Put Down The Acoustic Guitar And Back Away Slowly

« June 2005 »

Memo to nerds: BE BETTER NERDS.

After all, I can't just tease you all mercilessly with the Be-A-Better-Nerd Manifesto on Tuesday (which lays down some ground rules, definitions, and fundamentals for this intermittent series, so if you've never read it before, go now) without actually providing some content, can I? No, I can't. That would be mean.

And if we're going to talk about shit nerds do that annoy the living crap out of their peers, we absolutely have to talk about filk. First, allow me to pretend none of you know what filk is, so that I have to explain it to you. Filk is the act of taking a famous song, and making up new lyrics for it. Traditionally, these new words involve some nerd-topic the writer holds in high esteem. And just like fish gotta swim and birds gotta fly, nerds gotta filk til the day that they die. And it really needs to stop.

The thing about filk is this. It's astonishingly like masturbation. The basic urge to do it is understandable and widespread. In fact, I'd lay odds that over 90% of nerds have filked, to one degree or another, at some point in their lives. And that's fine. I'm not here to judge you. Well, actually, I -am- here to judge you, but I'm not going to judge you on THAT.

But filk is like masturbation in one other, vitally important manner that nobody seems to acknowledge. There are very few people indeed who are so good at it they should get to show it to the rest of us. And YOU'RE NOT ONE OF THEM.* So write to your hearts content. Carefully play that Coldplay song over and over again so you can come up with Stargate-relevant lyrics for all I care. Just never, ever show it to, or perform it in front of, anybody. Ever. Because you're just beating off, and we don't wanna know.

The worst offenders are the nerds who are already getting paid. The professional writers. Who have bands and record filk and sell the filk to the fans who buy it because their inexplicable love of the author's books translates into an even more inexplicable love of the writer's music. Please, stop. You are somehow managing to make writing midlist fantasy trilogies look worse, which is an impressive, but ultimately unnecessary feat. And most of you really can't afford the creative siphoning and distraction from your main "artistic" endeavors anyway.

Even the best filk is like a joke you tell over and over and over and over again. It's not going to get funnier. Once the surprise at hearing "The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald"** with Trek lyrics wears off, entropy takes a hit of crystal meth and starts working its third straight overtime shift. If there's a more apt example of The Incredible Shrinking Returns than the second time you hear a filksong, I've never run across it.

But wait! Perhaps you, my filking friend, feel you have caught me in an error? Your filk, you explain, isn't funny? It's a deadly serious, tragic, mournful tale that coincidentally happens to be set to Creed's "My Sacrifice"? Well, then, you need to fuck right off. Without delay. And take your autoharp with you. Yes, and the case. Serious filk has no place on this Earth. I'm sorry.

You can sort of justify funny filk. If it's REALLY funny, and not based on some Pavlovian reaction to how the name "Boxleitner" sounds. But if funny filk is like masturbating, serious filk is like masturbating, then bursting into tears and calling out for your mother right after you come. It's creepy. It's disturbing. We don't need to see it. We don't WANT to see it. And stop using "Tears In Heaven". Nobody likes the original, and they're going to like your reworking even less.

If you need to angstwank so fucking bad, then you can certainly take the time and make the effort to come up with your own awful song. Whatever you need to express can wait long enough for you to string three chords together and boot up your pirated copy of Pro Tools. Your magnum opus can debut at NEXT year's room party. Trust me.

Filk. One of many things you can eschew, and thus, BE A BETTER NERD.

*If Weird Al is reading this, I apologize. You are one of them. At least half of the time.

**As a fun little experiment, I decided to see if my ridiculous ideas for filk actually exist in the wild. I am happy to report that, to the best of Google's knowledge, there is no Stargate filk based off of Coldplay songs, although there are ones based off of "One Tin Soldier", Bob Seger's "Turn The Page", and "Kung Fu Fighting". The number of extant Edmund/Trek songs is too horrific to contemplate, a numerical concept mathematicians refer to as "one or more".