Music & Messages 4

Samantha Redstreake Geary and UNDAUNTED

Imagine the sounds of a springtime stroll through the grounds of the Biltmore Estate. Bees buzz between the vibrant blooms of the Rose Garden, water gurgles from the satyr fountains on the terrace, wind rustles through the azaleas—and Samantha Redstreake Geary speaks into her voice recorder as she walks through it all.

“It’s actually kind of a handicap, because I can’t write anything in silence,” Geary says with a laugh. The Asheville author finds inspiration in the noises that surround her, whether they come from the Biltmore trails she often hikes while drafting scenes (particularly for her Biltmore-inspired YA historical fantasy novel series, Architects of Illusion) or the music she selects as an ever-present backdrop to her writing process. By exploring the relationship between sound and story, she aims to inspire audiences more powerfully than she could with music or words alone.

A biochemist by training, Geary had a previous career in pharmaceutical research and was recruited by the FBI as a forensics special agent before becoming a creative writer. She was quick to begin collaborating with composers on anthologies, short stories, novels, serials and film and series scripts.

Geary’s writing, Jenny Vyas’ artwork, Really Slow Motion’s music and Tamara Parker’s video editing combine to tell UNDAUNTED, a futuristic reimagining of Sleeping Beauty narrated by Fear, which follows a diverse cast of characters in the aftermath of a terrorist attack who travel to the North Carolina mountains in search of a sentient, sustainable structure with a holographic heart that holds the key to hope and healing. The project will bring hope to the real world as well—all proceeds from the UNDAUNTED ebook will contribute to the medical expenses of Annie McCready, one of Geary’s former writing students, who suffers from severe MS.

The collaborators place their story in the emerging genre of solarpunk, a literary movement that joins science fiction with environmental activism. “The ‘solar’ comes from being rooted in green technology, and the ‘punk’ comes from a revolution against the way we’re bleeding the Earth for energy,” Geary explains. “It’s not about finding another planet to relocate to, it’s about preserving and restoring balance in the world we’re on now.”

Geary’s main local collaborator for UNDAUNTED is Asheville musician and video artist Tamara Parker, who produces work under the name 10til10. Between her piano and trumpet teaching gigs through her private studio and the Rock Academy, she writes cinematic music inspired by composers such as Hans Zimmer. “Sam’s writing is so visually rich, I find it very easy to compose to her stories,” Parker says.

Parker entered her song “Mysterious Logic” into an international composing contest hosted by Really Slow Motion, and they chose it to be one of the tracks on the UNDAUNTED album. The song evokes the story’s solarpunk ethos using two very different sets of sounds. “I was trying to blend the old and the new,” Parker explains. “I threw in some dubstep beats, but on top of that, I added unusual synthesized strings, as well as some straight-up string sounds.”

Parker is also editing the UNDAUNTED short film, which interprets the story through a dance filmed at the North Carolina Arboretum and stars dancers Celia Tabitha Thurman, Levi David Sowerby and Ant James. Parker sifted through eight hours of footage from three cameras to find the most evocative moments. “It’s a natural flow, bringing my love of the visual together with my love of music,” Parker says.

The choice of the solarpunk genre, Geary and Parker agree, is a conscious reaction against the dystopian trends in YA literature, which often showcases a numbness to violence and a dangerous lack of empathy. “We live in that world now; we don’t need to create fictional worlds that make it worse,” Geary says. Their work on UNDAUNTED is an attempt to offer a message of optimism and courage for the future generation.

“All of the stories I write are a commentary on things that I believe we need to change,” Geary explains. “Positive messages are more readily absorbed through stories and music and film, so as artists, it’s our job to put those messages in our work.”