an inspiration outside of the writing process itself–i.e., listening to a symphony or a song and thinking up plot ideas or character arcs, etc.

It also seems to depend a great deal on what I’m writing.  For more serious, complex writing, I tend to either work in silence or listen only to ambient, instrumental music that creates atmosphere without being distracting.  This holds true the majority of the time, for me: I listen to a lot of ambient or downtempo electronic music (Aphex Twin, Tycho, Bonobo) or classical music (Bach, Mozart, Boccherini).

When I’m writing something fast-paced and plot-heavy, though, I do like to rev it up a little.  The manuscript I’ve just finished and am currently editing is a post-apocalyptic young adult novel, the first in a series, about a group of young people on a mission to save their community.  Their religion is a far-future take on Mormonism, and the perils they face are by and large fantastic and bloody.

My latest thing is making writing playlists on Spotify (shell out for premium; you’ll never spend too much on iTunes again).  I called the playlist for this book The Blessed, after the main characters’ name for their people.  I wanted a mixture of young, dramatic rock and traditional religious music; I’m quite pleased with the results.  The great thing, too, is that each playlist is a work in progress.  I’m always adding to and changing them.  Here’s The Blessed:

I almost always listen to playlists on shuffle, these days, so the song order isn’t important.  What are your musical habits when it comes to writing?