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“Barsoom” (A Filk Song)

23 Feb

 

ab01

This is the edition of A Princess of Mars that I first read

 I’m posting a recording  of  “Barsoom,”  a filk song Gary Robe ran in his fanzine Tennessee Trash for the Southern Fandom Press Alliance (SFPA) a few years back. At the time, I commented on it in my zine, Dumbfounding Stories, and Gary’s next issue featured a revised version of the lyrics, which I also commented on. This process continued back and forth in our zines for almost a year. For trufans and Burroughs Bibliophiles the title will be a tipoff: the song concerns Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Martian novels. Many moons now, I been meaning to record Gary’s finished version of the lyrics. When I got ready to finally do it, I noticed that his finished product was one verse shorter than John Prine’s “Paradise,” to which the music of “Barsoom” is set. I came up with another verse for the recording (verse two), and I made two or three tweaks to Gary’s words–which I hope he’ll forgive me.

I hope you’ll click on the audio icon below and check out the lyrics beneath it. If you like filk, and especially if you like filk and Edgar Rice Burroughs, I think you’ll be glad you did.

 

                           Barsoom

 

A big box of books handed down generations

We found Edgar Rice Burroughs’ A Princess of Mars

All summer we spent meeting adventure

With Captain John Carter and his green buddy Tars

REFRAIN:

And Edgar won’t you send me ‘neath the moons of Barsoom

In the red desolation with Dejah and Tars

I’m sorry, cadet, you’re too late to go there

The lander’s cold data has turned it to Mars!

We flew in airships, rode thoats cross the wastelands

Lived by our wits and our swords of cold steel

Faced foes and monsters and found our one true love

It was larger than life and realer than real

REFRAIN

So what can you do with a dusty dead planet?

Make it our second home with some water and air!

It’ll take some nerve and a few generations

But someday we’ll send John Carter up there!

REFRAIN

Grandpa will you see me to the Moons of New Barsoom?

The colony’s ready; I’m starting to pack!

Heads up, Grandson; just get up on that spaceship!

Cause the Terraform Project’s done brought it all back!

LAST REFRAIN:

And Edgar won’t you send me neath the moons of Barsoom

In the red desolation with Dejah and Tars?

No problem, my friend; it’s all there in the pages

Just remember it’s Barsoom; it never was Mars!

“Barsoom” was recorded in Garage Band. I’m doing all the parts except the bass, which my  wife, Dorothy, added.

dumbfounding stories 2 cover

Cover by Pablo Vitruvian

 

 

The Force Awakens & the Contemporary Zeitgeist

7 Feb
71reg_big

Drawing by Robert E. Gilbert

Just got around to seeing Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Everyone who’d been saying  the movie pretty much duplicates the plot of the original Star Wars was  on the money. A few differences did emerge and seemed to mirror  changes in popular consciousness during the thirty-eight years separating the two films. First, the young person learning to wield The Force (and a light saber) this time around is a woman. Plus, she becomes involved in an understated interracial romance, which would’ve  raised eyebrows in some corners back in 1977. Oh yeah, and the new improved (bigger, badder) Death Star is solar-powered.

Artist Robert E. Gilbert (REG)

13 Jul

 

Alien landscape by REG

Robert E. Gilbert, who signed his work REG, was arguably the most prolific and popular illustrator of SF fanzines in the 1960s. His covers and interior illos were nearly ubiquitous, particularly in midwestern and southern zines. They appeared everywhere from popular regional zines like IscariotMaelstrom, and Double Bill to Hugo-nominated zines like Yandro and Amra. And he regularly won “Best Fan Artist” in the egoboo polls of the Southern Fandom Press Alliance.

With their generally bold simple lines, his drawings were perfect for the

An REG fanzine illo from the Sixties.

zines of the day, most of which were mimeographed. The mimeograph has gone the way of the VCR, but it was the way most zines were done in the 1960s, and art had to be traced laboriously onto a mimeograph stencil with a metal stylus. So the relative simplicity of REG’s drawings was a plus, but his work was hardly crude; it was well-designed and frequently hinted at some story.

