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Australian philosopher, literary critic, and professional writer. Author of FREEDOM OF RELIGION AND THE SECULAR STATE and HUMANITY ENHANCED.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Never, never say "sci-fi"

No serious scholar of the science fiction genre ever uses the term "sci-fi" as an abbreviation for "science fiction". The abbreviation is always "sf" or "SF". The use of "sci-fi" (or any variants such as "sci fi") is still considered annoying or even offensive by many people. Perhaps that is passing, as the term takes over in the popular media, but I for one find it horribly grating whenever I encounter "sci-fi" in print. I particularly hate it when editors change my own use of "sf" or "SF" to "sci-fi" wihout consulting me - so I find out only when whatever I've written is actually published that I have (seemingly) written something that grates my own ear.

This has been happening to me quite a bit of late. Well, at least twice in important publications in close temporal propinquity.

Stop it!

And publishers, for Zeus's sake, employ editors who know something about science fiction - enough to be aware of this not-very-obscure sensitivity - if they are going to edit the work of science fiction scholars without first clearing page proofs.

(Of course, actually getting proofs is a bit of a luxury these days; even in book publication, it seems to be less and less to be taken for granted ... while editors of newspapers and magazines have always treated the author's text as something to chop around however they damn well like. What are proofs?)

10 comments:

Lee Battersby... said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lee Battersby... said...

Oh, how I hate the term 'sci-fi'. It automatically diminishes anything serious or worthwhile in the referred text, and drops the whole subject down to the level of "robots and rockets and stuff for children". It shows an unfair and prejudiced bias against the form, and it irritates the life out of me.

I don't remember walking into my local bookshop past the rows of Ro-fi or His-fi...
maybe Romance and Historical writers have better unions :)

Steelman said...

It seems to me that SF became the de facto abbreviation decades ago (the covers of even the older paperback novels in my collection bear the mark SF/Fantasy). You'd think they'd know by now...

I have a similar problem with another SF: San Francisco. I can somewhat tolerate "San Fran", and locals simply refer to it as The City, but please, don't call it 'Frisco; that's a town in Texas!

Steelman said...

Lee said, "I don't remember walking into my local bookshop past the rows of Ro-fi or His-fi...
maybe Romance and Historical writers have better unions :)"

Lee, we live in a world where Chick Lit is a perfectly acceptable marketing term.

Whenever someone says Chick Lit, I can only think of the chewing gum of my childhood, which is also something I'd council against imbibing.

Anonymous said...

Oh Noes! Someone's using Sci-fi! Or for the more pretentious among us "Skiffy".

I'm sure I could easily find "serious scholars" who would say that if you sully your pen with Science Fiction the way it's abbreviated is the least of your worries.

It's been pointed out we have Chick Lit. We also have Rom-Coms, J-Lo's and Bennifers. We even have "TASER guns"

Is that a cloud I see over your teacup?

Paul (since the open ID seems to be broken)

Blake Stacey said...

We also have Rom-Coms, J-Lo's and Bennifers.

At least the latter two of these could be taken as emblematic of a superficial celebrity culture — not exactly the model we'd like to emulate when discussing works of art which try to illuminate the human condition and our place in the Cosmos.

And, frankly, I'm not too gear for Rom-Coms, unless they're actually Rom-Zom-Coms. But that's just me.

Terry Frost said...

Odd coincidence of timing here. Forry Ackerman, who invented the word sci-fi just died.

Russell Blackford said...

Sorry to hear that, Terry.

Paul Poulton said...

Forry is still alive.

Scott Miller said...

Sci-fi will always live because it's catchy, pure and simple, Like hi-fi, San Fran, and I'm sure there are many other examples. It's human nature to use abbreviations that are sticky in the mind, and rhyming, in particular, is exceedingly sticky within the mind -- which is why so many educational tales for children are told as rhymes, for example.