Quantum Criminals: a book based on characters from the music of Steely Dan

The editors at the University of Texas Press have been publishing sonically-inspired books about the most fabulously creative and time-splitting musical acts and artists and genre-driven titles. Under the auspices of the American Music Series, books abound about DJ Screw, Kristin Hersh, Merle Haggard, and others, as well as tomes on Black country music, Chicago and Indie Pop, and Hip Hop.

Steely Dan, named after a sex toy from Naked Lunch, the genre-inventing novel by William Burroughs examining the depths and declarations of an "algebra of need," is its archive of hidden stories, rumors, and musical incantations. Professional musicians galore passed through the studio of cave drawings to do the dirty work again.

Quantum Criminals is a collection of stories and drawings about songs that are drawn-out stories, illustrations that "present the world of Steely Dan as it has never been seen, much less heard. Artist Joan LeMay has crafted lively, color-saturated images of her favorite characters from the Daniverse to accompany writer Alex Pappademas's explorations of the famous and obscure songs that inspired each painting, in short essays full of cultural context, wild speculation, inspired dot-connecting, and the occasional conspiracy theory. All of it is refracted through the perspectives of the characters themselves, making for a musical companion unlike any other.

"Steely Dan's songs are exercises in fictional world-building. No one else in the classic-rock canon has conjured a more vivid cast of rogues and heroes, creeps and schmucks, lovers and dreamers and cold-blooded operators—or imbued their characters with so much humanity. Pulling from history, lived experience, pulp fiction, the lore of the counterculture, and their own darkly comic imaginations, Donald Fagen and Walter Becker summoned protagonists who seemed like fully formed people with complicated pasts, scars they don't talk about, delusions and desires and memories they can't shake. From Rikki to Dr. Wu, Hoops McCann to Kid Charlemagne, Franny from NYU to the Woolly Man without a Face, every name is a locked-room mystery, beguiling listeners and earning the band an exceptionally passionate and ever-growing cult fandom."

Check out this 2000 documentary, "Steely Dan VH1 Storytellers," for Becker and Fagen ruminating and joking about their own lives.

The Dan is still making headlines for some fratty decisions. Last summer, for example, Donald Fagen (Walter Becker passed away in 2017) came under fire for dropping Aimee Mann from the summer Dan tour.

"The Steely Dan frontman did rebuff Mann's suggestion — which had been started with a question mark — that she'd heard suggestions the Dan camp didn't think a female singer-songwriter was suitable for the tour.

"Well, first of all," Fagen says in a statement provided to Variety, "the idea that I would make any decision based on the gender of a performer is ridiculous. That's something that would never even occur to me."