Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast
Results 1 to 30 of 47

Thread: "Sci-Fi" or "sf"?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Posts
    21,466

    "Sci-Fi" or "sf"?

    The title of the "To Sci-Fi Writers ..." thread still makes me frown slightly every time it pops back into prominence.

    Having grown up during the peak pejorative usage of "sci-fi" during the Seventies, as a label for the pulpy hack-work end of the genre, I'm still slightly bemused that anyone would self-identify as a "sci-fi writer" unless deeply cynical about their own motives, and I have certainly found it difficult to smile on the rare occasions anyone has accused me of "writing sci-fi". (Nor am at all fond of the pronunciation "skiffy", which seems to be a sort of affectionate diminutive for that branch of "science fiction" that doesn't actually care about science at all.)
    But I tend to agree with the Science Fiction Encyclopedia when it states,
    Though old-timers still prefer not to use "sci-fi", continuing disparagement of this term has become counter-productive.
    It's one of those usages that has become so universal (like "Can I get...?" as a synonym for "May I have...?") that the old-school among us are left to just wince and remain silent.

    But we all have our personal preferences. Do you prefer "sci-fi", or "sf", or "science fiction" in full?

    Grant Hutchison
    Science Denier and Government Sponsored Propagandist. Here to help.
    Blog

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    Location
    Nowhere (middle)
    Posts
    39,923
    I prefer science fiction, but I'm not particularly bothered by sci-fi. It's just a contraction to me, I missed out on the pop culture meaning (popular culture, that is).
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Posts
    21,466
    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    I prefer science fiction, but I'm not particularly bothered by sci-fi. It's just a contraction to me, I missed out on the pop culture meaning (popular culture, that is).
    I don't think I know about the pop culture meaning.
    What I'm referring to (and what formed my own reaction to the term "sc-fi") was the division within the science fiction community in the '60s and '70s (which generated a sorta-kinda echo in the more recent "Sad Puppies" movement). People who were not science fiction fans, writers or critics were largely unaware of that tension, and adopted "sci-fi" as a supposedly cool new expression, which then rankled with the purists within the community, who saw it as a kind of ignorant xenonym. Back in the day, having an indulgent aunt say, "Oh, you're interested in sci-fi," had largely the same effect as the aunt who didn't know the difference between "astrology" and "astronomy".

    To some extent the current situation with "sci-fi" (for those of us of a certain age and disposition) feels as if the ignorant aunts won, and everyone is now blithely calling astronomy "astrology".

    Grant Hutchison
    Science Denier and Government Sponsored Propagandist. Here to help.
    Blog

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    Location
    Nowhere (middle)
    Posts
    39,923
    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    I don't think I know about the pop culture meaning.
    What I'm referring to (and what formed my own reaction to the term "sc-fi") was the division within the science fiction community in the '60s and '70s (which generated a sorta-kinda echo in the more recent "Sad Puppies" movement). People who were not science fiction fans, writers or critics were largely unaware of that tension, and adopted "sci-fi" as a supposedly cool new expression, which then rankled with the purists within the community, who saw it as a kind of ignorant xenonym. Back in the day, having an indulgent aunt say, "Oh, you're interested in sci-fi," had largely the same effect as the aunt who didn't know the difference between "astrology" and "astronomy".
    That explains it. I was never part of a community, I just liked reading the stuff. So I never built up those associations.

    "Star Trek? Oh, I love Luke Skywalker!"
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Posts
    21,466
    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    That explains it. I was never part of a community, I just liked reading the stuff. So I never built up those associations.
    I was never part of a community, either. But I did spend a lot of time reading about science fiction, as well as reading science fiction. Those were heady times, the peak of the New Wave in the UK, and thinking about the nature and purpose of science fiction was perhaps a lot more popular then than it is now.