A few years ago I rejoined the Southern Fandom Press Alliance (SFPA), after having been away a mere four decades, and as SFPA’s 50th anniversary approached, some discussion arose about how to commemorate it. I suggested to the group’s official archivist, Ned Brooks, that a portfolio of REG

cover from, Amra, a Sixties Sword & Sorcery fanzine

covers would be an excellent thing to include in the 50th anniversary mailing of SFPA. He demurred–perhaps shrinking from the prospect of rummaging through his 12,000 fanzine archive for REG covers. He did, however, dig up two REG covers and printed them in his zine, The Newport News, using one for the cover of issue.

Having thought of Robert E. Gilbert for the first time in years, I Googled him. I didn’t find a lot, but I did get two surprises. One was that REG had made three professional sales of SF stories. (These can be found at: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/author/34313) Another was that a gallery had purchased over 400 of his drawings and paintings. Paintings? I never knew REG painted. I found all that interesting but soon forgot about it.

November, 1952 issue of Galaxy, in which REG's story, "A Thought for Tomorrow," appeared.

That’s because, unlike my old friend, Bill Plott, I’m not a seasoned professional journalist. Back when he was in his teens and early twenties, Bill Plott edited a couple of now legendary zines, Maelstrom and Sporadic, before he left SF fandom behind for a distinguished career as a journalist. Much like myself, he was recently drawn back into publishing through SFPA, after four decades away, and resurrected his zine, Sporadic. As he relates in the latest issue (#18) of that zine, this eventually prompted him to delve into his boxes of old fannish material, where he discovered a trove of some 20 unpublished REG illos.

Once he stopped doing backflips around the neighborhood, he got curious: Maybe Robert E. Gilbert was still around. So he Googled him, as I had done, and found the site with all of REG’s paintings at http://www.folkartisans.com. Unlike me, though, he didn’t think, “Oh, that’s interesting,” and shrug it off; he eventually contacted Folk Artisans, a gallery in Mentone, Alabama. First, he went to their website, where he saw that REG, a Tennessean, had died in 1993. Bill sent that information to his friend, genealogist and fellow SFPA member, Larry Montgomery. Larry got back to him with the information that REG was born May 26, 1924 in Sullivan County, Tennessee and died April 4, 1993, seemingly in Jonesborough, Tennessee. Further REG had served in the US ARmy from January 31, 1943 to August 9, 1944.

That was pretty much all they had, until Bill reached one of the gallery owners, Matt Lippa, by phone. In Sporadic 18, Bill writes:

 

Another strange landscape by REG, 1964

He [Matt Lippa] said that they bought the paintings sight-unseen via auction.

“It was very last minute. We got a call from a friend who was going to the auction. We literally had our topcoats and hats on and were heading out the door for a trip when the phone rang. I answered and was told about the art. It was not catalogued, put on at the end and never advertised. I told my friend to bid up to a certain amount–sight unseen. Got a call from him the next night that we got the bid and he would bring it to us.

“We did finally speak with the auctioneer who could give us NO info, and said he tried to get it. He said the family was very uncooperative with information about Gilbert. He was something of an outcast, apparently, and they wanted nothing to do with him. Our Friend took one of them to dinner and a bar and was not able to break through that,” Matt related.

The gallery acquired the collection in 2003.

Later in Sporadic 18, Bill writes:

I have speculated a lot on the estrangement from his [Gilbert’s} estrangement from his family. Living in that mountainous region, I wondered if his family was very fundamentalist and found pictures of scantily clad women sinful. I wonder if it was science fiction, being something just too weird for them to relate to. Or some behavioral situation totally unrelated to his art. We will likely never know.

