SFF Song of the Week: Tricia Sullivan

 Tonight at Sci-Fi London in the Apollo Cinema we’ll hear the result of the Clarke Awards. Here’s the shortlist, with a host of fabulous writers, including fellow Orbit author Tricia Sullivan, author of the memorable and moving Lightborn. 

And, by happy coincidence, Tricia has also written this week’s SFF Song of the Week entry.

Tricia Sullivan writes:

Back in 1997 I woke up at about 5 am in a cheap B&B room in Grimsby.  My roommate had fallen asleep with the TV on, and it was now playing what I believe to this day is the most surreal and SFnal video I have ever seen: the Teletubbies theme song. (please link to this:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NuiynIn-g9s  ) In my hypnogogic state, I was disturbed and frightened by these round, idiotic, cybernetic happiness junkies and their giggling sky-baby ruler.  It made me shudder.  In fact, I’d go so far as to say that the Teletubbies song was my personal equivalent of the shark theme from Jaws

Flash forward a bunch of years and you’ll catch me humming this very tune as I help my kids get dressed in the morning.  Tinky-winky!  Dipsy!  La-La!  Po. 

My life is a Philip K. Dick story. 

The truth is, my musical intelligence has been utterly flattened by nearly ten years’ exposure to the musical outpourings of CBBC, Nickelodeon and, even worse, the Disney Channel.  I could try to pass off Hannah Montana’s ‘Best of Both Worlds’ as some sort of deep statement about the nature of human existence, but that would be too feeble even for me.  So if I’m going to play you something, it has to be something I actually connect to in a way that’s at least tangential to SF.  I can think of loads of songs that I collected as a kid specifically because of their SF connotations: ‘Stranger in a Strange Land’ by U2, ‘Invisible Sun’ by the Police (I took it the title literally), ‘Friends’ by the Police (a tribute to Heinlein, and the only song I’ve ever heard with ‘grok’ in the lyrics), ‘Dazzle’ by Siouxie and the Banshees, ‘Indiscipline’ by King Crimson, ‘Star Power’ by Sonic Youth…I could go on and on but Phil said I had to pick one.  Damn.  There’s even ‘I Know What I Like in Your Wardrobe’ by Genesis, which I’d read in a magazine was written from the point of view of a lawn mower, and in my suburban American ignorance I thought this meant, like, a singing gas-powered push mower?  Yeah.  Maybe not.  (I still like my interpretation better than yet another early 70′s prog-rock assault on the English class system).  But Peter Gabriel’s meditation on relativity in the supermarket car park, ‘One Way World’ is genuinely SFnal and I thought about playing it here.

But those songs are all so ooooooolllldddd.  And even stuff like Public Enemy’s ‘Hazy Shade of Criminal’ is no longer groundbreaking or even close, so the aspects that made it science fictional to me when I first heard it are now all water-under-the-bridgey and unconvincing for the purposes of this post.  The fact is, I’m a middle-aged mum with little time or money to explore new sounds.  I sing Teletubbies and Noddy in the car, even when I’m alone.  I’ve been colonized and I can’t pretend otherwise. 

All I can do is play you something that I used to love.  This is Soundgarden, and the track comes from the record Superunknown, which I used to play on headphones a lot.  Over and over.  Really loud.  While writing.  While running.  In the dark.  I have no idea what this song is supposed to ‘mean,’ but I do know that, like everything I love to hear or read or see, it opens a door in what seems to be a wall, and makes new space for the listener.  This track stretches the interior dimensions of my head.  And I figure that’s what the SFnal ethos is all about.

In my eyes,
In disguise
As no one knows.
Hides the face,
Lies the snake,
And the sun
In my disgrace.
Boiling heat,
Summer stench.
‘Neath the black
The sky looks dead.
Call my name
Through the cream,
And I’ll hear you
Scream again.

Black hole sun,
Won’t you come
And wash away the rain?
Black hole sun,
Won’t you come?
Won’t you come?
Won’t you come?

Cold and damp,
Steal the warm wind
Tired friend.
Times are gone
For honest men
And sometimes,
Far too long
For snakes.
In my shoes,
A walking sleep,
And my youth
I pray to keep.
Heaven send Hell away,
No one
Sings like you anymore.

Black hole sun,
Won’t you come
And wash away the rain?
Black hole sun,
Won’t you come?
Won’t you come?

Black hole sun
Black hole sun
Won’t you come?
(Repeat x3)

Black hole sun
Black hole sun

Hang my head,
Drown my fear,
Till you all just

Black hole sun,
Won’t you come
And wash away the rain?
Black hole sun,
Won’t you come?
Won’t you come?
(Repeat x2)

Black hole sun,
Black hole sun,
Won’t you come?
(Repeat x6)

Won’t you come?

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