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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Blogging the New CD: M is for Mercenary Maxims

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

So, do you read Schlock Mercenary?

If not, some background: Schlock Mercenary is a space opera webcomic by Howard Tayler about the exploits of a 31st-century band of mercenaries known as “Tagon’s Toughs,” of whom the most dangerous — and arguably the most entertaining — is the nearly indestructible carbosilicate amorph, Sergeant Schlock.*


Sergeant Schlock with a guitar! Howard’s caption: “I suppose this means Schlock knows how to look like he knows how to play the guitar.” I can relate! (2012 image from Howard Tayler’s blog.)

One of the references that the Toughs use in the series is a collection of aphorisms known as the The Seventy Maxims of Maximally Effective Mercenaries. When I decided that I wanted to write a Schlock Mercenary-based filk song, the maxims seemed like the perfect source material. I enjoyed the challenge of incorporating, sometimes paraphrasing, and arranging different maxims into verses so they could be sung and also still make sense.

Here’s verse one:

The maxims are better far than doctrine
They make more sense and are easier to learn
They’re all about fighting smart instead of harder
And they start with the simplest: Pillage, then burn

You know that any Sergeant who’s in motion
Outranks a Lieutenant who doesn’t know what’s going on
But an ordnance technician moving at a dead run
Should be followed because he outranks everyone

“The Maxims of Maximally Effective Mercenaries”

That first verse has only 3 maxims in it (numbers 1, 2, and 3, to be precise), but in the succeeding verses I fit in 13 more. That’s one reason why the song is called “The Maxims …” and not “The Seventy Maxims …” — because there was no way to fit in any more and keep the song a reasonable length!

Before I recorded the song, I sent the draft lyrics to Howard and his wife Sandra (whom I have known longer since we are both members of the Codex online writing group), and I was pleased that they accepted my tribute in good humor. You can listen to the final version and see if you think it’s a fitting tribute to the webcomic.

I hope you like the song, and Schlock Mercenary itself!

___
*Described on the Wikipedia page as having “no easily definable limbs, organs, or moral compass.” (And, speaking of Wikipedia, some enterprising Wiki editor might want to edit that page to add a reference to a particular tribute song ….)

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Blogging the New CD: F is for a Faded Coat

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

If you don’t know who the Browncoats are … well, you will after reading this post.

My brave lad sleeps in his faded coat of brown.
In a lonely grave unknown lies a heart of love renowned.
He sank faint and hungry among the famished brave,
And they laid him sad and lonely within his nameless grave.

“The Faded Coat of Brown”

In the future envisioned in the TV show Firefly and its follow-on movie Serenity, the Union of Allied Planets (“the Alliance”) fought a civil war — and in some ways a war of pacification — against the independence movement that came to be identified with the brown coats its members wore. The captain of Serenity, Malcolm Reynolds, fought with the Independents along with his first mate Zoe, and they both maintain a fierce independent streak throughout the show.


The most famous Browncoat of all, Malcolm Reynolds (Nathan Fillion). Image from The Firefly and Serenity Database.

The idea for this song came from outside of Firefly, however, because it’s an adaptation of an 1865 song called “The Faded Coat of Blue” — a song that evokes the anguish of a parent whose son never returned from the Civil War. I don’t recall when I first had the notion of changing every “blue” in the original song to “brown” (which necessitated changing all of the accompanying rhymes) but it seemed as if it would make a fitting tribute. And not only a fitting tribute, but that it could make sense in the context of the Firefly milieu.

One aspect of the future that crept into different episodes of the series is the recollection of “Earth that was” — the past planetary home from which humanity spread out. It seemed to me that some of the music of the distant past might survive, and that some resistance fighter might adopt an old song to reflect the struggles and sacrifices of a new war. And I thought it might not matter that the original song was written about a Union soldier rather than a Rebel, because the sacrifices are similar on both sides.

No more the bugle calls the weary one.
Rest, noble spirit, in thy grave unknown.
I’ll find you and know you when the final trumpet sounds
And a robe of white is given for the faded coat of brown.

“The Faded Coat of Brown”

I hope I maintained the poignancy of the original, even as I adapted it to the fictional universe of Firefly. You can decide for yourself if you listen to “The Faded Coat of Brown”. I hope you like it.

___

One last note: Many Browncoat fan groups around the country sponsor showings of Serenity and other events to raise money for charity. I hope they like the song, too!

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Blogging the New CD: E is for Ender

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

E is for Ender — Andrew “Ender” Wiggin — the boy genius turned military commander in Orson Scott Card’s novel Ender’s Game. Faced with the disorientation of zero gravity during Battle School, Ender devised a simple way to orient himself and his troops during the battle “game” — he began thinking of the objective (the gate by which the opposing force would enter the Battle Room) as “down.” Thus, in the Battle Room, “the enemy’s gate is down.”

