Two touchstones of a 1970s childhood die – and some writing links

I’m busy with translation work, so here’s a linkdump:

Lilith Saintcrow discusses her writing process and her decompression process once she has finished something.

The Clarion people have a great interview with Jim Butcher.

I particularly like this bit:

One of the ways you do that is by paying attention to the things that cause emotions in you. So if you are listening to a piece of music or you are watching TV, and something causes a strong emotion in you, stop for a minute and pay attention to that and try to figure out why it did that. It’s really handy as a writer because not only will it help you understand the whole process of being a person, it also will help you in your writing and give you good inspiration for your novel.

That’s the reason why I will read or watch scenes and moments that affect me emotionally over and over again to analyze why they work so well.

On a somewhat related note, Shanna Swendson explains what draws her into a story. Based on that glowing recommendation, I should really check out Haven. I actually think I have the first episode lying around somewhere, unwatched.

The World Fantasy Award nominations have been announced.

That’s a pleasantly diverse shortlist there. Particularly notable is that the novel shortlist two men and four women, three of them women of colour while a fourth novel, though by a white author has a protagonist of colour. We also have two novels by writers not from the US/UK and set outside the US or Western Europe. That’s a very nice reflection of the fact that our genre is becoming increasingly diverse. Finally, I’m also happy to see so much awards love for Stories: All New Tales, because I enjoyed that anthology very much.

Finally, there are two celebrity deaths to report:

Elliot Handler, co-founder of Mattel Toys and mastermind behind toys as memorable as Barbie or Hot Wheels, died a few days ago aged 95. Without Elliot Handler and his wife Ruth, our childhoods would have been a lot poorer. So I contemplate my Barbies, including two rare mid 1960s models, and my Hot Wheels cars and raise a glass in his memory.

German singer Bernd Clüver died yesterday, aged 63, due to what has been termed a “domestic accident”. According to various newspapers, Clüver fell down the stairs of his house on the island of Mallorca in the middle of the night and died.

Bernd Clüver was one of the protagonists of the Schlager, that peculiarly German genre of pop music, characterized by sweetly inoffensive music and saccharine and often silly lyrics that are determined more by rhyme than by anything resembling sense.

Bernd Clüver’s most famous song, “Der Junge mit der Mundharmonika”* (The boy with the harmonica) from 1973, is an excellent example of the Schlager genre. The melody is actually quite nice and melancholic and Clüver had a lovely voice, when young. The lyrics, however, seem to have been assembled either by a heavy drug addict or by one of those song writing machines from George Orwell’s 1984. Because there really is no other excuse – and I’m still waiting for an explanation what “the barge with the glass freight” was supposed to be. If you grew up in Germany in the 1960s, 1970s and early 1980s, songs like this were the soundtrack of your childhood.

Though not all Schlager were quite as shallow as “Der Junge mit der Mundharmonika”. Quite a few dabbled in social criticism. Case in point: Bernd Clüver’s 1976 song “Mike und sein Freund” (Mike and his friend) was the first German pop song to deal with gay relationships and the discrimination and disapproval faced by gay young men. The song ends tragically with Mike and his boyfriend committing suicide. Still, I imagine that there were many gay teenagers who found solace in this strangely touching song and hopefully had a better life than Mike and his boyfriend. There is no video to go with the song, because the plight of young gay men was too hot a topic for Hitparade, Disco and other popular music shows of the 1970s. What made this song even more unusual is that Bernd Clüver himself apparently wasn’t gay – reports are contradictory about that point. I really wish this would be the song he will be remembered for rather than “The boy with the harmonica” or – heaven beware – “Mexican Girl”.

*The clip to go with the song is from Hitparade, the German TV show that was dedicated to the Schlager genre. When I was a small child, being allowed to stay up and watch Hitparade was the biggest thing ever.

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2 Responses to Two touchstones of a 1970s childhood die – and some writing links

  1. Keir says:

    “The lyrics, however, seem to have been assembled either by a heavy drug addict or by one of those song writing machines from George Orwell’s 1984.”
    Hahaha!! I’m trying to find out if I should know of him but your description doesn’t help. It could refer to any Neil Diamond tune!

    • Cora says:

      Unless you’re either German or spent a significant amount of time here in the 1970s and 1980s and listened to cheesy pop music, you probably don’t know of Bernd Clüver. His career was limited to the German speaking countries and the Netherlands.

      The Neil Diamond comparison does fit though. Singers like Neil Diamond or Barry Manilow are probably as close as you can get to the German Schlager in the US.

      Interesting site BTW.

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