The print version of Tomorrow’s Songs Today

Yesterday I went to AlphaGraphics to get a quote on the printed edition of Tomorrow’s Songs Today. I owe signed and numbered copies to ten people who have contributed $100 or more, and hopefully there will be more by the end of Thursday. In addition, I’ll donate one or two copies to Interfilk and keep some number for other purposes. The lowest numbered ones will go to crowdfunding supporters.

I’m still waiting for the quote, but assuming it’s reasonable, the book will have perfect binding, like a paperback book, and a color cover.

The campaign is at exactly 75% of the goal of $2,500 as I’m writing this. Just $625 to go!

If you’ve already supported and are looking for something else to support, consider Kari Maaren’s West of Bathurst Kickstarter project.

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Tomorrow’s Songs Today: The final 7 days

The IndieGoGo campaign to fund Tomorrow’s Songs Today is coming down to its last seven days. If you’re planning to support it but have been procrastinating, time is running out. If you’ve already made a contribution, thank you, and this would be a good time to remind people of the campaign so it can meet its goal and be as good a book as it should be.

The book will happen no matter what. I’ve committed to that. But with a thousand dollars to go, it’s necessary to talk about “shrink” goals as well as “stretch” ones. If the campaign doesn’t reach its goal, IndieGoGo withholds 9% instead of 4%, so it’s a loss to all of us. In the worst case, if no more money comes in, the book will have no paid assistance. This means I’ll be relying on volunteer proofreaders, and the cover art will be whatever I can come up with by myself or with free help. I can’t draw, so this might mean just a colorful version of the title.

If the campaign hits $2,000 but less than $2,500, I’ll pay Terri Wells for copy editing but have to give up paying Matt Leger for cover art.

The perks will still happen. The tote bags won’t look as impressive if the goal isn’t reached, but you’ll get them. No one’s opted for the wall clock; people like the hard copy book better. Today I’m planning to ask a local printer about options, and I’ll post shortly about what I expect the paper book to be like.

Really, though, it’s not that far to make it happen right. Small and large contributions are both good. Even if it’s just worth $5 to you to see the history of filk made available as a free e-book, that $5 will help.

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I’m calling this past weekend FilkHistoricon. On Saturday I went to Cambridge for the MASSFILC annual meeting. Somehow I’ve developed a tendency to deliver oral footnotes after people sing old songs. I interviewed Beth Runnerwolf and got some nice background on the Conflikt filk convention.

On Sunday I went to a housefilk in Queens. Most of the core New York filk crowd was there. Harold Stein gave me a thumb drive with lots of scanned zines. They’ll be a huge help in my research. I had lunch with Aya Hayashi, who’s doing her graduate thesis on filk and other fannish music, and we had lots to talk about. Our projects complement each other. She’s writing for an academic audience and I’m writing for fans. She’s covering all forms of fan music, including wizard rock and types I hadn’t even heard of, while I’m focusing on filk in its traditional sense.

The trip got me another $100 toward the goal, and right now I’m feeling almost overwhelmed with all the new material I have to work with.

We’re down to a week and a half. Thank you all for your support, and please don’t forget to look for opportunities to spread the word. Progress is good, but there’s still a way to go, and I’d really like to hit the $3,500 stretch goal and get the full editing support.

Here’s the link for Tomorrow’s Songs Today as usual.

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Typefaces in Tomorrow’s Songs Today

Normally I don’t think much about typefaces, unless something egregious like inappropriate use of Comic Sans is involved. When I sent out the latest chapter draft of Tomorrow’s Songs Today, though, I got some feedback that forced me to consider my choice of font. I’d been using Open Office’s default of Times New Roman, but it turns out to be a poor choice of fonts for a book about filk.

Why should subject matter affect the choice of fonts? Well, the character sequence “fi” occurs a lot in this book, and when it’s italicized in Times New Roman, it doesn’t look that great. The “f” and the dot of the “i” collide in an unsatisfying way.

'Westerfilk' in Times New Roman italic

When the Golds pointed this out to me, I tried some other fonts and found that Baskerville handles that combination better. The top curl of the “f” replaces the dot of the “i.”

'Westerfilk' in Baskerville italic

Barry suggested trying Georgia. Its letter shapes are similar to Baskerville, but it’s more readable. This is partly because it’s larger for the same nominal point size, but also because it’s wider with thicker strokes. The “fi” combination keeps a separate dot for the “i,” without a collision.