    Grant Hutchison
    Science Denier and Government Sponsored Propagandist. Here to help.
    Blog

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Location
    Norfolk UK and some of me is in Northern France
    Posts
    10,229
    I guess the science fiction was always split into at least three camps: serious prediction of the effects of science and technology, metaphors to explore human nature and magic fantasies with little reference to either of those. You could add time travel as a category perhaps. sci Fi sounds like Hi fi. Both over simplify the underlying subjects. Both denigrate the efforts of the practitioners.
    sicut vis videre esto
    When we realize that patterns don't exist in the universe, they are a template that we hold to the universe to make sense of it, it all makes a lot more sense.
    Originally Posted by Ken G

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    Location
    Nowhere (middle)
    Posts
    39,923
    I think the denigrating aspect has kind of fallen by the wayside by now.


    I would lump time travel under "fantasy". It's as fictional as FTL and telepathy.
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Location
    Olympia, WA
    Posts
    32,098
    For obvious reasons, I don't remember any '70s usage, and by the time I was old enough to read, it was just what science fiction was called if you were in a hurry.
    _____________________________________________
    Gillian

    "Now everyone was giving her that kind of look UFOlogists get when they suddenly say, 'Hey, if you shade your eyes you can see it is just a flock of geese after all.'"

    "You can't erase icing."

    "I can't believe it doesn't work! I found it on the internet, man!"

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Posts
    16,953
    I wasn’t aware it was considered pejorative until I came to BAUT/CQ as a teenager. I tend to say “SF” when I want to sound sophisticated and “sci-fi” when talking to non-fans.
    The greatest journey of all time, for all to see
    Every mission makes our dreams reality
    And our destiny begins with you and me
    Through all space and time, the achievement of mankind
    As we sail the sea of discovery, on heroes’ wings we fly!

  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Posts
    6,220
    I would usually use "science fiction" in full. I'd expect that for a lot of people, if I mentioned "sf" without a lot of context, they'd be confused about why I was talking about San Francisco. I share the vague connotation of "sci-fi" being pejorative, but for me at least, it's vague enough that it doesn't bother me. And maybe for some folks, using "sci-fi" is a bit like trying to reclaim a pejorative term for a group by members of the group themselves.

    And for the record, it should be astrology, to go with biology, geology, and the like. It's just that the darned astrologers grabbed the word early enough that there's no hope of ever reclaiming it. Growf.
    Conserve energy. Commute with the Hamiltonian.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    Location
    Depew, NY
    Posts
    12,839
    I have a gaming website and out of 1100 posts, I've only used the term "sci-fi" in 15 posts. And usually in a negative way. I do actually like the pulp science fiction stuff, so I am kind of surprised at that statistic.
    Solfe

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    Location
    Nowhere (middle)
    Posts
    39,923
    There's nothing wrong with the Pulp Side. It's just less filtered than the book publishing business, so you see the raw material. Some of the best classic SF stories originated from the pulps.

    And of course now, the internet makes everyone a publisher and we see Sturgeon's Law in full effect. But some internet stories and e-books are worth reading if you're discriminating in your selection. There's even good fan-fiction!
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    Location
    Depew, NY
    Posts
    12,839
    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    There's nothing wrong with the Pulp Side. It's just less filtered than the book publishing business, so you see the raw material. Some of the best classic SF stories originated from the pulps.

    And of course now, the internet makes everyone a publisher and we see Sturgeon's Law in full effect. But some internet stories and e-books are worth reading if you're discriminating in your selection. There's even good fan-fiction!
    Some of my more recent posts have been about the Star Wars series adopting good science fiction points which makes for poor Star Wars stories. The stuff like the Mandalorian tends to avoid this with the old western theming. The current Bad Batch cartoon series seems to be rooted in Science Fiction, which is odd for a Star Wars franchise. It's not bad.
    Last edited by Solfe; 2021-Jul-17 at 12:19 AM.
    Solfe

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Posts
    21,466
    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    There's nothing wrong with the Pulp Side. It's just less filtered than the book publishing business, so you see the raw material. Some of the best classic SF stories originated from the pulps.
    But the classic science fiction stories of the pulp era are classics because they're not pulp fiction. To quote the SFE again, which puts it more succinctly than I could:
    Today the term "pulp sf" is associated primarily with stories written, usually rapidly, for the least intellectual segment of the sf market – packed with adventure but with little emphasis on character, which is usually stereotyped, or on ideas, which are frugally and constantly recycled.
    That's not really a zone that most readers or writers care to inhabit--and that was the pejorative association of "sci-fi" when it started being used by critics in the 1970s, and why it still rankles with us oldies.
    A lot of pulp sf was actually well-written, in terms of the nuts and bolts of storytelling--in many cases it was being pumped out by skilled writers who just had to produce a high volume of material to make ends meet. So it was a bit different from the "labour of love" self-published stuff of today, which is often written by people who don't really understand the mechanics of storytelling, or the value of proof-readers and editors.

    Grant Hutchison
    Science Denier and Government Sponsored Propagandist. Here to help.
    Blog

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Jun 2003
    Location
    Central Florida.
    Posts
    6,220
    Quote Originally Posted by Grey View Post
    I would usually use "science fiction" in full. I'd expect that for a lot of people, if I mentioned "sf" without a lot of context, they'd be confused about why I was talking about San Francisco. I share the vague connotation of "sci-fi" being pejorative, but for me at least, it's vague enough that it doesn't bother me. And maybe for some folks, using "sci-fi" is a bit like trying to reclaim a pejorative term for a group by members of the group themselves.
    ...
    That's pretty much what I did when writing about films or tv. Sometimes an editor (who would be expected to know better) would change "sf" or "science fiction" to "sci-fi" just to, you know, punch it up a little. I hated that and I let them know.

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Location
    Norfolk UK and some of me is in Northern France
    Posts
    10,229
    Context again, without it sf is san francisco to me. But on a book cover, it is clear. I think I use science fiction in full too.
    sicut vis videre esto
    When we realize that patterns don't exist in the universe, they are a template that we hold to the universe to make sense of it, it all makes a lot more sense.
    Originally Posted by Ken G

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Posts
    21,466
    I have an aunt who uses the abbreviation "SF" a lot. In her case it means Scottish Field, the title of her favourite magazine. This is confusing. "I spent the morning reading SF" does not mean what the uninitiated observer might think it means.

    Grant Hutchison
    Science Denier and Government Sponsored Propagandist. Here to help.
    Blog

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Mar 2004
    Posts
    20,830
    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    The title of the "To Sci-Fi Writers ..." thread still makes me frown slightly every time it pops back into prominence.

    Having grown up during the peak pejorative usage of "sci-fi" during the Seventies, as a label for the pulpy hack-work end of the genre, I'm still slightly bemused that anyone would self-identify as a "sci-fi writer" unless deeply cynical about their own motives, and I have certainly found it difficult to smile on the rare occasions anyone has accused me of "writing sci-fi".
    Back around the mid ‘80s science fiction liking friends and I had an extensive discussion/debate in person and on what passed for online then (dial-up BBS) regarding this issue. The general consensus was that most of us didn’t particularly like “sci-fi” as a term, but the battle was lost. The term was too well established for any chance of getting rid of it. I’ve heard it still sometimes comes up in fan circles, but sometimes in unpleasant ways. Example: A newbie shows up at a convention and tries to talk to others about “sci-fi” but gets ostracized or insulted for using the term. But I’ve also heard it’s becoming much, much less of an issue. A bit back, I saw an example of a fairly major science fiction writer (but a younger one) that wasn’t familiar with the debate (I’m afraid I don’t recall the author’s name).

