I’m Going to be on the Radio

Today — Monday April 28th — I will be one of the guests on a special “North Carolina Speculative Fiction” edition of Carolina Book Beat.

(Image from http://carolinabookbeat.com/.)

I suspect we will talk about submissions and stories and such, and chances are good that there will be music of some sort involved ….

The show will air at 10 a.m., and is a special 2-hour installment. Tune in to WCOM at 103.5 FM!

If you don’t live in the Research Triangle area, you can listen to the webcast at www.wcomfm.org. And I believe you can pick up the podcast here if you want to listen to it at your leisure.

Should be fun!

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On My Last Day at NCSU-IES, Here’s a Song

Today is my last day on the Industrial Extension Service staff, and it seemed appropriate to mark the day with the first “workplace ‘filk'” I wrote there, simply entitled “The I-E-S Song.”

I started in January 2008 as primarily the speechwriter for the Executive Director, and I filled my time between speeches with other — primarily marketing-related — writing and editing assignments. But along the way I had the opportunity to do a few unique and interesting things:

  • Planned the logistics for the statewide “Manufacturing Makes It Real” Tour in 2010 (which became the still-extant MMIR Network)
  • Got some of the “Made in North Carolina” products we collected into the NC Museum of History
  • Helped start the short-lived NC Aerospace Initiative in 2009-10
  • Produced the “Manufacturing Minute” series of videos in 2012-13

And along the way I wrote a few songs: “The I-E-S Song” in 2008; “The Economic Recovery Blues” and “Oh, How I Hate Groupwise” in 2009; “The 1B4NC Song,” “We Know Manufacturing Makes It Real” in 2010; “If You Want to Get Better” and “The Old, Old Days of Industry” in 2011; and “Dirty, Sexy Manufacturing” in 2012.

Note that none of my work-related songs made it onto my album, Truths and Lies and Make-Believe. The audience for my music is already pretty small, but the audience for workplace songs in particular is tiny.

Anyway, I wrote a little rhyme to mark my departure, too.

It’s been fun
I had a good run
And now I’m done.

Fare thee (or, fare me) well.

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Frank Zappa, “Weird Al” Yankovich, and Me

Now THERE’S a headline I never thought I’d write, and I get to do it courtesy of Dr. Demento!

Weird Al and Dr. Demento
(“Weird Al” Yankovich and Dr. Demento. Photo by Genevieve, from Flickr under Creative Commons.)

I felt as if I was levitating when I learned that two — not one, but TWO — of my songs had been played on The Dr. Demento Show since the beginning of the year. (Sure, since then other things have brought me down, but when I think about this it still puts a smile on my face.)

“Another Romulan Ale” seems like an appropriate song for New Year’s, and Dr. Demento played it on his first show of 2014. And, sure enough, Frank Zappa and “Weird Al” Yankovich were on the playlist — along with Cheech & Chong and Bob Dylan. Quite a group!

Then on the 1st of March the Dr. did a show focusing on music related to science fiction:

This week Dr Demento presents The History of Science Fiction in Song…from “Stardrek” and “Banned from Argo” to “Tauntauns to Glory” in 80 minutes…plus “We Won’t Give ‘Em Sex,” “Winestoned Plowboy,” “There’s a Baby On the Plane”, more.

Folks familiar with science fiction and fantasy music (a.k.a. “filk”) know that “Banned from Argo” is arguably the most famous filk song of all time. So it’s one thing for Dr. Demento to decide to play “Tauntauns to Glory,” but for him to list it in the show description in the same breath as “Banned from Argo” … that took this whole experience over the line into surrealism, even before I realized I was on the playlist again with “Weird Al,” this time plus Devo, Nat “King” Cole, Frank Hayes, and Leslie Fish.

So, yeah, good times!

If you like “Romulan Ale” or “Tauntauns” or some of the other songs from Truths and Lies and Make-Believe, and think Dr. Demento should play more of them, he has a song request form you can fill out. That would be cool, or I’d be much obliged if you would post a review on Amazon or iTunes or CD Baby or elsewhere. That would be awesome!

Meanwhile, as the Dr. would say, stay “deeeee-mented”!

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A Quick (Late) Report-Out on MystiCon

Wow, it’s already been more than a week since MystiCon! I can’t keep track of the days these days.

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago I trekked northwest to Roanoke, Virginia, for MystiCon, which in just a few years has become one of the hottest small convention tickets in the Southeast. The 2013 convention sold out during the event, and the 2014 convention sold out before it even started!

