Vixy and Tony Talk About their Band with Carl Slaughter

By Carl Slaughter: The first time I interviewed Vixy and Tony, we talked about the nature of filk music. Since then, they have released another album and added 2 band members. This interview is focused on the band itself.

Carl Slaughter: What albums and songs have you come out with lately? What were the inspirations and what are the themes?

Vixy & Tony: Our most recent album, We Are Who We Are, is our second full album, and we’re very proud of it. Since Betsy and Sunnie (or cellist and fiddler) have been in our band for a while now, we’re happy to finally have a full-length studio recording that features them. The inspirations and themes are different for each song, but each song tells at least some kind of a story of its own. Of course, being filkers, all the songs are related to SF/Fantasy/Mythology, SF fandom, or geekdom in some way, though some are more directly relevant than others. It’s got a space ghost pirate ship story (our cover of the filk classic “Dawson’s Christian”), a song about an astronaut (“Anna”), and a love song for a cosplayer (“We Can Be Anything”). Some of the tracks are a bit more personal, like “Burn it Down”, which is about overcoming your fears, or “The River”, a song geeking out about songwriting. The title track, “We Are Who We Are”, is our geek anthem and social justice anthem. If I had to pick a single thematic thread for the album, it would probably be something like “fight the good fight” or “keep at it”.

CS: What exactly is an Outdoor Trek. What do the fans do there? What does the band do there?

V&T: Oh, we love Outdoor Trek very much! There are a few groups throughout the country who are turning old Star Trek TOS episodes into stage plays and performing them outdoors, Shakespeare-in-the-Park style. Portland had “Trek In The Park” for a while, and in Seattle we’ve got Outdoor Trek, and it’s wonderful. For a few weekend afternoons each summer, you can go to a local park in Seattle and watch a wonderful gender-bent version of a TOS episode performed. The cast is wonderful and funny, and they play up the inherent humor and silliness of the whole thing, but they clearly do it with a love and deep respect for the source material. These are true Trek fans who love the original series, but at the same time, aren’t afraid to laugh about it. Their low-tech prop gags are the best: phasers which are clearly just garden sprayers, and transporters which are just hula hoops with gold ribbons tied on. Their Horta from “Devil in the Dark” was epic.

They usually have an actual “house band” doing the theme music and incidental music, live, along with the play. We’re not the house band, though some of our friends have been in the house band from time to time. Our part of it is simply to be an opening act once in a while. We don’t get to do every one because our schedules are pretty busy during the summer, but we try to open for Outdoor Trek on one or two afternoons each year when we can.

Details about Outdoor Trek can be found here.

Vixy and Tony. Photo by Angela Sather Hodgetts.

CS: What exactly is a fen? What happens at a FenCon and what does the band do there?

V&T: “Fen” is simply the plural of “Fan”, intended as a bit of a pun (Man->Men, Fan->Fen). It specifically refers to people in SF/Fantasy fandom as opposed to, say, fans of a sports team or a band.

FenCon is a Dallas regional SF convention, usually held around September each year. This year we’ll be the Music Guests of Honor there, and we’re very honored that they’re having us. We’ll play a concert, participate in filk circles, and if we’re lucky, possibly appear in other musical performances with some of our friends who are slated to be playing there as well this year. For me and Vixy and Sunnie, it’ll be our first time at FenCon, but Betsy has been there before (as the cellist for Tricky Pixie) and she said it was great, so we’re really looking forward to it.

CS: You just got back from Norwescon. What happened there?

V&T: Norwescon is our Seattle regional SF con, held every spring on Easter weekend, and it was really fun this year. We got to play a really fun concert in one of the big ballrooms. Apparently we outgrew the “two adjoined smaller rooms” that we usually play in each year, so they moved us up to the “big hall”, as it were. I think we played a great set, and we also got to see our Portland friends The PDX Broadsides play a great set, too. They just finished up their Kickstarter for their new album which is going to have some great songs on it.

Of course the rest of Norwescon was fun as well, they have a great programming track every year, full of super interesting stuff. A lot of our friends do panels there every year. The con tends to overflow the hotel every year, so there are many, many geeky people there all weekend. The costuming is top-notch too.

CS: Same questions for Conflikt, and is there any actual conflict?

V&T: There is indeed conflict at Conflikt, there’s one particular conflict that the name refers to. That’s our Pacific Northwest regional filk convention, and Vixy and I were there on the day it was initially conceived. We were at a housefilk in Victoria BC several years ago, when some of the folks there got the bright idea to start our own PNW filk con. Beth Runnerwolf was there with us, and she had been doing a great job running the filk track at Norwescon at the time, and we figured she’d be a great programming chair. The only problem was that when we started looking for a good weekend on the calendar to hold the convention, we couldn’t find a weekend that wasn’t already adjacent to some other nearby fannish event. Every weekend we could think of conflicted with something else, so that’s the name that stuck. And then we made a joke in the title/logo that only proofreaders and copyeditors will get.

Eventually they settled on the weekend immediately prior to the annual the UK filk convention, thinking that the attendees for a con in WA and a con in the UK would, by their very nature, be from different geographical groups and thus those two cons wouldn’t conflict very much. Of course it never works out that way. The third year, Vixy & Tony ended up being GOHs at the UK filk con, so we played at both Conflikt and at the UK filk con on back-to-back weekends. It seems like every year there’s at least a few people who are attending both cons back-to-back. Crazy, but great. This year we were the “toastband” at Conflikt, which is the same thing as being the “toastmaster” except there’s four of us to do the job instead. We had a great time, as we do every year we attend.

CS: What happened at Music Under the Trees? BTW, why trees and which trees?

V&T: Music Under the Trees is an annual house concert put on by our cellist, Betsy Tinney. Betsy is quite popular because she’s a wonderful cellist and complete sweetheart of a person, and as a result, she plays in a lot of different bands. Most summers, schedules permitting, a lot of her connected bands get together to play for an entire afternoon and into the night. It’s sort of a mini music festival where Betsy gets to play her cello in every act. It’s held in her backyard, which has an amazing little amphitheater tucked into the woods behind her house, hence the name. Though she’s not doing it this year, due to other things in her family’s schedule this summer. Hopefully it’ll be back in 2018.

CS: What’s the connections between your music and Firefly?