    (Nor am at all fond of the pronunciation "skiffy", which seems to be a sort of affectionate diminutive for that branch of "science fiction" that doesn't actually care about science at all.)
    I don’t use it affectionately. If I call something “skiffy,” it is irredeemably bad. I just don’t say it often because I don’t want to spend time explaining it. And I say “skiffy” because I don’t like rhyming “sci-fi” with “hifi.” It’s meant to show my contempt for the term.

    But I tend to agree with the Science Fiction Encyclopedia when it states, It's one of those usages that has become so universal (like "Can I get...?" as a synonym for "May I have...?") that the old-school among us are left to just wince and remain silent.
    I largely agree. If I’m talking to a friend that shares an interest in science fiction but uses the term, sooner or later I’ll share my views (in a nice way) on it, and hope they will get the hint, but otherwise I let it go.

    But we all have our personal preferences. Do you prefer "sci-fi", or "sf", or "science fiction" in full?
    “Science fiction” definitely. Occasionally I’ll use “SF” if it is clear in context and I’m writing very informally, like one of these posts. I only use “sci-fi” in discussions like this.

    "The problem with quotes on the Internet is that it is hard to verify their authenticity." — Abraham Lincoln

    I say there is an invisible elf in my backyard. How do you prove that I am wrong?

    The Leif Ericson Cruiser

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Mar 2004
    Posts
    20,830
    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    That explains it. I was never part of a community, I just liked reading the stuff. So I never built up those associations.

    "Star Trek? Oh, I love Luke Skywalker!"
    I never got very deep into fandom, but like Grant I read, and a lot of this stuff was mentioned here and there if you read science fiction magazines, and especially magazines that sometimes discuss fandom (like Locus). Also, I did personally know a serious long term fan who did regularly go to conventions and so forth. He died in 2001 but has an entry on Wikipedia (though he is mostly remembered there for his later activity on Usenet science fiction groups).

    Of course now, for better or worse, there is lots of fandom discussion on the internet, if you’re interested. I have the feeling it actually is emphasizing various divisions in fandom. I also think authors should think twice before mentioning all their political and other views online.

    "The problem with quotes on the Internet is that it is hard to verify their authenticity." — Abraham Lincoln

    I say there is an invisible elf in my backyard. How do you prove that I am wrong?

    The Leif Ericson Cruiser

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    Location
    Nowhere (middle)
    Posts
    39,923
    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    But the classic science fiction stories of the pulp era are classics because they're not pulp fiction. To quote the SFE again, which puts it more succinctly than I could:That's not really a zone that most readers or writers care to inhabit--and that was the pejorative association of "sci-fi" when it started being used by critics in the 1970s, and why it still rankles with us oldies.
    A lot of pulp sf was actually well-written, in terms of the nuts and bolts of storytelling--in many cases it was being pumped out by skilled writers who just had to produce a high volume of material to make ends meet. So it was a bit different from the "labour of love" self-published stuff of today, which is often written by people who don't really understand the mechanics of storytelling, or the value of proof-readers and editors.

    Grant Hutchison
    To me, pulp just means, coming from the magazines that used to be printed that way (and now are not). I guess that means I'm not an intellectual, or something.
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

  21. #21
    Join Date
    Mar 2004
    Posts
    20,830
    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    What I'm referring to (and what formed my own reaction to the term "sc-fi") was the division within the science fiction community in the '60s and '70s (which generated a sorta-kinda echo in the more recent "Sad Puppies" movement).
    I don’t see the connection. The Sad Puppy/Rabid Puppy movement struck me as being fundamentally based on political and social view divisions in the community. The Sad Puppies were conservatives and the Rabid Puppies (with Vox Day is the main instigator) were extremists (I expect Grant is familiar, and I won’t go into detail given board limits, but just look up “Vox Day” in the Wikipedia if you’re curious - basically any concept you have of “right wing extremist” probably won’t be far off here). I don’t like what the puppies did in manipulating the Hugo awards, and they were all too politically extreme for me, but I did eventually come to believe there is a real issue - I’ve come to think there are too many vocal extremists on different sides saying everything that doesn’t quite fit their political views is unacceptable. As a reader, it is hard to find someone I think can usefully recommend books I would like.

