What’s The Filk?

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Many science fiction conventions will, officially or otherwise, have “filk” events. These are gatherings of fen who sing songs based on science fiction, fantasy and fandom.

Trying yo define filk is as difficult as defining science fiction itself but I’m going to attemot it anyway.

Back in the 1970s many progressive rock and heavy metal bands had fantasy themes and their covers were adorned with Roger Dean artwork. Yes and Hawkwind spring immediately to mind but there were many others such as Jethro Tull’s “Broadsword”. You would rarely, if ever, hear them sung in filk-circles however.

I am told that the word “filk” was originally a typographical error in a Con programme – it was supposed to be “folk”. Folk music means literally “music of the people” and was (and is) sung in taverns and bars with simple instrumentation or none at all – and this is the preferred style of filkers. Traditionally folk singers would sing of events that occurred in or effected the local community in some way. Filkers, as well as singing songs based on SF stories also sing about events within fandom which can sometimes give the impression to outsiders that they are a bit above themseves.

Having said that, if you were to stand up in a filk circle and sing an old prog-rock number, nobody would throw you out. Perhaps the only definition that works is “Filk is what filkers sing”.

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