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What is Filk101?

Jan Mailander wrote filking 101 as in introduction to filking for new people. It is several years old but still contains good information as an introduction. Some more current filkers are not mention and for this we at apologize for but we have just not had time to rewrite the document to keep it up to date.

The Folk Music of Science Fiction


"BUT RIGHT THEN JABBA THE HUTT COMES IN, SEES THE MESS, AND SAYS, "YOU CALL THIS A HOLOGRAM?" -- The punch line of the funniest joke in the universe (as told by Princess Leia on SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE)

As a newcomer to filk and filk singing, you will find that there are times when you will be the only one in the room not laughing at some remark or reference in a song; indeed, you may very well be sitting and thinking, "What the hell are these morons laughing at?" Filking has been around for many years, and like any small inside group filk fans have their own jokes and references that mean nothing to the outsider. However, in an effort to more speedily acclimate you to the world of filk fandom, most of the major inside jokes are explained below, with the origins of the joke wherever possible. References in quotes are specific notorious filk songs.

P.S. - If you know of more inside jokes send them in here to the web site. -- Eric Gerds

AMWAY: At the 1986 Bayfilk at the Red Lion Inn, the filkers wound up sharing the hotel with an Amway convention. Minor skirmishes were waged up and down the corridors and in the meeting"rooms between singers and salesmen alike. Bill Sutton wrote the ballad "RAW!" to "honor" the Amway people. Ask a filker about Amway, and more often than not she"ll go on about the March 1986 Red Lion Battle. Several filkers used to work for Amway before they escaped. (See RED LION INN; see also Appendix C, BILL SUTTON)


1) One of the most famous filksongs of all time, a Leslie Fish Trek song about the antics of the Enterprise crew on shore leave. R-rated and rather long. Has been requested so often by new filkers (often it's the only filk song they know) that veterans groan and will often refuse to sing it when it"s requested by a newcomer. Sometimes a desig nated "Banned From Argo" singer will take the newcomer aside and sing it to her in private so as not to wound the veterans. If not, the song appears on a tape called WHERE NO MAN... There are references to "Banned From Argo" throughout other people's filksongs. [Also appears on SOLAR SAILORS and BORDER PATROL.]

2) It really is an excellent song, and is the perfect "hook" to grab a neo-filker, as its background is instantly recognizable (Star Trek is very well"known), funny, and even somewhat scandalous. Its only fault is that for the past umpty-ump years, since Fish wrote it, EVERY NEO at his first filksing has asked for it. No one can listen to any song month after month, year after year, without getting tired of it. (Except perhaps Lt. Riley and "Take Me Home Again, Kathleen".) --RW

DRIVE SONGS: The most famous instance of SEQUELITIS. Cynthia McQuillin wrote a ballad with an easy rhyme pattern and a catchy tune called "Fuel to Feed the Drive." It was immediately parodied by Jordin Kare as "Fool to Feed the Drive." He unleashed a monster; to date there are over twenty "Drive" parodies: "Gruel to Feed the Hive," "Tool to Feed the Drive," and so forth. "Fool" and "Tool" are the only funny parodies, although Jordin lamented his mistake in the song "Driveshaft." There are songs ABOUT the Drive-song debacle, such as Mistie Joyce"s "The Filker." There is a moratorium on "Drive" songs" although some have not yet caught on. (See Appendix A, SEQUELITIS)

HOPE EYRIE: Leslie Fish"s song honoring the Apollo 11 mission; it embodies the hope of the space program. The anthem of filk singing. Always sung with respect and solemnity. Many filkers actually insist on standing at attention during this song.

IAN THE GRIM: One of the most depressing songs ever written, a military ose song by Clif Flynt about the death of a soldier's dog. A particular favorite with Gary Anderson. People, including Anderson"s wife, will leave the room when it is sung. So grim it is sometimes used as the embodiment of OSE songs. (See Appendix A, OSE; see also Appendix C, GARY ANDERSON) FILK CON This is a specialize convention dedicated to filksinging. There are been a great number of them over the years, being held all over the world. The two longest running conventions have been Con-Chord and OVFF (see their entries for more information).


1) A song written by the bleary-eyed survivors who managed to keep filking till 6 a.m. Sunday morning at ConChord I in 1983, to the tune of the Kathleen Taylor pagan song "Sisters Dancing Together." Since that time it has been traditionally sung (or, more accurately, droned) at 6 a.m. by the filkers who manage to stay up till that hour, who the n repair to the coffee shop.

