New Music Video: The Books We Call Baen

Most science fiction and fantasy fans know the name Baen Books — or at least know the names of some of our authors! Here’s a tribute song to Baen Books* and its founder, Jim Baen, from my album, Distorted Vision.

Hope you like it!

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*Full Disclosure: I’m a Contributing Editor for Baen. But I figure that’s all the more reason to do a tribute song!

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Other music videos:
Tauntauns to Glory
Help My Unbelief

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Nominate Nerdy Music for the Pegasus Awards!

Do you like music related to science fiction or fantasy? Then you can nominate your favorite songs for the annual Pegasus Awards for Excellence in Filking — which is, as you might guess, writing and performing music often related to SF&F and other nerdy, geeky topics.

Pegasus Award Logo

(Pegasus Award Logo.)

 

In case you’re wondering, anyone who has an interest in filk is considered part of the “filk community” and can nominate candidates (and vote, later!). Since very few people make it to every convention or hear every performer, the award includes a “brainstorming” phase which wrapped up a few weeks ago; you can head to the brainstorming results for suggestions in each category.

What are the categories? The Pegasus Awards are given out in four permanent categories, as well as two categories which rotate from year-to-year:

  • Best Filk Song — any filk song that has not previously won a Pegasus
  • Best Classic Filk Song — any well-known filk song at least 10 years old that has “entered filk community public consciousness”
  • Best Performer — any filk performer who has not won this Pegasus in the past 5 years
  • Best Writer/Composer — any writer/composer of filk songs who has not won this Pegasus in the past 5 years
  • 2017 Rotating Category: Best Horror Song — any song that “elicits horror”
  • 2017 Rotating Category: Best Perky Song — kind of self-explanatory

If you have some favorites you’d like to nominate — and you can nominate up to five songs or people in each category — fill out the 2017 Pegasus Nominating Ballot. Nominations are open until the end of July.

Let your voice be heard, and have fun with it! (And let me know if you need some suggestions….)

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If you’re really not sure whether you’re eligible to nominate, the award by-laws define “exhibiting interest” using examples such as filking at SF&F conventions, attending filk conventions or “house sings,” taking part in related on-line forums, and just “discussing filk and filk related issues with other filkers.” So, if you read this whole post, you can probably claim to have exhibited interest and therefore would be qualified to participate in the Pegasus Award process. (However, this is just barracks lawyering and does not constitute legal advice or any official rules determination.)

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Admitting My Doubts

I feel a great kinship with two Bible characters in particular: Thomas, who asked for tangible proof of Jesus’s resurrection, and the man who wanted Jesus to heal his child but who confessed his doubts with the poignant, “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.”

So I wrote a song called “Help My Unbelief,” and put it on my Truths and Lies and Make-Believe album. Now, here’s a music video for it:

Hope you like it.

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And, because I neglected to mention it on the blog before now, a couple of weeks ago I put together a music video for one of the science-fiction-inspired songs from that album:

Hope you like it, too!

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Did You Know? Or Have You Not Heard?

This past weekend, some friends told me they had listened to Truths and Lies and Make-Believe while they were traveling recently, and wondered when I was going to do a new CD.

Truth to tell, I had hoped to record a new CD this year — I’ve got a few scratch tracks down, and some more songs I haven’t quite worked up. If I managed it, and could get it released before the end of the year, then I’d have completed a new CD every two years since the first one.

In the course of explaining that I don’t think I can make it happen this year, though, I realized that they didn’t know I already had a second CD out … even though it came out almost 18 months ago!

That’s how bad I am at self-promotion.

promotion
Have you heard? Did you know? (Image: “promotion,” by Platform4, on Flickr under Creative Commons.)

And that’s the reason for the question in the title. Did you know, or have you not heard, about these things? Then I really haven’t done my job, have I?

I try very hard not to beat people over the head with what I’ve done, but clearly I could do a little better when even my friends are unaware of new releases.

So now you know. It’d be great if you let someone else know, too!

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Monday Morning Insight: Fanfare

(Another in the continuing series of quotes to start the week.)

 

Today is U.S. composer Aaron Copland’s birthday (14 November 1900 – 2 December 1990). One of his most famous compositions was the “Fanfare for the Common Man,” which I first encountered when Emerson, Lake and Palmer recorded a version of it. It’s still one of my favorite pieces of music.

I found this Copland quote, and I like it very much:

So long as the human spirit thrives on this planet, music in some living form will accompany and sustain it.