All of my panels went well. Author Guest of Honor Todd McCaffrey led a half-dozen of us through a humorous “Delphic Oracle” exercise in which we had to formulate answers to the audience’s questions but each of us could only say one word at a time. The “Science of Star Trek” panel I moderated covered a vast array of real and imaginary technology, though I was disappointed that Media Guest of Honor John De Lancie had not been scheduled to join us.

My reading was enjoyable for me, and presumably for my audience since they did not run screaming into the hallways. I mixed a few songs with the opening of my story “Lightweaver in Shadow,” which will appear in a Baen Books anthology this November. The Baen Traveling Road Show went as expected, though I wished it would have had a look at the cover art for that anthology.

The Baen Barflies organized a little soiree in the ConSuite on Saturday night, and Speaker-to-Lab-Animals invited me to bring my guitar — so I debuted my new song, “The Books We Call Baen” (sung to the tune of “The Hero of Canton”). It went over pretty well, and I followed up with a couple other filk songs including “The Monster Hunter Ballad.”

I had time to take in a couple of panels, including a songwriting panel with Bella Morte, and enjoyed several conversations with friends old and new. Finally, I found Sunday’s self-promotion panel to be interesting and a bit liberating, since I still cringe from time to time whenever I veer too close to crass commercialization.

Speaking of crass commercialization … I also sold a few copies of my CD. So, all in all, a good trip and another resounding success for the convention staff. Great work, everyone!

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My MystiCon Schedule

Next week I’ll head to Roanoke, Virginia for the MystiCon science fiction and fantasy convention.

On Friday, 21 February, I’ll be on a panel called “The Delphic Oracle” with author Guest of Honor Todd McCaffrey and some other good folks.

The Delphic Oracle is an improv-based panel wherein the panelists, one word at a time, one person at a time, answer the audience’s questions about the future (or summer camp) in an irreverent homage to the ancient Oracle of Delphi. Hilarity invariably ensues.

Saturday the 22nd will be a busy day. First up is “The Science of Star Trek” panel, with Baen Books author and editor Tony Daniel, et al, which I will moderate.

Star Trek props and gadgets are now a part of our real lives. You can see the influence of Star Trek communicators, daily logs and tricorders in the modern cell phone and tablet designs. Even the ability to replicate objects is becoming a reality through 3-D printing. Why has Star Trek influenced technological advances and what’s the next to become reality?

After that I’ll have a “Koffee Klatch” — reading a story, singing a song, talking with anyone who comes by — then in the afternoon we’ll have the “Baen Traveling Road Show & Podcast” featuring author Tom Kratman.

On Sunday I’ll be on a panel with Gail Z. Martin and other authors called “Tooting Your Own Horn.”

Done properly, self-promotion is an important part of building a career. Poorly executed, self-promotion can do more harm than good. Our panelists will discuss what works and doesn’t work along with these common questions: Do book signings really help a small author? Are bookmarks and/or postcards effective at garnering attention? Does a blog help or hurt an author? Does an author have to have a website?

Hopefully amidst all that we’ll have some folks interested in filking, and as always I’ll have a few copies of my CD for anyone who wants to buy one (or more than one!). And, since it looks as if we’re due for a warm-up over the next few days, my travel back-and-forth should be fairly easy.

If you’re going to be at the con, look me up!

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More Podcast Plays

Last Friday my Lord of the Rings-inspired song, “Mortal Men,” was played on the Baen Free Radio Hour, and two weeks before that the podcast included my song, “Steampunk Pirates.”

(Image: “Steam Monocle,” by -=Kip=-, on Flickr under Creative Commons.)

If you want to listen:

BFRH 2014 02 07: Sharon Lee and Steve Miller, David Weber’s Shadow of Freedom Part 47
Sharon Lee and Steve Miller discuss A Liaden Universe® Constellation Volume 2; “Mortal Men,” a song from Gray Rinehart; and David Weber’s Shadow of Freedom Part 47

BFRH 2014 01 24: Ring of Fire author Iver P. Cooper, David Weber’s Shadow of Freedom Part 45
Ring of Fire alternate history series author Iver P. Cooper discusses his new novel 1636: Seas of Fortune; Gray Rinehart’s “Steampunk Pirates”; and David Weber’s Shadow of Freedom Part 45

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So, What is a ‘Related Work,’ Anyway?

