What is filk?
Filk is a subset of folk music that is practiced in, by and for the Science Fiction and Fantasy community. The term 'filk' was originally a typographic error in the program for a science fiction convention and the term stuck. People who write or sing filk are 'filkers'. In its earliest form, filk was the setting of new, usually humorous, words to old tunes. Filkers still write new words to existing tunes, but they also write songs that are original both in music and lyrics. These songs can be funny or heart wrenching, silly or deadly serious, or someplace in the middle.
Filk is most commonly performed a capella or by singers accompanied by a guitar. However, filkers use a wide range of instruments, both traditional and modern, acoustic and electric.
Filk includes songs about every science fiction or fantasy subject you could imagine: outer space (both real and fictional), books, movies, TV shows, dragons, magic, unicorns, vampires, and aliens of every sort. It also includes songs about things of interest to the Science Fiction and Fantasy community (usually referred to as 'fandom') and strongly resembles contemporary folk music. A small sampling of these topics includes: cats, computers, social commentary, and politics. Filk also includes songs about fandom itself: attending science fiction conventions, running science fiction conventions, and singing filk songs. There is also filk about the Society for Creative Anachronism(SCA) a group that recreates aspects of the middle ages and happens to have been founded by members of the science fiction community.
One of the things filkers do besides sing and write songs is argue over exactly what filk is.
- A flyer by Lee Gold introducing filk circles (PDF) and offering suggestions for new filkers. Suitable for handing out at cons and housefilks.
- Interfilk has compiled a list of links to various filk definitions.
- Gary McGath's most recent comments on the subject, defining filk as a movement rather than a genre, can be found on his site.
- Wikipedia entry on filk.