FILKSONGS AS MODERN FOLK SONGS to ten pages, contributed by different composers. These present not only newly-cornposed songs but com- by ments on previous issues, questions, suggestions, ar- Ediili Fowke guments and reports on the f11ksinging at various cons. Another small called Kantele3 reproduces songs that are already popular, aIon~ news, reports, [This article originally appeared in CANADIAN and articles about f11ksinging. The little have FOlKLORECANADIEN, vol. 7 (1985); earlier versions small mailing lists - APA-FiIk normally ran off only 50 weregiven at the AFS meetingin Pittsburgh,1980, and copies - and the price was little more than the cost of the FSAC in Winnipeg, 1986. Reprinted by paper and postage. No one is paid for the work that goes permission.- Ed.] into them: they are clearly labours of love.

Filksongs are songsS\D1g by -fictionfans at Someof dIe consproduce dteir own f11ksongbooks, the numerousscience- conventions - or "cons", and dIe New England Association as they are termed. Usually their texts are inspired by (NESFA) published a more ambitious NESFA SF or fan-related activities and are to borrowed ~.4 The largest compilation is The HOjjS1a tunes. The origin of the term "[Ilk" is obscure: one !!!!!!!!!!.S which containsov~ 300 songs. explanationattributes it to a typographicalerror adopted as a form of esoteric humour; another postulatesan Gradually dIe filksong are becoming \mknownpunster who said "A filksong is a fannishsong more professional. Wh~e APA-Filk and Kantelewere in the ilk of a folksong."l Howeverthe term originated, mimeographed,the two hymnalswere repr~ from it is now a familiar part of SF 'svocabulary. typescript.More recently a California group has begun publishingbetter-quality songbooks, dIe latestof which Sung by an enonnousbody of fans, fiIksongs are arein regulartype.6 much closer to folk songs than the compositionsof professionalsingers like Gordon Lightfoot and Jom While most songs originally had a single , Mitchell which are commonlyreferred to as "folk". SF somehave multiple authorsand innumerableverses, a fans are a definite folk group with their own special situation that would have gladdenedthe hearts of the language,and filksinging is a folk activity that has proponentsof communalcomposition. The most volu- developeddefinite patterns. minousof the widely-sungnumbers is "Real Old "7 with over 250 versesby more than 50 au- Most fans learn the filksongs orally from hearing thors. More interesting is the one known as "Young them at cons,and many copy the songsin notebooksas Mulligan",8 which combines the pattern of two some traditional singers did. Others record them on familiar songs:"I Was Born About Ten ThousandYears cassettesand learn them that way. The texts acquire Ago", and Woody Guthrie's "The Biggest Thing That variations,lose. stanzas, and havenew ones added.The Man Has Ever Done". One compiledversion runs to 68 singerswho pick up the songsfrom hearingthem sung versesby 29 ,and it's still growing. The verses often do not know who wrote them. alternatebetween the two patterns,as Odettaand Larry sangthe originals on an old record,9 only this time the Filksinginghad its startback in the 1950sbut did not referencesare to sciencefiction rather than to Biblical become prominent until the . Then various and historical tales.The song incorporatesso many SF filksong authorsand groupsof fansbegan to publish the and referencesthat a condensedkey of 150 songs.The authors started to circulate them through items is needed to explain them. Another lengthy privatemimeographed magazines ( referred to as communally-com~sed prod\K:tion is "The ' "zines"). This may be comparedto the spreadingof Marching Song", 0 basedon the Tolkien books; it has balladsby broadsides,except that the broadsideswere some40 versesby at least15 authors. published for commercial reasons and most of the filksong publications are not. The Amateur PressAs- Many fans use the tenD"filksong" very loosely,ap- sociation- the APA - includes various non-profit co- parently meaning any modern set of words with a operative periodicals, one of which is APA-Filk.2 It familiar tune. For example.Juanita Coulson, a well- consistsof someeight to ten sectionsranging from two 4

