Beriv’s Privateers (Filk)

When you think filk, you also think folk. Or I do, anyway. And recently, when I think folk, it’s been because my random writing music playlist has been bringing up Barrett’s Privateers more often than one might expect. (If you don’t know the song, you can hear it performed here.)

And when my mind wanders back to filk, it recalls that few, indeed, are the science fiction universes for which I haven’t seen at least some attempt made to produce a localized version: Star Trek, Wars, Traveller, etc., etc.

So this one is mine, the tragic story of a young Magen spacer who, back when much travel in the Worlds was still relativistic, signed up with Half-Captain Beriv’s ill-fated Khadara for the promise of an easy cruise, a bloodless victory, and a fortune at the end. Needless to say, it did not work out that way.

Naturally, to the tune of Barrett’s Privateers, by Stan Rogers. © Fogarty’s Cove Music 1976.


Oh, the year was 4178¹
How I wish I was on Sardion² now!
A letter of marque under manager’s ring³
Sold t’ the scummiest ship I’ve ever seen


Suns⁴ damn them all! I was told
We’d cruise the deep for the Star’s red gold⁵.
We’d lay no beams, spill no tears.
But I’m a broken man on a Sardis pier⁶
The last of Beriv’s Privateers


Oh, Half-Cap⁷ Beriv cried the halls⁸
How I wish I was on Sardion now!
For sixty brave sophs, all spacers, who
Would make for him the Khadara‘s crew



The Khadara‘s hull was a sickening sight
How I wish I was on Sardion now!
Her gyros tumbly⁹ and her bottles cracked¹⁰,
And her plating half patches from front to back



When the Suns aligned we made for the black
How I wish I was on Sardion now!
We were nine years to Sagori Light¹¹
With a thousand glitches in the wakeful night¹²



In the eleventh year we sailed again
How I wish I was on Sardion now!
When a bloody great Impie hove in sight
With our juiced comm lasers¹³ we made to fight


Now the Impie lugger¹⁴ was laden high
How I wish I was on Sardion now!
Her drives burnt low¹⁵ as she clawed for way
But to catch her took Khadara sixty days



Then at length we stood two seconds¹⁶ away
How I wish I was on Sardion now!
The beam caps¹⁷ charged with a howl and a whine
But with one lead head¹⁸, the Imp broke our spine


The Khadara snapped, laying open her side
How I wish I was on Sardion now!
Beriv was smashed like grav-juggled eggs¹⁹
And a main bus short vaporized my legs



So here I lay in my fortieth year
How I wish I was on Sardion now!
It’s been twenty-two years since we flew away
And I just made Sardis yesterday


Historical and explanatory footnotes:

  1. Around forty years after the First Interstellar War. The Reunification was complete at this point, but lighthuggers were still in use carrying supplies to and from the outer worlds.
  2. Sardis (Magen Exodus), one of the secondary systems of the Magen Corporate, is a trinary system. Sardion is one of the inner planets of its primary star.
  3. i.e., from the Corporate, which was pursuing all means to fight its trade war with the Empire at this time.
  4. See (2). This is a common form of oath among Sardis natives.
  5. By “red gold” the speaker means orichalcium. The Magenites had lost access to it with their parting of ways from the Empire, leaving them with only inferior substitutes. A cargo of orichalcium or orichalcium-based components was the most valuable cargo a Magen-sponsored commerce raider could capture.
  6. “Pier”, in this case, means the first deck inside docks and locks on a major drift; a common place to find ships’ suppliers, dockside cargo sales, mechanics, spacer’s bars, brothels, flophouses, and other startown appurtenances.
  7. Indicates the rank of “Half-Captain”, a Magenite equivalent to “first mate”. Were he less blinded by profit, the speaker might have taken this as a warning that his captain had never commanded his own lighthugger, but at the time the Corporate were offering letters to anyone who could raise the capital for one.
  8. Spacers’ hiring halls, another fixture of the pier area of major drifts.
  9. i.e., a worn or defective attitude control system.
  10. i.e., engines desperately in need of maintenance, and quite possibly recused from a wreckyard.
  11. A communications relay and replenishment station in the Sagori (Magen Exodus) system, between the Corporate and Imperial space.
  12. “wakeful night”, among relativistic ship crew, indicates the repeated need to come out of cryo to make emergency repairs or otherwise handle the ship.
  13. Why buy actual weapons for your privateer, after all? To be fair, you can put a lot of juice through an interstellar comm laser.
  14. A heavy freight lighthugger, operating at relatively low accelerations.
  15. i.e., the lugger was so heavily laden that it had to operate below its maximum acceleration in order to avoid structural damage.
  16. Light-seconds.
  17. The rapid-discharge hypercapacitors used to buffer power to the lasers.
  18. A nuclear-tipped weapon; given the period, presumably a Casaba-Howitzer.
  19. “We juggle priceless eggs in variable gravity.” As a general rule, NEVER DO THIS.