V&T: We love Joss Whedon’s work, and Firefly is our favorite. It’s a richly detailed universe that’s full of interesting characters and stories and possibilities which never got fully explored due to the series’ tragically short run. We’ve written a couple of Firefly songs, and we’ve got friends who have also written some Firefly songs which we like to do covers of. Vixy’s most popular song, “Mal’s Song”, on our first album, came about because she loved the Firefly theme song, but felt like it was too short. It seemed like the chorus of a song without any verses, so, she wrote some verses to go with it. “Missing Part”, on our latest album, is about Kaylee, and it’s written by our good friend Seanan McGuire (who just won a Nebula award, by the way). It’s one of my favorite tracks on the album. I learned how to play slide guitar just for that song.

CS: You’re involved in various production projects with various other bands. Tell us about some of those.

V&T: We’ve got a lot of filk and geek music friends, and we really enjoy mixing it up with them. Vixy seems to always be singing harmony vocals on someone’s album, and I’ve been known to produce the occasional song or two or three or album for someone we love. Most recently, we’ve been the backing band for Molly Lewis, including her hilarious musical Thanksgiving Vs Christmas, I co-produced “Mischief” with SJTucker, and Vixy is on some wonderful recent releases by Jeff and Maya Bonhoff and Mary Crowell. Listing all of Betsy and Sunnie’s other projects would take forever, but check them out at http://betsytinney.com/recordings/ and http://sunnie.org/.

CS: Do you do workshops and panels and such? Do you branch out into traditional folk festivals and such or do you stick with the speculative crowd?

V&T: When we play at a convention, we do indeed do workshops and panels. We like to do home recording workshops and performance workshops when we can. Being part of the fandom community and trying to share knowledge and experiences is a big deal to us.

We haven’t tried playing traditional folk festivals, we tend to prefer SF/filk cons and smaller venues where our particular audience can find us. For example, I’ve been to the Bumbershoot festival here in Seattle, it’s huge and it’s wonderful, but it’s just insane, I couldn’t imagine trying to be one of the acts there. We’d get completely lost there. It’s much more rewarding to play our geeky songs to a much smaller group of geeky fans.

CS: What exactly is Rock Band, approximately how many hours a week do you spend playing it, and are there any conventions/contests?

V&T: Heh, that reference on our web page was a little joke about the video game, the one where you use toy guitar controllers to poke colored buttons in time with the music. It’s basically Dance Dance Revolution but without the dancing. It was a huge novelty when it came out, and we had a lot of fun with it for a quite a while. Seanan stuck in a reference to it when she wrote the Bio page for our website. We actually haven’t played it in some time, though the guitar controllers are still hanging next to the TV.

There was a point in time when they were letting people put up their own indie music on Rock Band and making it available for download. I was about to put “Six String Love” up there, but then I discovered just how amazingly tedious and time-consuming it is to author the song files for it. I got halfway through the process and ran out of steam. I seem to recall reading that they’d stopped the indie music submissions for it a while back, so I don’t even think that’s an option for us anymore.

CS: One of your award songs is “The Girl That’s Never Been.” Didn’t quite understand it, but it seems to have a strong speculative element. Something to do with Alice of Wonderland fame. Give us the inside story on the lyrics.

V&T: “The Girl That’s Never Been” is essentially a direct musical interpretation of an existing short story called “The Cheshire” by Bill Kte’pi , which is itself a sort of an alternate interpretation of Alice’s story. It follows a common theme: Imagining what it might be like for someone who’s gone through an amazing, mind-bending, life-altering experience, but then has to return to a “normal” existence. In a situation like that, no one believes you and you can’t possibly explain it to anyone in a way that they can understand, and now the “real” world seems less important than the other world. At the start of the story, Alice is older, and she’s been seeing shrinks and been having drug and alcohol abuse issues as she tries to deal with the cognitive dissonance. I can’t really say more without spoilering the ending.

CS: Your band size has doubled. Who are the new additions and how do they fit in? Do they always accompany you on tours? Why additions? Weren’t you getting booked and winning awards as a duo?

V&T: We really don’t know how we ever survived without Betsy and Sunnie. They elevate our music to a new level, and we don’t ever want to play without them again. We have so much fun together, and we love how we fit together as a band.

We started playing with them only occasionally, adding a bit of cello here and a bit of fiddle there, at times when our bands were playing back-to-back sets at the same venue. Soon we started cross-pollinating each other’s bands regularly, and before we knew it, we realized that we really couldn’t live without them.

Playing as a duo is a different kind of a show than playing as a four piece, and the four piece is so much more amazing and full and energetic. When you play with other good musicians, it makes the music more interesting and intense, even when you’re talking about simple arrangements to the same songs. The core of the songs hasn’t really changed, but the songs are fundamentally different now. The way we perform them and the way you experience them is forever altered by our new lineup. It’s like the old saying “a rising tide lifts all boats”, where everyone in the band plays better and becomes better musicians through the blending of everyone’s uniqueness.

We are trying not to play any more shows as just a duo. It’s certainly more logistically complicated for us to play as a four piece, but it’s really worth it. Maybe we play fewer shows because of it, but the shows that we do play are always memorable and joyful experiences.

CS: What exactly is a Pegasus award, how many wins/nominations do you have, for which songs, and against which competition?

V&T: The Pegasus award is the annual filk community award to recognize excellence in songwriting and performing by filkers, voted on and presented at the Ohio Valley filk Festival each year. It’s nominated and voted on by members of the filk community, so it’s a peer award. I don’t really see it as a competition; I think of competitions as something where you deliberately set out to win, and I don’t think anyone in filk does that. I think filkers write filk songs because we like to have fun, and then it’s wonderful when other people like the songs too. The Pegasus is less of a competition and more of a way for the filk community to get together and say to someone, “we all think that was a really neat song this year”. We’ve been nominated a handful of years since around 2005, and won a few, but we haven’t really tried to keep count. The Pegausus site has all the historical records of Vixy’s noms and wins here, which includes works by herself as well as works with Vixy & Tony: http://www.ovff.org/pegasus/people/michelle-dockrey.html

CS: You’ve been together for over 10 years and have been singing filk for over 15 years. What’s the explanation for your endurance and that of your music.

V&T: Music in general, and filk in particular, is something we do for fun, and we do our best to keep it that way all the time. We try not to turn it into “work”. We have day jobs, so we’re lucky that we don’t need to depend upon writing and performing constantly. If we did, we’d probably burn out pretty quickly. We’ve got friends who are professional musicians, so we can see what that life is like, and we know it’s not for us. Betsy is probably the band member whose life is most strongly aligned to being a career professional musician, but even she does her best to keep everything fun and interesting all the time. As long as we all keep it fun, only writing what we want to write, and only playing where we want to play, it will always be something that enriches us and keeps going. Hopefully some of that shines through in our performances and recordings, helping to make them fun for everyone.

