Daily Archives: October 18, 2005

Is the Glass Half-Filked or Half-Empty?

This Friday, my regularly scheduled blogging will be interrupted so that I can attend the world’s premier filk convention, OVFF (the Ohio Valley Filk Festival). I will mingle with my peers from around the world, hearing hundreds of songs and hanging out with old friends. And on Saturday night, I will go to the banquet and find out whether my song “Barrayaran Roses”, nominated by people spanning the globe, has won a Pegasus Award for Best Space Opera Song.

I should be in hog heaven. But I’m not.

It’s not that I’m nervous about the award. I literally don’t care whether I win. I didn’t expect to be nominated; I felt very honored when I was. That kind recognition is indeed more than I ever wanted.

The problem is that I just don’t like filk much anymore.

I’m supposed to be working on an album. I’ve been supposed to working on it for almost five years now, and there was another project in the works for two years before that. But I don’t really believe in most of my songs anymore. If I’d been able to record them quickly and be done with it, I would gladly have signed up for another two or three quick albums, and been flooded with inspiration for new songs. But quite frankly, I cannot stand the hurry-up-and-wait process of recording only two or three songs in a whole weekend, but doing those songs perfectly. They’re never perfect, you see. They can’t be. I’m always going to hear what’s wrong with them and be unhappy with my performance, and trying to perfect the inherently imperfect is enough to make me cut my throat.

Getting songs done quickly keeps the momentum up, and prevents me from focusing on just how horrible my voice and songwriting really is. But speed is not desired. So instead, I get to hurt my voice with repeated takes, and confuse myself with headphones, and watch my blood sugar drop while feeling ever worse about my music. I also get to get engaged outside of recording in discussions and situations that distress me, but which I have to be polite about; while I’m sure my tactlessness is trying to all concerned. (I assure you, the longer this drags on, the less bearable I’m going to get. I come from a long line of bitchy, ornery people who don’t bide their time gladly.)

I know everyone involved means well, but the truth is that I no longer want anything to do with recording. I want to die, or kill myself, or kill everyone else, or I want to get the dang album off my back and onto a shelf, but I don’t want to be doing it. I want to be done already.

(It should probably be pointed out that I write songs all at once, and clean my place all at once, and write twenty-page papers in one night with one draft and one final copy; and I record audiobook chapters in a single session. I do not do this part-to-whole crud. That is just wrong. You can go back and make corrections once you’re all done.)

At choir, they say music hits me like caffeine. I’m in a manic state. I’m obscenely cheerful and horribly jokey. This is how I used to be at filk circles. I don’t feel that way now.

It’s not the music, per se. I still believe in the artistic value of being able to share any kind of song, and of exploring the nerdy topics which mainstream songwriters never touch. I feel confident that there are wonderful new songs and tunes and lyrics being written. I’m certain that the rising filk generation is a good deal better at performance than mine. We now attract more professional musicians to join our ranks as well as well-meaning amateurs like myself. The market is such that filkers can actually make money on albums. We even had an article on filk published in Wired in September, which was reported from Conchord (at which I was Interfilk guest in 2001) and mentioned both OVFF and a special guest filker who plays guitar for Courtney Love and dates a writer for Rolling Stone.

And I didn’t hear about it until today, which tells you just how far away I’ve floated from filk circles. (In both senses.) The only filkers I hear from regularly are my best friend Joy (well, duh) and Avram Gruner, who posts often in the comment boxes at Get Religion. Most filkers and members of fandom don’t like blogs, for some reason. They’re too attached to their Livejournals, the very design of which I dislike even to look at, much less read. I try to keep up with them, but the ugly appearance soon encourages me to break off. (So, though I don’t mind if other filkers read this, it’s pretty darned unlikely. I’m off their radar as much as they’re off mine.)

What’s worse, I don’t like much of the sf and fantasy being published today. I was afraid I’d fallen out of love with the genre entirely, until I started reading public domain stories on my other blog. I’m not particularly thrilled with the TV and movies, either, and even the things I like (like Serenity) don’t make me want to sing about them. But most of all, I don’t believe in fandom these days: the skankiness, the politics, the suicidally stupid behavior, the unconcern with truth and reason as opposed to logic-chopping, the lack of true empathy for anyone if individual wants conflict with others’ needs, and the cliquey elitism of people who have no reason to feel elite. Somewhere along the way, fandom decided it had become the cool kids, and didn’t have to care about those who got trampled. It’s not a road I choose to follow.

I’ll admit that I did enjoy Millennicon back in March. I’ll also admit that I’ve enjoyed getting back into gaming this year, and going to Origins. But my gaming group is remarkably free of the kind of people who annoy me, and so was Origins. The most fun I had at Marcon was outside the convention, I’m sorry to say; the rest of the con I don’t even remember.

What I do remember, every morning when I wake up and my feet ache, every time when my muscles tense, is the miserable time I had during most of Worldcon 2004. Not only did I get talked to nastily because of my politics, not only did I get to hear folks I knew getting insulted, not only did I have a generally unfun time, but I also gave myself plantar fascitis for life. (That’s pretty much overwritten all the fun that I did have.) I will grant you that this was mostly my fault (bad shoes, obsessive walking and sightseeing to escape the con). But it’s still a constant reminder that large chunks of fandom are not nice or fun to be with, and that a good many of them were long-time personal acquaintances from whom I expected better.

But that’s the thing. I expected better. Maybe I shouldn’t have. Maybe I’m being too hard on them, and too whiny about my their non-achievement of my stupid standards. Maybe they never were better, and I was blinded by my regard for people who didn’t deserve any. Maybe I should be more blase when people break rules of civilized conduct or morality; after all, it’s entirely likely that they never were taught them in the first place. But all the songs said we were essentially one — family, community, likeminded people with a single pure heart and a gaze resolutely fixed on the stars above.

Well. That sure worked out.

So I have a little trouble going back to join in the songs, because they have been proved to be lies by the singers themselves. This is just what you’d expect from a fallen world, of course. But even a fallen world is more bearable if people realize when they’ve done wrong, and try to make things right. That’s not something that’s in fashion now, either among Mundanes or in fandom. People keep the bit between their teeth as they head for the edge of the cliff.

I find no enjoyment in watching them go.

So I’m going to OVFF this weekend, to feast and to be feted (to a modest extent). And I wish like anything that I were staying home this weekend, and if I had a car I would have been seriously tempted to come back and cantor on Sunday morning. It’s three days until OVFF, the secular highlight of my year in days gone by. There are thousands of places I would rather be.

Oh, well. Maybe I can hang out in downtown Columbus and have fun in the afternoon, before I have to go drag myself in and paste a smile on my face. There are some wonderful people whom I do want to see, and I’m sure there will be fun moments. I certainly intend to fulfill my obligations to those nice people who wrote in my song. But even with the good folks, I just don’t fit in anymore; and I dearly long to gafiate. I’ve done it in spirit; and how my body longs to follow! There is nothing more confining than staying in a hobby because you have to.

Still, maybe I’ll have my faith and my love renewed this year.

But since the movie last year didn’t work out, maybe I should bring a deck of cards, so I can play solitaire. Or crossword puzzles. Crossword puzzles are good.

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