Tomorrow’s Songs Today, now available!

Who first published recorded filk? (It wasn’t Leslie.)

Where did the word “filk” come from?

When and where was the first filk convention, and who organized it?

What was the original tune for “Mary O’Meara”?

How did Off Centaur Publications rise and fall?

How did the Pegasus Awards and the Filk Hall of Fame originate?

Why do you see so many dandelion symbols associated with filk?

You’ll find the answers to these and many more questions — well, at least my answers, based on a lot of research — in Tomorrow’s Songs Today: The History of Filk Music, available for immediate download as a free e-book!

It’s been a long effort, and I owe thanks to many, many people. Terri Wells’ editing and Matt Leger’s cover have made it a much better product than it would have been otherwise. Beyond that, I don’t want to fill this post with the huge list of acknowledgments, so just download the book and read them for yourself.

The limited print edition will follow. It’s mostly to provide the promised rewards for my IndieGoGo supporters, but I’ll be making some copies available for sale. It’s rather expensive to produce a small run of a book and have it look good, so I have to apologize for the rather high price I’ll need to set. There will also be a few tote bags available.

The release party will be at Boskone.

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Hitler’s Children

This morning I watched a movie on Netflix called Hitler’s Children. It consists of interviews with and presentations of descendants of some of the highest-ranking Nazis. None are literally Hitler’s descendants, of course, but they include descendants or close relatives of Himmler, Goering, and Höss, mostly two generations removed.

I wanted to find something to bridge the huge difference between the Germany that I know and the Germany of the Nazis, and I found something of that. It was hard to watch. All of the people presented had repudiated and spoken against their Nazi forbears, but they mentioned having relatives who just wanted to forget the whole thing, or in some cases who still supported the Nazis. I’m sure there were many more people who wanted no part in the documentary than agreed to be in it.

What did I learn from it? One thing was that the distance between ordinary daily life and monstrous actions can be very small. The family of a concentration camp commander lived right outside it and lived a normal life, paying little attention to it. Some people had the truth concealed from them; one woman’s mother told her that her father governed a “work camp,” not a death camp, and she learned the truth only years later from a survivor of the camp.

I saw that these were Germans not very different from ones I know, closely connected without choice to people who’d done horrible things and having to deal with it. That’s not quite right; they had the choice to deal with it or ignore it, and others in their families had chosen to turn their backs on it. By speaking about it, they showed that blood isn’t destiny (one of them explicitly made that point) and helped me to understand what Germans have to bear.

Usually I go through a bunch of edits on my posts, but I’m going to put this up in one shot, then go off and see if I can stop shaking.

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Here it is! The cover for Tomorrow’s Songs Today

Here it is at last: Matt Leger’s cover for Tomorrow’s Songs Today! This art will be reproduced on the tote bags and hard copy versions that are going to the book’s IndieGoGo supporters, and there will be a few more available.

Cover for Tomorrow's Songs Today

The cover by Matt Leger for Tomorrow’s Songs Today

Excellent work, Matt!

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Newton’s birthday and the “war on Christmas”

Lately on Twitter I’ve noticed complaints from a number of conservatives about people who celebrate Isaac Newton’s birthday on December 25. It’s a tactic of the War on Christmas, they tell us, to claim he was born on the 25th. If so, then all of England was waging this war during his lifetime.

The case against regarding December 25 as his birthday is that under the reformed European calendar, which everyone now uses, his birthday would have been January 4. However, Newton was born in 1643 and died in 1726. England didn’t adopt the new calendar until 1750. It’s perfectly reasonable to regard his birthday as the date in use in his home country.

Dates of birth don’t have any intrinsic significance, of course. Those who want to call it January 4 can. But it’s especially silly for people who celebrate Jesus’s birthday on December 25 to express outrage at alleged inaccuracy in such matters. Even if you take everything in the Bible as literal truth, there’s nothing in it that indicates Jesus was born in winter, and the nocturnal watch of the shepherds makes a spring day much more likely.

