2113: Peartian Imaginings

ECW, 2016.

When it comes to edifying entertainment, three things top my personal list of favorites: listening to Rush and other progressive rock; reading the works of Kevin J. Anderson; and delving deeply into the nuances and permutations of various science-fiction mythologies.

But, greedily, I must ask: what if I can have all three at once?

What if science-fiction mastermind Kevin J. Anderson created massive worlds—exploring every great idea and every nook and cranny of an imagined universe—set to the vast sound and lyricscapes of Rush and Neil Peart?

clockwork livesGloriously, Anderson has done just this, authoring and co-authoring a number of short stories, novels, and graphic novels set in the Rush universe.  There’s nothing Anderson has written that I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend with great enthusiasm, but he is at his absolute best when working with Neil Peart and with the worlds imagined by Rush as a band.  His Clockwork Angels and Clockwork Lives certainly represent some of the very best fantasies I have ever read, and I have read quite a few!  As I’ve noted in other reviews, Clockwork Angels and Clockwork Lives are each complex and compelling Chestertonian and Tolkienian faery tales.

Now, through the excellent and rather perfectionist Canadian press, ECW, Anderson and John McFetridge have edited a wide-ranging collection of stories, 2113, each tale inspired by a various Rush song.  Sometimes the influence is direct and obvious, but, just as often, the influence is indirect and sideways.  Anderson and McFetridge have clearly encouraged a range of expression.  If a theme emerges, it is, naturally, the story of the individual human person, endowed with integrity and will, fighting against the conformism of governments, societies, and corporations.

[Without giving too much away, let me note that Anderson brilliantly connects the world of 2112 to the world of Clockwork Angels in the final paragraph of his own rather Walter-Miller-esque short story, “2113.”]

While most of the tales are new, two come from that time before time, before Peart had joined Rush: Fritz Leiber’s 1967 “Gonna Roll the Bones,” and Richard Foster’s 1973 “A Nice Morning Drive.”  It is not only wise, but handy to have these tales included in this collection.

An “advanced reading copy” arrived at Progarchy HQ yesterday afternoon, and yours truly has been gloriously devouring it.  It is a satisfying, humbling, and inspiring book.

But, then. . . what else would I expect.  Rush?  Science fiction?  Short stories?  Alternate universes?  Neil Peart?  ECW?  Kevin J. Anderson?  Well, of course, it’s perfect.  You definitely need to add this thing of perfection to your own collection.

2113 comes out officially on April 12, 2016, and can be ordered from ECW and from Amazon.


Bradley J. Birzer is editor of progarchy.com and author of Neil Peart: Cultural (RE)Percussions (2015).



2113 Sampler: Kevin J. Anderson

2113 (1)
The sampler is now available.  Pre-order as soon as possible.

Kevin J. Anderson is a wonder.  When it comes to the mythology of Rush–whether it’s 2112 or CLOCKWORK ANGELS–Anderson might very well be the uncredited fourth member of the band.  In everything this Hugo-Nominated author does, he conquers and with absolute brilliance.

To preorder, go here: http://ecwpress.com/collections/science-fiction/products/2113


Neil Peart: Cultural Repercussions Now Available

As any Neil Peart fan well knows, the great man just celebrated his 63rd birthday and his sequel to his co-authored novel, CLOCKWORK LIVES, comes out tomorrow. We all eagerly await with intense and immense anticipation this new work by Peart and Hugo-nominated science-fiction author, Kevin J. Anderson.

Out September 15, 2015.
Out September 15, 2015.

I must also proudly note that my intellectual biography of the world’s greatest drummer comes out tomorrow as well. NEIL PEART: CULTURAL (RE)PERCUSSIONS (WordFire Press). It will be available in paperback ($14.99) and ebook ($5.99) but is now available for pre-order.


I have to thank a lot of folks for their encouragement with this book project, and I hope I give everyone due credit in the book. When I read the works of Steve Horwitz and Rob Freedman, I just knew that I had to write a book on Peart. I’ve loved Neil Peart’s words and musicianship since first encountering MOVING PICTURES in March 1981. I was in seventh grade, and I’ve never been the same. To me, Peart fits in the same category as J.R.R. Tolkien, Ursula LeGuin, Ray Bradbury, and Milton Friedman as influences on my young life. As Peart has grown, so have I. And, so, I presume have most of us.

This book also turns out to be my fifth published biography. The other biographies, however, have been almost completely academic. When I first started to write this book, I’d wanted to write an autobiography with the emphasis on how Peart shaped my own life and thoughts on a variety of things. Even during the first draft, I started deviating from this plan. By the final product, I’d left in only a few personal experiences. There are two reasons for this.

First, almost everyone who reads the book wants to know about Peart, not me. Second, some of the experiences are still too painful to make public fully. I can only state that Peart’s art and example has meant as much to me and my life as any figure outside of my family.

In the book, I focus on Peart as a man of letters, one of our greatest in the English language. I was pretty thrilled when PROG’s Johnny Sharp wrote:

But author Bradley Birzer does go a little over the top in his gushing praise of his subject. When an intro mentions Peart in the same sentence as Socrates and Cicero. . .

He’s completely correct, of course. But, you should’ve seen earlier drafts! Ha. Anyway, if you like what we do at progarchy, you’ll like the bio.