Do you agree? I might delete the phrase “on this planet,” but otherwise I think he was right.

Do you find that “music in some living form” accompanies you during your days? Hardly a day goes by that I do not find a song in my head — and yes, sometimes one stays a bit too long.

Often, when all else is quiet, I compose and hum little snippets of music as I go about other chores, whether washing dishes or raking leaves or whatever. Sometimes I’ll stop and repeat those musical phrases a few times and think, “I should record that,” but I rarely do. I’ve come to appreciate those little interludes, and I think maybe God smiles at me during those moments when only He hears the little tunes.

Music guitar

(Image: “Music, guitar,” by Doug Wheller, on Flickr under Creative Commons.)

 

Thanks for spending a little time with me, and whatever you do this week, I hope some music will accompany you!

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P.S. Shameless plug: If you’re new here and don’t know about my music, please check out my Distorted Vision and Truths and Lies and Make-Believe albums.

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It’s Brainstorming Time Again

The “brainstorming” phase has begun for the annual Pegasus Awards for Excellence in Filking — i.e., writing and performing music often related to science fiction and fantasy. Anyone who has an interest in filk is considered part of the “filk community” and can contribute to brainstorming possible nominees, as well as nominate and vote for winners.

Pegasus Award Logo

(Pegasus Award Logo.)

 

Pegasus Awards are given out in four permanent categories, as well as two categories which rotate from year-to-year:

  • Best Filk Song — any filk song that has not previously won a Pegasus
  • Best Classic Filk Song — any well-known filk song at least 10 years old that has “entered filk community public consciousness”
  • Best Performer — any filk performer who has not won in the past 5 years
  • Best Writer/Composer — any writer/composer of filk songs who has not won in the past 5 years
  • 2016 Rotating Category: Best Adapted Song — which can include adapting or parodying a mundane song or a filk song, but can also mean adapting a poem or book
  • 2016 Rotating Category: Best Exploration Song — which includes songs about “finding out what’s Out There

If you’re not sure whether you’re really eligible to submit brainstorming ideas, the award by-laws define “exhibiting interest” using examples such as filking at SF&F conventions, attending filk conventions or “house sings,” taking part in related on-line forums, and just “discussing filk and filk related issues with other filkers.” So, if you made it this far in this post, you can probably claim to have exhibited interest and therefore would be qualified to participate in the Pegasus Award process.

If you have some favorites you’d like to suggest (and you can suggest as many as you can think of), fill out the Brainstorming Poll Form. There is space on the form for five suggestions in each category, but you’re allowed to fill out as many brainstorming forms as you like!

The nomination phase will start in the spring, and voting takes place in the late summer. The Pegasus Awards are awarded at (and administered by) the Ohio Valley Filk Fest in October.

So, start brainstorming! (And let me know if you need some suggestions….)

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Report from My First Filk Convention

Last weekend I failed miserably at being in two places at one time.

For several years, on the second weekend of January I’ve attended illogiCon, a fun little fan-run science fiction and fantasy convention in the Research Triangle; this year, however, I changed things up a little and attended GAFilk, the Georgia Filk Convention, in Atlanta. This was the first convention I’ve ever attended that was dedicated to filk, i.e., primarily to the music of fandom. I had a good time, but I found myself wishing I could’ve gone to both!

GAFilk is a “relaxacon,” and as such is a very low-key affair. Being a smallish convention, it was not divided into multiple programming tracks and did not offer a variety of simultaneous events. Almost everything took place in a single ballroom!


(L-R: Michael Longcor, GAFilk Guest of Honor, and yours truly, during “open filk.” Photo by Amber Hansford, used by permission.)

So, how did it go?

The Good. At most conventions, the best part is seeing friends that I only see a few times a year, and GAFilk was no different. In fact, I was quite pleased at seeing many friendly faces I recognized from other conventions. Also, it was nice to meet face-to-face some of the people I had previously interviewed on the Baen Free Radio Hour podcast.

The programming consisted primarily of concerts featuring the variety of guests, but a few other events were included. The opening ceremony on Friday night, for instance, include a champagne toast to the “Fannish New Year” and segued into an amusing “My Filk” game show that featured two competing panels and a variety of filk-related questions. My favorite game-within-the-game was “Second Line,” in which the emcee read the second line of a song and contestants got points if they could identify the song title, the performer, and/or the opening line.