Like Bill, I’m curious about REG’s black sheep status. I’m also intrigued by the picture of REG that emerges. Estranged from his family, living in a small town in the rural South, creating hundreds of illos for fanzines, writing the occasional SF short story, and painting hundreds of unearthly paintings, few of which, it would seem, ever sold. It’s an archetypical image of the lonely artist, toiling in obscurity.10reg_big

What parts of the picture are we missing though? Does anyone have any more information on Robert E. Gilbert?

To view more of REG’s artwork, go tohttp://www.folkartisans.com.

A Fantastic Cover

6 Jul

kentmcdanielwrites

Fantastic Stories of Imagination, August, 1962 Fantastic Stories of the Imagination, August, 1962

I’ve always thought the cover to the left, from August, 1962 Fantastic Stories was great.

An internet search for the names of most Sixties Fantasy or SF artists will usually garner significant information. But I found virtually nothing when I Googled the name of Vernon Kramer, who created this cover. All I can tell you is that Kramer did quite a few covers in the Sixties for Fantastic and her sister publication, Amazing Stories. Most of them were arresting paintings, but this would be my favorite.

I’ve just always thought it was haunting and beautiful and evocative. It illustrates (and I suspect inspired) a pretty nice story, “Sword of Flowers.” Back then SF magazines would often buy a well-executed painting and then pay a writer to create a story around it. I’d bet that that was the case here. In any case…

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Is Science-Fiction Dying?

6 Jul

kentmcdanielwrites

A Dystopian ClassicIS SCIENCE FICTION DYING? The question may seem dubious or melodramatic, but there’s been a fair amount of talk on the internet about this over the past few years. People in the Yahoo science-fiction discussion groups have discussed it, and bloggers, some of them pros, have  written about it. Myself, I don’t know if SF is dying, but it sure seems a lot less popular than fantasy these days. I base this on looking over the books-sold section in Locus, the trade journal of print SF, the last several months: Something like eight fantasy books are listed for every science-fiction title. Similarly, in lists of agents, those interested in fantasy far outnumber those interested in science-fiction. Fantasy movies released probably far outnumber science-fiction releases, too, this past summer being a possible exception. Those  who’ve read fantasy and science-fiction since the nineteen fifties or sixties (you know who you are), of course, can remember the…

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John W. Campbell art director?

6 Jul

kentmcdanielwrites

         I READ SOMETHING SURPRISINGin issue #32 of Illustration, a magazine about which I’ve long been curious but had never before picked up—probably due to its $15.00 an issue price tag. Anyhow for some reason, I finally broke down a sprang for a copy, and inside there was a short piece about Robert Adranga, who apparently did a lot of well-received covers for a Hitchcock YA mysteries series called The Three Investigators. I remembered Adranga’s name because he did a cover for Fantastic back in the sixties that I loved (I still have the issue, and the cover was also reproduced in the article.) It turns out that the Fantastic cover was Adranga’s first sale, made while he was yet in art school. The interviewer asked him about it, and it was Adranga’s answer which surprised me. Here’s what he said:

            “I took my portfolio to those two…

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WALKING TO CAPE CANAVERAL

6 Jul

kentmcdanielwrites

WALKING TO CAPE CANAVERAL

 

Kent McDaniel

  

            Surf washed in, and the darkening sky glittered with stars. On the beach, Alan McVickers lay, grizzled head on his sneakers, bare toes in the warm sand. From the corner of his eye, he glimpsed brown shoes. A large body in tan slacks and blue work shirt loomed over him; Alan was five-ten, and this guy would stand head and shoulders taller. Weary eyes twinkled from the face above, a face Alan recognized with a start.  Those enormous ears. They stuck out from a head round as a bowling ball, a stubble of black hair on top. The mouth was wide, and the nose long, with large nostrils. The last three weeks, wherever Alan was, so was this guy. 

            In Dade County Municipal Court, where Alan watched the cases, he’d begun to notice the stranger, always three or four seats…

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