CS: Who writes the songs and what’s the songwriting process?

V&T: For the older songs, before we teamed up, Vixy wrote everything: Music, lyrics, arrangement, all of it. But that was very hard for her, doing it all by herself, so after we teamed up, now we have a pretty good collaboration system: Vixy writes the lyrics, and then we collaborate on the music. Usually we start with a first draft of the lyrics, sometimes just a verse and a chorus, then decide upon an overall style for the song. Then I start coming up with chord progressions on the guitar, based on the desired style. She gives me feedback on the way the chords fit the lyrics, and we make changes to the chords to fit the lyrics or vice versa. She will either come up with a melody based on the chord progression, or, sometimes she will already have parts of a melody in her head, and I will write chords which fit that melody, and fill in the gaps. Sometimes I will make a suggestion to change the melody to fit the chord progression I wrote. Occasionally I€™ll write sections of words or melodies myself, or provide suggestions for the lyrics in spots. Frequently we will collaborate on the verses and choruses but she will leave the bridge up to me (she calls me her Civil Engineer because I make her bridges for her).

Then we bring the song to the rest of the band, and the real magic happens, where we sculpt the song from a raw framework into something full of interesting details. Betsy and Sunnie add their parts, and then we play off of those until things start to cement in place. There are parts of the songs which were created by Betsy and Sunnie which are now inseparable from the songs, such as Sunnie’s wonderful violin intro to “We Can Be Anything”.

CS: How has your music evolved?

V&T: I like to think we’ve become better songwriters and performers over time. Adding Betsy and Sunnie to the band has given us a richer sound and a more detailed presentation of the songs. We’re tending to write songs with the whole band in mind, since now we can do things like play extended instrumental sections that we couldn’t have done before. And on the occasions when we want to do cover tunes, we can do more interesting variations on them.

CS: What’s on the Horizon for Vixy & Tony?

V&T: Aside from small Seattle local gigs, the aforementioned GOH slot at FenCon in Dallas is coming up in September. Sunnie is planning on making a solo album that we’re going to help out with, we’re hopefully starting work on it this summer. We’ve got at least one song that’s not recorded yet which needs a nice studio treatment, and I’m looking forward to learning a new piece of audio production software in the process (I’m switching over to Logic Audio on the Mac this summer). One idea I’m toying with is that We Are Who We Are might be our last full-length Vixy & Tony album, and that from now on we might just do single-song releases on Bandcamp and other online services. Though I have a deep fondness for the “album” as a specific art form, I find the process of recording and producing one to be very tiring and time-consuming, and I think we might have more fun if we do things a song at a time. We’ll see if that ends up happening or not. 🙂

Pixel Scroll 4/23/17 Scroll White And The Seven Pixels

(1) BORN ON THE SEVENTH OF JULY. In “Spinning a high-tech web”, the LA Times provides an elaborate, photo-illustrated preview of Tony Stark’s upgrade to the new Spider-Man suit that will be seen in Spider-Man: Homecoming, due in theaters July 7.

(2) FILK HALL OF FAME. The 2017 inductees to the Filk Halll of Fame were announced at FilkOntario this weekend:

(3) FAHRENHEIT 451 TO SMALL SCREEN? The Bradbury novel is on the road to development once more. “HBO to Adapt Fahrenheit 451, starring Michael B. Jordan”  — BookRiot has the story.

Now, HBO is “moving toward a production commitment” (via Variety) on a feature-length adaptation of Bradbury’s 1953 novel starring Michael B. Jordan (Creed, Chronicle, Fantastic Four) as the protagonist Guy Montag and Michael Shannon (Man of Steel, Boardwalk Empire) as Montag’s boss, Captain Beatty.

The film will be directed by Ramin Bahrani (99 Homes, At Any Price), who is co-writing with Amir Naderi (99 Homes, The Runner). David Coatsworth (production manager on Underworld: Evolution, Ender’s Game, My Big Fat Greek Wedding) will serve as producer.

(4) THEY’RE HUUGE! “Black Holes Are Bigger Than You Thought” accuses Yahoo! News. (Just how big did you think they were? How did Yahoo! News find out?)

Now meet S5 0014+81.

It’s the largest black hole ever discovered and is heavier than our Sun by 40 billion times (40, 000, 000, 000) in the last observation.

If you plug in the equation above, you’ll find that this black hole has a Schwarzschild radius of about… 119 billion kilometers, along with a said diameter of about 236,39 billion km.

(5) THE TOUGHEST AROUND. Let Den of Geek point you at “17 really difficult LEGO sets”.

The Tower Of Orthanc

It may look simple enough on the box, but The Lord Of The Rings’ Tower Of Orthanc is actually a real tough cookie. Because most of its 2,359 pieces are jet black and slim, working out which bit goes where is the stuff of nightmares (in, um, a good way). The Treebeard that comes with it will make the struggle worth it… honest.

Buy The Tower Of Orthanc now for £348.07.

(6) TODAY’S DAY

  • April 23 — World Book and Copyright Day

Pays tribute to authors and books and their social and cultural contribution to the world

(7) DID YOU KNOW? Last year the International Costumers’ Guild participated in a “friend of the court” brief to the U.S. Supreme Court, joining Public Knowledge, the American Library Association, and others, asking the Court to protect the rights of clothing designers and costumers to freely practice their craft.

(8) AT HOME. The Verge’s Andrew Liptak reports “Netflix will invest billions to shoot its original content in California”:

Netflix is betting that filming closer to home will produce better content. In 2015, the streaming giant has announced that it would be doubling its output of original content, and it is aiming to have original productions make up half of its of its streaming catalog in the coming years. The goal is to entice users to come to the service by providing content that can’t be found elsewhere, but that goal is proving to be a strain on the existing film studio infrastructure. To cope, Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos announced that the company would be investing $6 billion to expand infrastructure in California, rather than chase tax incentives offered by states.

Sarandos explained to The Wrap that the company determined that going after the incentives leads to diminishing returns when it comes to their final products. Filming out of state is hard on the actors and crew of a project, and the move will help bring projects back home to California. That could prove to be costly for the company, even as California has increased its own tax incentive program in recent years. While remaining in the state will likely cost Netflix more, Sarandos seems to think that the extra cost will be worth spending.

(9) SQUEAK UP. YouTube’s TheBackyardScientist set up 10 megaphones end-to-end to see how loud a noise he could make.

