View Full Version : Bowie & Sci Fi

01-11-2016, 10:55 PM
Maybe this was brought up somewhere else on this forum, but let's talk about Bowie and sci-fi! I think the old gent influence the genre more than any other mainstream rocker I can think of (Maybe Yes with all those Roger Dean posters did as much, and I'm ok with leaving Rush out of the discussion).

Certainly you don't have to look hard to see the influence SF had on his work. Cygnet Committee is probably my fav of his early works with a sci-fi bent, a chilling sketch of a modernist dystopia and the jusy-as-bad revolutionaries that replaces it. He also wrote a song about some astronaut, IIRC

Ziggy Stardust and Man who Sold the World both work as sci-fi concept albums, albeit with the artist's own eccentric twist. Five Years is one of my favorite songs ever, the story of civilization on the edge of collapse and a song so poignant and meaningful I have to listen to it ten times if I listen to it once. Starman was much more optimistic, a little ditty about a freaky traveler from space come here to blow our little minds as soon as we're ready for it. Off of Man Who Sold the World the two standouts for me are the Supermen, a weird song with overtones of Crowley and Nietzsche about a race of tragic supermen on a loveless isle, kind of a Clark Ashton Smith thing going on there. And the title track, that I'm sure all you kids remember because of the Nirvana, a surrealist poem that seems, maybe, to be about some kind of eldritch abomination.

And that's just the early stuff! Tons and tons more, and let's not forget his acting career always veered towards the speculative. He was even in Omicron, a terrible nineties cyberpunk PC game as some sort of Lawnmower Man-style god. Bowie never shied away from Sci-fi, mysticism, fantasy, or the outre, and I think he exposed a lot of us to ideas outside the comfortable mainstream. Themes of transhumanism, extraterrestrials, dystopias, fallen civilizations, horror, and so much more informed his work. More than just supplying the window-dressing, Bowie cut to the heart of what speculative fiction is about, questions of identity, the nature of reality, the individual vs the collective, evolution, spiritual advancement, and of course humanity's faults and how they limit us.

Kind of having a bummer morning, and I though I'd share that. Thoughts?

Max Vaehling
01-14-2016, 02:39 AM
There was always an oddness to whatever he did, even at his most commercial. As if he was a few steps removed from normal. Even in the Eighties when I came to know him and he was sporting that dandy look, he seemed to look at the world from a different angle than the rest of us. That, more than his space themes and his costumes, was what made his presence 'otherworldly'.

Of course, at the core of it, he was just that very curious guy who kept himself open to new influences and interesting art, more often than not the kind of art that he felt he couldn't make himself. (Or that's what he said about the likes of Sonic Youth in interviews.) Once you put yourself into that position of striving for the next thing rather than sitting on the current one just a little longer, well, I guess that's how you make David Bowies.

At last that's the kind of inspiration I'm taking from his example.
I love how he made Scary Monsters with the intent of going commercial after his more experimental albums. Scary Monsters!
I'm sure there's an alternate world where this kind of stuff was totally bland and pop and generic. In ours, he first had to kake it so.

I drew this yesterday. Thought it'd fit the theme: