Friday, April 13, 2007


So, I stumbled on this iteration of the sci-fi/skiify/SF/Science Fiction discussion, via Frank Wu who links to Lucy Snyder.

This one fascinates me. I personally use sci-fi, SF, science fiction, and speculative fiction pretty interchangeably, and I've never understood the conniptions some folks have about the term sci-fi. This is despite the facts that I'm a third generation fan, that I've been going to conventions for 25 years, and that I write and publish in the field.

I really don't get it. Yes, some people use the term to denigrate the field. However, for those who think science fiction is a waste of time, it's not about terminology it's about content. They're going to dump on science fiction no matter what you call it. In my experience they also use the term science fiction to denigrate the field. If you talk to them about SF, they assume you mean San Francisco until you explain it to them, then they dump on SF. Likewise speculative fiction.

This whole debate seems to me to be a sterling way to let the people who hate the field define the way you should talk about it, and to turn the term sci-fi into something that people who are on the pro science fiction side of the fence use to bash each other over the head with. In short: getting worked up over sci-fi seems terribly counterproductive.

Anyone have any thoughts on the subject?


lydamorehouse said...

I'm not a fan of the term sci-fi if only because I don't like the way it sounds on my ears. It seems gratuitously lazy, like saying all of science fiction takes WAAAAAY too long, man.

I think, too, my reaction to sci-fi comes from the fact that people who use it instantly register as "non-readers" to me -- or at least people who have come to science fiction from a STRONG media background (not that this is a bad thing, because actually that's how I got to reading SF.) But, thing is, books are labeled science fiction, movies and TV are almost exclusively called sci-fi

That being said, I never, never correct anyone who uses the term. If someone wants to talk to me about SF, sci-fi, science fiction, or speculative fiction I'm just happy to know there's another reader/fan out there and I'm sure as hell not going to quibble semantics.

Kelly McCullough said...

I don't get the non-readers thing. I've used the term sci-fi all my life and I am not a media person and never have been. I don't watch television at all and haven't in more than a decade and I rarely watch movies. I come from a family culture of reading first and media as a distant and barely visible second. I picked up "sci-fi" exclusively from literary sources.

Kelly McCullough said...

Actually, thinking about it, it rings as an academic/literary term for me, c-sci, poli-sci, sci-fi.

Anonymous said...

I think Lyda's point is more-or-less accurate... now, that is, and with the following explanation/caveat: Sci-Fi has come to be very media related (as was discussed rather heavily in last year's Doctor Who panel at Convergence), in part because the Sci-Fi channel has put a lot into marketing themselves under that title, and it's carried over into the broader culture. But I think generally, there doesn't need to be any specific determinism about the nature of those terms--they all mean the same thing, and literally represent the same words (excepting the umbrella of "speculative", of course). But I think that they have come to bear certain connotations, and hey, that's how language works, right? Seemingly meaningless modifications occur on a social level, enter the vernacular, and become the standard for the next evolution.

Ryan said...

Bah, I say. It's never bothered me much; the only definition I really use is that sci-fi usually lighter and SF the harder stuff.

Speculative annoys me, though. I don't really have a reason for it. :D

Lyda said the word for the terminology, from what I think about it. Semantics. O.o

Eleanor said...

Sci-fi was invented by 4E Ackerman, a long, long time fan. However, it had tended to be used by people outside the field. I have the same response Lyda does. When someone says sci-fi, I suspect they don't know what they are talking about. I've heard skiffy used as a friendly nickname by people who know the field. As far as I know, speculative fiction comes from the New Wave of the 1960s, and is okay, though I prefer SF, pronounced ess eff.