Scalzi's new sci-fi thriller 'Lock In' gets a theme song

"Redshirts" author John Scalzi commissions indie rocker William Beckett to perform a theme song for his new book "Lock In."


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To promote his new book, John Scalzi commissioned a theme song. Tor Books

Movies and TV shows get theme songs, so why not books? That's exactly what "Redshirts" author John Scalzi thought when he commissioned singer William Beckett, formerly from the band The Academy Is, to write and perform the theme song for his book "Lock In."

"Lock In" -- out next week from Tor Books -- is a sci-fi thriller about a new virus that hits 15 years from now. The 1 percent of those afflicted by the virus referred to as Haden's Syndrome find themselves "locked in" -- fully awake and aware, but unable to move or respond to stimulus.

According to the "Lock In" book description, "New technologies emerge to help those who suffer from the condition -- a virtual-reality network and a system of 'riding' in the bodies of other individuals -- which are quickly regulated, licensed, bonded, and controlled. Nothing can go wrong. Certainly nobody would be tempted to misuse it, for murder, for political power, or worse."

"It's a murder mystery set in a near future where about 4.5 million people suffer from a disease that leaves them no control of their bodies, even as their brains are untouched," Scalzi told Crave. "Technology allows them to participate in society through 'threeps' -- android bodies. This is how our protagonist, FBI agent Chris Shane, gets around, trying to solve a murder that takes place at the Watergate Hotel in Washington D.C."

To promote the new book, instead of making a typical book trailer like other authors, Scalzi decided to commission a song to encapsulate the tone of "Lock In."

"I decided to commission a song because I like the idea of having original music inspired by a story and a world I've created," Scalzi told Crave. "A good song has the potential to be memorable and motivating in a way a lot of promotional stuff isn't. There's a reason why films and TV shows use songs so much -- they stick in your head and bring you back to the film or show. Think about 'Don't You Forget about Me' and immediately you're transported. I want that sort of thing for my books, too."

Scalzi says he's been a fan of musician Beckett's work for a while now. "It helps that William's a not-so-closeted fan of science fiction and fantasy," Scalzi told Crave. "The first time I met him he was lugging around a copy of 'A Dance with Dragons' that had been read so much it was falling apart. He's got a foot in the nerd world and the foot in the mainstream -- which is something 'Lock In' is trying to do as well."

This isn't the first time Scalzi asked a musician to perform a song to promote one of his books. Nerd duo Paul and Storm's "Fuzzy Man" promoted the book "Fuzzy Nation" and geeky songster Jonathan Coulton's "Redshirt" promoted Scalzi's sci-fi hit "Redshirts."

"You have to be smart about it and pair the right musician with the right book," Scalzi told Crave. "Jonathan Coulton was a very good pairing for 'Redshirts' because the song he wrote for it is funny yet slightly melancholy, just like the book. William's a good pairing for 'Lock In' because he's able to craft a song that's both intimate and anthemic, which fits the book's scale."

"Songs help promote the books by being fun and different," Scalzi added. "They're not the usual book trailers, which are promotional items I think tend to be better in concept than in execution -- and because they offer a fair trade for your attention."

"Lock In" is available August 26 from Tor Books in the US (and Gollancz in the UK), with audio by Audible.com. But fans can read the first five chapters of "Lock In" plus a prequel novella, "Unlocked" at Tor Books.

 

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