What is "Filk"?Edit
Filk is the indigenous "folk" music of Science Fiction fandom.
Any time you get a group of people together to socialise or work together, there's a change a song will break out in the corner of the bar, the back of the school bus, around the campfire, down the coal mines or at the sides of the sports pitch. Often this involves taking a well-known tune and then changing the words to amuse, or to tell a story, or to protest.
Science Fiction fandom is no different in that matter ... originally taking well-known folk songs and popular music tunes and adding lyrics about dragons, fantasy lands, spaceships, aliens, computers, the people you see around the convention, and the joy and fun of being with other fans ... new tunes were written, people formed bands, singing groups and even choirs, and nowadays there are many conventions that are held specifically around filk music, including annual filkcons in the UK and Germany, plus many annual conventions in the US and Canada.
Plus there's a grand tradition of filk and singing among the various re-enactment groups including the SCA and the Far Isles. You can also find filk happening among groups like The Tolkien Society.
So why "Filk"?Edit
The story goes that many years ago a convention (in the US) was putting in a programme item for "Science Fiction Folk Music" and a typo occurred and it got printed as "Science Fiction Filk Music" and the name stuck.
Who can filk?Edit
Anyone. Just show up. If you don't know any songs, you can borrow a songbook from someone, or you can just sit and listen and join in with chorus songs as you learn them. If you can play an instrument, bring it along! Enthusiasm, and appreciation for other people's performances are the two most important things in filk. Audience is very welcome and you can just sit outside the circle and listen and join in on the choruses if you want.
So what happens?Edit
People bring along voices, guitars, other instruments and play songs that are (to some extent) based in Science Fiction, Fantasy or Fandom ... the main "open" filking tends to be organised in a circle where each person gets a chance to pick a song, play a song, do something else (e.g. read a poem or tell a joke) or just pass along ... this is often known as a "bardic circle". The other main form of open filking is "chaos", where anyone can sing the next song, but it is regarded as good form for your song to follow on in some way from the previous one, and to give people a fair chance to sing their songs. Aside from "open" filking, there may be concerts, single performer/band sessions and workshops.
Where can I find out more about filk?Edit
In the UK, start with http://www.filk.co.uk and then there are many links on there ... there are online archives of MP3s and lyrics, there are songbooks that can be bought and webpages full of songs, and there are mailing lists, LiveJournal groups and regular meetings as well as the UK filkcon (first weekend in February, http://www.contabile.org.uk) and filk sessions at other conventions including Eastercon.