Returning from the Gates of Faery, Via the Undermountain Road

Maybe it’s a sign of the times or the popularity of science fiction and fantasy that I can say this without blushing or apology or trying to save face, but I love conventions. They are strange beasts. They are almost a time between times, and a place between places. They are like stepping for a few moments out of reality and into a place where the folk there are a lot more like you… or a lot more like the caricatures you hope never to become. That is, if you’re the type to go to conventions.

For me, this last con was a momentous one. This con represented the first time I ever stepped into the filk room. Filk isn’t a genre of music that can be pinned down easily at all– a form of folk music based around science fiction? Nah. It is more of a community unto itself, and it’s something that until now, I’ve actively avoided. No, it wasn’t because the activity would drag me into new depths of geekery. I’m already a LARPer, a tabletop gamer, a lover of retro video games (especially old RPGs); I’m a not-quite-a-comic-book-junkie-but-getting-there. But above all, my crowning achievement of geekdom was that I was a know-it-allish kid to whom my father attempted to append his own childhood moniker of Professor Goosefarts… only Jr. Luckily for me, it didn’t stick. And you know, it didn’t hurt the geek quotient that I had also been damned good at math.

So you can see, it wasn’t a fear of further geekery that kept my pun-loving self away from the filk room at cons. It was something more complex, and something a lot less pleasant. At my first con, I met a man that I agreed to date. There was something unwholesome about him, that I rather liked because it pissed off a rather controlling boy I used to date. And rather than telling the controlling boy to piss off, I had to find another way to undermine his “authority” in my life. It took me years to see that these notions are the tools of one who is far too used to being other people’s punching bag, that it was a form of passive-aggression, that it was a quiet resistance. There is a litany–and perhaps this is not the place for litanies–of things this man took from me, piece by piece, that I have had to win back for myself, Ishtar at the gates of the underworld.

It was this man that first introduced me to filk. Every time I was invited among the filkers, I was afraid of his shadow in the room. At my home con, it became a game of two cats bristling at the other’s approach. We had to share the LARPs, but the anime room was mine, and the filk room his.

It took over a thousand miles and a convention in New York for me to accept a friend’s invitation to sit and listen to her filking. It wasn’t a test of will to stay the half-hour that I did, lapping up songs with the whole sun shining through my smile, singing along and laughing in familiarity and delight. It was more a feeling of stolen cookies or maybe something far more precious clutched close to the heart. It warmed me on the road up and out and all the way home, finally free of the gates underhill.

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