Actually, I was just thrilled that my favorite magazine reviewed my book! Even if Sharp had hated it, I’d still be pretty honored that Jerry Ewing and Grant Moon took it seriously enough to review. Still, I’m so glad Sharp actually enjoyed it!

Here’s hoping you will as well!

Teamrock.com Reviews Birzer(me!)’s NEIL PEART: CULTURAL REPERCUSSIONS

Screen Shot 2015-09-05 at 6.18.47 PM

A huge thanks to Johnny Sharp, Jerry Ewing, and all of our friends and allies at teamrock.com.  A perceptive review (very perceptive!) of my forthcoming intellectual biography of Neil Peart.  Out September 15, 2015, NEIL PEART: CULTURAL REPERCUSSIONS will be available as an ebook and paperback.

While Birzer doesn’t include any first-hand original interviews with his subject or his bandmates, his research is extensive, seeking out insightful quotes and stories from the band’s four-decade existence as he successfully divides their work into distinct eras (Rush 2.0, 2.1, 3.0, etc). No doubt Peart himself would initially scoff at the idea of such an in-depth analysis of his work. But secretly, I think he’ll feel Birzer has done him proud here.

And, best of all, Sharp labels my thesis “over the top.”  And, he’s absolutely right.  To finish Sharp’s interview, please go here.  Link requires free registration to read the full review.

To pre-order the e-book, please go here.

Why Neil Peart, Part I

Why Neil Peart?

[Be forewarned, this is a serious essay that leads to an advertisement.  Proceed at your own risk!!!!]

R40 Tour. Rush in Lincoln.

A year ago, I had the great privilege of reading a fine history of Rush: Robert Freedman’s RUSH: LIFE LIBERTY AND THE PURSUIT OF EXCELLENCE.  It was a very satisfying read, and, as I finished it, I sighed to myself. . . “I wish I’d written this.”  I don’t think my reaction was one of hubris, but rather one of joy.  I was glad to see Peart taken so seriously at an intellectual level.  All too often, even in a culture that can go utterly ga-ga over the most trivial things, Americans still tend to dismiss rock music as a fad or rock musicians as a low form of artist.

For those of us who love prog and art rock, we cringe at such slights, and yet, in our heart of hearts, we’re kind of glad that we are among the few who know—as almost a secret treasure we possess—that good rock as art most certainly does exist.  Sure, we’ll argue until we’re blue in the face about what makes art good.  But, in the end, we’re somewhat satisfied that we’ve chosen the past least taken.

I’m as guilty of this as anyone, and I know that much of my life, I’ve been a total music snob.  Sure, being from Kansas, I can do it with manner and a smile, but I’m still a snob.

When the four editors of progarchy and I started this website, we dedicated ourselves to promoting—as widely as possible—the beauty of music in all of its forms.  We’re each music snobs, of course, but we so want to make our snobbery general and widespread.  That is, we’d love to have Big Big Train playing on every rock station across North America.  Rock music is at a crossroads, and we think we can destroy the mediocrity and corporate vanilla the so prevails and gives rock a bad now.  Now, this truly is HUBRIS on our part!

One of the persons I find most intriguing over the last half century is Neil E. Peart.  Whether you agree with his political views or hate them, whether you think he’s a god among drummers or just a guy dealing with his ADHD, you have to give Peart credit for making his own way, no matter the cost and no matter the obstacles.

Just a few nights ago, Rush played their final show of R40.  The chances are pretty good that that show will be the last normal Rush show ever played.  After 41 years of constant success and considered artist endeavors, that’s huge!

Cultural RePercussions cover

[Remember, I warned you above!]

So, why Neil Peart?  Well, I try to answer this very question in NEIL PEART: CULTURAL (RE)PERCUSSIONS.  The biography comes out officially on September 15 from Kevin J. Anderson’s Word Fire Press.  For another 9 days, however, you can get an advanced review copy of the Peart bio for $15 from Humble Bundle.

I’m biased, but I’m really hoping you’ll purchase a copy.  I could explain to you that every time you buy a book, you put food on the table for my huge family.  But, this isn’t quite true.  Still, it would help for the college funds!

Mostly, though, I wrote this book to spread my love of all things Peart.

To be continued. . . .

ARC of NEIL PEART Bio is Now Available with Humble Bundle Press

For two weeks only, you can get an advanced review copy of NEIL PEART: CULTURAL (RE)PERCUSSIONS.

Available as an ARC for two weeks only with Humble Bundle.
Available as an ARC for two weeks only with Humble Bundle.

NEIL PEART: CULTURAL (RE)PERCUSSIONS is now available in early form. As an e-book, a part of the Humble Bundle. For two weeks only!

$15 and you get tons of books, including an advanced review copy of the Peart bio.

The final paperback and ebook (all formats) version will be out September 15.


Colorado Prog Lovers: Kevin Anderson Signings

News from Kevin Anderson, Hugo-nominated sci-fi writer, lyricist for Roswell Six, and friend of Neil Peart:

Denver Rush fans, Thursday is Rush Night at Denver Hard Rock Cafe. I’ll be autographing Clockworks in all incarnations, giving away sampler booklets for CLOCKWORK LIVES, and debuting the new CL Tarot Card decks *and* the slipcased Graphic Novel! Starts at 7 PM.