As much as individuality and the support of friends, (cyberpunk) music is one of the prime thematic focuses of Oshibana Complex. In a cyberpunk future where humanity is grown rather than born and cloning templates are few, Xev’s world is filled with people that look just like em. Xev’s identity is expressed through wild changes to eir appearance and eir music is eir only true escape.
Writing Music Into A Novel Without Using The Lyrics
Writing a book where music was so important was a difficult (and perhaps crazy) decision. After all, I couldn’t actually mention the songs or their lyrics for fear of copyright infringement. But it’s so important! So… I had to get creative.
The music in Oshibana Complex isn’t named, it’s described. I decided that the files of film and especially music were not only hard to access but long-since corrupted in Shika-One city. That meant that even the librarians who illegally download the music to Xev’s head don’t know their names anymore. That realisation led to some amazing explorations into music and its effect on a person. I had to not only describe the music rather than just naming it and letting the reader listen along, but I also had to show how it affected Xev and eir friends in the moment.
This was one of the most fun parts of writing Oshibana Complex. The first step, of course, was deciding which songs to use and where to put them. As you might have guessed, Xev’s taste in music is very similar to my own. I wanted the soundtrack to this book to be loyal to the feeling of 80s cyberpunk that is so prevalent throughout the book. But it also had to be dark enough, synthy enough, and represent the characters’ emotions at the time. Luckily, my Spotify is jammed with that exact genre of music.
I’ve always been a fan of synth-heavy, dark music. The Cure are one of my favourite bands, for instance. While writing previous books, I always have a band or genre that I listen to to keep me in the mood.
Just Like Xev, my music is inextricably linked to my mood and my imagination.
But let’s get to the meat of the thing.
The Songs of Shika-One
Enjoy the Silence (Depeche Mode) – Xev’s walk home – page 12
Xev’s walk home is the first time we see em break free and Access eir own music eir own way. I wanted the intro to be something that grows organically as the reader gets used to being in Xev’s head. And luckily, this kind of music has some brilliant intros.
The lyrics, of course, speak to Xev on a personal level as well. I won’t go through them all but have a listen to the song after reading O.C. and I think you’ll get it.
Souvenir (OMD) – Synth’s song – page 45
Oh, that poor synth. One of the few characters that I’ve ever felt bad about treating so roughly. I wanted this song to be the synth’s “rising dawn” tune in a few ways. Not only is this one of the first songs that the librarian gives the synth and eir first “souvenir” of visiting the illegal library, but the sound of the whole song is innocent, clean, and heartfelt. It also has a great hook that the synth could hum.
Ghost In You (The Psychedelic Furs) – Rooftop song – page 58
When Xev and Marsh are sitting on the rooftop, it’s one of the few moments of ar-el recreation that we see them have together. No compulsion to be anywhere, nothing to do. I wanted the song that they play to respond to that; the fact that these moments in the real world are so rare not only for Xev and Marsh but for all the synths of Shika-One.
Ghost In You has a lovely, playful sound to it and it’s easy to see how that song could fit the moment. But the idea of a ghost inside a person who never fades is a nod to the fact that every synth’s template is based on a long-since dead person. That’s hinted at by Euripedes, of course, when it suggests that Xev might have more than just eir genetics in common with the original owner of eir face.
Teardrop (Massive Attack) – Marsh’s song – page 80
This is just an absolute belter. I wanted a song that didn’t sound anything like Xev’s preferred music and Teardrop manages to both adhere to the book’s sound and be completely removed from it at the same time.
I think this song says a lot about Marsh. I could just image em in eir own pod, listening to this, letting it drown out everything that e wants to keep away from. Marsh is a hider, not a fighter. E is representative of how almost every other synth in the city buries their head in the sand. And I felt like the song reflects the synths’ metronomic existence.
The Same Deep Water As You (The Cure) – Xev’s new pod song – page 87
I mentioned The Cure before so no one will be surprised by this entry. I love the sound of the Cure. I love their 45 minute long intros. I love their sweet and dark lyrics. I do not like Friday I’m In Love. Too happy for my tastes!
The Same Deep Water As You is, of course, a nod to the fact that the things happening in Oshibana Complex are happening right now in the world. A loss of identity, a loss of freedom, the use of government and systems to crush ingenuity and imagination in favour of production, production, production. And we’ve not even gotten past the title yet!
The intro is, as always, the most important part of the song. In a city under a dome (original, I know) on a sun-blasted earth, Xev will have never experienced rain. The intro gives Xev an experience that e can never have elsewhere, a sound not heard since before the fall of humanity. And the loneliness in this song just drags at the soul, doesn’t it?
“We shall be together” is also a little nod to the ending, hehehe.
True Faith (New Order) – VeeTee’s song – page 100
Vee Tee’s only song had to be awesome, and my oh my is this song a belter. That intro doesn’t mess around. The video to this one is also absolutely bonkers. I love it.
True Faith has such amazing themes throughout. Liberty, freedom, love, and all without being saccharine or dribbly (yes, dribbly). In my head, Xev and Vee dancing together to this song, connected via the Access just feels right.
I don’t write love stories. Not in an overt way. I’ve always thought that the little moments when you’re falling for someone are the most potent. Xev and Vee’s first dance isn’t a romantic waltz, they are young and vital and powered in that moment by energy that surpasses anything in Shika-One. That had to come out in this song.
I Ran (Flock of seagulls) – Ice cavern fight – page 130
Of course, at this point Xev is not only running toward the eir ending, and to the final step for humanity, but also running from a giant ice monster in a frozen cave. So… it fits pretty well.
The focus of this song is the repetition of “you”, that connection with the singer and the person being talked about. In a way this song is a message from the reader to Xev. We’re by eir side in this moment, in this fight and on this journey. Xev is taking a kicking but e keeps on going. I also wanted the silence of the frozen tundra beyond to be a stark contrast to this action sequence.
We’re nearing the end by this point but Oshibana Complex, and Xev’s journey, was never going to end with some massive conflict/fight scene. I didn’t want this book to be about that. I’d rather Xev run than be just another action hero.
Belfast Child (Simple Minds) – Euripides’ last song – page 148
Oh this song kills me every time I hear it. Of course the whole song is about letting go of the past while learning from it, remembering it, moving on and coming home. It’s the whole breadth of human experience, really. And I think it really feels like the perfect ending to Oshibana Complex.
I think it builds to a great “credits” song as well. If you actually listen to the song while reading the book, from the moment that Euripides begins to play it, you should get a great moment with those drums and guitar just about the time that you set the book down. That’s about the closest I’ll ever get to having a movie of my work made with a belter of a credits track.
That last lingering note, as well. Sublime.
Why not Sing, er.. Read Along?
I hope that you’ve enjoyed reading about the writing process for Oshibana Complex. If you’d like to listen along to the tracks I’ve thrown together a Youtube playlist with as many of the original videos in as possible (for fun contextual purposes, not just for the insanity of True Faith).
Let me know what you think of the track choices!
As always, thanks for reading.