known singer-comIX>ser,referred to The Bosses' and the concentrationwill be on those dealing with Songbook,a small typescript pamphlet produced by some aspectof science-fictionrather than with fantasy RichardEllington in the 1950s,as the earliest filksong or medievalthemes. .I I It contained satirical verses parodying familiar labour songsbut had nothing to do with science As with traditional folksongs, some tunes are used fiction. for various sets of words, the most poJX1larbeing "Greensleeves"and "The Hymn of the Republic", Of courseat f1lksingsone hearsmany other types of each used for more than 20 songs.There are over a songbesides those composedon SF themes.Most fan dozen parodiesof 'The Twelve Days of ", collectionsinclude some traditional folksongs,with the and severallaments in 'The UnfortunateRake" pattern. emphasison the bawdy ones. 'The Bastard King of Also, as with folksongs,particular texts are sometimes England",'The Ball of Kerriemuir", "Roll Me Over", sungto different nines. "Eskimo Nell", and "Gang Bang Lulu" are all popular. So are some pop songs that turn up in folk circles, Typical of the parodiesis "The Asteroid " by usually somewhatunusual items like "Woad", "Rum, John Boardman: 13 By Gum", "Completely Round", and the Tom Lehrer My filltez wu lite keeperof lite utcroid lighL compositions.Kipling's songs also rank high, along He slept willt I MIllion me fine nighL with some contemporarysongs like "Barrett's Priva- 0In of lItia matchcame childrat thnoc: teers" and "The Band Played Waltzing Matilda". This Two weremullnll andthe oIhezwu me. broadrepertoire should be kept in miIKl, but such stan- Also close to the original pattern in John Brunner's dardsare not termedfilksongs even by thosewho term " for 's Daughter":14 all parodiesfiJksongs. There is, however,a tendencyto Hush little baby, OOIlon your lip. narrow the catefory. As MargaretMiddleton, editor of Pope'l gOlDtI build you I rcx:ket lhip. Kantele, put it: I If IItlt rocket _hip lbort, Pope'- gonnl build you an aquanluL "Defining fiIk is nearly as hard as deEmingSF. I've always assumedthat a ~g wu a ICXIgwnUat roughly in the pleaCltt Eaually obvious is "The Spacewreckof the Old and ref=ing 10 anything rI(X1-mW1dane,be it historical .. 97":I~ futuristic, .. just llrange. Things wnUat in the distant put are folk .. straightballada, thinp wnUat in the pleaClttbut referring They give him hi- orcle:. It the satd1itc stalim 10mundani.. while they may be Ihoralghly entertaming.are not "Steve, here'llIte cwrsc IItlt yoo mull UIc. lea1IyfiJksoog - ,pe.bapc, but n.. fi1k. Used u a verb, The Iitcroids Ire tricky and lite solar ItOnnI Ire sticky. however,'10 fllk' meana10 mangle an exiatingusually mW1dane But we've oIhez volunt=- if you 1d'uIC." song inlo a fllksoog. u in 'Pool Andersoo fllked "Waltzing Matilda" and got 'Bouncing PotatoCl.'Aasuch it usually involv~ And there's also "Spacey Jones": 16 frivolous lOOp. Seriousaongs are rarely filked; they are usually written from scratch.pem&pl 10 an extanttune. " COIMIII ye IplCaIla1 if yoo want to hear The -tory of I greatplanet-. Whenwe start to classify the more specific filksongs SpeceyJones wu lite pil"'- name; we fmd that they illustrate nicely the folk pattern of On I fud-ooming rcx:kct,boys, he won hiI fame. threes.Most of them areinspired by one of threegroups I particularly like "Centauri Fair", patterned on of imaginative : straight sciencefiction, fan- "Scarborough Fair": 17 tasy, or the medieval themescelebrated in the Oh, Ire you going to Centauri Flir? for Creative . There are three types of Stanhip flight and tIIvel in time. filksong: parodiesof familiar songs,songs with original Remember me to ooe who IivCllltere. textsset to familiar tunes,and songswith original tunes F.. once she WI- I tNC love of mine. as well as texts. In subject they include songs Tell her to take fran I ..