The Filking Plague
The Filking Plague is a mysterious ailment that primarily affects Tome Knights and other literomancers. Patients are compelled to create silly songs about their writing or other favourite fandoms. Many of these songs take the form of parodies, and are likely to use existing tunes with entirely new sets of lyrics. In the The Second Word War, this plague ran rampant among Tome Knights and Tome Zombies alike. Perhaps as many as a third of the combatants on both sides were infected. Since then, the Filking Plague has become endemic in the literomancer population.
Transmission & Vectors
Many literomancers and other creators have a predisposition to the affliction. Increased risk factors of contracting the Filking Plague include general geekery, a love for rhyming, an interest in music, and a sense of humour that includes not taking oneself too seriously. However, most people develop the Plague once they are exposed to filking. For some, it is (perhaps fortunately) a temporary obsession that occupies their every thought for a short period of time, and then interest fades. Most who acquire the ailment, however, will continue to suffer from it in rising and falling waves of influence for the rest of their lives. There is no known cure.
Common superspreader events for the Filking Plague include science fiction conventions, RPG gaming communities, Pagan festivals, writer's conferences, comic cons, Ren Faires, and Spotify or YouTube rabbit holes. Because they have had greater success in the mainstream culture, a surprising number of patients acquire the Plague from the music of Weird Al, Clannad, Queen, Blackmore's Night, Jethro Tull, Black Sabbath, Nightwish, or Led Zepplin. Exposure to sea shanties, anime, or video game music may also draw susceptible people into environments that invite contagion.
Symptoms of the Filking Plague include earworms, humming under one's breath, a love for improbable rhymes, and an increased interest in fandoms. This progresses to compulsive lyric writing, often in a humourous vein.
There is no known cure for the Filking Plague, so treatment focuses on peer support and condition management. Establishing spaces and times when it is encouraged to share one's filks, balanced by exercises in concentration, focus, and reducing distraction, seems to be the most effective approach in the long-term.
Most filkers eventually find a reasonable filk-life balance and the condition can be quite manageable. Many are able to make firm divisions between indulging in the excesses of their condition at filk-friendly environments, and daily mundane responsibilities.
Some filkers, however, become obsessed with the art, especially if they already identified as musicians. For these poor souls, a career in filk performance, or supplemented by filk performance, might be the only answer. Just as with writing, this career choice is not likely to make a lot of money, but it can be very fulfilling.
Literomancers, folk musicians, heavy metal musicians, Ren Faire geeks, science fiction and fantasy writers, and nerds. Older and younger people are more likely to be affected, since they care less about the good opinion of society as a whole.
Hosts & Carriers
The only method that appears to prevent filking is avoidance. For those with the predisposition and a middling musical ability, it is probably just best they avoid the songs of fandoms altogether.
Participating in environments that celebrate fandoms and creativity in general are the most likely to cause an outbreak, especially when participants of the con or festival are sleep-deprived. It was probably inevitable, agree epidemiologists, that there would be a major outbreak at the Game of Tomes, since the conditions form an ideal breeding ground. More rarely, infection in the community occurs when someone with a predisposition heads down a music app rabbit hole, or through peripheral exposure in the folk music community. Occasionally, the Filking Plague is spread deliberately in order to market works in fandom. For example, Baen Books often sells their hardcovers with a CD on the inside that includes filks about the series the book is attached to. Famously, Mercedes Lackey has written numerous filks that promote her own work.
Filking has existed as a condition at least since (allegedly) Henry VIII rewrote the lyrics of the song we now know as "Greensleeves." However, the modern history of filking seems to be linked to science fiction conventions of the 1950s. Massive outbreaks periodically appeared among the environments of nerddom, waxing and waning throughout the decades. There are even variants of filk, such as "heavy mithril" and "nerdcore." In 2021, the Great Flame Tempest Kwake became Patient Zero of the Filking Plague when they wrote "Do You Hear the Writers Sing? (Game of Tomes Anthem)" to inspire the Tome Knights during the Second Word War. It inspired them all right. Exact figures are difficult to determine, but demonstrably, at least 20 percent of the literomancers on both sides were infected, since it is on record that 28 people wrote or performed filks over the course of the war. About a third contributed in some way to one filk or another, especially if the epic metal music video "In Words We Trust" is considered. Starting with a couple of filks appearing every few days, by the end of the War, every major event was covered in some way by a filk, driving the Tome Knights, and Tome Zombies, to distraction.
I finished the Final Battle video. This is what took up the bulk of the time. To do it, I sacrificed the Marching-Off-to-War video, the bloopers, and the credits.In April of 2022, the Ministry of Health in the Lapin Protectorate established the Center for Filking Control to manage the spread of the Filking Plague and keep the public informed. However, the sheer number of chronic infections likely guarantees that filking will remain a part of Literomancy for a very long time. Many of the Tome Knights, still afflicted, have contributed to a Tomesmas Songbook, and filking has been spreading among Literomancers ever since.
Soundicron VariantA new variant of the Filking Plague, the Soundicron variant, was been identified during the April 2022 Tourney of Tales. In this variant, filkers so afflicted write original tunes, not parodies, but they're about the circumstances specific to the GoTverse, Again, Patient Zero appears to have been the Filkmaster Tempest Kwake, but then-KnightWing Queen TaraFaeBelle and the Bardger Realm of Music have also been identified as confirmed cases.
FilkyPox VariantIn the July 2022 Tourney of Tales, the FilkyPox Variant ran rampant among Tome Knights. More new filkers appeared than ever before. Furthermore, the Filkmaster Tempest Kwake challenged the former "Undead Bard" ECC Books to a grand Filk-Off, which became a superspreader event.
Fortissimo VariantIn The Third Word War, two prominent filkers, the Undead Bard ICC DeadPeople and the Void Prince Lord GalaWight both became Night Monarchs. Heavy mithril filks proliferated, becoming known as the Fortissimo Variant. The original variant, more centered in musical theatre, also remained strong.
Filkers are often welcomed in nerdy spaces, and tolerated at best in society at large. European countries seem much more open to heavy mithril musicians.
This article is a work in progress, and may be subject to changes.
This article is part of a series related to streaming the Game of Tomes. For more information, see Streaming Game of Tomes.
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