The video, posted to YouTube by TheBackyardScientist, features Kevin Kohler explaining he was inspired by Bart Simpson‘s prank in the season 8 Simpsons episode The Secret War of Lisa Simpson to place 10 megaphones end-to-end and test the results.

Bart’s experiment led to a shock wave that shattered all of the windows in town — as well as Homer’s fridge full of beer — but Kohler quickly ran into a problem Bart didn’t face: a feedback loop.

 

(10) BITE ON. The number of people who give their smartphones to dogs as chew toys is probably smaller than the number of men who have walked on the moon, but for them — “There’s an anti-dog label inside the Galaxy S8 — here’s what it means”. Let The Verge explain it to you.

Basically, you don’t want Fido in a situation where a battery could hiss and explode in its mouth. It’s obviously possible that a child could bite through the battery as well, but the likelihood of him / her piercing through the battery is lower.

(11) ARTIFICIAL DOG INTELLIGENCE. Amazing. How is it mine doesn’t do that?

(12) FIX THE SLATING PROBLEM FOREVER. That’s what Greg Hullender would like to do. At Rocket Stack Rank he summarizes his views about the effectiveness of 3SV, EPH(+) and their combination. He says, “I  think it makes it really clear that we need both 3SV and either EPH or EPH+. Otherwise, even small slates (100 to 200 people) will be able to control a significant amount of the final ballot, including adding embarrassing nominees.”

For each year, we produced two theoretical maximum graphs. A “finalist graph,” which shows what percentage of finalists a slate could have captured for a given number of slate voters, and a “sweeps” graph, which shows what percentage of entire categories a slate could have captured.

Looking at those four pairs of graphs (2.1-2.4 below), we will draw the following conclusions;

  • Std (5/6) by itself is far too weak.
  • EPH doesn’t protect enough finalists, but it is excellent at preventing sweeps.
  • EPH+ is an improvement on EPH, but it’s still not enough by itself.
  • 3SV is much stronger for protecting finalists, especially for modest numbers of slate voters, but it’s vulnerable to sweeps, and it breaks down for slates above about 300 people.
  • The 3SV/EPH and 3SV/EPH+ combinations are far, far stronger than either component alone. Either combination is probably sufficient, but the second one is stronger.

Accordingly, we conclude that the Business Meeting should ratify both EPH+ and 3SV. That should protect the Hugos from slating interference for the nonce.

(13) DREAM CASTING. Enjoy “Miles To Go” hosted at Archive of Our Own. Note – Password = Vorkosigan (as it says at the post).

There once was a man who dreamt of the stars…

A fanvid based on the Vorkosigan Saga by Lois McMaster Bujold.

…Obviously, it’s not so easy to make a feast for a fandom with no existing visual source. But where there’s a will, or in my case an enormous and driving folly, there’s a way. It was always going to be an ensemble vid, with Miles as the star, but the question was how to cast it. I did eventually solve that problem, and I won’t discuss my solution in detail here because… spoilers.

[Thanks to Carl Slaughter, Cat Eldridge, Robin Reid, JJ, Doctor Science, Greg Hullender, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories, Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kurt Busiek.]

Pixel Scroll 3/13/16 We’re Off To See The Pixel, The Wonderful Pixel Of Scroll

(1) DAYLIGHT STEALING TIME. Disney’s Alice Through The Looking Glass trailer investigates a time crime.

(2) TAKING INVENTORY. Bill Roper had some insights about being a convention dealer while doing “That Taxes Thing”.

One of the distressing things about doing the taxes for Dodeka is seeing:

– How many different titles we carry.

– And how many of them appear to have sold one or fewer copies in 2015.

Some of these are the result of having bought out Juanita’s inventory when she retired and having acquired various CDs that had been sitting in her inventory for too long. A few of them are the result of my own ordering errors.

The problem is that the boxes are large and heavy and the table is very full. But if you don’t take the CDs out to the cons with you, you can’t sell them…

Filk is an extremely regional business. And given that we’re in the eighth-or-so year of a sucky economy, I certainly understand people’s reluctance to take a flyer on something that they aren’t familiar with.

(3) BATMOBILE REPLICA MAKER LOSES. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to review a Ninth Circuit decision in favor of DC Comics, which had sued Mark Towle over his unlicensed replicas of the 1966 and 1989 Batmobiles, sold for about $90,000 each. So DC wins.

According to Robot 6:

Towle argued that the U.S. Copyright Act doesn’t protect “useful articles,” defined as objects that have “an intrinsic utilitarian function” (for example, clothing, household appliances or, in this case, automobile functions); in short, that the Batmobile’s design is merely functional.

However, a federal judge didn’t buy that argument… Towle appealed that decision, but the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals wasn’t any more sympathetic, finding in September that, “the Batmobile is almost always bat-like in appearance, with a bat-themed front end, bat wings extending from the top or back of the car, exaggerated fenders, a curved windshield, and bat emblems on the vehicle. This bat-like appearance has been a consistent theme throughout the comic books, television series, and motion picture, even though the precise nature of the bat-like characteristics have changed from time to time.”

In his petition to the high court, Towle insisted that the U.S. Copyright Office states outright that automobiles aren’t copyrightable, and that the Ninth Circuit simply created an arbitrary exception. He also argued that there have been “dozens” of Batmobiles in DC comic books over the decades that “vary dramatically in appearance and style” — so much so that the vehicle doesn’t have the “consistent, widely-identifiable, physical attributes” required to be considered a “character.”

(4) SFL SURVIVOR. Andrew Liptak retells “The Adventures of the LA Science Fantasy Society” at Kirkus Reviews.

When he [Forry Ackerman] set off on his own, he founded the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society. While every other Science Fiction League chapter closed—as well as many of the other fan groups—the LASFS survives to the present day, the longest running science fiction club in the world.

In the coming decades, the club became an important focal point for the growing science-fiction community. It counted some of the genre’s biggest writers as its members: when Ray Bradbury’s family moved from Arizona to Los Angles, the young storyteller quickly found the group. “A turning point in his life came in early September 1937,” Sam Moskowitz recounted in his early history Seekers of Tomorrow: Masters of Modern Science Fiction, “when poring through the books and magazines in Shep’s Shop, a Los Angeles book store that catered to science-fiction readers, he received an invitation from a member to visit the Los Angeles Chapter of the Science Fiction League.” Through the league, Bradbury quickly got his start as a writer, publishing “Hollerbochen’s Dilemma” in the club’s fanzine, Imagination!

