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5 Sci-Fi and Fantasy Novels to Read While Listening to The Clash’s London Calling Album

by  | January 31

London Calling turned 40 this month. The second full-length album by the Clash, one of the forbearers of punk music (and perhaps the creators of the pop punk subgenre), is iconic in so many ways. From the unforgettable album art depicting bassist Paul Simonon smashing his guitar on the stage floor to the two hit singles that brought the band into the mainstream (the eponymous “London Calling” and “Train in Vain”), the influence of the Clash and this album in particular is hard to overlook.

Undercut by its cheekily jaunty riffs, London Calling’s lyrics and frenetic pace evoke feelings of anxiety and distrust of authority. But that nervous energy isn’t hopeless; it’s more a call to action: to question, resist, and call bullshit where bullshit is found.

Such feelings of resistance and bucking authority are bedrocks of sci-fi, too. I love the political and rebellious stories of rogue AI, mutiny on spaceships, and overthrowing seemingly unbeatable, all-seeing techno-garchies (just made that one up).

So if you want to celebrate London Calling, take a look at these books, matched with some of my favorite songs, and pick one (or two!) that inspire you the most.

Infomocracy

Infomocracy

by Malka Older

“London Calling”

Conspiracies and political machinations abound in the first installment of Malka Oldler’s Centenal Cycle. Just as the title hints, information comes from many sources, and (shocker) not all of them are trustworthy. The “question everything” vibe that comes alive in “London Calling” (and most of the Clash’s work, really) is just as strong in Infomocracy.

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All Systems Red

All Systems Red

by Martha Wells

“Lost in the Supermarket”

One of the sci-fi genre’s most punk rock tropes is of an AI robot defying and rewriting its own oppressive programming. And the rogue one at the center of All Systems Red goes by the name Murderbot, suffers from a major case of social anxiety, and reveals a heart of gold-plated alloy. Much like ol' Murderbot, the song “Lost in the Supermarket” is about oppressive programming…just, you know, of the human kind.

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This Is How You Lose the Time War

This Is How You Lose the Time War

by Amal El-Mohtar

“Spanish Bombs”

Turns out members of the Clash weren't fluent in Spanish but, poor grammar aside, this song is all about the Spanish Civil War, where anarcho-socialist freedom fighters clashed with fascist nationalists. But, as the chorus goes, love lives under the violence, even amid endless war…and that's exactly what This Is How You Lose the Time War is about. Except, it's not set during the Spanish Civil War, but in, like, infinite timelines. (Which technically means it could’ve taken place during the Spanish Civil War? Does that mean protagonists Red and Blue are actually members of the Clash? YOU DECIDE.)

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Trail of Lightning

Trail of Lightning

by Rebecca Roanhorse

“The Guns of Brixton”

On the surface, Trail of Lightning and “The Guns of Brixton” seem like simple stories, but both have a lot going on when you dive under the surface. Layers upon layers make up the song and the book, but at the core of both, they are stories of home, and of never giving up your home, come hell or high water…or the Big Bad. (Sidenote: in my head canon, badass gunslinger/protagonist Maggie Hoskie loves the Clash.)

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The Deep

The Deep

by Rivers Solomon

“Jimmy Jazz”

Our song's hero is much like the one in The Deep: someone on the run from a force more powerful than they are. In the song, Mr. Jazz is giving law enforcement the slip, while in the book’s case, Yetu is trying to escape the burden of the traumatic memories of her people. She’s a storyteller with a killer memory who harnesses the power of the spoken word, just as Strummer and Jones do in the improvised, spontaneous “Jimmy Jazz” recording.

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Photo Credit // mactrunk/iStock

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Lauren Jackson (also known as LJ) is the marketing and publicity manager for all Saga Press and Star Trek titles. During her nine years in publishing, she has held positions at Tor Books, William Morrow, and Penguin Random House, and has enjoyed working with an array of authors, from punk music legends to Michelin-starred chefs to cat whisperers. She is a huge fan of Star Trek, horror movies, true crime anything, and behavioral science. A proud born-and-bred Brooklynite, she still resides in that borough, and serves two cats named Jaime and Cersei.