The first concert featured Erin and Rand Bellavia, the “Con Committee’s Choice.” Rand is well-known as the co-founder of the band Ookla the Mok, and he and Erin put on a very good show. Actually, all of the concerts were quite good: toastmistress Judi Miller enlisted the aid of several friends during her show (as well as adding verve to almost all the proceedings with her enthusiastic American Sign Language interpretations); Interfilk guest Glen Raphael’s set included not only his original songs but also my favorite song from Carla Ulbrich’s latest album (viz., “Totally Average Woman”); and Guest of Honor Michael Longcor played a great set despite the distractions of Ms. Miller’s exuberant signing. “Super-Secret Guest” Elizabeth Moon’s concert was more of a reading and Q&A session, but was nevertheless delightful.

The “2 x 10” concert session was also enjoyable. Attendees signed up for 10-minute slots during which they presented 2 songs — hence the name. I signed up, too, and sang “A Ship With No Name” and “Another Romulan Ale”. And of course every night featured open filking into the wee hours of the morning!

The Not So Good. The worst part of GAFilk was the headache I developed on Saturday night. I blame the fact that I sat directly in front of and very close to the banquet band’s main speaker. Shortly after sitting down I wished I had brought my ear plugs with me (I always travel with them, but they were upstairs in my room), and shortly after eating I excused myself, returned to my room, took some medicine and tried to relax. My head was still hurting when I went to Elizabeth Moon’s “concert,” so I didn’t mind it being a low-key event. I went back upstairs and lay down for a bit after that, so I missed the auction, but I made myself go to the first hour or so of the open filk before I called it a night.

Also on the “not so good” side, though I suppose I should have expected it, was the emergence of the “Sad Puppies” controversy during Friday night’s open filking.* I’m not sure if the fellow at the other end of the filk circle knew, when he sang the line “they’re all bad writers,” that one of the SP3 authors was listening to him croon. (I was tempted to ask him how many of my published stories he’d read, and what specific flaws in them led him to the conclusion that I was a bad writer, but I demurred; I suspect I know the answer and it’s something less than one.) In the filk circle tradition of following a song with another in the same vein, two other people sang “Sad Puppy” songs after the first one, which I suppose I also should have expected. Again I didn’t make any sort of deal about it: I said nothing, just as I say nothing when, occasionally, I find other particular songs distasteful or objectionable. The artists are well within their rights to express themselves as they see fit.

There and Back Again. All told, GAFilk was a good experience and is a pleasant little convention. I’m more used to general conventions at which I have definite responsibilities (go to this room, at this time, to talk about this subject), so to a certain extent I failed at the kind of laid-back, low-stress attendance expected at a “relaxacon.” Despite my inability to relax into the event, for the most part I had a good time.

I wish I had the skill to be in multiple places at the same time, because then I wouldn’t be faced with the illogiCon-or-GAFilk question. The first is a general convention, a little over 6 miles from my house; the second is a specialized convention, a little over 6 hours away. Simply from a logistics standpoint, I suspect next year will find me staying closer to home; but, stranger things have happened!

Anyway, kudos to the Con Committee and all the volunteers for putting on a fine convention. If you’re looking for a low-key, music-oriented fan experience in early January, I encourage you to consider GAFilk!

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*No, I’m not going to take time in this post to explain what the controversy was (or is). Look up “2015 Hugo Awards,” or if you want my take on it read this post. I consider the horse dead, though beating it can be an enjoyable pastime.

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Blogging the New CD: W is for Winter

This is the final post in a series about the songs on my new CD, Distorted Vision.

The most intense winter I ever experienced was at Thule Air Base, Greenland. I was stationed there from July 2000 to July 2001, and had the privilege of commanding the largest tracking station in the Air Force Satellite Control Network and the pleasure of making friends with a lot of terrific people. Among other things, I got to stand on the Greenland ice cap, to visit Inuit hunting camps, and to swim in North Star Bay — while icebergs floated nearby!

So when my friend James Maxey asked me to write a song for a winter-themed event he was hosting, my thoughts immediately turned to what winter was like at the top of the world, only 750 miles from the North Pole.

I have been where the winter steals the sun for months on end
Where ice-laden winds blow blinding storms down to the frozen bay
And the solstice noon is midnight dark and the cold will not relent
And every soul despairs a little as the old year fades away

“Winter Simplifies the World”

Sled dogs on North Star Bay
The frozen bay, with Mount Dundas in the background. Thule Air Base is behind you as you look across the bay. (Image: “Sled dogs on North Star Bay,” by NASA ICE, on Flickr under Creative Commons.)