LASFS is not quite the lone survivor of the Science Fiction League – there is also the Philadelphia Science Fiction SocietyFancyclopedia 3 has more SFL history.

(5) ON WINGS OF STONE. You must keep an eye on these winged predators. BBC tells “How to survive a Weeping Angels attack!”

The Weeping Angels are scary. Really scary. They possess a natural and unique defence mechanism: they’re quantum locked. This means that they can only move when no other living creature is looking at them. These lonely assassins also have the ability to send other beings into the past, feeding on the potential time energy of what would have been the rest of their victims’ lives.

But how do you survive a Weeping Angel attack? Well, here’s our guaranteed, foolproof 4-step guide…

(6) TOP DRAWER. Peter Capaldi proves to have a flair for sketching his predecessors as Doctor Who.

(7) COINAGE. A horrible, fannish pun in March 12’s Brevity cartoon.

(8) MARIE WILLIAMS OBIT. New Zealand fan Marie Williams died of cancer February 27. She was a member of the board of Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of New Zealand (SFFANZ), and their announcement said, “She was a valued member and we will miss her thoughtful insights and interesting comments.”

(9) TOMLINSON OBIT. E-mail pioneer Ray Tomlinson died March 5 at the age of 74. The New York Times report gave a brief history of his development.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Mr. Tomlinson was working at the research and development company Bolt, Beranek & Newman on projects for ARPANET, a forerunner of the Internet created for the Defense Department. At the time, the company had developed a messaging program, called SNDMSG, that allowed multiple users of a time-share computer to send messages to one another.

But it was a closed messaging system, limited to users of a single computer.

Mr. Tomlinson, filching codes from a file-transfer program he had created called CYPNET, modified SNDMSG so that messages could be sent from one host computer to another throughout the ARPANET system.

To do this, he needed a symbol to separate a user name from a destination address. And so the plump little @ sign came into use, chosen because it did not appear in user names and did not have any meaning in the TENEX paging program used on time-sharing computers.

The BBC’s Dave Lee wrote “Ray Tomlinson’s e-mail is flawed, but never bettered”.

He is widely regarded as the inventor of email, and is credited with putting the now iconic “@” sign in the addresses of the revolutionary system.

He could never have imagined the multitude of ways email would come to be used, abused and confused.

Just think – right now, someone, somewhere is writing an email she should probably reconsider. Count to 10, my friend. Sleep on it.

Another is sending an email containing brutal, heartbreaking words that, really, should be said in person… if only he had the nerve.

And of course, a Nigerian prince is considering how best to ask for my help in spending his fortune.

Chip Hitchcock says, “AFAICT, nobody saw person-to-person email coming; computers were for talking to central data, as in ‘A Logic Named Joe’ or even The Shockwave Rider. The closest I can think of to discussing the effects of mass cheap point-to-point communication is the side comment on cell-phone etiquette in the opening scene of Tunnel in the Sky. Can anyone provide another example?”

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • March 13, 1981 – Joe Dante’s The Howling premieres in North America.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born March 13, 1911 – L. Ron Hubbard

(12) HUGO NOMINATORS: NEVER GIVE UP, NEVER SURRENDER. Spacefaring, Extradimensional Happy Kittens reappears after a five-month hiatus, because it’s “Hugo Season!”

The annual SFF self-loathing theme weeks are here again — I feel (as I feel every year) like a total loser for not having read enough new science fiction and fantasy to make informed nominations for the Hugo award. I haven’t read Seveneves, haven’t seen Ant-Man, haven’t had the time for Jessica Jones, haven’t waded through a lot of short fiction.

Damn damn damn.

Then again, you’re always going to feel that way, no matter what. And it’s not football (which means “soccer”, in case you’re American), so whining doesn’t help.

(13) BINARY BEAUTY. “Google’s AI Is Now Reigning Go Champion of the World”. Motherboard has the story.

On Saturday afternoon in Seoul, AlphaGo, the Go-playing artificial intelligence created by Google’s DeepMind, beat 18-time Go world champion Lee Sedol for its third straight win in a five game series.

The win was a historic one for artificial intelligence research, a field where AI’s mastery of this 2,500 year old game was long considered a holy grail of sorts for AI researchers. This win was particularly notable because the match included situations called ko fights which hadn’t arisen in the previous two games. Prior to AlphaGo’s win, other Go experts had speculated that ko situations could prove to be stumbling blocks for the DeepMind program as they had been in the past for other Go computer programs.

“When you watch really great Go players play, it is like a thing of beauty,” said Google co-founder Sergey Brin, himself a self-proclaimed adamant Go player in grad school, after the match. “So I’m very excited that we’ve been able to instill that level of beauty inside a computer. I’m really honored to be here in the company of Lee Sedol, such an incredible player, as well as the DeepMind team who’ve been working so hard on the beauty of a computer.”

(14) PC OR BS? Ethan Mills of Examined Worlds asks “Has Political Correctness Run Amok? Does It Even Exist?”

… I’m tempted to call this “A Prolegomena to Any Future Discourse about Political Correctness.”….

  1. Is political correctness a cut-and-dried free speech issue?  Why is it that many examples of the “political correctness has run amok” narrative involve cases where one group exercises its freedom to speak against ideas or to decide what speech they want to support in their space?  Is this really a threat to free speech in general if it’s limited to a particular space?  Is there a right to tell people what speech to support in their space? Does political correctness threaten free speech in a more fundamental way by making people feel uncomfortable to say certain things at all?  How do we decide what counts as a threat to free speech in general?  Are there some things that just shouldn’t be said in certain contexts?  Should all speech be allowed in all contexts?  If not, how do we decide when it’s permissible to limit speech?  Is there a difference between limiting speech and simply asking people not to say certain things?
  2. What is the difference between political correctness and politeness or basic respect?  Is there a difference?  What happens if what one person calls political correctness another person calls being polite, civil, or respecting the humanity of others?  How do we settle these disputes?  Is it possible that this whole issue is really just based on the feeling that people don’t like being told what to say?  Is it possible or desirable to change that feeling and thus shift the whole narrative on this issue?

(15) PI TIME. Are you getting into MIT? Then expect notification from BB-8. “MIT parodies ‘Star Wars’ for ‘decision day’ announcement”.

The video ultimately reveals that “decision day” for the class of 2020 will take place on March 14, which is also known as “Pi Day”, as 3.14 represents the first 3 digits of pi.

Hopeful applicants will be able to learn whether or not they’ve been accepted to MIT by logging onto the admissions website starting at 6:28 p.m. on Pi Day. This time represents another reference to pi as 6.28 is known as “Tau” or two times pi.

