Filk Music and the Dorsai Irregulars

by John Hall, Dorsai Irregulars

Who Are the Dorsai Irregulars?

The Dorsai Irregulars, or DI, are named after the planet Dorsai and its people in Gordon R. Dickson's Childe Cycle books. Since the Dorsai planet was poor in natural resources, its inhabitants traded their services as mercenaries for the interstellar credit they needed to live. In time they became the finest soldiers in known space.

The legend is that the Dorsai Irregulars are a group of misfit Dorsai who don't fit the super-soldier mold of the "ideal" Dorsai. They live in a swamp in a remote part of the Dorsai planet and prefer singing, drinking and sleeping late to marching and saluting. They specialize in winning battles by guile and stealth instead of by force of arms. Bob Asprin's filksong, Dorsai Irregulars, says it well:

    My uniform's green and my trappings are black,
      And my distant ancestors tied Rome in a sack.
    I am not regulation, I don't even try.
      I'm a pain in the ass to the standard Dorsai.

    We are practical jokers, we love dirty tricks.
      We make deadly weapons from feathers and sticks.
    We will honor a contract and stand by a friend,
      But right about there is where our manners end.
That's the shtick. Behind it, the Dorsai Irregulars is an organization of science fiction fans who volunteer their time and talents to provide operations support, site control, auctioneering, and other services to SF conventions.

What do the Dorsai Irregulars have to do with filk music?

Filk music has been a part of the DI from the beginning. At the Discon (1974 Worldcon) masquerade, Bob Asprin announced the formation of the Dorsai Irregulars. In celebration of that event, in the hotel lobby that evening, he ran an all-night filksing at which many of the classic DI filksongs were first heard. That sing is acknowledged to have been the first big open public filksing. It marked the emergence of filk from the hotel room gatherings of a select few into the bright lights and open spaces where it was accessible to all fans.

The filk music that the DI are known for grew up and contributed to the development of the "Midwestern" style of filking. It is rooted firmly in tunes and styles of the 60's folk music revival, and in English, Irish and Scottish folk music.

Some of the Dorsai Irregulars who are also known as filksingers are Bob Asprin, Gordy Dickson, Bob and Anne Passovoy, Murray Porath, Michael "Moonwulf" Longcor, Hal (Al) Frank, Steve Simmons, Ellen McMicking and myself, John Hall.

A lot other people have written songs about the Dorsai and the DI including Mark Bernstein, Frank Hayes, Kathy Mar, Clif Flynt and Catherine Kurtz.

What are some of the Dorsai songs?

There are songs about the literary Dorsai, such as Jacques Chretien, The Green Hills of Harmony, Fal Morgan, and Brothers. There are songs of the exploits of the DI, both real and imagined, including The Dorsai Rover, The Chicago StrekCon, and Don't Ask.

The Irregulars have an alter ego, the Klingon Diplomatic Corps, that they assume when they work Star Trek conventions. There are songs about that too, such as Imperialism for Fun and Profit and Come All You Kaydets.

Tully No discussion of the Dorsai Irregulars would be complete without a mention of their favorite beverage, Tullamore Dew Irish Whiskey. This "water of life" seems to get mentioned in a lot of their songs (and drunk at a lot of their filksings).

Where can I hear Dorsai filk music?

Several years ago, Off Centaur Productions made a tape, Songs of the Dorsai, of some of the more popular songs about the "literary" Dorsai of Dickson's books. That tape is out of print, but can still be found in many filk dealer's stocks. The classic songs of Gordon R. Dickson’s Dorsai series are back in an all-new album produced by Dodeka called Shai Dorsai! featuring a variety of talented performers including Michael Longcor, Dandelion Wine, Bill Roper, Steve Macdonald, Murray Porath, Marty Burke and many more.

Patch Logo The DI work at a number of conventions every year, mostly in the Midwestern United States. It's easy to spot them when they're working by their black berets with the distinctive insignia patch: (do you see the dollar $ign?)

If you find an Irregular, don't be shy, ask if there's going to be an open Dorsai party and filksing later in the evening. Such parties are the classic setting to hear the music of the Dorsai. When the DI unwind after a long day, there is sure to be much singing, drinking and telling of DI legends and war stories.

Even when they aren't working the convention, when members of the Dorsai Irregulars show up at convention filksings, it isn't too hard to get them to sing, particularly if you offer them a drop of Tullamore Dew!

© 2011 Dorsai Irregulars -- email WebKahuna of DI.ORG