I’m a Big Filker!

by thebradmiskell

Underground Diaries, Part 11

My managing editor felt like I got a little rangy here. I felt like he mistook a soft lede for a hard one, easy enough to do. Regardless, my motto is “If it filks it leads.”

I made a major self-discovery while attending the 64th Annual World Science Fiction Convention: I’m a big filker!

At least in spirit I’m a big filker. There is some question whether one may be considered a filker without actually filking with other filkers. Which I never got around to doing at the WorldCon.

I walked in on a small group that was down on the floor preparing to filk. But I got shy and left before they started going at it. I wouldn’t have joined in anyway. I just wanted to watch. It was only later, alone in my dark apartment, that I realized just how big of a filker I probably am.

For those of you unsure what a filker is (besides, maybe, something unsavory) filkers write and sing songs about science fiction and fantasy. You may not have heard of filking before, but there was plenty going on at the WorldCon. Filking is popular enough that filkers actually have cons all their own.

I’m guessing that “filk” is a combination of “fiction” and “folk” (filk music is largely folk music), but wherever the word comes from, “filking” just sounds dirty. It provokes jokes. I guess that’s only fitting: filkers are, after all, members of SF fandom, and members of SF fandom are all too familiar with wearing the big cosmic “Kick me” sign.

What I heard loud and clear from fans at the WorldCon—whether filkers, furries or none of the above – is that they’ve grown weary of being a punchline. And they’re leery of the media. (Furries—who identify with their animal natures, wear animal costumes and occasionally get in big fur piles—have been the most visible recent punching bag. Many furries are still mad about a lurid 2001 Vanity Fair article on their kind.)

Of course, people who walk around wearing tails or singing of enchanted unicorns and leprechauns are easy targets for the media. And Lord knows, the media needs easy targets.

But SF fans don’t exactly help their own cause when, on the front page of the daily WorldCon bulletin, con-goers are reminded that bathing daily while out in public is a nicety much appreciated by others. They might as well post a sign on the front door: Socially-challenged geeks with spotty hygiene in attendance.

(Yes, I was grateful for the reminder. Though I probably wasn’t in full compliance.)

The fact is, fandom attracts people from across the functional spectrum, from brilliant visionaries to myopic wackjobs. They’re often one and same. It appears that people who think outside the box for a living don’t merely tolerate difference, they thrive on it.

I saw both Ray Bradbury, author of Farenheit 451, and Kevin Roche, a costumer and IBM research scientist whose work has helped revolutionize hard drive technology, displaying remarkable patience with some fairly “out there” con-goers.

The con actually gave me a chance to practice forbearance of my own. I was in the main con suite one evening when the personal space of all present was invaded by two large, loud and evidently myopic men. They were appalled that anyone would think that a Romulan ionic shield could be breeched (or something to that effect). Worse, they appeared clueless that others sharing the room might not share their passion.

I was immediately put off by their volume insensitivity.

But, on reflection, aren’t these the guys you want in your foxhole when the asteroid hits? Or when aliens invade? They’ll know what to do!

Because, while they may not have written trilogies on these subjects, they’ve obviously read them, like, 14 times. I wouldn’t have been at all surprised had they broken into some alien tongue.

Actually, maybe that’s where the word filk comes from—some alien tongue. After all, filking is all about celebrating the rare, the exotic, the baffling and the fantastical. In that respect, and with respect, it’s just like fandom.


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This entry was posted on Wednesday, August 13th, 2008 at 7:28 pm and is filed under Underground Diaries. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

1 Comment so far


  1. 1 Gary McGath on August 14, 2008 3:17 pm

    People who just listen appreciatively are part of filk too!

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