Kress has just blogged about being part of what she called "the worst rendition ever of 'Oh, Susanna!'" In fact, Nancy is too kind. It was not only the worst rendition of that song in human history, but the worst rendition of that song in any imaginable universe. A group made up of William Shatner, Tiny Tim, Captain Beefheart, and Florence Foster Jenkins would have sounded dulcet by comparison.
The above photograph shows an unidentified Chinese musician who deserved better, Rob Sawyer, myself, Nancy Kress, and Rob's wife Caroline Clink, at the climax of the song. How did we get into this fix? Well . . .
In the aftermath of the 2007 International Science Fiction and Fantasy Conference in Chengdu, China, all those guests staying afterwards were invited to a Future of Chengdu Leisure forum. Which turned out to be an extraordinary variety of first-rate entertainment (musicians! dancers! snack makers!) punctuated by short extemporized speeches by everybody present. Then Russian cosmonaut Vladimir Bugrov followed up his speech by singing a romantic Russian ballad. He had a wonderful voice and knew how to use it. Suddenly, people appeared at Nancy's side suggesting she get up and sing a song. "No, no," she said, "you don't want to hear me sing."
They turned to me. "No, no," I amplified. "You really don't want to hear me sing."
But they insisted and so Nancy and I stumbled on stage, followed by Rob and Caroline. Who, in my humble opinion, deserve to split a Mensch-of-the-Year Award between them, because they really didn't have to get up on stage. They did it only so as to dilute the blame among more people.
Neil Gaiman said our singing moved him to extremes of compassion. But he also videotaped the whole thing, should he ever need to blackmail any of us.
But, hey. Give us this. If we were going to get up and stage and mangle a song in four separate keys, at least we were going to do it with gusto. I like to think that counts for something.