Saturday, July 05, 2008

Songs like old friends

Today I put my first novel up for free download over at my other website. If you're interested, you can pick it up at For the moment, that page is very basic. It will serve the needs of the moment.

Space Pirates, an anthology that contains my third sf sale, will soon be available. In my bio, I offered The Cracked Bell to readers. So I'm setting it in place just in time.

The Cracked Bell is set in a world where music can do magic. After a couple days of working through it, making a few small corrections, I had a strong urge to listen to some filk tapes. I was surprised, when I dug them out, to discover that they were largely fifteen to twenty years old. My goodness! It doesn't seem that long ago that I was staying up late at night, listening to Leslie Fish and Cecilia Eng in the song circles of Portland science fiction conventions. Apparently more time has passed than I thought.

The sound is distant. Maybe that is how tapes age -- becoming less and less audible over time. Or maybe the tape player is malfunctioning -- I haven't used it recently. We play most of our music via iTunes now. Yet the memories are strong. Here's a song where Red Riding Hood's grandmother proves to be a werewolf -- I remember learning the chords and singing this with edgy pleasure, many times -- all the words were familiar, and yet I hadn't sung it in years.

I listened to Leslie Fish's song The Wheel. In a way, it is a Pete Seeger tribute, incorporating the phrase "Turn, turn, turn". Here's the chorus:

"There's a wheel turning on muddy ground
Gains an inch every time it goes round
Come on, let's make another revolution
Turn, turn, turn."

I copied out all the words, feeling the song was as comfortable and topical as ever.

Then I listened to Zombies Robbing the Grave -- a translation of John Varley's story Millenium into verse by Bob Kanefsky, set to music Leslie Fish wrote to accompany a Rudyard Kipling poem (Bridge Guard on the Karoo). It's almost like being at a cocktail party full of old acquaintances, and knowing this one had a relationship with that one, who then hooked up with the other. A few lines of Zombies Robbing the Grave had been coming to mind often recently:

"We grasp at this last solution -- these desperate raids on the past
From a future choked with pollution, on a world that's dying fast."

It was good to hear the whole song and set those words in context.

That old friend, too, felt all too topical.

Filk has a strong bias towards minor key and melancholic themes. Even so, I was very happy to be in the company of these songs I'd loved back when.