A few days ago, when I posted a reminder about nominating and voting for the Hugo Awards,* a friend asked if my album was eligible in the “Best Related Work” category.

Gray Rinehart presents Truths and Lies and Make-Believe
(Image by Paul Cory Photography.)

The answer, I’m afraid, is no.

At first glance it seemed as if Truths and Lies and Make-Believe (or one of the songs) might be eligible, since most of the songs on the album are science fiction or fantasy-related. The World Science Fiction Society constitution defines “Best Related Work” as

Any work related to the field of science fiction, fantasy, or fandom, appearing for the first time during the previous calendar year or which has been substantially modified during the previous calendar year, and which is either non-fiction or, if fictional, is noteworthy primarily for aspects other than the fictional text, and which is not eligible in any other category.

“Any work related to the field” might seem to include music, but I don’t usually think of music as “non-fiction” or “fictional.” So I looked around some more and found that over at the Hugo Awards site, the category description adds this:

The type of works eligible include, but are not limited to, collections of art, works of literary criticism, books about the making of a film or TV series, biographies and so on, provided that they do not qualify for another category.

By “collections of art,” they seem to mean printed volumes of visual art — collections of music or other arts apparently need not apply. There is that magic “not limited to” phrase, though, and the award is no longer limited to printed books, having gone last year to the Writing Excuses podcast that some of my friends put together. The Wikipedia entry explains the history.

The award was originally titled the Hugo Award for Best Non-Fiction Book and was first awarded in 1980. In 1999 the Award was retitled to the Hugo Award for Best Related Book, and eligibility was officially expanded to fiction works that were primarily noteworthy for reasons besides their fictional aspects. In 2010, the title of the award was again changed, to the Hugo Award for Best Related Work.

Looking over the list of nominees and winners, it appears that science fiction and fantasy music — known in the community as “filk” — has never been considered as a “related work” for the purpose of the award. Which makes me wonder what would happen if enough fans put in nominations for music, since the Hugos are fan-based awards; since the award is no longer limited to printed works, would the Hugo committee honor those nominations, or would they disqualify them? Unfortunately, I don’t have enough fans to test that hypothesis in the manner of Larry Correia’s Sad Puppies Campaign.

So, strictly speaking, neither my album nor my songs would be considered “related works.” But if you decide to write in one of my songs anyway, let me know!

*Want to Nominate and Vote for the Hugo Awards?

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Want to Brainstorm about the Pegasus Awards?

Okay, music fans, what do you think the best SF&F music of 2013 was?

Pegasus Award Logo

The awards cycle has started for the annual Pegasus Awards, which honor science fiction and fantasy-related music. Unlike other awards, the Pegasus Award cycle begins with a wide-open “brainstorming” phase.

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

  • 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
  • 2014 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
  • 2014 Rotating Category: Best Song of Passage — which can relate to any kind of passage (e.g., passage to adulthood or some other life stage, travel, etc.)

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

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. So if you have a favorite you’d like to suggest, fill out the Brainstorming Poll Form. There’s only space 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.

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illogiCon Wrap-Up

It took longer than anticipated to recover from illogiCon, because it was such an enjoyable convention. It took longer than expected to post this wrap-up, too — no excuse!

(At dinner with many of my writing friends. I’m the one in the hat. Photo courtesy of James Maxey.)

As with other conventions, the best part was hanging out with my friends. illogiCon featured two Guests of Honor, Mary Robinette Kowal and Lawrence M. Schoen, both of whom are terrific folks, as well as many of our local North Carolina authors who are among my favorite people in the world.

But, holy moly, illogiCon was BUSY!

On day one of the convention, last Friday, I was on two panels: one a serious discussion about how technologies such as robotics and smartphones are impacting our lives, and then “Lies With Words,” in which GOH Lawrence Schoen led five of us through a game similar to Balderdash. (Yours truly came in third; Baen Books author Mark Van Name took the prize.) The evening ended, as most of my convention evenings do, with filk — though the filking was pretty subdued.

Saturday was a whirlwind of activity in more ways than one. First was a panel discussion about whether social media and rapid communication are fragmenting society into “A Million Nations,” followed by an enjoyable discussion about science fiction from the perspective of social scientists. A few of my friends came to my reading, which was followed by a recording of the Baen Free Radio Hour — though right about that time we had two tornado warnings in quick succession! (The storm was close enough that it damaged trees just up the street from my house.) Once things calmed down, and after the podcast recording, we put on the Baen Books Travelling Roadshow, after which I had a delightful dinner with my friends (as seen above). I split the rest of the evening between attending other friends’ events, visiting with folks in the lounge, and finally more filking.

