Janis Ian’s “Welcome Home”–for true fans everywhere

Janis Ian wrote this for the Nebula Awards banquet, and sent it to a bunch of us to share with you.  Enjoy it, but please, if you share, give credit where credit is due.

That’s:

Music © Mine Music Ltd./EMI Japan Publishing/Lyric © Rude Girl Publishing.  All rights reserved.  International copyright secured.  Used by Permission

Welcome Home (the SFWA song) – At

Here are the lyrics.  Enjoy!

WELCOME HOME (THE SFWA SONG)
(Janis Ian)

I learned the truth at seventeen
That Asimov and Bradbury
and Clarke were alphabetically
my very perfect ABC’s
While Algernon ran every maze
and slow glass hurt my heart for days
I sat and played a sweet guitar
and Martians grokked me from afar

Odd John was my only friend
among the clocks and Ticktockmen,
while Anne Mccaffrey’s dragons roared
above the skies of Majipoor
Bukharan winds blew cold and sharp
and whispered to my secret heart
“You are no more alone
“Welcome home”

Tribbles came, and triffids went
Time got wrinkled, then got spent
Kirinyaga’s spirits soared
and Turtledove re-write a war
While Scanners searched, and loved in vain
Hal Nine Thousand went insane
and Brother Francis had an ass
whose wit and wile were unsurpassed

Every story I would read
became my private history
as Zenna’s People learned to fly
and Rachel loved until we cried
I spent a night at Whileaway
then Houston called me just to say
“You are no more alone
“so welcome home”

Who dreams a positronic man?
Who speaks of mist, and grass, and sand?
Of stranger station’s silent tombs?
Of speech that sounds in silent rooms?
Who waters deserts with their tears?
Who sees the stars each thousand years?
Who dreams the dreams for kids like me
Whose only home is fantasy?

Let’s drink a toast to ugly chickens
Marley’s ghost, and Ender Wiggins
Every mother’s son of you,
and all your darling daughters, too
And when the aliens finally come,
we’ll say to each and every one
“You are no more alone
“so welcome home
“Welcome home”

Music © Mine Music Ltd./EMI Japan Publishing/Lyric © Rude Girl Publishing. All rights reserved. International copyright secured. Used by Permission

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54 Comments

  1. Many thanks to you, and above all to Janis, for sharing that with us.

    (And, Janis: Would you like us to consider that a filksong or no? I expect to hear this sung at many filk circles whether or not it’s officially so classified; we’ve always been more concerned with the storytelling, the music, and the craft than with labels.)

    Reply
    • You’re welcome, Joe. I’m not sure Janis reads my blog. If you like, I’ll forward to the comment to her. Just e-mail me and let me know.

      Reply
  2. I loved the original way back when and consider this a brilliant offshoot. Loved it. Feel free to tell Janis.

    Reply
  3. My thanks too. I don’t come here often, even though I should, but I appreciate this song and some of your other posts. Good stuff.

    And kinda fun trying to catch all of her references. Thanks also for putting the words up, makes it easier to catch her words that way.

    Still not sure about the ugly chickens though.

    Reply
    • “Ugly Chickens” is a wonderful Howard Waldrop story. Check it out. Good stuff. Thanks for the kind comments. :-)

      Reply
    • You’re welcome. I love it.

      Reply
  4. Wow, that actually kinda made my throat tight (nothing like managing to invoke most of my childhood in one song). Good stuff, thanks for sharing!

    Reply
  5. Thank you! Please pass on my thanks to Janis Ian for writing this wonderful song. It made my day!

    Reply
  6. A delightful revelation, as it always is when we get a clear message from a kindred imagination. Much appreciated. Thank you.

    Reply
    • So glad you all enjoyed it. It made me tear up as well.

      Reply
  7. Man, she caught tons of allusions in those few verses. I was tickled pink to pick them out. And with the original song echoing in the back of my mind while I listened, it brought tears to my eyes. Wonderful juxtaposition.

    And while I like “The Ugly Chickens,” I must say “A Dozen Tough Jobs” is still my favorite Waldrop story. Wrote a paper on it in college for a mythology class. Got an A and turned the prof into a Waldrop fan at the same time.

    Thanks for sharing, Kris. And thanks to Janis for writing it and offering it to you to share.

    Reply
  8. This was brilliant. :-) The anthem of my youth…becomes a very different anthem for my middle age.