The enemy lurks in the endless sky
And gave us no choice but to win or die
But justice will not be denied
The enemy’s gate is down, the enemy’s gate is down, down, down

“The Enemy’s Gate is Down”


Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card.

The novel Ender’s Game got me back into reading science fiction after a long hiatus.

When I was a mid-grade captain in the USAF, stationed at Vandenberg AFB, one of the lieutenants in our unit suggested I read Ender’s Game. For several years almost all of my off-duty reading had been either school- or military-related, and I did little pleasure reading despite having been an avid science fiction reader before college.

Reading Ender’s Game, I realized what I had been missing.

I still had other reading to do, but gradually I added more science fiction and fantasy to my off-duty reading. My wife and I began reading some SF&F classics to one another on long trips — Starship Troopers on one trip, for instance, and then when our children were old enough that they would listen we read The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and the Harry Potter novels.

Gradually I also added more Orson Scott Card novels to my shelves. I don’t remember how long it was before I realized that I had first encountered his fiction in Omni magazine, back when I had been one of that magazine’s earliest subscribers.

When I was stationed in Greenland, for a brief period of time I was part of an online writing group that OSC sponsored on his website. I learned a good bit from the experience, and during that assignment I wrote my first novel. (After many rejections I got an offer on it from a small publisher, but did not proceed with the deal — a story for another day.)

In 2003 I attended OSC’s writing workshop at UNC-Greensboro, where I found out a lot of what I had done wrong in that first novel. Then in 2004 he selected me as one of the students for his Literary Boot Camp, held that year at Southern Virginia University in Buena Vista, Virginia. I learned so much during that week that I still haven’t put into practice, but I have seen some small success with my short fiction since selling my first story in 2007 and making my first “professional” sale in 2010.

So not only because the novel got me back into reading SF&F, but because it rejuvenated my long-comatose dream of writing and publishing my own stories, being able to do a song based on Ender’s Game meant a lot to me. (Where that dream morphed into writing and publishing songs, I’m not sure; I guess I needed another hobby.)

Anyway, in the song I wanted a martial beat to capture the battle feel and I tried to compose words that would reflect the difficulties of fighting an implacable enemy in order to protect those we hold dear.

There are times when you fight, win however you can
The price you pay is your soul … piece by piece by piece
It’s a pittance to offer, for your fellow man
To guard those we love and treasure while they peacefully sleep

And in the final chorus, I change the focus from the determination we must have to face the enemy to the price we pay in doing so.

The price of freedom is always high
We pay it when we kill, and we’ll pay it if we die
But we pay it for the futures of those we left behind
The enemy’s gate is down, the enemy’s gate is down, down, down

If I’d been more forward-thinking, I would have written and released the song to coincide with the release of the movie. But my sense of timing has never been that good.

Anyway, whether you’ve read Ender’s Game (or seen the movie) or not, and even if you can’t relate to the feelings expressed in the song, I hope you like “The Enemy’s Gate is Down”!


___

One final note: Both the first chorus and the second chorus include subtle, if not downright obscure, homages to renowned science fiction authors. Can you pick them out?

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Blogging the New CD: B is for Baen

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

Shortly after I finished up my first album I started writing a tribute song about Baen Books. I’ve been quite pleased to work as a Contributing Editor for Baen for many years now, and I’m equally pleased to include this song on my new album.

We’ve got Weber, Drake, and Ringo, and Correia and Bujold
Some of the finest stories that you’ve ever been told
Lackey, Flint and Kratman, Spencer and Van Name — look for the
Dragon and the rocket ship, on the books we call Baen

“The Books we Call Baen”

One of the tricky things about this song is that I used an existing tune, and one that Firefly fans in particular will recognize: “The Hero of Canton.” Since “Baen” is pronounced “bane,” it seemed natural to adapt the phrase “the man they call Jayne” into “the books we call Baen.”

The difficulty came when I started trying to fit the names of various authors into the chorus. If perhaps you don’t recognize all the authors’ names in the chorus, they’re David Weber, David Drake, John Ringo, Larry Correia, Lois McMaster Bujold, Mercedes Lackey, Eric Flint, Tom Kratman, Wen Spencer, and Mark Van Name. It was a fun challenge, though, and I like the way it turned out!

Also, if you’re not sure what I mean by “the dragon and the rocket ship,” take a close look at the Baen logo:

In the negative space of the plume of that launching spaceship, you’ll see the profile of a dragon. Thus the logo itself captures both the science fiction and fantasy sides of the publishing house.