The song moves through sadness and loss and into determination and hope, because if we can hang on through the dark, cold night that seems as if it will never end, we can find love and joy when spring returns. And so I hope you can find something to like — or even something to relate to — in “Winter Simplifies the World”.

To paraphrase George R.R. Martin’s epic fantasy, winter is always coming. But spring is always coming, too.

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Finally, here’s a picture of where I used to work, taken in January 2007:


View of the Thule Tracking Station’s radomes that protect the ground antennas from the elements. Taken during the long Thule winter “night.” (USAF Image.)

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Blogging the New CD: T is for Ten Thousand

This is the penultimate post in a series about the songs on my new CD, Distorted Vision.

When I write filk songs, I sometimes mash together in one song different science fiction or fantasy stories, movies, or ideas. In “Ten Thousand Years Ago”, which is actually the first song on my new CD, I included references to Highlander, the first movie of that franchise; some key elements of Doctor Who; vampire stories in general, with allusions to one recent series in particular; and the first Harry Potter book, all in an attempt to create a funny song.

If I had been born 10 thousand years ago
At the dawn of civilization, one thing that I know
Is that if I had been born 10 thousand years ago …
I’d be dead by now

Unless, that is, I was immortal
Like that fellow in that movie where there could “be only one”
But I’m not a very good swordsman, so if I met the Spaniard or the Kurgan
I’m pretty sure I would be done

“Ten Thousand Years Ago”

Guilty Viewing Pleasures: Highlander
“If I met the Spaniard … I’m pretty sure I would be done.” (Image: “Guilty Viewing Pleasures: Highlander,” by Ingrid Richter, on Flickr under Creative Commons even though she probably didn’t have permission to reproduce the image either.)

When I first wrote this song, it consisted of just the chorus (and the time period was only 1000 years) — in other words, it started out as a simple joke, kind of a sung one-liner. Then I added the verse about Highlander, and decided to try to expand the song with other immortality or longevity references. The second verse I came up with, though, was about zombies; it seemed to work well enough when I sang the song at conventions, but when the time came to record the final vocals I decided I didn’t like that verse anymore. So the morning before I was going to record, I wrote a new second verse about Doctor Who. I like that verse, so I think the final recorded track turned out much better than that intermediate version.

But only you can decide if it’s truly funny. I hope “Ten Thousand Years Ago” gives you a chuckle!

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Blogging the New CD: P is for Parties

Ninth in a series of blog posts about the songs on my new CD, Distorted Vision.

The last event at many (most? all?) science fiction and fantasy conventions, after the dealers have packed up, the closing ceremonies have been adjourned, and most of the fans and guests have departed, is the “dead dog party.” That also happens to be the title of the last song on my new album:

The convention is almost over, it’ll soon be time to go home
Back to the mundane workaday world, where I sometimes feel so alone
When I make some remark about STAR TREK, or steampunk or robots or clones

“Dead Dog Party”

You may not be a convention-goer; I wasn’t, until fairly recently. I’ve been a science fiction and fantasy fan for most of my life, but I grew up “far from the madding crowd” and far from any conventions, and indeed did not start attending conventions regularly until I’d settled down after retiring from the Air Force. And because I came to fandom late, many times I’ve walked around a convention — especially a big convention like DragonCon — in wide-eyed wonder and with a degree of nervous trepidation, not unlike Gollum as seen here:

Gollum hanging out amongst party goers
(“Gollum Hanging Out Amongst Party Goers,” by Ariane M, on Flickr under Creative Commons.)

That said, for the most part I’ve been very pleased with how accepting and accommodating people in the SF&F community have been. Sure, at WorldCon in London in 2014 I felt a little out of place — even in the filk room, where the regulars pride themselves on being open and friendly — and this year’s awards controversy brought out the worst in a great many people and led to a lot of people being uncomfortable at a lot of conventions, but in general my fellow fans have welcomed me, made me feel at home, and become my friends.

Which is why I hope many (most? all?) fans can relate to the chorus:

All my friends in fandom understand the things that I like
No matter what I am into, they don’t think I’m out of my mind
So when I’m driving away, you might hear me say
That I can hardly wait ’til next time

“Dead Dog Party”

In many respects, then, this song is a tribute to fandom itself: fandom as it is, and maybe fandom as it should be. So regardless of whether you think of yourself as “fan” or “fen” or just “casual consumer,” and whether you’ve ever attended a convention or not, if you like science fiction and fantasy at all I hope “Dead Dog Party” resonates with you in some small way.

And if it does, I hope you’ll let me know.

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