-net ill tail . . . expressinggeneral concepts about science-fiction,fan- And sail lite stan 00 I great Iilvez sail . . . tasy,or the Middle Ages, and fannishsongs about cons, Tell her to find me I of . . . writers, or lines. (It's remarkable how the threefold A where mm need never grow old. . . pattempersists!) Tell her to follow lite second'- swift way . . . And chlnge lite pattern of ycstcrdlY . . . The filksongs will be interpreted more narrowly here Other typical parodiesinclude "What Shall We Do with And when it is grown then my own little clone the Drunken Spaceman?","This Planet's My Land", Will be of the opposite sex. "The SpaceOpera Goes Rolling Along", 'The Man The secondclassification related to subject matter Who Never Returned", 'The Lament of the Dorsai coversthose inspired by particularnovels, short stories, Warrior" to "The Streetsof Laredo", "Where Can the or . This is Jrobably the largest group: there are Matter Be?" to "Johnny's So Long at the Fair", "Star literally dozensof songs about Gordon R. Dickson's " to "Lord of the Dance", and 'The Talking Dorsai series, some of which he wrote himself and ScienceFiction Blues". many written by fans.The best known are 'The of JacquesChretien", 'The Ballad of the Shoshonu", Thoseare all adaptationsof well-known songs.In the and 'The Lament of the Dorsai Warrior". Severalare secondgroup the words arenot direct parodies,but they basedon the Fafherd and the Grey Mouser seriesby areset to familiar tunes.They include 'The GreenHills , and others were inspired by Frank of Harmony" to the tune of "The Banks of Sicily", Herbert's series, E.E. Smith's Lensmanseries, "JacquesChretien" to "Roddy McCorley", "The Sands 's World Stars, and Ursula of " to "The Streetsof Laredo", "Strangerin a LeGuin's The Left Hand of Darkness.There are also StrangeLand" to "Bring Back My Bonnie to Me", "The severalinspired by the televisionseries "", and Dying " to 'The Red River Valley", and '-rime, some about such movies as "Darkstar", "", Boys, Time" to "The and the Ash". Othersuse the 'The EmpireStrikes Back", and"Silent RUlUling". tunes of "Home on the Range", 'The Irish Washer- woman", "Waltzing Matilda", "When Johnny Comes Of particular interest are the Rhysling songs. One of Marching Home", "John Peel", 'The Titanic", and Robert Heinlein's stories, "The Green Hills of ", "Clementine", One nice Canadiantouch is "The Star features Rhysling, 'The Blind Singer of the - WarsRound" to "Frere Jacques":18 ways", and quotes some of his songs. Several of these R2D2, R2D2 have acquired tunes and become part of the f1lksinging C3PO,C3PO repertoire. The best known is the title song:~ Obiwan Kcnobe, Obiwan Kcnobc, Han Solo, Han Solo. We pray for me last landing On Ihc globethat gaveus bi11h. There is a third group, in which both tunesand texts Let us rest our eyesm the fl~y ski~ areoriginal. Someof theseare songtexts that appearin Oflhc coollJCC11hills cLcuIh. science-fictionstories which some filksinger-composer Less inspiring but closer to the folk idiom is "The has set to music. Particularly popular are verses that SkipperIs a Fatherto His Crew" which retells a well- appearedin storiesby RobertHeinlein and Poul Ander- known hillbilly in a spacecontext: the girl who son. Then there are those for which some filksinger can't find a husbandbecause her father claims all the composedboth text and tune.Among the best-knownof men she meetsare her Mothers- but then her mother thesesinger-<:omposers are Anne Passovy,Juanita Coul- tells her.21 son, Leslie Fish and Clif Aynt. Some science-fiction authorsalso write songsapart from thoseincorporated Wc1I tidy your antennse,girl, and canb your hair so blue. I've taughtyoo that a skipperis s fathercL his Ctew. in their stories. He may havemade each fcmale in Ihc galaxy,oot still, He's nIXIhc criner that fath~ yoo, 10marry whom yoo will. When we look at the classificationby subjectmatter, we find a number of songsbased on generalconcepts The third classification by subject matter includes associatedwith scienceor science-fiction:space ships, fannish songs about writers, fans, cons, and zines. There , bug-eyed ,, and the like. is "The Ballad of Gordy Dickson",22 which emphasizes These are not related to specific stories,but to motifs his renowned drinking capacity; "Bowl Me Over, Mr. that occur in many stories: for example,'The Dying Bova",23 about the difficulties of getting the said editor Robot", "Radiation Blues", "Where Can the Matter to acc~ a manuscript; and "The Bradbury Hate BeT' and "Clone, Clone of My Own" (to the tune of Song", which condemns that pessimistic writer as "the "Home on the Range"):19 Poe of modem ". Then there are the songs inspired by certain cons which were notable for their de- Oh give me a clone of my own flesh and bone ficiencies. Particularly popular is the aforementioned With its Y chranosane changedto , "Bouncing Potatoes", to the tune of "Waltzing 6

