The first-day response to my IndieGoGo campaign for Tomorrow’s Songs Today has been great! It’s already at $400! Publicity is very important. If you know of a suitable opportunity to mention what I’m working on, please do.
The heart of this project is research, and different parts of filk history need different approaches. There’s the First Age, which members of First Fandom have written about. This is when important events leading to today’s fandom and filk happened, and you can find out about them in books like Harry Warner, Jr.’s All Our Yesterdays and Jack Speer’s Fancestral Voices. Not as much was happening then, and available information is focused on key events like early conventions and the naming of filk. For my purposes, the First Age ended around 1960 or a little later.
In the Second Age, there’s more living memory, but there’s also a lot more to dig through. Fandom started growing rapidly. Space satellites and the race to the moon got people really interested in science, and Doctor Who and Star Trek introduced more people to science fiction. There were more cons, more songs, more people doing things, and not every scrap is captured in books. A lot of the history is found in zines that were printed on cheap paper and are hard to find. I’m relying heavily on people’s recollections. Last week I had a 50-minute phone interview with Juanita Coulson, which gave me lots of valuable information. Margaret Middleton and Lee Gold have been hugely helpful through email, to name just two. I do have some zines, and I’ve gotten a couple of offers of scans of more of them.
The Third Age dates from about 1995, when the Internet took off. Here there’s hope of finding information on the Web. The Internet Archive is a wonderful thing, providing old versions of websites to look through. There is one little problem, though: Google and other search engines are filk-hostile. (I actually use Startpage, which offers better privacy and thus doesn’t try to “personalize” my results, but the search engine is still Google.) If you search for “filk,” it decides that “film” and “folk” are much more interesting topics. I’ve discovered Wow.com is much better at not using DWITYM (Do What I Think You Mean) than Google, but it’s still a matter of degree. Adding “-film -folk” to the search string helps some but can produce false negatives.
In the Third Age there are a lot more people who can provide answers, and in many cases I already know them myself, so it should be the easiest one to research. Right now I’m focusing on the Second Age, though the British filkers were very helpful this week in bringing my history of filk in their country up to date.
I really love doing this research, and the startling facts I come across really make it worthwhile. For instance, from All Our Yesterdays I’ve learned there were filk recordings before Leslie Fish, on a label called Vanguard (no connection to the later big-name label of the same name). Yesterday evening after going to bed, I wanted to check just one more fact, but finally got to sleep. Today I can check more.
Please continue your support by committing money and spreading the word. Filk deserves a well-documented history.