What is filking?
Filk songs are songs set in and around fandom. They often use borrowed tunes and parodied words, but some are done to original music with totally original lyrics. The term 'filk' is said to derive from a long-ago convention typing error which should have referred to the singing of folk songs. There are filk songs about the space programme, TV shows and the many weird things that fans get up to. They range from the serious to the extremely silly. Filk singers sing in many keys, but perhaps the most common is the fannish key of 'off'. Filkers may often be found congregating in the bar at conventions, but for those who want somewhere with less background noise, there will be a room reserved for use by filkers in the evening. There is a collection of Blake's 7 filk songs on the web at http://www.hermit.org/Blakes7
Who is allowed to filk?
Anyone at all! Talent is not required (there are those that would say it is positively discouraged! Not true of course, but amusing!) Just turn up, bring a musical instrument if you want, and just join in! For each excellent singer or excellent musician, there are any number of people who have enthusiasm instead! And of course it is always nice to have an audience, so even if you can't carry a tune in a bucket and think a harp is for slicing chips, you are still welcome!
How do I know it is my turn?
Well, this depends a bit on how the filking happens on the night, but one of the usual formats is the "Bardic Circle". Most people sit in a rough circle and someone starts singing a song. It might be an original song they wrote themselves, or one they've heard on a tape, or it could be a well-known song. They may ask everyone to join in on the choruses or it might be a solo effort, entirely at their whim. Once that person has finished their song, the next person in the circle has the chance to sing a song of their own, or pick a song for everyone to sing (there are books of filksongs available at many conventions and from bookshops such as "At The Sign of the Dragon" in Sheen, West London.) or just pass to the next person. It is usually also permissible (if you can't sing, or don't want to) to tell a short story, or a poem or even just a joke (but singing or playing a tune is best). It is usual that the person whose turn it is tries to follow on from the previous song (so if the first song is about the Babylon 5 Rangers, then the next song could be about the Psi Corps, or another song about the B5 rangers, or even a song about the rangers from another SF/Fantasy series.) But if you can't think of anything appropriate then you can just switch the topic to whatever you want!
What if I just want to listen?
That's fine too. Either just sit in the circle and pass each time it comes back around to you, or just sit outside the circle. It is perfectly normal to move into or out of the circle during the evening as you feel like joining in or just want to sit back and listen.
What sort of musical instrument should I bring?
The most important one is your ears! (But it doesn't matter if you're tone deaf, enthusiasm and appreciation are the vital ingredients) After that, a voice is useful. And beyond that, anything you can make a noise with; many people bring things like guitars, flutes, small bits of percussion (tambourines, shaker eggs, maracas etc.) and there are even people who have been known to show up with harps, bassoons, complete electric rock bands, ocarinas, tin whistles, kazoos and Ethiopian Nose Flutes (actually, we don't think anyone has played a nose flute yet, but we could be wrong!)