Sunday started with a panel that examined “Hard SF vs. Soft SF,” and ended with a discussion of “New Trends in Speculative Fiction.” In between I again attended some of my friends’ events, and afterward I came home and, frankly, crashed pretty hard.

I think I went to work on Monday, but I don’t remember much of it. But that’s probably another indication that illogiCon was a pretty good convention!

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If You Come to illogiCon, This is What I’ll Be Doing

illogiCon, the Research Triangle area’s science fiction and fantasy convention, will convene next weekend for its third installment.

(The illogiCon mascot, “Professor Schrodington.”)

Subtitled “The Search for Schrodington’s Gold” in honor of its mascot, pictured above, illogiCon is a small, fan-run convention being held here in Cary at the Embassy Suites Raleigh-Durham/Research Triangle. The guests of honor this year are my writing friends Mary Robinette Kowal and Lawrence M. Schoen, and many of my other writing friends will be part of the convention, too.

I’ll be on several panels, and will also present a reading (which in my case is always a “singing,” too):

Friday, January 10th

  • 4:00 PM — Our Cyborg Futures…Today! Paralyzed veterans are now starting to test exoskeletons that allow them to walk again. Robotic hands are becoming more nimble, robotic legs more responsive and balanced. On a more subtle level, smartphones today can augment human brains and bodies in fundamental functions such as managing hunger and sleep, and expand intelligence in ways unimaginable just a few decades ago. Are we living in the dawn of the age of machine-men? (With James Maxey and Justin Andrews.)
  • 9:00 PM — Lies With Words: The panelists are given a list of obscure and/or obsolete words in advance. All but one of them composes a false definition of the word, long or short, simple or complex, as they please. One panelist has the true definition. Can the audience tell which is which? Points are Awarded to each panelist for every audience member who buys into his/her lie. (Hosted by Lawrence M. Schoen. Other panelists: Mark Van Name, Michael Williams, Ed Schubert, and Bill Ferris.)
  • 10:00 PM — Open Filk

Saturday, January 11th

  • 11:00 AM — A Million Nations:: There was a time when where you lived was the primary determining factor of the culture you were raised in. But with the interconnectivity of the modern era, many of us get to build virtual neighborhoods of friends to socialize with online while never needing to bother with learning the names of people living next door in the real world. Is there anything resembling a common culture anymore? Or do we face a future of ever increasing cultural fragmentation as humanity sorts itself into a million different segments, all with differing values, myths … and even facts? (With James Maxey, Samuel Montgomery-Blinn, and Ed Schubert.)
  • 12:00 PM — Social Scientists’ Science Fiction: There’s no shortage of science fiction written by authors with Ph.D.s in the “hard sciences” (biology, chemistry, physics), and their expertise show up in everything from world building to alien physiology. But what about authors with doctorates in Psychology, Sociology, Anthropology, Linguistics, Economics, and so on? Is the SF experience redefined when it comes from social scientists instead? (With Lawrence M. Schoen, Samuel Montgomery-Blinn, Michael Williams, and Bill Ferris.)
  • 1:00 PM — READING … and singing!
  • 5:00 PM — Baen Books Travelling Roadshow: Come find out whatʼs new from Baen Books. There will be an exploding spaceship.
  • 11:00 PM — Open Filk

Sunday, January 12th

  • 10:00 AM — Hard SF vs. Soft SF: From near-future thrillers so hard they could cut diamonds to allegories less-than-concerned about literal realism, science fiction covers a broad spectrum. How do they play together in the genre of ideas? (With Metricula and Samuel Montgomery-Blinn.)
  • 5:00 PM — New Trends in Speculative Fiction: Speculative fiction often rides on the next big thing — the New Wave, Cyberpunk, Steampunk, Urban Fantasy, the Singularity, the New Weird. Where are we headed right now? Are there undiscovered movements just waiting for their central works? (With Samuel Montgomery-Blinn, Ada Milenkovic Brown, Bill Ferris, and Natania Barron.)

So if you’re in the Research Triangle area next weekend, and you need to get your fantasy and science fiction fix, stop by and see us!

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