Filk music; if that phrase looks like a misprint of “folk music,” you’re not far off from filk’s etymology. But a word that was originally a typo in an essay on the influence of science fiction in folk music has become descriptive of its own subgenre of music.
In the simplest terms, filk is the music of the science fiction and fantasy fan communities. It began in impromptu sing-alongs at sci-fi conventions and started as parodies of popular music and folk songs. But the style has developed to include original songs as well as “found filk;” songs by mainstream artists that have lyrical content compatible with the filk tradition. These lyrics run the gamut from tributes to characters from novels and movies, themes explored in works of fiction, tales of sword and sorcery, and even filk songs about filk itself! The genre has grown big enough within the fan community that not only are filk circles mainstays of sci-fi conventions, but they’ve spawned conventions of their own, including Atlanta’s own “GA Filk” (pronounced “ga-filk.”)
Noted science fiction and fantasy author SM Stirling sees his fiction and the filk it influences as mutually beneficial. “To a certain extent, everyone loves flattery, and when people write filk songs about your work, then it’s one of the sincerest forms of flattery,” says Stirling, GA Filk 2007’s special guest. He has begun incorporating filk-singer characters into his novels, and using the lyrics of real filk artists in his work. So, what began as an unpublished misprint has made its way back onto bookshelves around the world.