Crackpot theory: Neal Stephenson’s “Seveneves” is inspired by a Devin Townsend song

In 1997 Devin Townsend released the concept album “Ocean Machine: Biomech”, which opens with a pretty cool song called “Seventh Wave“. Here are the lyrics.

In 2015 Neal Stephenson wrote a sci-fi novel called “Seveneves”. The third act climaxes with an epic battle between various human subspecies that have diverged thousands of years from now.

Here are themes/imagery/details the two works share in common:

  • The number 7 featured in the title
  • Planet Earth changed beyond recognition, and made waterier
  • A female protagonist “returning home”
  • Being greeted at an appointed time by something coming up out of the ocean

Also: Stephenson’s future world, in which swarms of micro-robots play an active role in everyday life as well as warfare, recalls Townsend’s lyrics about being “never alone even when you’re alone”.

Stephenson’s writing contains evidence that he likes heavy rock music, so it’s entirely plausible that he listened to Townsend’s album and some of the imagery in “Seventh Wave” made it into “Seveneves”, possibly on purpose. Of course the only way to confirm this hairbrained theory of mine would be to ask Stephenson directly.

Until then I recommend enjoying “Ocean Machine” and “Seveneves” close together in time, because they pair extremely well.


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