mdlbear: (smith-lightsails)
[personal profile] mdlbear

"Ship of Stone", by Don Simpson, is my favorite song. Not filk song; song. I don't remember the first time I heard it, but it was written in 1981, which is just about when I was first getting involved with filk; I first heard it sung by Leslie Fish, so it would have sounded a lot like this (from her tape Chickasaw Mountain). Here's a more recent version from Avalon is Risen. This is Kathy Mar's a capella version, from Yankee Doodles, recorded at the 1986 Worldcon.

I sing it too, of course. Probably the best recorded version to date is in Tres Gique's concert at Baycon 2009 [ogg] [mp3]. There's a solo version in my Fan GOH concert at Baycon 2010; you can find others in Tres Gique, Consonance 2007 and my concert at Conflikt 2009.

I really need to make my music easier to search for, don't I?

The thing I love about this song (aside from a melody that lends itself perfectly to my picking style) is the vast sweep of history it implies. Earth has been lost in the depths of time, and become a legend. Humanity has spread throughout the galaxy -- the "wheel of light" -- living in fusion-powered starships (you can tell that from the "blue, glowing wings" that sweep up interstellar hydrogen to burn). All that's left of Earth is the song and the story it tells.

A few years back (I don't remember how many) after reading Norman Spinrad's novel Riding the Torch, Don confirmed my guess that that had been his inspiration.

One's first impression, hearing the song, is that it's set a few thousand years in the future, but that would be way too short a time. It's been long enough for humans to have spread throughout the Milky Way, which is some 200,000 light-years across, and to have evolved (or more likely engineered themselves) into many different sub-species. It's as if the story had been passed down to us from the Late Paleolithic; about the time of the earliest known bone flutes.

As I say on the lyrics page on my website, "If one of the songs we're singing now is still being sung a thousand years from now, it will probably be this one." Next time it comes up for a Pegasus, please vote for it.

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