Posted by: Mish | January 24, 2009

Filk 101

Oftentimes when I mention filk to friends I have to explain what it is, not that I mind in the least. Simply put, it’s folk music gone science-fiction and fantasy. Filk varies from song parodies (like Wierd Al Yankovic) to original music and from absolutely hilarious to serious. To quote the funny filker Tom Smith on another aspect of filk: “There is fan fiction. There is fan art. Filk is fan music. Period.”

Filk came to be known as such thanks to Lee Jacobs accidentally typing I instead of O in the 1950s. It’s a good thing Jacobs didn’t have spell check because that mistake became a way to distinguish folk music of the sci-fi and fantasy realms from that of the mundane world. There is also the Pegasus Awards, which has been given for excellence in filking since 1984. Congratulations to this year’s receivers: Vixy & Tony, Seanan McGuire, Andrew Eigel, Talis Kimberley, Cynthia McQuillin, and Daniel Glasser.

As with any art, some filkers are professional musicians and some are not. One of the most memorable songs I had the pleasure of hearing, was written in about 10 minutes by a non-recording filker. I can only hope that Cat keeps it in her repertoire so I can hear it a second or third time. Seeing as how it’s pretty common to see the same filkers again, there’s a good chance it will happen. There are quite a few I’ve run into in various locations at various times, even several years apart.

One thing I really love and appreciate about the filk community is the acceptance of anyone sharing their creation or passion no matter the talent, or lack thereof. It’s at a filk session several years ago that I first picked up a bodhran. At another session, a fellow drummer thanked me for joining in, which helped me realize I don’t need to be an excellent player to do so and that jamming isn’t American Idol. Actually, filk sessions are on the complete opposite of the spectrum. As Tom Smith (again) says on

All we ask is that you judge each on its own merit, exactly the way you would any other artistic creation. Don’t like a particular song, or singer? Wait five minutes.

There are several filkers whose music I’ve been meaning to share, but haven’t gotten around to… yet. But here’s a short video playlist of filkers filking filk:

A Firefly video to Vixy and Tony’s “Mal’s Song”:

S.J. Tucker performing “Callan’s Song” by Betsy Tinney:

A LOTR video to Tom Smith’s “Return of the King, Uh Huh”:

Mercedes Lackey singing a parody of one of her own Valdemar songs, “Threes”:

Michael Longcor’s “If I Could Be A Flying Monkey” with Judi Miller:

Seanan McGuire’s “Oh, Michelle” with Seanan, Vixy (aka Michelle), and Tony:

S.J. Tucker’s “City of Marrow”, which was inspired by Catherynne M. Valente’s The Orphan’s Tales:

And for any pirates out there, Tom Smith’s “Talk Like a Pirate Day”:



  1. Ooh, thanks for posting these! I really like Mal’s Song but I’ve never heard the others before.

  2. You’re welcome. =) Thought you might like some of these. I find “Mal’s Song” as addicting as the show.

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