Why do science fiction fans dislike the term "sci-fi"?

Why do science fiction fans dislike the term “sci-fi”?

They do?

Because it’s “SyFy,” dammit!!! :smiley:

Yes, some are quite vocal in preferring “SF”, and I’ve read arguments that SF is more appropriate for “hard” fiction vs. soft & fuzzy dragons in space. (And also talked with a librarian who prefers “speculative fiction”).

I’m not sure there’s a GQ answer to this though. It seems more a matter of opinion and style.

Well, science fiction fans tend to be giant dweebs. And giant dweebs like to argue over insignificant shit.

Trust me, I know. Just get me in a discussion about why Emacs is better than vi and the proper pronunciation of “SQL.”

Because when Forrest J. Ackermann coined the term, most pros and fans in the field thought it gimmicky and childish. It makes little sense as a coinage other than the parallel to “hi-fi” (which has died out) and for decades it was disliked by anyone in the field, though a useful shibboleth to see who was actually a fan or pro and who didn’t really know the genre. Giving the genre a silly name was clearly one reason many critics didn’t take it seriously.

Hollywood (or rather, people writing about Hollywood films) popularized it, so that it’s clearly the mainstream. But you rarely see it used by SF writers or traditional SF convention fandom, even though everyone is resigned to tolerate it.

Since the OP will mainly gather opinions, let’s move this to IMHO.

samclem Moderator, General Questions

Science-fiction, sci-fi, and SF are all equally valid to me, and it’s also the genre that the majority of my fiction comes from.

I also don’t care if you call me a Trekkie or Trekker.

Speculative fiction is generally regarded as a different genre from sci-fi, or at least a subset of it.

Science Fiction is basically any type of fiction that uses scientific rationale for impossible things.

This is compared to Fantasy, wherein impossible things are explained away via magic.

SciFi isn’t “stuff happening in space” and Fantasy isn’t “stuff with dragons.” You could easily have a fantasy story set in space. Actually, we have one. Star Wars.

Speculative Fiction is a term usually reserved for “I bet what would happen if ___ happened” type stories. You could call District 9 speculative fiction, since it’s mostly about “how would we react if a species of aliens appeared here and we didn’t know what to do with them?”

given that 90% of my reading is SciFi, and I have been reading it since my first Heinlein juvie back when I was about 8 years old [Podkayne of Mars as a matter of fact] and I know personally several authors, and am very active on at least 1 authors mailing list that I will admit to in public :smiley: I consider myself fairly hard core, and I have no issue with using SciFi, SF or speculative fiction. I use all 3 more or less equally :stuck_out_tongue:

It’s because people who weren’t science fiction fans were in the late 1950’s through the late 1970’s using “sci-fi” as a standard abbreviation for science fiction. These were often people who had never read any science fiction and thought the often quite bad films (and TV shows) that were being produced during those years were typical examples of science fiction, even though the science in them were often terrible and, in comparison to the science fiction novels and short stories being written during that period, were terribly old-fashioned. The movies and TV shows often seemed to treat written science fiction of the 1920’s and 1930’s as it it was state of the art, when fans of written science fiction considered it quite out of date. Meanwhile, science fiction fans were, when they needed to abbreviate the name at all, using “s. f.”

Given that there were two groups of people then, one of whom, when they bothered to talk about science fiction at all, would mostly use the term “sci-fi” and would mostly refer to bad examples of the genre, and the other of whom, would mostly use the term “s. f.” and often talked about good examples of the genre, it’s not surprising then that some science fiction fans began distinguishing between “sci-fi” as the bad stuff and “s. f.” as the good stuff. Not surprisingly, it became more or less a common belief among science fiction fans that people who used the term “sci-fi” were the ones who didn’t really know the field, so it became standard to use the term “s. f.” exclusively.

Incidentally, science fiction fans hate the stupid stereotypes that non-fans have about what science fiction is like and what fans are like. Google on “Dave Langford,” “Ansible,” and “How Others See Us.” You can read the columns in Langford’s newletter Ansible where for the past several decades he has been collecting excruciatingly ridiculous ideas that non-science fiction fans have of what science fiction is like and what fans are like. Is it that surprising that many long-time fans are tired of being treated like jerks?

Incidentally, nobody is claiming that all science fiction fans object to the term “sci-fi.” Clearly that isn’t true. The claim is that there is a large proportion of science fiction fans who object to the term. I want to point that out before this thread turns into an all-out fight between people who use the term “sci-fi” and those who don’t.

I think you mean “super-set”, or that SF is the subset. Or, if not, I’ll politely disagree with you. :slight_smile:

The category of speculative fiction (such as the list of works maintained by the Internet Speculative fiction Database) is a group of fiction sub-genres including science fiction, fantasy, and horror stories.

Star Wars has the trappings of SF, what with driods and hyperdrives and the like. “Space Opera” I’ll grant you, but if McCaffrey can claim “Pern” as science fiction rather than fantasy then Star Wars sure is. (Not to say that you are wrong in your contention that space and dragons aren’t the defining aspects of the sub-genres; and I think Pern is fantasy). :slight_smile:

Umm… I’d call this genre “fiction”. :slight_smile:

Cross-time and Alternate History type stories are also a Speculative fiction sub-genre, but do not define the whole thing.

I would have supposed just the reverse: All science fiction is speculative fiction, but some speculative fiction can be fantasy. When I use the term “speculative fiction”, it’s as an umbrella term for “fantasy and science fiction”, which, while separate genres, are clearly related.

Oh, and friedo, emacs is better than vi because everything is better than vi. vi sucks. The better question would be pico vs. emacs.

Please disregard anything I may have said that was inaccurate.

Please regard everything else.

I got no problem with it. I don’t care if you call it “sci fi”, “SF”, “science fiction”, “speculative fiction”, or even “genre fiction”, which seems to generally be used for fantasy and science fiction although it really ought to include romances, mysteries, and westerns, but I digress. It’s a handy label and I don’t see the issue. (I rather like “speculative fiction” or even “genre fiction” because the lines between fantasy and science fiction are so blurred, and when you use more general terms like that often you’re really being more descriptive.)

You mean nano vs. emacs, right? Pico wasn’t bad, but the GNU clone is better. :wink:

And as for nano vs. emacs, the winner is clearly nano. I mean, come on.

Anyone having the pleasure :dubious: of reading the Perry Rhodan books Forry put together for Ace knows that he makes up words like sci-fi all the time. This one caught on. The trouble is that today it is used by the same kind of people who would pat us on the head for reading that silly stuff about going to the moon. I think it is a great for most of the dreck Hollywood puts out, but doesn’t work for the entire field. Calling Bug Jack Barron of The Drowned World sci-fi is just absurd. (To use two old examples.)

I’m pretty sure the term never even came up in the various symposiums on the definition of speculative fiction that Heinlein was usually on and which got published by Advent. I don’t recall sci-fi ever being seriously considered as a valid name for the field, and I read way too many pages of debates about what sf means back in the late '60s.

ed? :smiley:

I don’t mind the term at all. I do wish there was a better word for the “fantasy” genre.