Matilda":25 "Om't hog the time. Takc turnl. Vlry the mlteriala. (If you get into I Nn of WC'Ie stranded in space snd WC'Ie all going to die Oncea jolly tIufan went to join a Westcrcm. fiIksongs for CKamplc, half the sudimICC will get 10 depressed yO! He had duly re~ andpaid every fee msy never get thcn in sn upbeat again.) And be willing to

And he laid when he laW what the waitrcssp1t beforehim there, try loncthing ncw. If you cane to I filksing snd you doo't sing, "Y 00'II comea-booncing pmatoes with ~." OK - but doo't talk. Bctw-. soogs il ok.lY, but not during thcn, I beg of you. " There are also laments of those who organize the rons:2b And then Jolm Hall gives "Tips for the Neo-Filker" on "How to Become a Big-Time Filksinger". These Mine ey~ have seen the hrrrm of the caning of the filii Oh they came in caD and b1Ies, even scxne in moving Villi include:3l They were sleeping in the elevators and on all of oor divans, "If I fcllow linger screws up I soog (doesn't aiDg it the WlY yO! But the con is o'er at !aIL do), alwlYI C«ICCt him loudly. Hc shoold IPPft'clatc constructive Others harp on the {Koblems of filkers who fmd that criticism. On the other hInd, if lon~c triQ this 00 you, I the other hotel guests don 't appr~iate their sing~ - a supcricr look snd a knowing rcfClCnce to the folk proccal will cow all but the moct obctinatc heckler." problem that is not unknown at : With the increasing ~pularity of filking. most cons About midnight when we're getting noisy now assign rooms for the singers - sometimes two, one They move in smne gent frmn Boise We'll soon be hearing music in the halls. for individual singers and one for group singing - and Then thirty vmccs hit the chmua- unscheduled sings also flourish. One filker wrote:32 WhlX>ps, the plywood must be poroua, "Ncrcasconn held in the Bostoo Sh~ton this past Labur Day The little guy next do« is climbing walls. weekmtd hId I glCat deal of filking. I wu It the main 'individual' Other ditties crack down on the quality of the aiDg for over thirty hows in fOOt dlYS, and I still missed a good deal .. . but with over five thoosand fsnl snd several hundICd singing:28 parUQ going each nigllt, one can hardly cxpect to meet When singalongs IIIrt in this gathering of friend. everyonc." The h.-dlllff screama, "Dear God, when will it end?" The dnmks and the deaf add spice to the blend The filk movement has become so strong that special Of what we have the gall to call singing. filkcons are being held in addition to the numerous sessions at the regular cons. When the first fllkcon was Songs about zines take aim at their deficiencies:29 held in Chicago in July 1979, a Filk was We printed cmd, we printed traah, organized as a non-profit "educational, cultural. and Our fiction really smelled. scientific dedicated to the furtherance, en- Scxne detrimental painfu1 words couragement and preservation of filksinging as an Were laid by Name Withheld, And every other word in half form and a form of oral history peculiar to the science The fanzines got misspelled fiction field".33 As fandom plods along. The pattern of the filksinging varies in different There is intenseinterest in the various , regionsand at different cons, and the fans spendmuch with JXidein the successesand sorrow for the failures. time and many words debating the proper form. Some At Bayfilk ill, held in the spring of 1986, there was a arguefor a specialroom and organizedsinging; others memorial service for the lost spaceshuttle Challenger prefer the spontaneousunorganized sings that were and her crew of seven.A dozenof the best filksingers originally the generalpattern. They arguethe merits of each sang a song expressingtheir feelings, and at the privatevs. public and big vs. little sings,group vs. solo end Leslie Fish led the membersin singing her "Hope singing,and rotation vs. free-for-all participation. Eyrie", which has becomethe unofficial anthemof the filkers:34 Easterncons lean to public singswith mimeographed grow old and suns grow cold songsheetsand singalong leaders;most real filk fans And death we never can dout.. abhor that pattern, insisting that the singing should Tlmel rold wind wailing down the past Remind. us that all flesh ia gra.. rotate to give each performer a chance, and that the And history'. lamps blow ouL audienceshould not join in unless requested.Juanita But the Eagle ha. landed! Tell your children whm. Coulson, one of the best singer-composers,outlines Time woo't drive u. down to dust again. "The few basicrules":30 With the of time, there is a shift from the 13~18:11 (1959),24;~,44;Hopsia, 179. songs patterned on folk songs or set to traditional tunes. 14JOOn Brunner, The Bcx.k of JOOnBronner, New Yorlc, Daw, At recent cons more original songs are being heard. 1976,33. - Also, the very amateurish publications of the '70s are being replaced by more professional products. Foremost 1S Bnmner.119. in this field is Off Centaur Productions in California, which now has a substantial catalogue listing numerous songbooks, cassettesand records.

The folk element in the filksong movement may be decreasing somewhat, but the enthusiasm for filksinging 18 ~ 170. is increasing. As Juanita Coulson wrote:35 "Uke scimce fiction fandom and fans, filksinging is a very 19~ 161. eclecticfield. Hit'. funny, if it'. outragioos,if it'. beautiful,if it'. ~ ~ 3 (1979), 15;~, 152. strange. . . if it'. in any way mn of the ordinary and listenable, it'. welcomeat a fiJksing." 21~2(1979),20. That is a very good descriptionof one of the most prolific typesof modernfolksong. 22~,22;~,10. NOTES 23"They'll !!!!.2 (1979). Sing in S

2Woodmere, NY, Robert Bryan Li~, 197-. 2j~ 1(X);~,74. 3 Ann AlOOr, MI, Upset, 1978-1979; Little Rock, AR, Filk ~ RobertOsband, "The WorldcooLuIlaby",~, 66. Foundation, 1979-. Z1 Anne Passovoy, "Mar

8 ~ 1 (1970), 15; NESFA Hymnal, 2-15.

9 The Tin An2el Presents Odetta and Larry, Fantasy 3-15 [c. 1954).


11~1 (1978),4. 12"Hemidernisemiquaver", APA Filk 5 (1980),2.