Filk: Beyond the Stars and Far Away

(ttto: O’er the Hills and Far Away)

The generals ask if we will go
To test our strength against the foe
And make the host barbarian pay
Beyond the stars and far away

Beyond the stars and worlds away
In Fringe, in March, or off in Ley
The throne commands and we obey
Beyond the stars and far away.

When duty calls us we must go
For sentinels ’tis ever so
A legion life the coin we pay
Beyond the stars and far away


So to the transport we shall come
Our eagles burnished as the sun
She lifts, and we are on our way
Beyond the stars and far away


Then we shall fight with beam and shell
Until the field resembles Hell
But for the Empress we shall stay
Beyond the stars and far away


When Darkness lies upon the land
We will not hold or stay our hand
But fight to bring the break of day
Beyond the stars and far away


If we should fall on foreign shore
As legion brothers have before
Then drink, and let the trumpets bray
Beyond the stars and far away


But courage, lads, that’s not today
While conquering colors we display
We’ll live to fight another day
Beyond the stars and far away


– legionary marching song

Sung Wherever The Imperial Exploratory Service Buys Liquor

(Very lightly filkificated for somewhat-inebriated Eldraeverse purposes from “Space Shanty“, by The Senate. The vast majority of the words remain theirs.)

Oh, the whiskey is floatin’, won’t stay in me glass –
I’m weightless and spinning and drunk off me ass.
Oh, the whiskey is floatin’ in a sphere o’er me head –
If we don’t hit this window we’ll surely be dead.

So reach for the whiskey, sophs, reach for the stars!
They won’t stop us drinking on old Talentar1
So reach for the whiskey, sophs, reach for the sky!
Ere the vacuum of space sucks the bottles all dry.

Oh, infinite profit awaits us in space –
We’ll seek out and contact with fervor and grace.
New worlds and new sophonts we simply adore –
Let’s party where no-one has partied before.

So reach for the whiskey, sophs, reach for the stars!
They won’t stop us drinking on old Talentar –
So reach for the whiskey, sophs, reach for the sky!
Ere the vacuum of space sucks the bottles all dry.

1. As mentioned before, Talentar produces a lot of grain for the rest of the system. And what else is there where there’s grain and engineers?



Filk: “Space Uranium Fever”

Ttto and blatantly imitating: “Uranium Fever”, by Elton Britt [1955].

Verse 1

Well I don’t know but I’ve been told
Reactor fuel’s worth more than gold
I sold my hab, bought an OTV
With a smeltin’ stack and refineree-


Uranium fever has done and got me down
Uranium fever – it’s spreadin’ all around
With a Geiger counter for spacewalks
I’m a-goin’ out to stake me some orbitin’ rocks
Uranium fever has done and got me down.

Verse 2

Well, I had a talk with the I.G.S.
Bought some charts to the stars they thought were best
Picked out a belt ’round a star of class B
So I laid out my course; loaded up delta-v.
A hundred lights I surely burned
Chasin’ that metal for which I yearned
When three weeks later I braked to meet
That shiny rock that I aimed to deplete.


Uranium fever has done and got me down
Uranium fever – it’s spreadin’ all around
With a Geiger counter for spacewalks
I’m a-goin’ out to stake me some orbitin’ rocks
Uranium fever has done and got me down.

Verse 3

Well, I took my Geiger and I opened the lock
Got on my candle and headed to the rock
Set up my bore and started to drill
(As all the space-burned rock-rats will)
I drilled that ‘roid from crust to core
But of ion clicks there were no more
And for all the gas that I spent that day
Not a single core would earn my pay.


Uranium fever has done and got me down
Uranium fever – it’s spreadin’ all around
With a Geiger counter for spacewalks
I’m a-goin’ out to stake me some orbitin’ rocks
Uranium fever has done and got me down.

Verse 4

Well, you pack up your kit and you burn again
For another lonesome rock where nobody’s been
You find a spot where there’s clickin’ ore –
And that spot’s been staked seven times before…
Well, I ain’t kiddin’, I ain’t gonna quit
That bug’s done caught me and I’ve been bit
So with a Geiger counter for spacewalks
I’ll keep right on stakin’ them orbitin’ rocks.


Uranium fever has done and got me down
Uranium fever – it’s spreadin’ all around
With a Geiger counter for spacewalks
I’m a-goin’ out to stake me some orbitin’ rocks
Uranium fever has done and got me down.


Goin’ Up To Minmus (Filk)

(This has absolutely nothing to do with my writing, and everything to do with the fact that I play far too much Kerbal Space Program, and am ridiculously susceptible to earworms.

And maybe writing it down will at least help with the latter.)

