Songshifting is a trilogy of novels by Chris Bell and published by wordsSHIFTminds.

Nothing is as it seems. Recordings of your favourite music are banned and confiscated by a repressive regime. You can still see state-sanctioned bands play but at their gigs you’re likely to be administered Sentimental Hygiene: a top secret psychotropic substance with unpredictable and occasionally fatal effects. Of course, you won’t know it; although you may wonder why the musicians have developed supernatural abilities, levitating, disappearing or worse. Raguly and Nebuly, the state’s sinister spies, are everywhere; out to put a stop to anything not controlled by a shadowy head of state, the impresario. And should you manage to evade them, Hector, Scuttler, Mohock, Ugmo and Mentull gangboys are lurking, ready to do you damage and steal your gadgets.

Music journalist Rarity Dean is on a deadline: The Grid, the paper she writes for, is a relic of a past age, still attempting to champion the new music although all home entertainment is considered treasonous.

Songshifting is set in a city that may be an alternative or future London. The state-sponsored Affable DJ Hologram gives punters a sense of freedom through a stylised form of entertainment while the impresario controls them through its insidious crowd control techniques and censorship. So an ability to songshift – a clandestine and elusive form of time travel that enables listeners to slip into the relative safety of their pasts with the help of their chosen music – is highly prized and jealously guarded by punters and musos alike.

Fraser Carlyon is bassist with Scrooch, whose music falls outside the spirit of the times. Dean suffers from worsening musical hallucinations and relies on the Grid Encyclopaedia of New Music to refresh her memories of tours past as she tries to dodge the impresario’s agents. 

As the state’s experiments in mind, mood and crowd control ratchet up a notch, rebellious musos, songswappers and rival gangs fight the system. Dean inadvertently discovers more than she’d bargained for: a more worrying explanation for the musos’ supernatural onstage ‘shtick’ and the ban on recorded music. Meanwhile, a power struggle rages between Scrooch and their biggest rivals, the Dust Bunnies, who eventually call a truce and join forces for Imprimatur, an event to protest the ban on recorded music.

The managers attempt to delay the event’s cancellation using a taste of the authorities’ own medicine, and the benighted mood lifts as Raguly and Nebuly are thwarted by the power of music and strength in numbers.

Songshifting has been awarded the Gold Books Go Social Fiction Quality Mark. This mark combines the machine analysis of AutoCrit and the human analysis of an experienced editor to verify the quality of a written manuscript. The Quality Mark was established not only to help authors gain valuable feedback on their work but also to help readers find well-written, quality books. For further details, see: thebookpromoter.com/fiction-quality-mark.

Songshifting II: Requiem For Stage Diver & Bass Guitar

The Dirty Birds, Poodlefaker, Jackass Morwong, Bizarre Avocado  Crimewave and Cheeto Jesus are bands touring with a live show called Dangerous Mixture. Dirty Birds’ singer Sam Ratcliff devotes much of her band’s set to stage-diving into the punters. One night, at the club Everything That Ever Was, she’s returned unconscious to the stage and dies of apparent asphyxiation. Unemployed music journo Rarity Dean sets out to investigate her death.

Dean wrote for music paper the Grid before being fired for criticising the brutal regime of the mysterious impresario following a live event at which bands like Scrooch, the Dust Bunnies and the Dirty Birds made a stand against the state’s ban on recorded music.

As Dean attempts to unearth the truth she begins to question everything she once considered sacred. She’s soon on the trail of Teasel Fuller, a former security man with a violent past. But can this odd crime really be as simple as that? Other clues appear to suggest a grassroots rebellion is afoot – one systematic enough to unite punters and street gangs to rise against the impresario.

The sequel to Songshifting and the second book in the Songshifting trilogy.

“Bell is very, very good indeed. His work is smart, mythical, intimate and wonderfully international in flavour” TERRI WINDLING, The Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror

“Chris Bell’s ‘Saccade’ is a beautifully constructed, heartfelt work … He has a gift for emotionally loaded, short, concise statements” SOPHIA IOANNOU, Seven Stories Press

“Exhibiting a tremendous facility with style and form, Bell can produce everything from vigorously plotted cyberpunk narratives to whimsical daydreams … Powered by his torrid love affair with fantastic literature and pop music, Bell’s stories fully succeed in their stated intention of being ‘incantation[s] to summon an atmosphere, in the way the best songs and most potent perfumes can do’. Highly recommended …” PAUL DI FILIPPO, Asimov’s Science Fiction

“Chris Bell’s short stories [have] appeared regularly in the UK independent press … fusing ideas of time, meaning, and a filmic atmosphere that placed them firmly at the quality slipstream end of the spectrum” ANDREW HOOK, Infinity Plus

Songshifting III: An audience with the impresario 

In the third and final Songshifting novel, musos, journos and punters unite to protest the impresario’s ban on recorded music. Former music journo Rarity Dean is arrested and taken to the barge, the impresario’s headquarters, where she suspects she’s about to be tortured by agents Raguly and Nebuly. Meanwhile, her muso friends are resorting to unusual firepower in their rescue attempt. Rarity must harness all her initiative to try and convince the Affable DJ Hologram that indoctrinating audiences with the crowd control drug Deludol is misguided. Her experience as a songshifter proves invaluable as she rallies a new musical movement with the express aim of defying the authorities.

“There’s a component of songshifting that allows us to zoom in on details from our pasts, but there’s also a dreamlike quality to it. Once you get good at it … songshifting allows you to access a node in a grid-like structure that interconnects all of your dreams and suddenly you’re in there, a dream inhabitant…”

SongshiftingAn audience with the impresario delivers everything a reader wants from the best of speculative fiction: a coherent world at once richly textured, vividly painted and centred on an idea that is both surprising and relatable – in this case the transporting power of music. Bell’s vision at once entertains and entrances. He has achieved that rare thing: a dystopia you don’t want to leave.” OLIVER HARRIS, DEEP SHELTERTHE HOLLOW MANTHE HOUSE OF FAME

Songshifting occupies a unique place in modern fiction: a simple, elegiac story, fierce and uncompromising, it is at once a love letter to a forgotten era, a richly evoked dystopia, and an examination of memory, longing, and music itself. Speculative fiction needs more writers like Chris Bell, ready and able to interrogate our world on their own terms, and probe the darker recesses of our minds. Songshifting demands to be read” ROBERT DINSDALE, GINGERBREAD

Songshifting is wise, elegiac and compelling. It speaks deeply to what music means to us – not just as an art form but as part of our emotional landscape. Wonderful stuff” DAVE HUTCHINSON, EUROPE IN AUTUMNEUROPE AT MIDNIGHTEUROPE IN WINTER

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