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Hampus Eckerman.]

Pixel Scroll 10/13 Another Fine Pixel You’ve Gotten Us Into

(1) Nicole Dieker at The Billfold says “Joss Whedon Made More Money With ‘Dr. Horrible’ Than ‘The Avengers,’ Unbelievably”.

Okay. Let’s compare two scenarios.

1) You decide to write, direct, and produce a 45-minute web musical. You fund the musical’s production out of your own pocket. It is free to watch online.

2) Marvel hires you to write and direct a summer blockbuster that becomes the third highest grossing film of all time.

Which one should make you more money? As Vulture reports, it’s not the one you think:

Joss Whedon shared an eye-opening fact during Saturday night’s reunion of the “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog” team: He’s made more money from his independently financed 2008 Internet musical than he did from writing and directing Marvel’s first blockbuster “Avengers” movie.

(2) Nancy Kress, skillfully interviewed by Raymond Bolton

Many of your works delve into areas that require great technical expertise, for example genetic engineering and artificial intelligence. Yet, as far as I can tell, before your writing exploded, you transitioned from being an educator to working in advertising. What do you read to develop the knowledge base required for your books?

I wish I had a scientific education! Had I known when I was young that I would turn into an SF writer, I would have chosen differently. Instead, I hold a Masters in English. To write about genetic engineering, I research on-line, attend lectures, and pester actual scientists with questions. My best friend is a doctor; she goes over my work to check that I have not said anything egregiously moronic.

A career such as yours has many turning points, some striven for, others that blind-side the recipient for better or for worse. Would you care to provide two or three of the more pivotal moments?

The first turning point for me came with the writing of the novella “Beggars in Spain,” which won both the Hugo and the Nebula and which would never have been written without a jolt from writer Bruce Sterling. At a critique workshop we both attended, he pointed out that my story was weak because the society I’d created had no believable economic underpinnings. He said this colorfully and at length. After licking my wounds for a few weeks, I thought, “Damn it, he’s right!” In the next thing I wrote, “Beggars in Spain,” I seriously tried to address economic issues: Who controls the resources? What finances are behind what ventures? Why? With what success? My story about people not needing to sleep, which I’d actually been trying to compose for years, finally came alive.

(3) He grew up to be the leading fantasy cover artist – here is some of his earliest work. Frank Frazetta’s Adventures of the Snowman reviewed by Steven Paul Leiva for New York Journal of Books.

Frazetta snowman

Frazetta is probably the most widely known—and revered—illustrator of science fiction and fantasy subjects, having gained much fame and a large following for his paperback book covers, putting the image into the imaginative worlds of Tarzan, John Carter of Mars, and Conan the Barbarian, among others. Several generations of young minds looking for escape into fantastic realms of adventure where landscapes were often dark and danger-filled, men were perfect specimens of well-muscled heroes, and women were beyond beautiful as their “attributes” were beyond belief, will never regret having made the trip. But earlier in his career Frazetta worked in comics and comic books, even ghosting for Al Capp on his Lil’ Abner strip.

And at the age of 12 1/2, stuck in his bedroom on a snowy day, and inspired by a snowman in his backyard being battered by a winter wind, Frazetta created the Snow Man. This wasn’t a gentle character associated with winter wonderlands and Christmas, but rather a righteous fighter against the evil Axis, which America and its allies were fighting in the Second World War. A few years later, at the still young age of 15, Frazetta created at least two Snow Man comic stories, one of which was published in Tally-Ho Comics, and the other that makes up this current book.

(4) Larry Correia pulls back the curtain on another corner of the writing business in “Ask Correia #17: Velocity, Releases, Rankings, and Remainders”.

So if you turn over constantly, stores tend to like you, and will order more. The more shelf space they give you, the more new people are likely to see your stuff. Success breeds success.

Here is an example. A bookstore orders 3 copies of your first novel. If all of them sell in the first week, then the bookstore is probably going to reorder 3 more. Then when your second novel comes out, they’ll look at their prior sales, and instead of ordering 3, they’ll order 6. Do this for decades, and it is why new James Patterson or Dean Koontz novels are delivered to your local book stores on pallets.

But if those 3 copies of your first novel sat on the shelf for months before selling, then the store probably didn’t bother to restock when it finally does sell. They may or may not order 3 copies of your second, but either way they’re not super excited about you.

I’ve been inside about 300 book stores since I started my professional writing career in 2009. I can usually tell how well I’m doing at any particular store even before I talk to any of the employees, just by going by where my books are and seeing how much space they give me on their shelves. A couple of books means that I don’t do well at that store. Five or six books tells me I’m okay. Eight or ten tells me I’m kicking ass in that town. If the books are faced out, that means I’ve got somebody on staff who is a fan (and that is incredibly important).

(5) Steven Murphy commences a kind of nonlethal Death Match with “Them’s Fightin’ Words: Harry Potter V. Ender Wiggin” at ScienceFiction.com

The following is the first of a new series pitting the merits and abilities of similar characters against each other. We open with a disclosure of the personal bias of the author then outline some ground rules and end with an example of how a fight between the two might unfold.

Personal Bias: The popularity of JK Rowling’s series has cemented Harry Potter as the go-to magical youth. He is the modern personification of the fantasy genre. The perfect contrast to Potter would then be the boy who personifies science fiction, Ender Wiggin of Orson Scott Card’s novel ‘Ender’s Game‘. The two characters have a great deal in common–both are children with the fate of their kind resting on their shoulders. I prefer ‘Ender’s Game’ over any single Harry Potter book, but I can’t argue that the Potter series as a whole succeeds on a level that the Ender series of books does not.

Ground Rules: The Goblet of Fire follows Harry into a series of trials that place him in a mindset that parallels Ender’s nicely. For my purposes the version of Harry with the skills and experience gained from this book and those previous will be used. The Ender used will be the one post ‘Ender’s Game’ and before ‘Speaker for the Dead’. This will allow the two characters to be roughly the same age. Ender will not have the assistance of his friend and database intelligence, Jane. The surroundings will compliment Ender in that the arena is the Battle School’s gravity free training room complete with the immobile obstacles called “astroids” for cover. Ender will have a blaster and Harry will have his wand. They enter the arena at opposite gates, neither with a clear view of the opposing gate.

(6) Tom Knighton reviews Chuck Gannon’s Raising Caine:

Like the first in the series, this one starts out somewhat slow.  The action tends to be minimal and sporadic, but for good reason.  However, the writing is good enough that it will get you through to the moments where the action picks up.  Further, none of the other stuff is filler.  Almost all feels vital to the story (and I can’t think of anything that comes up that isn’t important later on).