2) There's also "Breakfast" (a.k.a. "Little Fuzzy Pancakes" to the tune of "I Hate Fire Lizards") written by Quentin Long et. al. under similar circumstances at Con"Chord 2 (or maybe Bayfilk 2 ?) I was there for that one. It was a truly horrible experience watching QL create that atrocity. And, you see, at six in the morning, all hotel coffee shops look alike, so I"m not sure where it was. --RW

GET A LIFE!?: William Shatner guested SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE in December 1986. The first sketch he was in perfectly skewered Star Trek cons, hitting everything from the fans" physical appearances to their obsession with Trek trivia. The sketch, in which Shatner played himself as the con"s guest, ended with him blowing up in rage at the bewildered fans, telling them, "Get a life, will you?" It is suspected that Shatner, whose disenchantment with Trek fandom is no secret, wrote the whole sketch himself. It is a painfully accurate satire, but I have yet to meet a Trek fan who didn"t think it was funny. The phrase "GET A LIFE!" has entered the fannish vernacular, and is aimed at those fans who really ought to turn off the TV once in a while and talk to real people, or READ for a change. (Especially those damn BEAUTY AND THE BEAST fans...) This also applies to non"fans who think Elvis is alive, or who follow the Grateful Dead from city to city or others unable or unwilling to visit mundania long enough to take care of the basic necessities " i.e. job, family, etc. (See WILLIAM SHATNER) [GETTING]

KANEFFED (see Appendix A, KANEF)

LIME JELLO: The story goes that one night at DISCON II, [see Westerfilk Page 60] a drunken pro (rumored to be Joe Haldeman) confided that the sexiest thing in the world was a bathtub full of Lime Jello; he made the mistake of saying this within earshot of friends (?). The next day he was kept away from his hotel room while every supermarket in town was scoured bare of lime gelatin. Legend does not report how this pro reacted to returning to a green quivering bathtub. A few songs were written about the incident. Since then, "Lime Jello" has been a fannish byword ** for everything sexy, erotic, or perverted, ** and can often provoke a laugh for no reason at all.

MARTHE KELLER: A poet who lived in the late 1800s. Her poetry tells of Indian attacks, Conquistadors, and early American battles; her gutsy style is far from the Emily Dickenson daisies"and"butterflies poetess style. Almost as popular among filkers as Kipling (see Appendix A, KIPPLE) for setting to music, but much harder to find than Kipling poetry.


THE OLD DUN COW: A folk song most famous for the line in the chorus, "Somebody shouted "McIntyre!"" At this line, everyone stops and screams "McINTYRE!" at the top of her lungs. Not a good thing to do in some neighborhoods and/or hotel rooms at 2 a.m. So there are variations: "Somebody WHISPERED "McIntyre!" "Somebody GARGLED "McIntyre!"" "Somebody SEMAPHORED "McIntyre!"" with the accompanying variation acted out by the fans.

OLD TIME RELIGION: Not the Baptist revival song. The fan version honors deities and mythologies of every kind, and runs well over 400 verses, with new ones being created even as we speak. Notorious for its length. The usual method of singing this is "closed-book" style"if you can"t remember any more verses, for Ghod"s sake stop singing it. Abbreviated as OTR. (See APPENDIX C, JOHN BOARDMAN.)

RED LION INN: The San Jose Red Lion Inn, the site of the 1983 Westercon and two Bayfilks. Friendly, courteous hotel staff, helpful management, a coffee shop with reasonable prices and good food, and a Jacuzzi. The Holy Grail of hotels. So beloved by filkers that Mercedes Lackey wrote the song "Red Lion Inn" to honor the hotel. (The hotel is now a Double Tree Inn)

SENTIENT CHILI: Chris Weber wrote "Beware of the Sentient Chili," a popular filksong whose lyrics were published in ASIMOV'S. Since the song was first sung, any pot of chili made for a filksing has been called Sentient Chili. [Occasionally, when two pots are prepared, one hot and one mild, they will be referred to as sentient and non"sentient, respectively."R W] (See Appendix C, CHRIS WEBER)

WILLIAM SHATNER: Not exactly an INSIDE joke in fandom, but provides hours of unintentional hilarity nevertheless. Where to start? His Canadian ancestry? (Take it from a half"Canadian, there is an inherent goofiness in those born North of the Border.) His bombastic portrayal of Admiral nee Captain James T. Kirk in both TV and movie STAR TREK? His bombastic portrayal of EVERYTHING? The worst"kept secret in Hollywood (his toupee, which looks as if it doubles as a flotation device)? His complete inability to sing (but which didn"t prevent him from cutting some of the most pathetic records ever made)? His attempts at television fame via testosterone" packed shows like T.J. HOOKER and EMERGENCY 911? Or perhaps it was his writing, starring in and directing BLAZING STARSHIPS (aka STAR TREK V" THE FINAL FRONTIER)? However, the few times he restrains himself, he does excellent work"try catching "The Andersonville Trial" on PBS for a rare piece of good Shatner acting. (See GET A LIFE!)

YOUNG MAN MULLIGAN: Another song like OTR (see "OLD TIME RELIGION") notorious for its length. [Published in Bruce Pelz"s "Filksong Manual" and in the NESFA Hymnal, Volume I. The NESFA version has 68 verses, and can be used as a post" graduate level quiz in pre"1960 SF. -RW]

Go back to Appendix A: Glossary of Filk Words

Go on to C: Who's Who: Famous Filkers

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