Some people, like me, like to observe Newton’s birthday because the big religious holiday on December 25 has no special meaning to us, and it’s nice to celebrate something we find more meaningful. Let’s face it, this is the real reason for the outrage; a lot of Christians think no one but them should engage in any seasonal celebrations. Some of those people know enough history to know that shortly after Newton was born, the Puritans passed a law banning many forms of Christmas observation, so that gives conservative Christians a reason not to like anything English from that period. (I’d agree with their low opinion of the Puritans, if not their reasons.) On top of that, Newton may have been inclined toward Unitarianism.

If you missed December 25, celebrate Newton’s birthday again on January 4. That should make everybody happy.

Rewriting filk history

Finally, after a lot of rewriting, Tomorrow’s Songs Today is looking something like a book and not just a list of events. It’s past 50,000 words, and if for some reason I had to release what exists right now, I wouldn’t be totally embarrassed. There are still facts I’m trying to pick up, typos and grammatical errors to be fixed, a narrative to make smoother, a layout to finalize, and a cover to add, but the result is in sight. I’m going back and forth with Terri so she can pounce on whatever needs to be improved and make sure that I get it right.

January delivery still looks like a reasonable hope. I’ll keep you all posted.

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I’ve just come back from the Ohio Valley Filk Festival, where I conducted fifteen interviews for Tomorrow’s Songs Today. They included people from the US, Canada, and Germany, who’ve had a significant role in the history of filk. I’ve now got more information, more perspectives, and more good quotes to include in the book.

Matt Leger has sent me a draft and a revision of the cover art. I really like it, and so did all the people I showed it to at OVFF. The final illustration will go on the tote bags and hard copy books, as well as the e-book. I’ll be making some extras of each available for sale as well as delivering the promised perks.

Terri Wells has started going over my drafts and delivering some very useful recommendations.

The project’s turning out to be a bit more work than I thought, just because people have been so enthusiastic about providing information, but it will be a better book for that. The book should be out before the end of January, which will let me deliver the perks on time.

Sadly, with all the interviewing, I didn’t sing even one song at OVFF, but I had a lot of fun. Your support on IndieGoGo helped make the 1500 miles of driving possible.

Tomorrow’s Songs Today: Change in plans and open thread

The amount that my IndieGoGo campaign for Tomorrow’s Songs Today raised fell short of the stretch goal for getting editing of content as well as copy. However, a couple of anonymous donors have just come through with additional money; this means that Terri Wells will be working with me through the whole process of developing the book, sending stuff back to me when it should be rewritten, and otherwise abusing me to make it a better book.

While we’re here, I’m declaring this post an open thread on filk history. If there’s anything you want to tell me about that you think should go into the book, let me know. If you prefer, just ask me to email you; I’ll see the address which you give WordPress, even though the public won’t.

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Update on hardcopy TST

I just got a quote on spiral binding for Tomorrow’s Songs Today. It’s still not cheap, but it’s doable. All hard-copy books for supporters and other commitments will be spiral bound, with card stock covers front and back, and the front cover in color. I expect to have some additional copies for sale afterward. This is the signed and numbered edition; it’s possible that there will be a less expensive print version, but I can’t make any promises now.

I’ll be talking with people at OVFF about filk history, to gather as much information as I can. If you’ll be there and would like to be interviewed, let me know.

If you want to support the project, you have till the end of tomorrow (midnight Pacific time). You can still get your name listed as a supporter, as well as the tote bag, the printed book, or even your own custom songbook. Same URL as usual.

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Goal reached!!!!

The goal for Tomorrow’s Songs Today has been reached!! There will be a book!!!

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Tomorrow’s Songs Today: New stretch goals

The campaign for Tomorrow’s Songs Today is within a hair’s breadth of its goal, but the stretch goal of $3500 for full editing is a big reach, so I’ve added some intermediate stretch goals to fill the gap.

As long as the campaign reaches its basic goal, I’ll donate one signed and numbered print copy to Interfilk. At $2600, I’ll donate a copy to the Cushing Library at Texas A&M, which has an active filk collection. At $2700, I’ll make it two copies to Interfilk, and at $3000, three copies (plus the copy to Cushing in both cases). More than that would flood the auction market. All signed and numbered books, including perks, will be in “perfect” (paperback) binding with a color cover. Update: Sorry, but the quote for perfect binding was much higher than I expected. Watch for an update soon; at this point spiral binding is the most likely.

As always, thank you all, and keep spreading the word. There’s still a chance of piling more work on Terri!

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