What is it with grousing about the term Sci-Fi?* This morning Jay Lake links to Andrew Wheeler doing a fabulous snarky take-down of the latest SF Signal Mind Meld which is all about changing one aspect of the science fiction publishing world. I haven’t read the whole piece, but in it someone once again wants to get rid of the term Sci-Fi. This is a pet peeve of mine–the stressing out about Sci-Fi, not the term itself.
For some rather large subset of the folks inside the science fiction and fantasy genre world the term is considered pure poison and terribly derogatory. In the rest of the world it’s at worst a neutral catchy phrase to talk about the genre and more often a term of admiration, as in “I’m a Sci-Fi fan.”
Frankly, I like the term. It’s short. It’s catchy. It’s immediately understandable, unlike SF where everyone outside the genre assumes you’re talking about San Francisco, or SFF or F&SF where no one outside the genre knows what you’re talking about. It has no major constituency for it being derogatory outside the field—I live in academia and when Lit-Fic folks and anti Sci-Fi academics talk about our field they don’t say Sci-Fi, they drawl “Oh, you write…sciiieence fiiction, how…interesting,” or “oh, a genre writer.” Sci-Fi doesn’t clunk like “speculative fiction” or even “spec fic.”
Even if I didn’t like it, I’d still use it. It’s effective communication just like “Big Bang,” another term that was originally intentionally dismissive. Even more than that though, by owning the term and making it a badge of pride, it robs it of what little power it might have left to hurt.
In short: Sci-Fi! Say it loud and say it proud:
Sci-Fi. I’m a Sci-Fi fan. Some of what I write is Sci-Fi.** I love Sci-Fi.***
*Usually pronounced with a rhyming “I” sound when I encounter it, as in C-Sci or Comp-Sci.
**The majority of course is fantasy, which has even bigger terminology problems.
***And, no I’m not a late joiner of the genre. I’ve been active at conventions for 30+ years—I started when I was 15. I’m also a third generation fan–my mother and grandmother were part of the letter-writing campaign to save the original Star Trek and the letter they got back from the show’s creators along with a black and white publicity photo are treasured possessions in my family.