'Westerfilk' in Georgia

The typeface will definitely change, though whether I’ll use the font of the Baskervilles or go down to Georgia isn’t something I’ve decided yet. I’ve got more of an appreciation than before of how typefaces matter.

Please support my IndieGoGo campaign, so the book will have the editorial support to make it the best history I can produce.

A messy piece of filk history

Covering the history of filk means reviewing some of its unpleasant parts. The most unpleasant was the breakup of Off Centaur Publications in the eighties. For those who don’t recall, it was a filk publishing business that raised recording standards and provided the first audio publication for some important filkers. It broke up in 1987; there was a lawsuit, a counter-suit, and a lot of lasting hostility. Most of what OCP published now has the status of “orphan works,” which no one can re-release because the copyright issues simply can’t be cleared.

I have to cover this, but I won’t touch the personal issues out of which it arose or the ones that resulted. I’ll deal with the goals of OCP, its role in advancing filk, the business reasons for its demise, legal actions that directly involved the business, copyright issues that linger, the relationship between OCP and Firebird Arts and Music, and the effect of those events on the Bayfilk convention. The personal issues are relevant to a full understanding, but I just don’t think it’s worth bringing them up in a publication at this date. I wasn’t there, and I couldn’t give the personal dimension a fair and adequate treatment in any case.

Since I want to be as fair as possible in the issues I do cover, yesterday I contacted Teri Lee, one of the three founders of OCP, through the Firebird site. Today I got a cordial reply from Frank Hayes, saying that she doesn’t want to say anything on the subject. He gave me a very brief account of the events, which agrees with what I already knew. While I would have liked to include her side, I can fully understand her wanting to put the issues behind her.

There are enough other sources that I’m able to assemble a factual account. Rick Weiss’s The Filking Times did a very good job of covering the events. With the help of the Internet Archive, I’ve found other sources of information. If you have information that you think I need and don’t already have, please let me know.

If you want to help me to complete and make a free publication of this history of filk, please support my IndieGoGo campaign and let others know about it.

On researching filk

The first-day response to my IndieGoGo campaign for Tomorrow’s Songs Today has been great! It’s already at $400! Publicity is very important. If you know of a suitable opportunity to mention what I’m working on, please do.

The heart of this project is research, and different parts of filk history need different approaches. There’s the First Age, which members of First Fandom have written about. This is when important events leading to today’s fandom and filk happened, and you can find out about them in books like Harry Warner, Jr.’s All Our Yesterdays and Jack Speer’s Fancestral Voices. Not as much was happening then, and available information is focused on key events like early conventions and the naming of filk. For my purposes, the First Age ended around 1960 or a little later.

In the Second Age, there’s more living memory, but there’s also a lot more to dig through. Fandom started growing rapidly. Space satellites and the race to the moon got people really interested in science, and Doctor Who and Star Trek introduced more people to science fiction. There were more cons, more songs, more people doing things, and not every scrap is captured in books. A lot of the history is found in zines that were printed on cheap paper and are hard to find. I’m relying heavily on people’s recollections. Last week I had a 50-minute phone interview with Juanita Coulson, which gave me lots of valuable information. Margaret Middleton and Lee Gold have been hugely helpful through email, to name just two. I do have some zines, and I’ve gotten a couple of offers of scans of more of them.

The Third Age dates from about 1995, when the Internet took off. Here there’s hope of finding information on the Web. The Internet Archive is a wonderful thing, providing old versions of websites to look through. There is one little problem, though: Google and other search engines are filk-hostile. (I actually use Startpage, which offers better privacy and thus doesn’t try to “personalize” my results, but the search engine is still Google.) If you search for “filk,” it decides that “film” and “folk” are much more interesting topics. I’ve discovered is much better at not using DWITYM (Do What I Think You Mean) than Google, but it’s still a matter of degree. Adding “-film -folk” to the search string helps some but can produce false negatives.

In the Third Age there are a lot more people who can provide answers, and in many cases I already know them myself, so it should be the easiest one to research. Right now I’m focusing on the Second Age, though the British filkers were very helpful this week in bringing my history of filk in their country up to date.

I really love doing this research, and the startling facts I come across really make it worthwhile. For instance, from All Our Yesterdays I’ve learned there were filk recordings before Leslie Fish, on a label called Vanguard (no connection to the later big-name label of the same name). Yesterday evening after going to bed, I wanted to check just one more fact, but finally got to sleep. Today I can check more.

Please continue your support by committing money and spreading the word. Filk deserves a well-documented history.