Friday, February 8, 2013

Rooting For Janis


Get your popcorn maker in working order!  The 55th Annual Grammy Awards is this Sunday.  And even though it's not one of the categories that makes it onto prime time television, I know who I'm rooting for in the Spoken Word category.

Singer, songwriter, and friend of science fiction Janis Ian is on the short list for the audiobook of her autobiography, Society's Child.  I bought the book when it first came out and ripped through it with enormous pleasure.  She really can write.  Also, she's had a thronged life.  As she herself has observed, she was recording at age 14, famous at age 15, and washed up at age 18 -- and then more and more and more things happened.  It's gripping stuff.  And the audiobook has the advantage of being able to include samples of the music.

That's the good news.  The bad news is that her competition consists of: 

Michelle Obama
Bill Clinton
Ellen Degeneres
and Rachel Madow

That's one big-name cluster of fame.

But if there's one thing I've learned from watching the Nebula and Hugo ballots over all these years, it's that though you can make some shrewd guesses as to what will make it onto the ballot, once the voting begins it all goes chaotic.  There was a period long ago when I was on the Nebula Jury, which for reasons complicated to explain was charged with adding up to one work per category to the final ballot, and so had read everything that was up as well as most of what was not.  So every year I made my best guess as to what would win.  Sometimes I went by pure merit.  Other times by pure cynicism.  I analyzed the literary politics of the voters.  I consulted with others who were doing the same things.

And never once were my correct calls better than I would have gotten by random chance.

So I've got my fingers crossed for Janis.

Not that she needs a Grammy.  She already has one for "At Seventeen," and "Society's Child" was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, which honors recordings considered important to the history of music.  Also, she has the satisfaction of knowing that she's written music that deserves the award, whether it was received or not.  Which any serious artist can tell you is far more important than any number of awards.

Still, awards are pleasant things.  Janis's audiobook deserves one, and I'm hoping it wins.



wayne zimmerman said...

Well durn it!

Now I'm torn between rooting for Ellen ( who'd joked on her last show on Feb 7th that there was no competition there )someone I'd always liked since her debut on a now forgotten TV show called Open House, or Janis Ian - a big part of my cultural development as a much younger man.

Wayne Z

Michael Swanwick said...

And she WON!!!

More Monday.

wayne zimmerman said...

But of course, quality shines( occasionally )and now this is another must-have item for my library.

I honestly haven't had one of those for quite awhile.

Send along my congratulations.

Wayne Z