Location, location, location

During my interview taping of the Authors Show, Don McAuly asked me about my choice of NYC and State for the location of the Zxap Jacket.
Having grown up in the NY area, and having spent my first 14 years as a professional musician in the Metropolitan area, NY is a place I know fairly well. It is also the place where I developed my deep love of sci fi, discovering Phillip K Dick, William Gibson and Stanislaw Lem in particular. New York in the 70s and 80s was quite different from what it is today. It was shabbier and seedier. Crime was worse and neighborhoods were in decline all over the city. Having been back to NY recently and witnessing the ‘revival,’ if one will accept that tag, it is obvious that the City does go through major and perhaps cyclical changes. It is thus not a fantastic stretch to assume that things will turn down again at some point–whether within my time frame or not is really not important. It is the idea of a changing an dangerous landscape that is important, give or take a decade or two if need be. The emergence of powerful nationally ranging gangs is really just an extension of the gang culture of the 90s into the present. The Zxap technology is also just an extension of what we are already living with, in many ways.

I would also add that NY is a most fascinating environment physically and culturally. Its age, and the contrasts created by its age serve a story teller. My personal experiences as a young musician took me all over the city, through the neighborhoods both beautiful and terrifying, in the transit system, out in the night life and on the streets. Especially when I was hungry and starting out, the images burned hard into my memory–the harsh and the gentle, the beautiful and the vulgar.

The Authors Show Interview

I just finished an interview on The Authors Show: http://www.wnbnetworkwest.com/WnbAuthorsShow.html with host, Don McCauley.
It was fascinating. We delved into the essence of The Zxap Jacket, my feelings about it’s message, the locations and the origins of the characters. Our discussion helped me to pinpoint some of my less obvious influences. As a sci fi fan and now a novelist, the impact of Isaac Asimov, Phillip K Dick, William Gibson, Frank Herbert and the like is to be expected, but it is perhaps less obvious that an author like Michael Shaara could impact my writing. As a composer, my scores often take a POV, whether to shadow a character, play the action, create general tension or sweeten the mood. In all these circumstances, the music is “viewing” the picture from a specific
perspective, often that of a character–or the audience. In the Zxap Jacket, my experiences scoring behind the picture impacted my
decisions concerning POVs. I chose to follow multiple points of view–Detective Zinski, Max Zxap, his scientist DR Clofsted and Zinski’s girl friend. Although the major thread follows Zinski, I deleiberately turned the ‘camera’ and the ‘score’ on the others at times. Reality is relative. One man’s challenge is another’s opportunity.

As for the interview, keep tabs on the site. They will post the air date after the editors trim a bit and add the bumpers. I will
post it here for sure and on facebook and twitter.

A Comparison

May 28, 2013
I was recently asked what book I think The Zxap Jacket most closely resembles and I had a hard time finding an answer. More so than the book, “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” The Zxap Jacket resembles the movie Blade Runner in some ways. It is hard to be clear about this sort of thing because getting distance from one’s own work takes time and experience. As in Dick’s work, my Detective Zinski is a cop who finds himself dealing with a seedier side of civilization, a cop with some ethical dilemmas and personal issues. Detective Zinski has seen a lot in his years as a detective. He carries a personal grudge that threatens to obscure his objectivity and to damage his credibility and his effectiveness. He is also in a direct conflict with intelligent entities, like the replicants in Dick’s work, who’s agendas are both unknown and potentially devastating. There is also a corporate element that plays a role in both books, although that role is vastly different.

Stylistically, I will say that I try to keep my prose direct and spare. The motivations of the characters are what I find most interesting to deal with. This becomes especially fascinating for me where AIs interact with human beings as they are throughout The Zxap Jacket. Of course the actions of the human players concern me as well. It is in the re writes that I found myself pulling out the fat and keeping to the essence of each scene and relationship. My success in this endeavor will be judged by the response to the book itself. I am most curious to find out and look forward to reactions from readers.

Writing As a Composer

May 25, 2013

On guitar with the Fotons in 1982 at the Savoy.

On guitar with the Fotons in 1982 at the Savoy.

Crazy as it sounds, it’s hard to imagine making it through my years in New York without Phillip K. Dick. Like a companion on the late night F train, his wit and humor, his philosophical and prophetic vision kept me company, bringing a smile after a tough gig, absorbing my attention to such an extent that I missed my stop on more than one occasion. I can only remember those moments with a smile, now. What a gift to enter the world of another person’s imagination–fringe and absurd as that imagination may be at times.

I have long envisioned myself someday attempting to create a novel. In part because of my deep love and respect for Dick, Asimov, Heinlein, Herbert,
Gibson and a host of others…but also because of the challenge as an artist to leap into another art form. I have had a very interesting and satisfying career as a musician from my rock n roll childhood, through my years as a NYC studio musician, then jingle writer, record company exec and then TV and film composer. And I am still very much a composer and guitarist. It’s not that I have moved away from these amazing journeys. I think I just wanted to try expression in a language other than music.

Writing a novel as a professional musician is an exercise in crossing artistic disciplines. The perspective of a film and TV composer such as myself is unique in that we ad our touches at the end of the creation. Music is addressed in post production for the most part, with the rare exceptions of musicals, theme songs and an occasional source cue made to order. Thus,the composer finesses what is already there, adding colors to a work of art that already has a rhythm, a look a story and a emotional curve. Not that our impact is any less intense. Just turn off the music in Star Wars or Star Trek and it becomes very obvious. But music accompanies the story, it paints emotional colors behind and through, it pushes the action but it doesn’t tell the story.

Like the author of a book, a composer faces a blank page and must create. But in film and TV that composer’s page already has lines on it, time limits, cultural and stylistic determinates. The novelist’s blank page is completely blank–scarily blank. The novelist’s power is almost god-like, creating lives and taking them away, making worlds from a personal pov, evolving characters and their private voyages into literary existence.

It was an immense challenge to begin this quest, to screw up the courage and energy to move ahead. I have stopped and started again numerous times due
to life situations, lack of inspiration or other pursuits. But I kept finding myself drawn back to the page–to an unfinished story, a unrealized idea.

I’d like to discuss this more on this blog, but for now, I welcome you to the Zxap Jacket Blog and encourage you to leave comments or ask questions.
Ken Mazur