Filk

Excepts from Wikipedia on filk:

Filk is a musical culture, genre, and community tied to science fiction/fantasy fandom. The genre has been active since the early 1950s, and played primarily since the mid-1970s.

In keeping with the folk-culture roots of filk, the musical styles and topics of filk music are eclectic. While a plurality of filk is rooted firmly in acoustic-instrument folk music, other pieces and artists draw inspiration from rock, a cappella vocal groups, or other styles.

The range of topics in filk songs stems from its cultural roots in fandom. Many songs honor specific works in science fiction, fantasy, or speculative fiction. Other songs are about science, fantasy, computers, technology in general, or values related to technological change. Yet others are about the culture of fandom, including filk itself (both as a phenomenon within fandom, and as a sub-culture). Many filk songs (such as Leslie Fish’s “Carmen Miranda’s Ghost Is Haunting Space Station 3”) are humorous while others treat their subjects seriously (like Steve Macdonald’s “Journey’s Done”).

However, some common themes do not fall neatly into filk’s science fiction origins. Such topics include songs about cats, popular culture, and politics. These are perhaps best explained as an outgrowth of filk as a folk culture, open in some respects to expansion by individual artists.

In my experience, filk is something that most commonly happens at science fiction conventions, although filk-specific events and house parties also occur. At conventions, it is often a pleasant way to spend an evening, going round a circle, taking turns to sing and play.

Filk and Me

I’ve been involved with the Filk Community since 1988, when I attended Follycon, the British National Science Fiction Convention held at Easter that year. I’d been to a few science fiction conventions before, but this was the year that filk made an impact on the British SF Fandom community. One evening, I heard singing voices coming from down a corridor, and – being an amateur musician – I followed the sound. I came across a room crowded with people, all singing songs – some that sounded almost familiar, but not quite as I remembered them. I joined them for the evening, had a wonderful time, and – of course – returned the next evening with a song of my own to sing.

Filklore (the magazine)

Filklore  was a filk fanzine I produced with two friends – Robert Maughan and Smitty – between 1991 and 1993. Produced quarterly, we managed to publish 9 issues. The magazine was a mixture of fiction, articles and filk lyrics contributed by readers. Having been told that few fanzines lasted past their first edition, we started Filklore on issue 2, and constantly referred back to the imaginary “rare” issue 1 throughout the life of the magazine.

Minstrel’s Hall

A precursor of my website, and this blog, “Minstrel’s Hall of Filk” was an electronic bulletin board (and later a free Internet feed) I ran for members of science fiction – and more specifically, filk – fandom between 1991 and 1997. Originally running on an original IBM PC that I had inherited from somewhere, and an incredibly fast 300 baud modem, it ran as a hub on Fidonet, and was the original host of the FILK_UK fidonet “echo” forum. In 1994, the bulletin board became simply “Minstrel’s Hall”, and aquired its first connection to the internet via the Port of Call BBS. In 1995 we acquired our own internet feed, via Demon Internet, and for a while we found ourselves becoming many British filker’s first internet address. Within a couple of years, however, internet access was getting more commonplace and people started getting their own access. When the bulletin board suffered a complete system failure in 1997, I evaluated how many people were now depending on it – the answer was very few, so I decided not to rebuild it, and just continued with personal access for myself. In 1999 I registered www.filklore.com, and Minstrel’s Hall was reborn as a website.

Filklore Music Store

The Filklore Music Store came into being at a time when many British filkers had a tape or CD to sell, but rare occassions to do so, outside of conventions. For a while it was very popular, but in more recent years, with sites like CD Baby and easy online payments through PayPal, it has become easier for the artists to offer their music via their own sites. Eventually the store no longer paid its way, with sales declining to less than one CD every couple of months. The store is now closed, and the store URL – filklore.co.uk – now redirects to filklore.com.