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. 🙂

2016 Pegasus Awards

The winners of the 2016 Pegasus Awards for excellence in filking were presented at the Ohio Valley Filk Fest on November 5.

BEST FILK SONG

BEST CLASSIC FILK SONG

BEST PERFORMER

  • Play It With Moxie

BEST WRITER/COMPOSER

  • Barry Childs-Helton

BEST ADAPTED SONG

BEST EXPLORATION SONG

[Thanks to Karl-Johan Norén for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 5/31/16 Every Bark a Doorway

(1) ATTACKING CREATORS. Devin Faraci at Birth. Movies. Death. lit up the internet with the claim “Fandom Is Broken”.

… Last week the AV Club ran an excellent piece about the nature of modern fan entitlement, and I think it’s fairly even-handed. The piece covers both the reaction to an all-female Ghostbusters reboot but also the hashtag that trended trying to get Elsa a girlfriend in Frozen 2. The author of that piece, Jesse Hasenger, draws a line between the two fan campaigns, rightly saying that whether driven by hate (Ghostbusters) or a desire for inclusion (Frozen 2) both campaigns show the entitlement of modern fan culture. It’s all about demanding what you want out of the story, believing that the story should be tailored to your individual needs, not the expression of the creators….

The old fan entitlement has been soldered onto the ‘customer is always right’ mindset that seems to motivate the people who make Yelp so shitty. I’m spending a dollar here, which makes me the lord and master of all, is the reasoning (I don’t even want to speculate about whether or not modern fans spend their dollars on licensed, legal products – that’s an essay for another weary day). It’s what makes people act like assholes to servers, and somehow it’s become the way ever-growing segments of fans are behaving towards creators. It’s been interesting watching so many people bring up Joe Simon and Jack Kirby in the Captain America fracas; one of part of it is that their Jewishness allows angry, petulant fans to throw down a social justice bomb but it also speaks to how modern fans see many modern creators. They’re nobody compared to the ones who invented this stuff. The modern creator is the server, and they should be going back into the kitchen and bringing back a Captain America cooked to their exact specifications, and without any sort of complications or surprises. This is what fans have always wanted, but the idea of being consumers – people who are offering money for services rendered – only reinforces the entitlement.

And so we have these three elements – one old as fandom itself, one rooted in technological advances and one impacted by the corporatization of storytelling – coming together in such a way to truly break fandom. I wish this was the part of the essay where I come to you with a hopeful pep talk about how we can all be better, but I just don’t see a positive solution. If anything, I see things getting worse – creators walling themselves off from fans while corporate masters happily throw vision and storytelling under the bus to appease the people who can get hashtags trending. “You can’t always get what you want” is a sentiment that belongs to another era when it comes to mass storytelling. I recently read Glen Weldon’s excellent The Caped Crusade: Batman and the Rise of Nerd Culture and the arc of fandom it sketches out is a profoundly disheartening one, with Batfans morphing from monkish annotators of the character’s fictional history into crusaders harrassing anyone on the internet who sees Batman differently than they do….

(2) THE RISING OF THE DOUGH. More details about the Sons of Anarchy cast payment problems at a Houston convention this past weekend from Official Ava Jade Cosplay: “Space City Comic (Con) – Thousands Swindled, Contracts Broken and Many Still Looking for Answers”:

The previously included statement about the rooms not being paid for has been retracted-  A representative from the staff contacted me and informed me that I was misinformed about the exact situation. There was a mishap regarding the hotel check in. The credit card for the room was for the reservations and not for incidentals. Upon checking in, some cast members had to pay cash for the incidentals, instead of putting their own credit card up, and risking being charged upon checking out.  The cast was NOT charged for their room.  I was informed during the interview, that there was a problem checking in the hotel due to the credit card not being accepted, it later was realized that we should clarify to what extent.   When Mr. Hunnam took his check to the bank to cash it, he found out that the check that was given to him was written from an account that had been CLOSED. This happened to the entire cast. Many of the actors went to the promoters office to demand payment, where the promoter ended up calling the cops because he was “being held hostage”. The cast was in no way held him hostage, but wanted answers and payment.  The panel schedule was completely jacked up, the cast was not given the correct times for photo ops and for panels. The Friday panel was canceled due to the AVI team refusing to allow anyone onstage until they were paid. They were promised payment upfront, instead they weren’t paid and pulled the plug on the event. The cast was all there, waiting to go on. It seems that the event promoter broke the contract not once, but TWICE.