The Minmus Colonial Anthem
(ttto: the South Park theme music)

Jebediah Kerman:

We’re going up to Minmus,
Gonna have ourselves a time.

Bill Kerman:

Kethane drilling everywhere,
Shuttlecraft from every station.

Jebediah Kerman:

Going up to Minmus,
Gonna leave my woes behind.

Bob Kerman:

Parking orbits day and night,
Asteroids without rotation.

Jebediah Kerman:

Headin’ on up to Minmus,
Gonna see if I can’t unwind.

Gene & Wernher von Kerman

[couplet in Kerbalish]

Jebediah Kerman:

So come on up to Minmus
And help us build a mine!

[rocket-thrust sound]

Trope-a-Day: Future Music

Future Music: While the Empire has been around for a very, very long time and as such has accumulated far more musical genres that I can reasonably describe, here are some notable ones – with staying power – in Imperial space:

Digital: This isn’t a parallel to our electronic music; it’s the native music of AIs and other digital sapiences.  To most biosapient ears it sounds like a hideously cacophonic mixture of modem noise with a bank of packet sniffers all set for audio output, but that’s just because we don’t have the right ears to hear it properly.

There’s also a biosapient offshoot using theremin-like instruments which pull their input data from sampling the player’s neural activity, which makes it vitally important to pick your musicians’ emotional-conceptual phase spaces (“we need an ecstatic, a melancholic, and two tranquillaries to play this quarto”) to match the pieces you intend to perform.

Drinkin’ Music: (Yes, the actual word translates literally as “drinkin’ music”.)  While this particular subgenre probably sounds most like Irish pub songs, from an Earth perspective, some of its best-known works are virtually impossible to perform when sober.

Emergent: A heavily improvisational musical school, and also the most danceable of the notable genres, “emergent” would sound to the Terran ear as something like a jazz-swing hybrid.  It occupies the Empire’s “mainstream popular music” niche.

Fightin’ Music: (Yes, this one does too.) Heavy on the trumpets, bagpipes, percussion, and bombast.  Really serious works in the genre include unconventional percussion instruments like spears-on-shields (after all, much of it was written to be performed on the battlefield), and modern examples may add firearms and small artillery pieces, and in one memorable example, the main armament of a Bellicose-class assault cruiser.  (The Ethring Nautical Symphony actually owns one, surplussed out of the Capital Fleet; the piece in question is remarkably popular during the Armament Day celebrations.)

The combination of the drinkin’ and fightin’ music genres is… best left unmentioned.

Filk: Well, speculative fiction is one of their major literary genres, so what would you expect?  (An outgrowth of Traditional, which see.)

Metatonal: The music of the augmented, metatonal makes use of elements, in audible range, timing, and differentiation between notes, that are impossible for the unaugmented ear to hear.  Or music that is targeted at an audience of two species at three different pitch ranges, of which only the middle one is audible to both.  Or – well, the more complexity you can cram into the music, and the more people you can please with the result despite their different perceptions, the closer you come to the real spirit of metatonalism, so they say.

Opera: While stylistically and dramatically similar to opera as we know it, Eldraeic opera includes elements of ballet, and is – in its higher forms – notorious for particularly involuted plots and extraordinary numbers of layers of symbolism.  It’s also often performed in archaic languages, or archaic dialects, at least.  In short: while still widely enjoyed, this is where Imperial high culture reaches its apotheosis.

Traditional: An outgrowth of the historical bardic tradition, this occupies what is effectively the “classical” music niche.  While there is considerable variety within the genre, the typical examples are relatively lengthy ballads or similar works, with relatively subtle instrumental accompaniment.  While not always presented, most also come with some form of visual accompaniment.

We Possess, So It Seems, One Of Man’s Greatest Dreams: Author’s Notes

For those who didn’t catch the reference in the title of that last fic-a-day, the reference was to the chorus of the filk piece Home on Lagrange (The L5 Song), copyright 1978 by William S. Higgins and Barry D. Gehm.

The lyrics are as follows:

Oh, give me a locus where the gravitons focus
Where the three-body problem is solved,
Where the microwaves play down at three degrees K,
And the cold virus never evolved.


Home, home on LaGrange,
Where the space debris always collects,
We possess, so it seems, two of Man’s greatest dreams:
Solar power and zero-gee sex.

We eat algae pie, our vacuum is high,
Our ball bearings are perfectly round.
Our horizon is curved, our warheads are MIRVed,
And a kilogram weighs half a pound.


If we run out of space for our burgeoning race
No more Lebensraum left for the Mensch
When we’re ready to start, we can take Mars apart,
If we just find a big enough wrench.


I’m sick of this place, it’s just McDonald’s in space,
And living up here is a bore.
Tell the shiggies, “Don’t cry,” they can kiss me goodbye
‘Cause I’m moving next week to L4!