I HATE 'sci-fi'
That sounds like an odd thing for me to say, doesn't it? After all, I read a great deal of it, and write quite a bit of it. However, I hate the term ‘sci-Fi‘. Why?
There is a very primitive power in being able to name something. There is a great power in language, because (as the comedian George Carlin pointed out) even though thoughts transcend words, we think in language, so the quality of our thoughts is affected by our use of language.
Why did African-Americans bristle at the term ‘Negro’, why do ‘midgets’ call themselves ‘Little people’? Why did Hispanics reject that term ‘Hispanic’ and invent ‘Latino’? Well the term ‘negro’ already had many negative connotations associated with it and makes people less human sounding and robs them of dignity. The term ‘midget’ has also become inherently offensive, and that it because the way that we collectively as non-negroes and non-midgets have abused the terms. The term Hispanic was invented by the Census bureau to account for the Spanish-speaking, Spanish surnamed, and nonwhite inhabitants of certain places of the country. Except that not all Hispanics speak Spanish, or have Spanish surnames, or are nonwhite. The term ’Hispanic’, just like the way that the Census Bureau saw them, was completely fabricated and Hispanics saw that. ‘Latin’ culture is a differentiation from the majority of the country, which has Anglo-Saxon culture, despite whatever language they speak, how they pronounce their names, or what their color is.
The name ‘Science Fiction’ was made, and agreed upon, and welcomed, and greeted by legions of fans as well as writers. We owe much to Science Fiction, it truly deserves more respect than the way it’s being treated today. However, today Science Fiction is thought of as juvenile and illegitimate as an art form (despite contributions from such literary giants as Verne, Wells, Burroughs, and Bradbury. These are men with such fame all we have to do is say their last names and we know their work. All of have their seminal works in the Science Fiction isles). No respectable book store can leave them out, their work is in such demand that it has been translated in various languages, is circulated worldwide, and remains always constantly in print.
Always associated with Fantasy, although the two genres can be described as escapist in nature, technically many romances or even westerns can be considered escapist as well. Having a silly name like ‘sci-fi’ contributes to the persecution against the art form and the reason why Spielberg’s ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’ got nominated nine times for an academy award before it finally won one…for Cinematography!
Usually the people who use the term ‘sci-fi’ are people who are not partial to the genre, or think it sounds cool, or cute, or will sell movie tickets, or magazines. It produces a gag reflex in people like me who prefer the term ‘Science Fiction’ because it sounds like a legitimate literary genre when it’s written like that. If they actually think that ‘sci-fi’ is serious sounding and respectable, they might as well write it in crayon with the ‘f’ backwards.
Forrest J. Ackerman used the term "sci-fi" at UCLA in 1954. As science fiction entered popular culture, writers and fans active in the field came to associate the term with low-budget, low-tech "B-movies" and with low-quality pulp science fiction. By the 1970s, critics within the field such as Terry Carr and Damon Knight were using "sci-fi" to distinguish hack-work from serious science fiction, and around 1978, Susan Wood and others introduced the pronunciation "skiffy". Peter Nicholls writes that "SF" (or "sf") is "the preferred abbreviation within the community of sf writers and readers". David Langford's monthly fanzine Ansible includes a regular section "As Others See Us" which offers numerous examples of "sci-fi" being used in a pejorative sense by people outside the genre.
Again, when people call my Science Fiction writing ‘sci-fi’ I cringe, but it’s not their fault, because somehow they actually think they are giving me a compliment when they are actually offending me. I blame the morons who popularized the term to sell magazines and books with lavishly drawn covers. It’s no wonder that so many pulp fiction companies of the past targeted juveniles with Science Fiction covers and that Science Fiction writers are paid per word. It is a great example of runaway, corrupting, Capitalistic greed.
If you cannot bear or stand to write ‘Science Fiction’, because it is too long and hurts your hand, then please use the actual abbreviation, SF. It’s not unlike YA for Young Adult fiction which, ironically, with titles like ‘Twilight’ and ‘Harry Potter’ is enjoying a Renaissance because of adult readers while Science Fiction is truly in a ‘twilight’.
Can we blame the silly term ‘Sci-fi’ for the decline in Science Fiction readership and success in the markets? Is that why the genre is dying, and the Science Fiction isles are being overrun by Star Wars merchandise and video game franchise fiction? It might have something to do with the surge of Fantasy writing, which is in a sort of muted golden age (apparently male readers have declined significantly while female readers have increased, and statistically women read Fantasy more than Science Fiction. I am not a misogynist and did not make that up, Orson Scott Card wrote it in an article about how Science Fiction is dying, so it must be true).
With Science Fiction in its death throes, I shall soldier on, and I know that many fans of the genre, many of them writers as well as readers, shall join me. I am prepared for the post-apocalyptic age of Science Fiction, after all, the term ‘Post-Apocalyptic’ itself is a term probably coined and detailed in the pages of some Science Fiction anthology.
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