Bleeding Cool wrote a story of its own based on the Official Ava Jade post with the dramatic headline, “Police Called On Cast Of Sons Of Anarchy After They Demanded Space City Comic Con Pay Up”. Houston police were helpful in protecting the convention staff from an irate customer —

Comments from volunteers included this, from Shelley Montrose,

This will be the last Saturday/Sunday that I volunteer at any Comic Convention. I was shouted at more in the 6 hours that I volunteered on Saturday than I was in the entire year last year. Friday was amazing and Saturday in my LAST 2 MINUTES there HPD had to intervene as a grown man came into my face and threatened to “choke me to death, rape me, and burn me like on YouTube.” I decided not to come to my scheduled 8 hour volunteer shift on Sunday. I thought my life was in danger. One of Charlie’s bodyguards ran over to help me before the guy got to me. Honestly, I thought the guy was gonna to hit me. After reading this article I think I understand what happened a little bit better. I can’t even explain how horrible it was the tell people who traveled all the way from England, China, Australia,etc., that the $800-$3000 that they spent on a prepaid ticket will not be honored at the desk at the majority of the sons of anarchy autograph sessions , and that they would have to go to the ATMs on the inside of the convention ( because all the ATMs on the outside of the entrances were broken ) in order to get money to pay cash for any autographs or photo ops they wanted with the celebrities.I personally ended up going to the ATM to help people pay for the prepaid tickets that they purchased for autographs with the celebrities. I won’t even go into how much that puts me back on my budget, including but not limited to my rent, utilities, and food.I was with Charlie Hunnam for almost four hours, and He pulled it together for all of his fans. Anyone that was there saw me standing beside Charlie Hunnam, I was taking pictures of them with him, knows that he was very giving to fans as well as professional. I feel like I did a good job of keeping the fans calm, entertained, and happy until they got to Charlie Hunnam .Ron Perlman was also professional as well. When I left he was still excepting those bogus tickets that people had pre-purchased.

(3) BE ON THE LOOKOUT. Speaking of grand theft – Swedish astronomers theorize Planet 9 is a stolen exoplanet.

New research suggests the mysterious and controversial “Planet 9” isn’t an original member of our solar system. According to a new computer simulation developed by astronomers at Lund University in Sweden, the ninth planet is an exoplanet — stolen by the sun from its original host star.

“It is almost ironic that while astronomers often find exoplanets hundreds of light years away in other solar systems, there’s probably one hiding in our own backyard,” researcher Alexander Mustill said in a news release….

 

(4) EXCELLENCE IN FILKING. SF Site News reported that nominations have opened for the 2016 Pegasus Awards, given by the Ohio Valley Filk Festival.

pegasus logo

Any member of the worldwide filk community is eligible to win. Past Nominees have hailed from the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, Australia, and Singapore as well as the United States.

The nomination and ballot procedure is similar to that of the Hugo, except that one does not need to be a paid member of the convention to nominate or vote. Anyone with an interest in Filking or Filk music can place a nomination and/or vote.

The results are tabulated, the winners determined, and the award is presented at the Pegasus Awards Banquet...

There are currently six Pegasus award categories, including two floating categories that are different each year.

Fans suggested nominees and songs through the Brainstorming Poll, and the results can be seen on these pages:

Ballots must be received by 12:01AM PDT, August 1, 2016, whether cast online or by mail.

(5) BEWARE GAME OF THRONES SPOILER. Here’s something George R.R. Martin revealed at Balticon 50:

According to Vanity Fair, Martin appeared at a convention in Baltimore called Balticon to read aloud to those in attendance a new chapter from his forthcoming book The Winds of Winter. During his time in front of the crowd, the author announced that Brienne of Tarth is the descendant of Ser Duncan the Tall.

For those who don’t know, Ser Duncan the Tall is one of Westeros’ most famous knights, making this connection with Brienne particularly noteworthy, especially when considering he’s one of Martin’s favorite characters.

(6) MORE SHOOTING. ScienceFiction.com says “’Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’ Gets Planned Reshoots After Disney’s Rumored Unhappiness”.

Many films that are destined for the big screen get re-shoots or planned production times after an initial cut of the film has been done where the crews can go back and shoot additional or replacement footage for certain scenes.  It’s a fairly common practice, although the re-shot and re-edited scenes are usually minimal in nature, comparative to the overall plot of the film.  Rumor has it, however, that the upcoming Star Wars spinoff, ‘Rogue One,’ has heavy reshoots planned by parent company Disney, who is unhappy with how the film has fared so far with test audiences.

