When did the term Sci-fi become acceptable?

In the late '70s I was laughed out of am SF convention for using the term “sci-fi” which marked me as a total noob.
Any idea when the term became acceptable?

The Google Ngram viewer shows published use of “sci-fi” close to zero in the early 1960s and increasing sharply between about 1970 and 2000.

This article includes a televised discussion from 1997 of objections to the term “sci-fi”.

As recently as 2013, this writer considered the term as still needing to be defended or justified to some extent.

When I was a kid in the ‘80s we had no problem with “sci-fi” so I expect it became acceptable when my generation got old enough to be the majority in attendance at sci-if conventions.

The OP meant, I think, acceptable as a term of reference within the SF and SF fandom communities. Prior to that acceptance, “Sci-Fi” was held to represent what non-SF folks thought that all Science Fiction was. “Sci-Fi” was lowest common denominator science fiction. Wouldn’t keep you from enjoying it, mind you, but you would kind of feel like you were slumming.

This was especially true of the film world.

I never understood the distinction, to be honest, nor the disdain. Sci-fi seems a normal enough shortening, just as low-fi and hi-fi and wi-fi are all acceptable terms IMO. [/shrug]

In my opinion, it started getting wider acceptance (within the fan community) when the SciFi cable network became popular. I think at that point all the people who used to bristle at the term decided to shrug their shoulders and give up the fight. At least we had a good source of material to watch 24/7, so it wasn’t worth fighting it anymore.

There was a time when devotees of the show Star Trek insisted that they were NOT “trekkies”, but rather “trekkers.” To use the former term was to invite derision, since it labeled you as being an outsider.

Things change. I certainly think the channel helped popularize the term among fans of science fiction, but I expect that the change in attitude was already on the way by 1992, when the channel launched. It is, after all, an easy way of nicknaming the genre.

Of course, by then the genre’s lines had long since been blurred by the fact that it got consistently lumped together with “fantasy”, especially in bookstores. I think maybe people who love science fiction just kinda gave up at that point; how many battles can you fight?

The term slowly stopped being pejorative in the 1990s. When I started out at conventions, there was a clear disdain for the term, but the rise of science fiction movies/blockbuster slowly eroded that away.

People who write science fiction rarely use it, but it’s pretty much the general term these days.

The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction started it long before bookstores glommed onto it although the two genres have always been at least loosely affiliated with each other.

As far as I can tell, when I see an article about sci-fi, it is about movies and TV, and the article writer seems to be unaware that written sf exists.
The term at least has a legitimate origin, from Forry Ackerman, but it was not one of his better legacies.

My experience is that it’s still not common at science fiction conventions and club meetings, but I don’t go to media (i.e., movie, TV, comics, anime) conventions and meetings, just ones concerned with written science fiction.


See all the negative reactions to it in reference to serious science fiction.

Here is a history of the term. Go down to the second Google engram for sci fi. It seems the really early blips are errors in the Google database, but someone said that Forry used the term in 1954.

It appears that hi fi started in 1947 ( Cite ) which is earlier than I thought.
Sci-fi might have gone out with propeller beanies but it got picked up by the mundane media. It doesn’t surprise me that people who treat sf seriously want it.
I got screwed up by this when I was on Jeopardy. After failing to be able to explain to the production people what my work was, they picked up on me saying I was working on an sf book, which Alex then called sci-fi. I almost objected, and then didn’t want to insult Forry (who I’ve met at the Ackermansion) and so didn’t say much of anything. Which the mercifully cut.



Acsenray, if you have nothing to say, then say nothing. Replying to a post with nothing but an eye-roll is unnecessarily hostile.

Really? I’ve don’t recall an eye-roll modded like that but okay.

That post does absolutely nothing to explain why “Sci-Fi” should be a deprecated term and does nothing to explain why Ackerman’s “legacy” should be tarnished in this respect.

And the story about “Jeopardy” also doesn’t explain why Ackerman’s acts reflect badly on him but just serves as an illustration of an insider’s reacting badly to a generally acceptable term for no good reason other than his own insider-eryness.

The eye roll was a reaction to the deep level of insider presumption reflected by that post.

I agree with Acsenray. I didn’t find Voyager’s answer helpful at all. He just told me to go do research. How is that acceptable? Struck me that it contributed nothing to the discussion in this thread.

It certainly didn’t contribute to answering my two questions, which I will repeat: why is the term “sci-if” not respected by the science fiction community? And why was Ackerman’s coining of the term “not one of his better legacies”?

I’m not at all offended by anything anyone has said.

The first line of my response summed it up - I agree with what others have written about how the term has come to mean crappy movie science fiction. 2001 is science fiction. Sharknado is sci-fi.
Pay attention to how it is used by people who seem to not even know about the stories behind the movies, the ones who think “To Serve Man” originated on The Twilight Zone.
The term wasn’t meant that way. If you’ve read Ackerman’s work (and I have nearly 100 Perry Rhodan paperbacks) you’ll know that’s the way his humor works. He had maybe the biggest sf collection in the world. So by not his best legacy I mean that the term he invented is being used to demean the field he loved.
It is not like he hated sf movies. He edited Famous Monsters of Filmland, remember, and he had a piece of King Kong in his apartment.
Here is a good legacy. While one could argue the value of Perry Rhodan, in those issues he also reprinted rare early sf stories, like Edison’s Conquest of Mars.

Back when people debated what sf meant, like during the time of the Judith Merril best of the year anthologies, sci-fi was just a not very good joke. Now it is the term of choice for those whose idea of written sf is Star Wars and Star Trek novels.
Not what he intended at all.

Harlan Ellison had been railing against the “nauseating neologism” since at least 1975 and likely much longer. Fans of the period reserved the term for really bastardized, poorly-done SF.

And anything that pisses off Ellison is okay by me!