We met Ken Spencer once before. He showed me that my words and advice do affect people. He built the career he wanted. He’s back with a new Kickstarter project called Imperial Jupiter. Music plays a big part in his writing. Today he tells us how.
I write to music whenever I can. While working on Blood Tide the computer was playing a non-stop mix of sea shanties, modern pirate music (it exists and includes pirate gansta hip-hop) and a great deal of Hogg Eye Navvy (Indianapolis’s best Celtic/ sea shanty/ folk band). For Northlands Saga, it was soundtracks from movies like Conan the Barbarian and The 13th Warrior. Most of the time when I have been working on Rocket Age products I have put on big band, jazz, WWII pop music, and Frank Sinatra. There are only so many times you can listen to “Fly Me to the Moon” before the music starts to be less background inspiration and more an irritant.
While working on Imperial Jupiter, our Rocket Age sourcebook on the gas giant and its moons, I stumbled on to a genre of music I had known about for years and had not learned to appreciate. Although I am old enough to have heard most of the popular New Wave music, I was a child at the time and didn’t pay much attention. My parents liked folk and classical, and that was the music of my childhood. It was only outside of the home that I heard the likes of Oingo Boingo, Blondie, Duran Duran, Devo, and others. For some reason Imperial Jupiter and New Wave went together. Perhaps it was the exotic wackiness of having floating islands in the clouds of Jupiter or the crazed cannibals of Io. There was certainly a feedback loop as the more I listened the more the writing was influenced.
What this experience led to was researching the music itself, the history of the genre, its creators and themes, and its influence. Looking into New Wave music, I discovered that there was a feedback loop between the resurgence of sci-fi in the 1980s and the growth of the New Wave genre. Themes and concepts passed between the two, and many sci-ci movies (especially the lower budget ones) featured New Wave inspired soundtracks. As the genre went more mainstream this feedback loop increased and than subsided as if two prongs of the zeitgeist flirted and then parted ways.
Sci-fi, be it film, fiction, or tabletop games, is at its core a rebellion against the traditional. It is an act of asking what can be, not what has been or currently is. New Wave music began in punk rock and retained an attitude of resistance to the status quo. This is most obvious in the musical instruments used and the inclusion of computer generated and synthesized music (plus the key-tar, love the key-tar). It can be seen as a technological evolution of punk into a new style of music. In many cases, the themes were less politically charged than its ancestral genre, though one can easily find strong pro-LGBTQ elements and statements.
The result has been that Imperial Jupiter is in many ways the most progressive and forward thinking book in the Rocket Age series. From the beginning Rocket Age included themes of colonialism, gender identities, and worker’s rights. That’s a lot for a game of playing two-fisted heroes of Science! From Rainsong, the robobrain (computer) who identifies as female and thus is treated that way to the battles on Ganymede between the Ganymedians and the mining companies with the indentured workers caught in the middle, these themes are not just continued but given an edge that might heave been absent earlier in the series.
Ken Spencer is A skilled and versatile writer. Experienced with all phases of project development from conception through publication. Over 9 years of experience as a professional writer covering a diverse range of projects. He is part of a kickstarter to get Imperial Jupiter published. Find out more about Rocket Age and Why Not Games at www.whynotgames.com. Discover more about Ken Spencer at kennethspecner.weely.com.