Using an existing tune caused me some additional problems. Since I hadn’t written a parody of the original song, I needed to get permission to record the new song, and that proved to be quite the adventure. “The Hero of Canton” was written by Firefly producer Ben Edlund, and I tried several different avenues of trying to get in touch with him — trying to send a message via the man who played Jayne, Adam Baldwin, for instance, and asking Sean Maher (who played Simon Tam) when I saw him at MystiCon in Roanoke. I began to despair of success, but in May I finally achieved a breakthrough in contact. Even though Mr. Edlund said he wasn’t completely sure he could grant me the right to record it, he gave his blessing to the effort — and that was enough for me.

My first version of the song included an extended ending chorus with the names of additional authors, but between the time I wrote it and the time I was recording the song we added several new authors to the Baen family — and since some of them were friends of mine, I didn’t want to leave them out! So began a quick rewrite of that extended chorus in order to shoehorn more names in.

I know I still left out some authors — I hate to think how long the song would be if I tried to include every author in our catalog — but the final chorus now mentions Chuck Gannon, Dave Freer, Michael Z. Williamson, Frank Chadwick, Ben Bova, Sarah Hoyt, Ryk Spoor, Tony Daniel, Sharon Lee, Steve Miller, Jody Lynn Nye, David B. Coe, Steve White, Brad Torgersen, Catherine Asaro, Timothy Zahn, Travis Taylor, Elizabeth Moon, Robert Buettner, Mike Resnick, Eric James Stone, Steve Stirling, John Lambshead, Les Johnson, Anne McCaffrey, Jerry Pournelle, Andre Norton, Larry Niven, Harry Turtledove, and Robert A. Heinlein. And even though I mostly only mention their last names, that’s still a lot of syllables to put together!

As you might imagine, there are a few “in jokes” in the song, but even if you have no idea who Joe Buckley is or what an eARC is, I hope you’ll smile and sing along to “The Books We Call Baen”!

___

Reminder: I’m playing a concert as part of the Dragon Con Filk Track, this Sunday the 6th of September at 4 p.m. in the Hyatt Regency’s Baker Room. Come out and see me!

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Next Weekend: Dragon Con! Here’s My Concert & Event Schedule

It’s almost Labor Day weekend, and that means I’ll be heading to Atlanta for another Dragon Con! I look forward to a nice, quiet, relaxing time … with about 60 or 70 thousand of my closest friends!

Actually, since Dragon Con is (so far as I know) the largest general science fiction and fantasy convention in the Southeast, I’m sure it will be its typical exciting, exhausting but ultimately rewarding time. I’m particularly grateful to my friend Alethea Kontis and the folks on the Dragon Con Filk Track who have invited me to perform at various times through the weekend.

Here’s how the convention is shaping up for me:

Friday:

  • 2:30 p.m. — Meet, Greet, Filk — Baker Room, Hyatt (tentative)
  • 5:30 p.m. — Filk & Cookies — Baker Room, Hyatt (tentative)
  • 7:00 p.m. — Princess Alethea’s Traveling Sideshow with Alethea Kontis, Leanna Renee Hieber, Lisa Mantchev, Delilah S. Dawson, Zac Brewer, and David B. Coe (D.B. Jackson) — A707, Marriott
  • 11:30 p.m. — Open Filking — Baker Room, Hyatt

On Saturday, I should get to be a “fan” for part of the time — go to concerts or panels or the Art Show — and maybe even watch some football when I’m not in the Dealer’s Room (where our Baen Books authors will be signing at the Missing Volume bookstore); and if possible I’ll make an appearance at:

  • 2:30 p.m. — InstaFilk — Baker Room, Hyatt (tentative)
  • 11:30 p.m. — Open Filking — Baker Room, Hyatt

Sunday is my busiest day:

  • 1:00 p.m. — Baen Books Traveling Road Show and Prize Patrol! — art, previews, and free books! — Regency Ballroom V, Hyatt
  • 4:00 p.m. — Solo Concert! — Baker Room, Hyatt
  • 5:30 p.m. — Match Game, a fannish version of the TV game show, with Van Allen Plexico, Melinda M. Snodgrass, and Teresa Patterson — Embassy Ballroom A-B, Hyatt
  • 11:30 p.m. — Open Filking — Baker Room, Hyatt

That’s right: as soon as the Baen Road Show is over, I’ll be giving a concert featuring music from my new CD, Distorted Vision, as well as favorites from Truths and Lies and Make-Believe — and more! I plan to have CDs with me wherever I go, as well as “Anti-Candidate,” “Another Romulan Ale” and “Tauntauns to Glory” bumper stickers, so flag me down if you want one!

If you’re going, I hope we’ll get a chance to chat. If you’re not going, or if we simply don’t find each other, you can always sign up for my newsletter to get the latest info on my different projects.

