Jason Youngberg's Web Site :: Filk

Filk/Music Main Page

"What's filk?" That's difficult to answer. It's like asking "What's sci-fi?". Actually the two questions are related. The semi-official definition is "Musical fan-fiction". Personally I don't like that definition since the next logical question is "Well what's fan-fiction?" A proper definition should not raise more questions. I like to say it's, "Music by fans of sci-fi for fans of sci-fi about anything related to sci-fi and aimed at a niche audience." because it doesn't lead to more requests to define words and it fits what I think filk is perfectly. Filk is songs about space and space travel. Filk is songs about sci-fi or fantasy series. Filk is songs about a sci-fi or fantasy setting specifically created for that one song. It's about the fans, the conventions, the books, even about filk itself if you feel introspective. Filk is not restricted to any style of music. You can have rap, country, rock, folk, etc. filk songs. The target audience is what's important. Filk is not made for the general public, though they're welcome to hear. Chances are you won't hear filk songs being played on a top 40 station or a dance club. I've never seen a filk album at Walmart or Musicland (when they were in business). You find filk albums at conventions and small online stores.

But even my definition covers everything considered filk. At filk concerts and on filk albums you would also find pirate shanties, celtic songs, bardic tales about battles long ago and recent. Filker Tom Smith wrote a powerful, moving song called "Online Ghost" about a soldier who died in Iraq and how his mySpace page has become a ghost on the internet. (Story Here) The song was mostly about the loss felt by the survivors and saddness over the growing community of pages that won't change. But is it filk? If filk is just science fiction themed music, then we'd have go say an online ghost is "science-fiction-y" But that doesn't feel right. It feels like we're demeaning the soldier's sacrifice which is certainly not the song's intent. But it does deal with the internet. It's about how the online profiles of those who have passed away will remain unchanged and have become a shadow of their living selves. And the internet is related to sci-fi.

That's not important though. The definition of filk shouldn't be so hard and fast. It's not a cleaver to sharply cut away at the body of music. Nor is it a sculpting tool to shave away little bits to create a final shape. It's more like the border of a black hole or the cloud of electrons orbiting a nucleus. The line between filk and non-filk is fuzzy and should be so. Some songs clearly are, some clearly are not, and for some it depends. But it doesn't matter. I don't think a filk fan will get too worked up if they hear a song at a filk concert or filk album that doesn't fit their definition of filk.