    Reply
  9. This brought tears of joy to my eyes. Thanks to Janis, and thanks to you, Kris.

    I would like to pay for this in a format I can keep. (iTunes will play the link’s download, but won’t load it to my iPod).

    And, of course, I’ll be looking for the guitar part so that I can play and sing it myself.

    Reply
    • You’re welcome, Robin. For any of you who want to thank Janis in some way, go to her website, http://www.janisian.com/, and donate to the Pearl Foundation. I’ve told her about the comments, so she might come here and take a peek.

      As for an mp3 version, e-mail me privately.

      Thanks everyone.

      Reply
  10. Thank you, Kris, for the head’s up – and thanks to everyone for being so kind! I loved the opportunity to pay homage to just a few of the people and stories that have informed my own work and moral stance over the years.
    As to getting mp3’s, I’m going into the studio tomorrow to lay a slightly better version down, hopefully one with track and one with just guitar. As soon as I have them done, I’ll make them available to Kris, and when I can, I’ll throw them up on my own website and iTunes as well. Anyone wanting a copy of the current form can, as she says, contact Kris privately, and any donations to my little foundation are much appreciated.
    As Pollyanna-ish as it sounds, I’m very grateful to the entire science fiction community for taking me in!
    Janis

    Reply
    • Janis, you’re welcome for the heads-up. I’m so happy to help share the song. For those of you who don’t know, Janis has been part of the sf community for some time now, and even edited an sf anthology with Mike Resnick called Stars, with stories based on her songs. It’s good. I suspect the sf community might adopt this as an anthem, Janis. Great stuff. Thank you for doing it. :-)

      Reply
  11. Thank You and Janis. This is my first time to your web page. It was recommended to me from Blind Lemming Chiffon.

    Reply
  12. Thanks for the heads up. Looks like I have some homework to do, to find Waldrop.

    Reply
  13. One more thing, after rereading the words a couple of times, I having problems with “slow glass” and time getting spent. I haven’t read everything and it’s been a while since I’ve read some but I have a feeling that with one or both of those I’m going to say “Duh”.

    And I think I got an inspiration from “Hitlar’s Angel” cover and did you know that one of the guys on the cover of “By Blood We Live” looks like a certain young Doctor Who.

    Reply
  14. Very cool! :D Caught just about every reference made in the song. Those opening lines…

    I learned the truth at seventeen
    That Asimov and Bradbury
    and Clarke were alphabetically
    my very perfect ABC’s

    …has my thinking exactly for a very long time: Asimov, Bradbury, Clarke, Dunsany, Ellison, Farmer, Gibson,… etc, etc, etc, on up to Zelazny. For me, however, the age was much sooner. I was 14.

    Ben Bova was the first SF author I ever remember reading. Exiled From Earth was the book. Wasn’t looking for SF that day in the library of the high school I attended in England (I’m an old Air Force brat), but that’s what I found and things haven’t been the same since. Tolkien followed soon thereafter. Rather fitting, I think, considering that I lived very close to Oxford at the time. And then Jack Vance, with his Planet of Adventure novels — I remember reading The Dirdir and The Hobbit during a trip up to Scotland one year —, and Asimov, and on and on and on. (Fitting, too, that I’d also become a big fan of Shakespeare, when I lived barely 6 miles from Stratford. Got to see many of his plays there, too, both at the New Globe in London and elsewhere.)

    So many memories rekindled with this song, not to mention that over the past 5-7 years I’ve been reconnecting with lots of old high school friends from that high school I attended in England. Upper Heyford High School. A high school for American military kids at RAF Upper Heyford, in Oxfordshire (later moved to RAF Croughton in Northamptonshire). Upper Heyford, which used to be a SAC base and home to an F111 squadron, as well as some U2 spy planes, and had the longest runway in all of Europe, has now been turned into a car park and a suburb, although, from what friends have told me, the sidewalk in which a stone mosaic of our school mascot (a Hadite… coming from the word Hades) had been embedded has been preserved.

    And the first book of yours I remember reading, Kris, was White Mists of Power. I also recently read and enjoyed the Black Throne novels.

    Reply
    • First sf novel I remember reading was an Andre Norton. But when I look at my bookshelf of books from childhood, I realize that I read a lot of sf, just didn’t know what it was. And thanks everyone for the comments. The White Mists of Power, G.D.? That was my first published novel. And I still remember the process of writing it.