When the story does pick up, it becomes something very special indeed.  That’s just Gannon’s gift, however.  The previous book, Trial by Fire contained more of the action I prefer just be necessity, and that book was definitely on my list of “special” books.

While I don’t think Raising Caine was quite up to that level, that’s not a slight on this book.  The only books I’ve read recently that were on that level included Seveneves and A Long Time Until Now.  Both of those are on my Hugo list, and Raising Caine is a contender for one of those slots as well.

(7) The Nerf Nuke fires 80 darts in all directions.

(8) Tom Galloway, past contestant and inveterate Jeopardy! watcher, saw this on the October 12 show —

Heh. Today’s Jeopardy! round was a themed board on Game of Thrones, with categories Winter Is Coming, A Song of “Ice” and “Fire”, You Know Nothing, The North Remembers, Always Pay Your Debts, and wrapping up with Game Of Thrones, of course the only category actually about the work (specifically the tv series).

(9) Sometimes there’s a reason this news is hard to find — “’Lizard men abducted me to the moon for sex,’ woman claims”.

A former U.S. air force radar operator was abducted to the moon by lizard men for nightly sex – and was also forced to stack boxes.

What our reptilian overlords want with these sinister boxes can only be guessed at.

Niara Terela Isley is just one of several witnesses quoted by Alien UFO Sightings in an expose of the U.S. military’s secret moon bases – where reptiles rule, and humans are passed around like sex toys.

(10) James Schardt delivers “A Response to Charles Gannon” at Otherwhere Gazette.

At one point, Mr. Gannon used the term “The Evil Other”. I’m not sure he has grasped the full significance of this label.

Would you talk to a Homophobic Neo-Nazi that tried to hijack a literary award?

How about a racist who married a minority wife and had a child with her to hide his racism? These have actually happened! We know, it was talked about in such serious publications as Salon, Entertainment Weekly, The Daily Beast, The Guardian, and Slate. They had to get their information somewhere. Someone sent this information to them and they should have done due diligence. Otherwise they might not have as much credibility as people thought.

Now, those two characters, above, don’t even sound plausible in comic books. But these are not just insults that have been thrown at the Puppies. This is what many of the Science Fiction Establishment actually BELIEVE. With these beliefs, almost any action becomes allowable. What tactic should be disallowed when fighting Evil? Are you going to let a prestigious award go to a Nazi? Someone might think it validated his ideas, then you have more Nazis. Would you pay for a hundred more people to vote to prevent that? Would you tone back your rhetoric for any reason? You certainly wouldn’t apologize for calling them Nazis. That’s what they are. Good grief, we’re talking about Fascists, here! It cost 60 million lives to defeat them last time! Vox Day is sadly mistaken. Social Justice Warriors don’t always lie. When you are fighting for Good, there is no reason to lie. Social Justice Warriors tell the truth as they see it.

Of course, the problem is, the Puppies are not Nazis. Even Theodore Beale, the infamous Vox Day, doesn’t quite reach that level (probably). In the face of this, the Puppies can’t back down. Not won’t, CAN’T! They know. They tried. This is the biggest problem with telling the Puppies to moderate their responses.

(11) Someone was not pleased to see the topic heat up again —

(12) John Scalzi did, however, enjoy explaining his now-famous Nerdcon somersault in the first comment on “My Thoughts on Nerdcon:Stories”.

(13) “A Harry Potter Where Hermione Doesn’t Do Anyone’s Homework For Them” by Mallory Ortberg at The Toast.

“Okay, write that down,” Hermione said to Ron, pushing his essay and a sheet covered in her own writing back to Ron, “and then copy out this conclusion that I’ve written for you.”

“Hermione, you are honestly the most wonderful person I’ve ever met,” said Ron weakly, “and if I’m ever rude to you again –” He broke off suddenly. “This just says DO YOUR OWN GODDAMN WORK in fourteen languages.”

“Fifteen,” said Hermione. “One of them’s invisible.”

(14) Kimberly Potts’ “The Big Bang Theory Recap: What the Filk Is Happening” sets up the next video.

Thankfully, just as so many episodes of Will & Grace were Karen-and-Jack-ed away from the main characters, “The 2003 Approximation” is stolen, or rather saved, by Howard and Raj. In a far more entertaining half of the episode, we’re introduced to the joys of Filk. What, you may ask, is Filk? It’s a genre of music that puts a science-fiction/fantasy spin on folk, and yes, it is a real thing. It’s also the reason that, for at least the next week, many of us will be trying to get the chorus of “Hammer and Whip: The Untold Story of Thor vs. Indiana Jones” out of our heads.

 

(15) Jurassic World gets the Honest Trailer treatment.

Spoilers.

Also not very funny.

On second thought, was there some reason I included this link?

(16) Because it’s a good lead-in to Bryce Dallas Howard’s defense of her Jurassic World character’s shoe preferences?

Her insistence on wearing high-heels throughout the movie, including a memorable scene that sees her outrunning a T-Rex in stilettos, was dismissed as “lazy filmmaking” by Vulture and called “one tiny but maddening detail” that set up the film to “fail” by The Dissolve.

The actress herself disagrees. She explained to Yahoo why her character’s footwear choice is totally “logical” for the movie, seemingly putting the conversation to bed once and for all.

Watch our exclusive interview with Bryce Dallas Howard for the DVD and Blu-ray release of ‘Jurassic World’ on 19 October above.

“[Claire] is ill-equipped to be in the jungle. This person does not belong in the jungle,” reasons Bryce.

“And then when she ends up in the jungle it’s how does this person adapt to being in the jungle?”

“From a logical standpoint I don’t think she would take off her heels,” she adds.

“I don’t think she would choose to be barefoot. I don’t think she would run faster barefoot in the jungle with vines and stones.”

[Thanks to Nick Mamatas, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Will R.]

Free Read: The History of Filk Music

TST coverGary McGath’s fanhistory Tomorrow’s Songs Today: The History of Filk Music, funded by an IndieGoGo campaign, is now available as a free download. I’ve really enjoyed the portion I’ve read so far.

What’s this thing called “filk music” that’s sung at science fiction conventions? It’s a culture with a rich history, a community that transcends national borders. It’s dreams of space and science. It’s laughter and sadness. It’s the people who create and sing the songs, who publish them, who organize conventions.

