Rock On - By Howard Waldrop

Introduction: Liner Notes

Paula Guran

Track 1: “Is Rock and Roll Still Relevant?”

“Of course it is,” he said, twenty-two and immersed in popular music of all kinds, a singer, composing his own stuff, with an encyclopedic knowledge of pop music.

“But it is really different now. Music is fragmented,” I replied. “You can download anything—new, old, obscure, whatever—plug it in your ears. For people my age, people who shared the experience of the Beatles or Jimi Hendrix as kids, it was a generational thing. Glue. Music brought us together. We found meaning in listening to the same stuff, it shaped our attitudes.”

“For my generation, rap is probably our ‘meaningful’ music. But you hear what we listen to—the best of rock, pop, R&B, jazz, world music. What survives will survive. That’s what classic means.”

“So rock’s not dead? It doesn’t just belong in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame up the road in Cleveland or in the hearts of old fogies like me?”

“Mom. This is Akron. It’s not just Devo and Chrissie Hynde. Now it’s The Black Keys.”

“Hey hey, my my, rock and roll will never die?”

“Yeah, but Neil Young is Canadian.”

“Ha. Akron connection! Who inspired ‘Hey, Hey, My, My’? Mark Mothersbaugh. Devo.”

“Why do you know these things?”

“Rust never sleeps?”

“That’s the other thing.”


“We communicate through it. You get my allusions. I get yours.”

“So, for the record . . . I mean I’m asking you this stuff for this anthology . . . you are saying rock brings the generations together?”



“I gotta go.”

Track 2: “It’s Only Rock and Roll”

Please. Don’t try to define it. You can’t. Paraphrasing Billy Joel: funk, punk, old junk, blues, stews, reggae, shred play, hip-hop, good pop, Motown, no town, next phase, new wave, dance craze, anyways . . . it’s still rock and roll to me.

Track 3: “I Don’t See the Connection Between

Science Fiction/Fantasy and Rock”

Doesn’t matter who sang that tune, but someone did when hearing of this anthology. They were dead wrong. Which words fill in the blanks below, “rock” or “science fiction”?

“[Blank] asks, and sometimes tries to answer, all manner of questions. And it reflects a broad spectrum of attitudes, yearnings, fulfillments, fantasies. [Blank] can be personal or collective, apolitical or polemical. It can be banal or piercingly evocative.”

The correct answer is rock and the quote is from music critic Nat Hentoff. But it could just as easily be science fiction. Speculative fiction writers and rock musicians both make up lies that tell us something about the truth of being human.

Track 4: “Long Cuts”

Outside of these stories and many other short works, there is a long tradition of science fiction and fantasy novels with rock and roll connections (or close enough, be it blues, R&B, or pop). Here’s a list of some of the more notable, if not always recommended, novels (alphabetically by author):

Lost Souls (1992), Poppy Z. Brite

War for the Oaks (1982), Emma Bull

Synners (1991), Pat Cadigan

Wrack and Roll (1986), Bradley Denton

Buddy Holly Is Alive and Well on Ganymede (1991), Bradley Denton

Joplin’s Ghost (2005), Tananarive Due

My Soul to Take (2011), Tananarive Due

Jim Morrison’s Adventures in the Afterlife (1999), Mick Farren

Idoru (1996), William Gibson

Illyria (2006), Elizabeth Hand

Heart-Shaped Box (2007), Joe Hill

Bold As Love series: Bold As Love (2001), Castles Made of Sand (2002), Midnight Lamp (2003), Band of Gypsies (2005), and Rainbow Bridge (2006), Gwyneth Jones

Planet Earth Rock and Roll Orchestra (2001), Paul Kantner

Silk (1998), Caitlín R. Kiernan

Big Rock Beat (2000), Greg Kihn

Mojo Hand (2002), Greg Kihn

The Five (2012), Robert McCammon

The Armageddon Rag (1983), George R. R. Martin

Flesh Guitar (1998), Geoff Nicholson

Soul Music: A Novel of Discworld (1994), Terry Pratchett

WVMP Series: Wicked Game (2008), Bad to the Bone (2009), and Bring on the Night (2010), Jeri Smith Ready

The Vampire Lestat (1991), Anne Rice

First two books of Persephone Alcmedi Series: Wicked Circle (2009) and Hallowed Circle (2009), Linda Robertson

The Kill Riff (1988), David J. Schow (Okay, it is not sf or fantasy, but it is horror)

Glimpses (1993), Lewis Shiner

Deserted Cities of the Heart (1998), Lewis Shiner

City Come-A-Walkin’ (1980), John Shirley

Eclipse (1985), John Shirley

Echo and Narcissus (2003), Mark Siegel

The Scream (1988), John Skipp and Craig Spector

Vampire Junction (1984), Valentine (1992), and Vanitas (1995), S. P. Somtow

Little Heroes (1987), Norman Spinrad

Orbital Decay (1989), Allen Steele

The Armageddon Chord (2011), Jeremy Wagner

Elvissey (1993), Jack Womack

Elizabeth Hand’s Illyria deals with performance, but her other novels are often permeated with rock; the characters tend to be part of the lifestyle rather than musicians. Still, her novels Black Light, Generation Loss, and Available Dark are close to being “rock novels” (although I’m stretching genre definition here to