      So glad you’re all enjoying the song as much as I do.

      Reply
  15. “…has my thinking…”

    Should be “…has been my thinking…”

    Reply
  16. I got to Norton, too, before we left England in 1977. Hers were definitely among the first SF/fantasy novels I remember reading.

    Reply
  17. Thank you for sharing this. I cut my adult reading teeth at age 11 on Asimov and Bradbury. My mother wasn’t into Clarke. ;)
    And it is obvious Janis, you always belonged. Thank you for putting the thoughts of so many of us into words and song as lovely as you always have.

    Reply
  18. Louis, the story with slow glass is called “Light of Other Days”; I can’t recall the author, and there may be more than one story with that title, but this one dates from the 1970s or earlier. Sorry, no help on the “time spent” — that one is puzzling me too.

    One of the generally-accepted classes of filk is “songs about fandom and/or the experience of being a fan”. I’d say this song definitely qualifies.

    Reply
  19. small typo correx?

    “…and Turtledove re-write a war” sounds like “and Turtledove re-wrote a war”…

    Reply
  20. That was an absolute joy. Thank you, Ms. Ian, and Kris!

    Reply
  21. I was lost in the lyrics, except for the jarring note when Anne Mccaffrey’s dragons roared above the clouds of Majipoor. Janis Ian risks a midnight soul-racking from the King of Dreams for that.

    I’ll be seeking permission to publish Janis’s lyrics to the SFWA Song in the August 2010 issue of my fanzine Interstellar Ramjet Scoop (IRS) on e-Fanzines in the lead up to Aussiecon 4 (68th SF Worldcon in Melbourne, Australia) on September 2-6, 2010.

    I’ll visit her website http://www.janisian.com/ with a view to picking up e-mail address from it.

    Reply
    • You’re welcome, everyone. Bill, I sent your e-mail to Janis, so she will probably respond directly.

      Reply
  22. Thank Janis for this. I’m still hoping to see her at a Chattcon or WisCon (or both) some day.

    Reply
  23. That was “Chattacon” of course, not Chattcon.

    Reply
  24. Great song & sentiments: thanks to Kris and of course to Janis. Perhaps I shouldn’t spoil the mystery for Louis, but if he wants to know about slow glass, he should read Bob Shaw’s Light of Other Days (the original short story) or Other Days, Other Eyes (the ensuing novel).

    Reply
  25. Another who cried listening . . .
    Oddly, though I’m pretty sure I got every reference, I clicked on the title last. “Welcome, Miklos. Welsome home.” was the last line of Norman Spinrad’s first published story.

    Reply
  26. Oh, and for people who want the recording, after you’ve played it, it’s in the cache folder of your browser. Just rename and move.

    Reply
  27. I don’t recognize all the references, but certainly more than enough! Card and Heinlein and Andersen and Tolkien–truly enough to get on with! May each and every one of them rejoice as each comes Home!

    Reply
  28. Applause!! Now that was fine. I know *I* will be singing this at filksings. :)

    Reply
  29. Damn woman, you got street cred.

    Reply
  30. I am not worthy. I am not worthy.

    Reply
  31. Brilliant!! Thank you, Kris. And Michael Walsh, who tipped me to this link. And, of course, Janis Ian. I’m astonished at how many references I recognize and how strong the evoked memories are.

    Reply
  32. Since a couple of posters listed the first SF they read, I thought I would do the same.

    I should say the first two I can remember. I should say I thought I recalled the first one and its author but after an hour, all together, online I can’t find it. Something about Venus rebellion. In either case I read it as a wee lad, reading that book under the covers when I was suppose to be asleep. I was very upset when the MC broke a radio tube and joined the rebellion. Later I was able to figure out why he did it. Yeah, tube…you can see how old the book is by that.

    The second book I read in my Jr. high library. It was title “The Programed Man”. I don’t recall the author and I haven’t seen it since but I recall I liked it. It seemed to be written in a way that would allow other stories in that universe but I’ve never seen any.

    And with the new augmented version of the song, I’m not sure about Stranger’s Station. In this case there are two or three stories that come to mind that might be it but my swiss cheese memory is shielding that part of my memory files.