There has only been one trailer released so far for the film, which was actually met with great enthusiasm from the fans.  However, a cool-looking trailer does not directly equate to a successful and well-received film — look no further than this very franchise’s ‘Star Wars, Episode I: The Phantom Menace’ for evidence of such.

(7) WHO BLABBED? Cora Buhlert shares Cap’s secret with us:

(8) SFWA YA JURORS. “Andre Norton Award Jury Announced” at the SFWA Blog.  

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America announce the members of the jury for the 2016 Andre Norton Award. Throughout the coming year, the jury will be compiling its list of picks for the Norton Award. This year for the first time, SFWA will release a Norton Honor list of the top 15-20 books compiled from member votes and jury picks.

Chair Ellen Klages says, “Speculative fiction is a literature about exploration, possibilities, and dreams. The Andre Norton Award honors the best SF/F works written for the people who will create the future — children and young adults. What they read today will influence them — and the world — for decades to come.”

The jury members are: Ellen Klages (jury chair), E.C. Myers, Fran Wilde, Leah Bobet, and Jei D. Marcade. Read their bios at the linked post.

(9) SFWA SFWA. Cat Rambo notes anyone can watch the SFWA Chat Hour, 1st edition, on YouTube, “complete with annoying echo that we will fix next time.”

Come hear Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) officials and staff Cat Rambo, M.C.A. Hogarth, and Kate Baker talk about the recent Nebula conference weekend, current SFWA efforts, and what’s coming in 2016 in the first episode of the biweekly SFWA Chat Hour.

 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

  • Born May 31, 1961 — Lea Thompson, known to the world for other things but to fans for Howard the Duck and Back to the Future.

(11) BUTLER CONFERENCE. UC San Diego will be the site of “Shaping Change: Remembering Octavia E. Butler Through Archives, Art, and Worldmaking”, a conference from June 3-5 that is open to the public.

Shaping change

50 years from now, how have we shaped change (through art, activism, and archives) in the world? What have we left behind that that we can draw from our presents and pasts? What lessons in Butler’s life and writing will help forestall what seems like the inevitable collapse of human civilization?

Organized by Shelley Streeby (UC San Diego) and Ayana Jamieson (founder, Octavia E. Butler Legacy Network), the event will feature talks from: Adrienne Maree Brown, Aimee Bahng, Alexis Lothian, M. Asli Dukan, Ayana Jamieson, Krista Franklin, Lisa Bolekaja, Melanie West, Moya Bailey, Nisi Shawl, Ola Ronke, Rasheedah Phillips, Shelley Streeby, Sophia Echavarria, Ted Chiang, and Walidah Imarisha.

(12) MEETING ABOUT MEDUSA. Steven Baxter and Alastair Reynolds will speak at Foyles Bookshop in Charing Cross Road (tickets required) on June 4.

Foyles talk

Join us for a conversation with two leading figures in science fiction, Alastair Reynolds and Stephen Baxter, as they discuss their new collaboration The Medusa Chronicles. Inspired by the classic Sir Arthur C. Clarke’s short story ‘A Meeting with Medusa’, The Medusa Chronicles continues the story of Commander Howard Falcon over centuries of space-exploration. One of the most compelling novels of either author’s career, it combines moments of incredible action with an intricately-realised depiction of an expansive universe.

Stephen Baxter is the author of more than forty novels, including the Sunday Times bestselling Long Earth series, co-authored with Sir Terry Pratchett, and the acclaimed Time’s Eye trilogy, co-authored with Sir Arthur C. Clarke. He has won major awards in the UK, US, Germany, and Japan. Born in 1957 he has degrees from Cambridge and Southampton.

Alastair Reynolds was born in Barry, South Wales, in 1966. He studied at Newcastle and St Andrews universities, has a Ph.D. in astronomy and worked as an astrophysicist for the European Space Agency before becoming a full-time writer. An award-winning as well as bestselling writer, with more than thirteen published novels to his name, Locus described him as ‘the most exciting space opera writer working today’.

Together, Reynolds and Baxter will talk about Clarke’s influence on their own writing, the themes that underpin his work, and how they were inspired to continue his story, as well as their bodies of work as a whole. This will be followed by an opportunity for the audience to ask their own questions and a book signing.

This event is in association with The Arthur C. Clarke Award and SFX.

(13) BYO LIFE ON MARS. SpaceReview.com sifts its favorite ideas from the many conferences about human expeditions to the red planet, in “A Year on Mars”.

