When transcribing someone’s Juvenilia, should one preserve the spelling errors, or not?
Confessions of a Creataholic
It occurred to me that before I posted another ‘Making of Cantata’ post where I blamed part of the Coral Palace culture on the filk community, that I really ought to explain what the filk community is. Especially since a lot of non-filkers define filk as “song parodies about scifi, computer games and other geeky things”. Which doesn’t quite cover enough ground to explain the Filk-Cantata connection.
As a young reader, I delighted in the bits of poetry/verse that I found in some of the books I read: Tolkien and McCaffrey come most particularly to mind. I would often memorize the poems, and even sometimes improvise tunes for some of the ones that were supposed to be songs, so that I could sing them. When I started writing, I sometimes included songs in my own stories. The “folk songs” I made up for use in one particular story with a historical setting (I wouldn’t do that now, I don’t think, I would use actual existing folksongs) I even created tunes for, thinking that because they were “folk songs” I might get a chance to sing them to someone sometime. You never know. But there didn’t seem to be any possibility of finding an audience for the more “fantasy” type songs, so I didn’t bother making up tunes for those.
And then I went to college, and the guy who would eventually become my husband took me to my first ever science fiction convention, and in the evening, even though I said I was tired, he insisted I attend something called ‘filking’. “You’ll love it!” He assured me. I walked in and discovered a group of people sitting roughly in a circle, and singing a song called “Pride of Chanur”, about the science fiction books featuring a race of intelligent cat-like people by C.J. Cherryh, with a tune that I had never heard before… but luckily I’m good at picking up tunes, and in no time I was singing along with the chorus. We went on to sing many other songs, some of which, like “Pride of Chanur”, were songs with original words and original tunes, some of which were new lyrics to familiar tunes, and some of which took poems from out of books and set them to music. Clearly I had found ‘my people’.
And when the convention came to an end, I went home and started writing tunes for my “fantasy” songs.
So: the filk community is a musical community that grew up around science fiction and fantasy conventions. (It is now large enough to hold conventions of its own.) There are two key elements to the filk community: the interest in fantasy and science fiction and related topics, and the emphasis on participation in music rather than just passively listening. Everyone is encouraged to sing. Everyone is encouraged to write songs. If you can’t do tunes, write new words to someone else’s tune. If you can’t do lyrics, write music to someone else’s lyrics. Take a turn singing in the circle. If you know the song someone else is singing, join in. Learn to play an instrument. Don’t just be a fan of filk, become a filker.
I think I’m supposed to be saying something Christmasy right now. So Happy Holidays everyone!
We don’t do a lot of celebrating at our house, just because we’re not into making a big fuss. But I always enjoy having my family around and getting to spend time with them, and the presents are appreciated and all the Christmas chocolates fully enjoyed.
It’s also the end of the year, so I am desperately trying to finish everything I hoped to get done this year, and, as usual, failing. But here’s one thing off the list: Velvet Lies, a Coral Palace murder mystery novella is now available for the kindle at Amazon.
(You can only get it at Amazon right now, because we decided to try some of their exclusive programs and see what we thought of them. In three months we will start making it available elsewhere. In the meantime if you are a member of Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program you can read it for free.)
In the meantime, my health slump continues, and now with a traditional Christmas cold on top of everything, I am once again reduced to playing boardgames while lying down in bed instead of sitting up at a table. ::grumble::
But I am still taking regular walks, and will get back to a more extensive exercise program as soon as I can! (Mood: determined)
Cantata in Coral and Ivory is set on a world named Ialfa, which I had originally intended to be used for fairytale retellings, or fairytale-like stories. But I thought I wanted to do tales that featured a slightly more… er… sophisticated grasp of politics than ones where kings arbitrarily pass the rulership down to whichever of their sons brings back the golden fish, or where princes can get away with marrying kitchen maids just because they happen to have the smallest foot in the kingdom. I wanted the romance and the magic (and the happy endings!) but set against a richer, more realistic cultural backdrop.
Because of that, I had two main interests when I started working on this world: the creation of an elaborate historical background, and a magic system that had an organic feel to it.
I didn’t actually have a specific story in mind yet, just those two goals. So started on a very large scale. I created a solar system, and a world geography. Then I started mapping the rise and fall of nations, and worked out what exactly magic was here, and how it accomplished things. This established the “rules” of the world. But everything I knew was very general and grand and sweeping, and it wasn’t until I decided that I wanted to actually write a story in this world that I started to think on a smaller scale about what it might be like to live there.
The spot I rather arbitrarily decided was the location of my first story, turned out to be on the equator of a continent roughly the size and geographic position of Africa. So I started reading about Africa, as well as other tropical locations and civilizations—feeding the fabulator. The large-scale rules I had already established by creating my geography guided my search for smaller details, which then ballooned back out to large-scale rules again.
If the most common form of agriculture in my target climate is slash and burn, then what sort of civilization would emerge from that base? Would they have money? What would their religion be like? How about their courts and palaces?
One book I checked out of the library commented that Africa was home to the greatest variety of very large mammals still in existence, but that giant mammals used to roam all parts of the world. Africa’s abundance is merely because, for some as yet unknown reason, more large species survived extinction there. “What,” I asked myself, “would my world be like if I reversed that trend? What if this continent I was working with wasn’t the place where the most giants survived extinction, but the place where the fewest did? Then, if I had elephants, hippopotamuses, rhinoceroses and giraffes here, what did that mean the rest of the world would look like?”
My world was gradually gaining depth. And although it didn’t look anything at all like what you’d expect from the word “fairytale”, it did have cultural richness, plenty of room for romance, and some nicely understated magic. Most importantly, it had achieved a unique personality all of its own, and was coming to life.
It became so much alive, in fact, that it did what most authors complain that their characters do.
My setting developed a mind of its own, and completely took over the story.
This might amuse people who have read Cantata or Pavane. (And maybe even those that haven’t.)
I have a webpage that will do you up a horoscope Coral Palace style. Now with a fancy image showing your birth signs and the current state of the skies that displays if you tell the page your birthdate.
Please be aware that the advice of the Coral Palace astrologers comes without any warrantee express or implied.
I don’t know exactly when I started writing Cantata in Coral and Ivory, but it was over twelve years ago. At the time I had been writing seriously for publication for several years, and had made a couple pro sales: a short story and an article in an RPG magazine. I had also finished three novels, needed a new project, and was in the mood to write a regency. (I’m a Georgette Heyer fan). But I’d learned enough about the publishing industry by then to realize that if I continued jumping genres like I had been, I was going to make a lot of extra work for myself—particularly in the area of market research. And market research is borrring!
After some thought, I decided that if I was going to specialize in one genre only, it should probably be Fantasy and Science Fiction, because I loved worldbuilding so much. But there was no rule I knew of that said a fantasy book couldn’t have a romantic comedy-of-manners feel to it. And, I had even recently started building a shiny new fantasy world to do fairytale retellings in. Fairytales and comedy-of-manners sounded like a great combination. There was just one little irregularity…
When I made the geography of the world, I had done so by randomly smashing tectonic plates together. And it wasn’t until I had started building a basic “history of civilization” for it that I realized that the continent I had chosen to have my people moving about on and fighting over was approximately the same size and geographic position as Africa.
Comedy-of-manners fairytales in pseudo-Africa?
So that became the plan: to write something mannerly, witty, fun and romantic, with a fairytale plot and an exotic African-inspired setting.