    Reply
  33. I have about a 90% overlap with that wonderful song, I giggled and sighed. AWESOME THANKS! Would love to see an annotated version to get the last 10%(grin!)
    I was ten when I saw my dad put down Arthur C Clarke’s “City and the Stars” and I picked it up. It was over a decade before I willing read anything other than SF again. I still read C&tS every year.

    Reply
  34. I hate to do Bova a disservice, but it just occurred to me that the first SF I read was not by Bova, but by Jules Verne, and that would’ve been AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS, followed by several other books of his. The main difference being that Verne’s books weren’t categorized as SF. This would’ve been back sometime between 1971 and 1974, when I lived in Bangkok, Thailand. It would’ve been about the time that my reading interests, which were largely mysteries at the time, expanded to include science fiction. that said, Bova’s was definitely the first SF book I read that was marketed specifically as SF.

    (Of course, I was also into other things, both in movie and television format, that would qualify as SF, but I didn’t know it at the time. “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea,” anyone? “Land of the Giants,” and more. I’m showing my age now, so I’ll shut up. :P)

    Reply
    • My age too, G.D. I loved those shows. My dad hated that “junk.” Didn’t want me to watch it in his house. So of course I did. But my folks never banned books. Didn’t even seem to notice all the sf I was reading. And rereading. And reading some more. :-)

      Reply
  35. My folks never banned books, either, Kris. Instead, my mother did what she could to get me out of the house to socialize more, because I wanted to spend more time inside… with my books. (Or, if not books, then sitting at my parents’ old manual Olivetti-Underwood typewriter — taught myself to type on that thing, using a typing manual my mother had — and writing stories of my own.) So, basically, when I was younger, she’d limit my time with books/indoors as much as she could. Funny thing is, in the end it didn’t work because I still spend too much time indoors reading than out-of-doors socializing. LOL! :D

    I do get out and socialize, though. My most recent excursion was to spend Memorial Day weekend at Balticon.

    Gary

    Reply
    • Gary, my mother banished me outside as well. So I climbed the nearest tree, hauled out a book, and spent the afternoon reading. :-)

      Reply
  36. Here it is, deconstructed:

    Gosh, where is Google when we need it…

    Here’s a breakdown of the references. Anyone wanting to download it can go to my site http://www.janisian.com , and head for the Music – Free Downloads page. You’re welcome to disseminate/reprint it; all I ask is that the copyright info and writer credit be used.
    And thanks for enjoying it! I love when music goes where it’s supposed to go.
    Janis Ian

    I learned the truth at seventeen
    That Asimov and Bradbury — Isaac Asimov & Ray Bradbury
    and Clarke were alphabetically — Arthur C. Clarke
    my very perfect ABC’s
    While Algernon ran every maze — Daniel Keyes’ short story “Flowers for Algernon”
    and slow glass hurt my heart for days — Bob Shaw’s “Light of Other Days”
    I sat and played a sweet guitar
    and Martians grokked me from afar — Robert Heinlein’s “Stranger In a Strange Land”, and the Martin word “grok”, or in its verb form, “to grok”, as in “to share the same reality or line of thinking with another physical or conceptual entity” (Wikipedia). Really untranslateable, much like the Portuguese “saudades” or the Japanese “wa”.

    Odd John was my only friend — Olaf Stapledon’s novel “Odd John”
    among the clocks and Ticktockmen, — a combination of Harlan Ellison’s “‘Repent, Harlequin!’ said the Ticktockman” and The Wizard of Oz mechanical man Tik-Tok.
    while Anne Mccaffrey’s dragons roared — the dragons of the Pern series.
    above the skies of Majipoor — Robert Silverberg’s “Majipoor Chronicles”
    Bukharan winds blew cold and sharp — M. J. Engh was the author honored when I was toastmistress of the Nebula Awards; as part of my preparation, I ordered and read her classic “A Wind From Bukhara”.
    and whispered to my secret heart
    “You are no more alone
    “Welcome home”

    Tribbles came, and triffids went — David Gerrold’s “The Trouble With Tribbles”, and the cult classic movie “Day of the Triffids”
    Time got wrinkled, then got spent — the first hardback book I ever bought (and still own, inscribed now), “A Wrinkle In Time”, by Madeleine L’Engle
    Kirinyaga’s spirits soared — referencing the collection of short stories, called “Kirinyaga”, by Mike Resnick – his story “For I Have Touched the Sky” influenced my own work heavily
    and Turtledove re-write a war -i Harry Turtledove’s various alternate histories
    While Scanners searched, and loved in vain — Cordwainer Smith, “Scanners Live in Vain”
    Hal Nine Thousand went insane — the film by Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clark “2001: A Space Odyssey”, referencing the rogue computer Hal 9000
    and Brother Francis had an ass
    whose wit and wile were unsurpassed — from Walter Miller’s “A Canticle for Liebowitz”, first a short story, then a novel