Author McGath has been active in filk since 1989. He has chaired three ConCertino filk conventions and has run Boskone’s filk program for two decades. He was inducted into the Filk Hall of Fame in 2004. McGath has also edited several filk songbooks.

Tomorrow’s Songs Today is rich in anecdote, the product of many interviews with longtime filkers. I can’t claim much knowledge of this specialized field but the book bats 1.000 in reporting the only three facts I know to check: filk was a typo by Lee Jacobs, Poul Anderson wrote the lyrics to “Bouncing Potatoes”, and the field’s best-known fanzine, called Philk Fee-Nom-Ee-Non, was a Hugo nominee in 1984.

Check it out – after all, the price is right!

Joe Bethancourt III (1946-2014)

Joe Bethancourt performing in 2004.

Joe Bethancourt performing in 2004.

W.J. (Joe) Bethancourt, a professional bluegrass singer with roots in filk and the SCA, died August 29 after a long illness.

Bethancourt joined the Society of Creative Anachronism, probably at the 1969 Westercon — the only date that fits with the rest of the official history — and was instrumental (pun intended) in founding Arizona’s Kingdom of Atenveldt where he was known as Master Ioseph of Locksely. He was one of the first to receive the kingdom’s “Order of the Laurel,” in April 1970. And he later held the office of Imperial Herald.

Bethancourt ran his own production company, White Tree Productions, and recorded solo, with noted filker Leslie Fish, and with the neo-Celtic band The Bringers. He taught acoustic instruments of all kinds out of Boogie Music in Phoenix.

He played 65 different instruments – banjo and 12-string guitar and the rest of a long list including 6-course Cittern, Celtic Harp, Lute, and Ozark Mouthbow.

His professional musical career included a stint as a studio musician in LA before returning to Phoenix where he worked 17 years performing at the Funny Fellows restaurant, hosted a radio show on KDKB “Folk Music Occasional,” appeared regularly on local TV on the “Wallace and Ladmo Show,” and worked with children in the Arizona Commission for the Arts’ “Artists in Education” program.

In March of 2013 he was inducted into the Arizona Music and Entertainment Hall Of Fame.

UnderTheDoubleChicken_Card

Bari Greenberg Passes Away

Bari and Cat Greenberg

Bari and Cat Greenberg

Bari Greenberg died August 17 reports SF Site News. Greenberg co-founded the St. Louis filk band, The Unusual Suspects, along with his wife and songwriting partner, Cat Greenberg, Cat’s daughter Valerie Ritchie, and their friend Mark Ewbank.

He worked professionally as an engineer and also was co-owner of Mountain Cat Media LLC, a recording and design studio.

The Unusual Suspects produced a CD, Accidental Filk Band, in 2012. Bari and Cat released a duet CD, Romancing the Filk, in 2013.

Greenberg also had been looking forward to making his debut as a fiction author in Sword & Sorceress 29.

The SFWA blog ran an In Memoriam post that noted his wife Cat Greenberg is the SFWA Bulletin advertising director.

A video of Bari with The Unusual Suspects is linked below – he starts singing at :19.

2014 Pegasus Award Shortlist

The 2014 Pegasus Award finalists have been posted:

Best Filk Song

  • “Acolytes of the Machine,” by Dr. Mary Crowell
  • “Child of the Library,” by Piers & Gill Cawley
  • “Pageant Legend,” by Ju Honisch & Katy Dröge-Macdonald
  • “Paper Worlds,” by Talis Kimberley
  • “Snow White, Red Road,” by Cheshire Moon

Best Classic Filk Song

  • “Apology,” by Bill and Gretchen Roper
  • “Before The Dawn,” by Mike Whitaker
  • “Grandfather,” by Gary Hanak
  • “I Am Stardust,” by Lloyd Landa
  • “Storm Dancing,” by Tom Smith

Best Performer

  • Cheshire Moon
  • Copy Red Leader
  • Tim Griffin
  • Stone Dragons
  • Toyboat

Best Writer/Composer

  • Tim Griffin
  • Phil Mills
  • Ben Newman
  • Ada Palmer
  • Eva Van Daele-Hunt

Best Adapted Song

  • “Meat,” by Kathleen Sloan
  • “Midichlorian Rhapsody,” by Jeff Bohnhoff
  • “Snitch Ball Wizard,” by Steve Macdonald
  • “Threes Rev. 1.1,” by Duane Elms
  • “TIE After TIE,” by Debs & Errol

Best Song of Passage

  • “City of Doors,” by Dr. Mary Crowell
  • “Outward Bound,” by Cat Faber
  • “Persephone,” by Michelle Dockrey
  • “Scarlet Town,” by Cathy McManamon
  • “Starlight & Saxophone,” by Tom Smith

Anyone with an interest in the filk community may vote for their favorites online through October 19. Links to recordings of all the nominees, which can be heard free, are included with the ballot here. The winners will be announced at Ohio Valley Filk Festival.

Filk on Today’s “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me”

NPR’s quiz show “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me” featured three questions about filk music today in the “Not My Job” segment.

Oscar Isaac, the actor who plays the titular character in Joel and Ethan Coen’s Inside Llewyn Davis, was posed questions that included references to Doctor Who and Captain Kirk.

To hear that part of the show click on the link above link. The filk questions begin around the 5:50 mark.

The program is moderated by Peter Sagal who passed on being a special guest of Chicon 7 to film a documentary in Iceland.

 [Thanks to Sam Long, Rich Lynch and Andrew Porter for the story.]

Mara Brener (1952-2013)

Mara Brener in 2004.

Well-known filksinger Mara Brener died February 27 in West Covina, CA. She was Music GoH at Leprecon 30 in 2004 and one of the GoHs at Contata 2005.

She was married to Dr. Harry Brener from 1975 until his death in 2012.

A science assignment in 1970 found Mara concocting a bawdy ballad about the metamorphism of the local Tuscarora quartzite, until an emergency at NASA brought a change of course. “The Ballad of Apollo 13“ (not the song fans know by that name) earned an “A“. It was Mara’s first filksong, although she didn’t discover “filk“ for another fourteen years.

In 1984 the Breners attended their first science fiction convention; LACon II in Anaheim, for the once-in-a-lifetime Star Wars Trilogy Marathon. They chanced upon the word “filksinging“ on the schedule, and spent most of the rest of the con in the indicated room. Contacts they made there led to publication of songs by both Breners in the fanzine Filk Fee-nom-ee-non.

Mara hosted a Los Angeles Filkers Anonymous meeting within the past year.

[Via Lynn Gold.]