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”!


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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”!

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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!

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*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!

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*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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Heading to ConCarolinas

Are you going to the convention this weekend? I am. Not too long after posting this, in fact.


(Love this badge logo from the 2010 ConCarolinas, by Bob Snare.)

ConCarolinas is always a great convention — “science fiction, Carolina style” — and this year it’s moved into a new facility in Concord (just north of Charlotte). My schedule on Friday is wide open, so after I set up my merchandise table I plan to drop in on a panel or two and eventually join the filk circle!

On Saturday, I’ve got several panels and events:

  • 10:00 a.m. Panel — Editors and Agents
  • 11:00 a.m. — Baen Books Traveling Road Show
  • 5:30 p.m. Panel — What’s An Award Worth?
  • 7:30 p.m. Panel — The Short of It
  • 11:30 p.m. Panel — The Problem of the Controversial

Sunday:

  • Early a.m. (usually 9:00) — Fans for Christ worship service — I’ll be leading the singing
  • 4:00 p.m. Panel — Do I Need A Writing Group?

If you’re going to the con, stop by and see me! I’ll tell you whatever you want to know about my new album, Distorted Vision, coming out this summer; you can sign up for my newsletter to get the latest info; you can snag a copy of my InterGalactic Medicine Show story, “Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust, Earth to Alluvium”; and of course you can also pick up a copy of Truths and Lies and Make-Believe as well as “Another Romulan Ale” and “Tauntauns to Glory” bumper stickers.

And if you’re not going to the convention, then I hope you have fun this weekend with whatever you get to do!

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Last Day for Pegasus Award ‘Brainstorming’ — Poll Closes Tonight

If you haven’t already submitted your ideas for what songs, composers, and performers should be considered for the Pegasus Awards for excellence in filking, you have until early Friday morning to do so!

Pegasus Award Logo

Unlike other awards, the Pegasus Award cycle begins with a wide-open “brainstorming” phase. (In this respect, the Hugo Awards may have something to learn from the Pegasus Awards; but, I digress.)

The Pegasus awards honor science fiction and fantasy-related music in these categories:

  • Best Filk Song
  • Best Classic Filk Song — a song at least 10 years old that has “entered filk community public consciousness”
  • Best Performer
  • Best Writer/Composer
  • 2015 Rotating Category: Best Adapted Song — “parodies, pre-existing lyrics set to new music (for example, setting a Kipling poem), or other material adapted to filk”
  • 2015 Rotating Category: Best Time-Related Song — “31st wedding anniversary gifts are timepieces. For OVFF’s 31st Anniversary we focus on anything related to time”

Anyone who has an interest in filk music — which most people think of as science fiction and/or fantasy-related music — is considered part of the “filk community” and can participate in brainstorming possible nominees, nominating, and voting. 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.”

Speaking of “discussing filk and filk related issues with other filkers,” last week on the Baen Free Radio Hour we released part 1 of a 2-part roundtable discussion about filk. Here’s the link to an MP3 of the podcast. We’ll release part 2 sometime in May.

All that being said, you can probably claim to have exhibited interest in filk just by reading this far in this post (for which, thank you!), and therefore would be qualified to participate in the Pegasus Award process. So if you have favorites you’d like to suggest, fill out the Brainstorming Poll Form. Note that there’s only space for five suggestions in each category, but you’re allowed to fill out as many brainstorming forms as you like. (I filled out two.) But you have to submit your suggestions soon — as in, today! The deadline is one minute after midnight tonight, Pacific Time, or around 3 a.m. tomorrow morning, Eastern Time.

The actual nomination phase to decide what goes on the ballot will start next month, when the brainstorming results are released, and then voting will take place later in the summer. Then the Pegasus Awards will be awarded at the Ohio Valley Filk Fest in October.

So … start your brainstorming! And finish it, quick!

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Related Posts:
The Pegasus Award Brainstorming Poll is Open!
In Case You’re Nominating for Any Awards This Year
What Do YOU Think is the Best Adapted Filk Song?
What Do YOU Think is the Best Time-Related Filk Song?

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Con of the Ravens … This Weekend in Richmond

This weekend I’ll be at the RavenCon science fiction and fantasy convention up in Virginia.

RavenCon is always a lot of fun, and I appreciate them inviting me back this year. Lots of my friends will be there, and I will be busy, as usual:

Friday:

  • 4 pm, Open Filking
  • 6 pm, Panel: Critiquing, The Right Way — I’m moderating this panel
  • 7 pm, Opening Ceremony
  • 8 pm, Workshop w/ Paula Jordan: After the First Draft

Saturday:

  • 10 am, Panel: How To (Not) Ruin Your Writing Career — I’m moderating this one, too
  • Noon, Reading — and singing, there will be singing
  • 4 pm, Baen Books Traveling Road Show

Sunday:

  • 10 am, Panel: Riding the National Security Coattails — Moderating again
  • Noon, Panel: Ten Books Representing 20th Century SF
  • 2 pm, Signing

As always, I will have copies of Truths and Lies and Make-Believe as well as “Another Romulan Ale” and “Tauntauns to Glory” bumper stickers. Stop by and say howdy!

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Evolution of An Album Cover

As we’re making progress on my new album, Distorted Vision — about which I’ll have more to say in the future — I thought some folks might be interested to see how the cover of Truths and Lies and Make-Believe came about. Just as I could not have recorded the album by myself, I could not have put the cover together without the help of some very skilled people!

First, here’s my original idea of what I wanted the cover to look like:

Truths Lies cover art mock-up

I made that image on PowerPoint, using a picture I found on the Internet and the poster idea I’d first used in flyers for the album. I wanted an old-timey feel to it, and something about the idea of putting up notices appealed to me. Eventually, instead of trying to do two rows of posters I decided to use a single row — primarily because it was less work!

With the concept in mind, I drove around town looking for different places where we might stage the scene. I found several candidate walls in wood and cement and brick, and talked to nearby vendors about whether we could put up posters on them. Ultimately I got permission from the Creative Images trophy and sign shop to use the wall and doorway on the side of their building.

I went frugal with the posters: I printed them at Staples in a couple of different sizes to see what would work, then had enough printed for the photo shoot. They were printed on white paper that I “antiqued” with tea — specifically, a mix of black tea and some raspberry tea for a little reddish tint. (The tint comes through a little on the color versions of the photos — you can see a few of them on my web site.) To hang the posters, I mixed up batches of wheatpaste from a recipe I found on the web.

My photographer for the day was Paul Cory, who had recruited several ladies to be passers-by and observers in the pictures of me putting up the posters. I had recruited my daughter Stephanie as well, and in addition to her we had a lady Jedi, a “steampunk pirate,” and the comic book character The Question. You can see them on the inside of the CD cover, like this:

The original color version of that image, without the “postcard” effect, is one of the backgrounds on my web site.

Here’s the final cover design, as put together by my son Christopher:

I think it turned out to be a great realization of my original concept. And I very much appreciate everyone who helped make it a reality!

You can see all the cover images, inside and outside, on the album’s Bandcamp page.

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P.S.  I adapted this blog post from an article sent previously to my newsletter subscribers. If you’d like to receive my every-so-often newsletter, fill out the form here.

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