    Every story I would read
    became my private history
    as Zenna’s People learned to fly — Zenna Henderson’s “Pilgrimage: Book of the People”. More writers than I can count say Henderson was an enormous influence on them, from Orson Scott Card to Connie Willis.
    and Rachel loved until we cried — “Rachel In Love”, by Pat Murphy
    I spent a night at Whileaway — Joanna Russ’ short story “When It Changed”
    then Houston called me just to say — James Tiptree, Jr.’s “Houston, Houston, Do You Read?”
    “You are no more alone
    “so welcome home”

    Who dreams a positronic man? — the novel “The Positronic Man”, by Isaac Asimov and Robert Silverberg
    Who speaks of mist, and grass, and sand? — Vonda McIntyre’s short story “Of Mist, and Grass, and Sand”, which became “Dreamsnake”
    Of stranger station’s silent tombs? — from “Stranger Station”, by Damon Knight
    Of speech that sounds in silent rooms? — from the amazing “Speech Sounds”, by Octavia Butler
    Who waters deserts with their tears? — from Frank Herbert’s “Dune”, and the Fremen and Maud’dib
    Who sees the stars each thousand years? — Isaac Asimov’s story “Nightfall”
    Who dreams the dreams for kids like me
    Whose only home is fantasy?

    Let’s drink a toast to ugly chickens — Howard Waldrop’s “The Ugly Chickens”
    Marley’s ghost, and Ender Wiggins — Jacob Marley, who haunts Ebenezer Scrooge in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, and Ender Wiggins of Orson Scott Card’s “Ender’s Game”
    Every mother’s son of you,
    and all your darling daughters, too — Connie Willis’ “All My Darling Daughters”
    And when the aliens finally come,
    we’ll say to each and every one
    “You are no more alone
    “so welcome home
    “Welcome home”

    I believe that science fiction is the jazz of prose. An outlaw form, made for those of us who never quite fit in, who spend our lives with our noses pressed against the glass, who finally find a home in these stories, and their absolute, unshakeable belief that somewhere out there, we can find our own kind.
    Reply With Quote

    Reply
  37. Ah, yes. “Saudades.” :D

    My girlfriend is Portuguese and one way of saying that you miss someone very much is to say, “Tenho muitas saudades tuas.” “Saudades,” as I’ve come to understand it, goes back to the age of exploration, when Portuguese explorers would leave on their ships and not come back for months or years at a time. The words “longing,” as in “to long for,” or “yearning,” come close to the idea, but one can’t really come to understand the meaning of “saudades” unless a loved one has returned after having been gone for a very long time. As a military brat, “saudades” is a concept I came to learn very young (although I didn’t know the word at the time), when I was about 9 years old. My father received orders for a remote tour to Korat, Thailand, to provide communications support for the Vietnam War, and he was gone for a year. My mother says that my brother and I asked her nearly every day when our father would return. That’s about as close to “saudades” as I’ve ever come. Going back to the sentence I gave earlier, to try to translate it: “Tenho [I have] muitas [much] saudades tuas [saudades (for) you].”

    Another way to say you miss someone in Portuguese, but it’s nowhere near as strong as using the word “saudades,” is “Sinto muito a tua falta.” This translates as, “Sinto [I feel] muito [much] a tua falta [your absence].” An alternate translation might be, “I feel much the lack of you.” (I’m being fairly literal with my translations.) “I miss you,” is an accurate enough translation of this particular sentence, but wouldn’t be sufficient when “saudades” is used. “Falta” can be translated several ways: lack, absence, want, shortage, need, etc. Like many English words, the meaning of “falta” — foul, fail, scarcity, paucity, shortcoming, and mistake are just a few possible translations — is dependent on the context in which it is used.

    Reply
  38. I’ve passed the song file on to any and all I thought might be interested in it. Thank you, Ms. Ian. One hundred thousand thank yous.

    Reply

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