Among his many obsessions (rock ’n’ roll and Romilar being simply the two best-known), Lester Bangs was gripped throughout his creative career by the burning desire to pen a novel.

Not just any novel, mind you. Not even the fabled “Great American Novel.” Lester wanted to write the Great American Rock ’n’ Roll Novel.

Now, for the most part, fiction and rock ’n’ roll have made for the lousiest of bedfellows. But before we get into that, I should note that, like Bangs, I define both of those terms rather broadly.

To me, rock ’n’ roll encompasses everything from Hank Williams to Public Enemy, Parliament-Funkadelic to the Orb, and Bangs’s beloved Count Five to the indie hipster Califone album that I’m playing as I type these thoughts. It is only marginally a music, much more a soulful, rebellious, and passionate attitude—the always inspiring (if sometimes abused or misdirected) Middle Finger in the Face of Conformity. I feel qualified to say this because, like Bangs, I have been a “professional” rock critic for going on 10 years now, and a fanatical fan with fanatical opinions to inflict on people for much, much longer.

Fiction is… well, fiction is, like, the creative recounting of made-up stuff, right? Whether it’s invented out of whole cloth or a thinly veiled take on one’s own experiences; William Gibson or Tom Wolfe, William S. Burroughs or Jack Kerouac.

As for any special qualifications I have to judge the quality of this stuff as, you know, litteracha, I make no claims whatsoever—I just know what I like. It’s the editor of this august journal, the fair opera maiden Amber Dorko Stopper, who is under the delusion that I might have something to add to the proceedings that follow, this ambitious compilation of a half-dozen tales that, if not the first tentative steps down the bumpy roads toward actual rock ’n’ roll novels, are at least bonafide not-bad-at-all, pretty-darn-good-in-fact attempts at great rock ’n’ roll short stories.

Which brings us back to this bidness of rock ’n’ roll fiction and the undeniable fact that most of it has sucked. Or as Lester might say: “BAD! No good! It all sucks little doggies equally!! Bleeaacchh!!!” Forget about great; a plain ol’ good or even just acceptably readable Rock ’n’ Roll Novel has yet to be writ, despite the music being some four and a half decades old at this point, and serious writing about the same being only about ten years younger.

Oh, there have been plenty of attempts, some failed but game—I’m thinking of Twisted Kicks by the young Tom Carson, before he was a highly-paid Esquire scribe, or of Paperback Writer, Mark Shipper’s entirely invented “history” of the Beatles—and the rest just failed, period. (The list of stinkers is absolutely endless, though it might be topped by Danny Sugerman’s stench-o-riffic Wonderland Avenue, which gets extra demerits for its author’s hubris; when I interviewed him for Bangs’s biography, he actually told me that everyone always thought that Lester would write the Great American Rock ’N’ Roll Novel—or maybe Cameron Crowe—but no, it had fallen to him, Doors toady turned Fawn Hall spouse Danny Sugerman, to successfully shoulder this grandiose burden. Feh!)

Certainly there has been fiction that accurately references the world of rock ’n’ roll. Examples here range from the sublime (Bruce Sterling’s “Dori Bangs,” for one, a short story that imagines an afterlife for St. Lester; Mick Farren’s Jim Morrison’s Adventures in the Afterlife: A Novel for another—and ain’t it inneresting that both are about dead people?), to the guilty-pleasure ridiculous (Stephen King’s gratuitous rock-roll name ’n’ dropping, fer instance, or Jonathan Lethem’s).

Much rarer and hence more inspiring is fiction that crackles with the energy of the best rock ’n’ roll. Cases in point: Trinities by Nick Tosches and The Night (Alone: A Novel) by Richard Meltzer. Peers and pals o’ Bangs and reformed rock critics both, neither could entirely purge the Noise from their souls, even if they’ve effectively banished it from their turntables. The rock-roll attitude rings through loud and clear in their prose, even when these street punks-turned-venerated authors are ostensibly writing about the mob (Tosches) or Richard Meltzer (Richard Meltzer).

We are now two-thirds of the way through this essay and I have yet to say anything about the actual submissions that follow, which are ostensibly the subject of this preface. Sorry, but like I said, I just know what I like, and I like them all just fine, more or less. My favorite contributors follow in the footsteps of the Meltzer and Tosches school of rock ’n’ roll fiction by embodying the spirit of the songs that inspired them—that gleeful Middle Finger, the most obvious embodiment of what another punk sage once called the “lust for life”—rather than working like literal sculptors with the actual clay of musical minutiae.

In the end, maybe that is the lesson we can take away from this endeavor: Good writing can be rock ’n’ roll without having to be about rock ’n’ roll.

For what it is worth, my favorite sentences are as follows, in no particular order: Hot hot hot hot hot hot hot hot hot hot hot… … And then the curtain parted and Joe looked up and there was Minnie, kickin’ the gong around. … A cleansing, a drink or not? … The ever-engaging plastic anchorperson feeds the insatiable drama: “Chuck, there isn’t going to be a potato sack race this year, is there?” … They knew more about transsexuals than they seemed to know about people from Finland; about the Finnish, they seemed to know little more than Marimekko sheets and placemats, or the Lasse Viren blood-doping scandal. … My nose worked fine.

Read on, and enjoy them all in context. And remember, should the mania of pursuing the Great American Rock ’n’ Roll Novel ever infect you like those unfortunate British bovines stricken with hoof and mouth: It has so far eluded bigger talents than you, boyo, but that don’t mean it ain’t worth trying.