Have fun storming the convention!

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Release Day! DISTORTED VISION is Now Available!

Almost 2 years to the day since I released Truths and Lies and Make-Believe, here comes my second musical collection, Distorted Vision.


(Album cover photography and design by Christopher Rinehart. Click to go to the Bandcamp page, to listen to or purchase the album.)

Like its predecessor, Distorted Vision is another collection of songs mostly inspired by or referencing science fiction and fantasy, as well as songs about the marvels and misfortunes of life itself. I consider it to be a second helping of “truths and lies and make-believe.”

Where T&L&MB had ten all-original tunes, this new album has eleven songs, including two which use existing tunes. I intend to write a series of posts examining each song on its own, but here’s the running order with a few basic notes:

All the above links go to Bandcamp, which is the only place the album is available at this time. At Bandcamp you can listen to the songs, purchase a download of individual songs or the whole album, and order a physical CD for me to send to you (and, yes, I ship them myself).* I will make the album available on CD Baby soon, and from there it will be available on Amazon and other outlets — and the songs themselves will be available for streaming.

If you never listened to Truths and Lies and Make-Believe,** but you’ve heard me play guitar and are a little leery of how these songs might sound, let me assure you that just like the first album I did not actually play any of the instruments on this one. My friend Mark Minervino was once again the studio musician par excellence, and also engineered and mixed the songs, and my friend Brian Ceccarelli of Talus Music mastered the CD so the sound quality would be uniform. I couldn’t have done this album, or the last one, without them!

So if this sort of thing interests you, or if you’re just curious, or even if you just want to humor me, I hope you’ll give it a listen — and that maybe you’ll find something you like enough to buy! And if you know someone else who might appreciate it, by all means send them a link to the album or to this blog post.

Thanks, I hope you like what you hear, and let me know what you think!

___
*Note that physical CDs won’t ship until close to the end of the month. Sorry!
**Really? It’s been out for 2 years, and you haven’t listened to it yet?

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Cover Reveal: DISTORTED VISION

The new CD is almost ready! So, offered for your consideration, here’s the front cover:


(Click for larger version.)

And here’s the back cover:


(Click for larger version.)

The photography and cover design are by my son, Christopher Rinehart.

The album was recorded at Stormghost Studio, Cary, NC, and MKM Studios, Scarborough, ME; engineered and mixed by Mark Minervino at MKM Studios, Scarborough, ME; and mastered by Brian Ceccarelli at Talus Music, Apex, NC.

I’ll be releasing the electronic album later this week, and physical CDs will be available shortly thereafter.

Stay tuned!

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Are You a Science Fiction Fan? Will You be Voting?

If the title isn’t clear enough, and the logo below didn’t show up, I’m referring to voting for the Hugo Awards rather than voting for the Cary Town Council. Being on one ballot was not enough for me!

(In fact, if you want to put me on a third ballot, you can nominate any of my filk songs for a Pegasus Award. Hahaha!)

Hugo Award Logo

But, insofar as the Hugo Awards go, the deadline is fast approaching for getting our votes in, as was recently pointed out by perhaps the biggest name in fantasy literature these days, George R.R. Martin.

The deadline is in fact the 31st of July — one day past the deadline for Pegasus nominations, haha! — and if you’re a member of the World SF Convention you should have gotten your Voter Packet and instructions weeks ago. If you’re not a member but you still want to vote, there’s just a little time left for you to purchase a Supporting Membership* and participate in the process.

In the blog post linked above, Mr. Martin noted that so far more than 2300 ballots have been cast. He asks,

Who are all these new Supporting Members? Are they trufans rallying to the defense of one of our field’s oldest and most cherished institutions? Are they Sad Puppies, Rabid Puppies, Happy Kittens, Gamergaters? Are those dreaded SJWs and ASPs and CHORFs turning out by the hundreds and the thousands? Are these the Neo-Nazis and right-wing reactionaries we have been warned of? The truth is… no one knows. We may get a clue when the ballots are opened and counted, but even then, the numbers may well just say, “Answer cloudy, ask again.”

If you’re not familiar with all the lingo in there, count yourself lucky. And if you’re undecided about voting or what to vote for, bear in mind Heinlein’s admonition:

If you are part of a society that votes, then do so. There may be no candidates and no measures you want to vote for … but there are certain to be ones you want to vote against. In case of doubt, vote against. By this rule you will rarely go wrong.

So, vote! Even if you vote against me.

As for that other democratic process, we’ll have more to say in the coming weeks. Stay tuned!

___
*A Supporting Membership costs $40, for which you get electronic copies of several of the nominated works (e.g., Best Novel) with which to make an informed decision.

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