How many humans on Mars conferences do we need in a year? That thought came to mind during the recent Humans to Mars (H2M) Summit in Washington, DC. There are a lot of them, especially in Washington. There were at least six humans-to-Mars related public events in Washington in 2015, not counting the NASA-sponsored human Mars landing site selection workshop in Houston. Now 2016 is shaping up the same way. Last Tuesday following the H2M conference, the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning DC-based think-tank, held a talk “Beyond the Moon: What will it take to get astronauts on Mars?” The Mars Society was in Washington last August and will be back in September, and there will probably be at least one or two other Mars-related meetings or lectures that will happen later this year. And not everything is happening in Washington: the same week as the H2M conference there were a series of talks on Mars at the International Space Development Conference in Puerto Rico.

Some, but not all, of this attention to the humans to Mars subject is due to the success of the movie The Martian and the book that inspired it. But the subject is also culturally bigger than that: witness the attention that Mars One got last year, both positive and negative, and NASA pushing the theme hard as well (every time somebody uses the hashtag #JourneyToMars an angel gets its wings.) Human missions to Mars, or at least talking about humans on Mars, is all the rage these days, and H2M has made a pretty impressive effort at taking the lead.

H2M seems to have upped its game recently. Their website is slick, featuring computer animations and links to video recordings of most of the presentations at their conference, much of which was live-streamed….

(14) ATTENTION ANN LECKIE. “Tea in space” might be a highly scientific idea. Scientists say it could be used to create useful materials for astronauts visiting Mars.

Former Prime Minister William Gladstone said: ‘If you are cold, tea will warm you; if you are too heated, it will cool you; If you are depressed, it will cheer you; If you are excited, it will calm you.’

It may also one day help astronauts on Mars.

The humble cup of tea holds the key to new ‘wonder materials’, new research suggests.

The bacteria found in tea could lead to breakthroughs in water filtration and technology.

(15) THIS IS STRANGE. An sf novel hidden in Reddit posts? The BBC interviewed the anonymous author.

The plot ranges across the CIA, hallucinogenic drugs, humpback whales, Nazis and the death of Michael Jackson. But just as mysterious and intriguing is the way in which what is being dubbed ‘The Interface Series’ is emerging into the world.

If you watched the TV-series Lost, you’ll probably be familiar with that feeling of confused anticipation as you hope for several threads of narrative to tie together. Over the course of this month, a new kind of mystery, for a new kind of audience, has been unfolding on Reddit – the online bulletin board where people post articles and comments on threads about a bewildering range of subjects….

The posts appeared in threads about a bizarre range of seemingly unconnected topics including: a debate about whether pirates really did have parrots, the responses to somebody seeking advice about how to help a relative with a drugs problem and the comments under a video of a cat sliding down stairs.

But these weren’t just random nonsensical rants. There is a theme that ties them all together; ‘The Flesh Interfaces’ which seem to be “portals of some kind, made of thousands of dead bodies, which transport biological matter to some unknown place and returns it inside a fleshy sack, heavily dosed with LSD.”

(16) DAILY TRIVIA. George R.R. Martin, wrote 14 episodes of the Beauty and the Beast TV series, which ran from 1987-90.

(17) JOHNSON TRIBUTE VIDEO. See part one of the George Clayton Johnson Memorial held at the Egyptian on February 26.

[Thanks to Wendy Gale, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Will R., Cat Rambo, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Arifel.]

2015 Pegasus Awards

The winners of the 2015 Pegasus Awards for Excellence in Filk were announced at the Ohio Valley Filk Festival on October 24.

Best Time-Related Song
“Precious Moments,” Phil Allcock

Best Adapted Song
“Grabthar’s Silver Hammer,” Steve Macdonald

Best Writer/Composer
Cat Faber

Best Performer
Jeff & Maya Bohnhoff

Best Classic Filk Song
“Captain Jack and the Mermaid,” Meg Davis

Best Filk Song
“My Story Is Not Done,” Seanan McGuire

2014 Pegasus Awards

The 2014 Pegasus Awards were given at the Ohio Valley Filk Fest last weekend. (The links below are to song lyrics and brief bios on the OVFF/Pegasus site.)

Best Filk Song
(tie)
Paper Worlds by Talis Kimberley
Snow White, Red Road by Cheshire Moon

Best Classic Filk Song
Grandfather by Gary Hanak

Best Performer
Cheshire Moon

Best Writer/Composer
Tim Griffin

Best Adapted Song
Midichlorian Rhapsody by Jeff Bohnhoff

Best Song of Passage
Outward Bound by Cat Faber

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.