    "The problem with quotes on the Internet is that it is hard to verify their authenticity." — Abraham Lincoln

    I say there is an invisible elf in my backyard. How do you prove that I am wrong?

    The Leif Ericson Cruiser

  22. #22
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    Posts
    15,088
    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    The title of the "To Sci-Fi Writers ..." thread still makes me frown slightly every time it pops back into prominence.

    Having grown up during the peak pejorative usage of "sci-fi" during the Seventies, as a label for the pulpy hack-work end of the genre, I'm still slightly bemused that anyone would self-identify as a "sci-fi writer" unless deeply cynical about their own motives, and I have certainly found it difficult to smile on the rare occasions anyone has accused me of "writing sci-fi". (Nor am at all fond of the pronunciation "skiffy", which seems to be a sort of affectionate diminutive for that branch of "science fiction" that doesn't actually care about science at all.)
    But I tend to agree with the Science Fiction Encyclopedia when it states, It's one of those usages that has become so universal (like "Can I get...?" as a synonym for "May I have...?") that the old-school among us are left to just wince and remain silent.

    But we all have our personal preferences. Do you prefer "sci-fi", or "sf", or "science fiction" in full?

    Grant Hutchison
    Just speaking personally, I was reading SF in the late seventies, but I wasn’t really aware of that distinction, so didn’t know until now that someone might find it odd.

    And also, regarding the may versus can thing, I grew up using can (I think in American English it’s fairly established), and so I didn’t think it was something that would make people wince.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    As above, so below

  23. #23
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    Location
    Nowhere (middle)
    Posts
    39,923
    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    It's one of those usages that has become so universal (like "Can I get...?" as a synonym for "May I have...?") that the old-school among us are left to just wince and remain silent.
    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    And also, regarding the may versus can thing, I grew up using can (I think in American English it’s fairly established), and so I didn’t think it was something that would make people wince.
    Common usage does change over time. I lake to say, if it didn't we'd all still be speaking early Neanderthal. As long as you get your point across clearly the details are just a matter of tradition rather than hard and fast laws. Unless you're part of the French Academy.
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

  24. #24
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Posts
    21,466
    Quote Originally Posted by Van Rijn View Post
    I don’t see the connection. The Sad Puppy/Rabid Puppy movement struck me as being fundamentally based on political and social view divisions in the community.
    Sure. The connection I see is that it was also couched as an argument about what constitutes "good" science fiction--that the Sad Puppies felt that "interesting" science fiction was being marginalized in favour of stuff they found uninteresting or indeed objectionable. Whereas the opposition felt that the Sad Puppies had a reactionary view of (among other things) the function of science fiction.
    Back in the '60s and '70s Forry Ackerman (who coined the word "sci-fi") also had a particular vision of what constituted "good" science fiction, and was also viewed as having a reactionary stance against the New Wave and the general broadening of the concerns of science fiction writers and readers. Which is how "sci-fi" became a pejorative term in the mouths of those more sympathetic to the New Wave.

    I'm the first to admit it's an imperfect parallel, which is why I qualified it as a "sorta-kinda echo".

    Grant Hutchison
    Science Denier and Government Sponsored Propagandist. Here to help.
    Blog

  25. #25
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Posts
    21,466
    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    And also, regarding the may versus can thing, I grew up using can (I think in American English it’s fairly established), and so I didn’t think it was something that would make people wince.
    Oooh, it does.
    I've told the story here before of how I was queueing in a coffee-shop in the west of Scotland, when a young woman in front of me made her order by saying, "Can I get a flat white, please?"
    To which the proprietor replied, "No, you can't, unless you jump the counter and know how to work this machine. You may have a flat white. And I can get you a flat white."
    At which point the proprietor received a round of applause from his customers.
    This was less than five years ago, remarkably enough.

    Grant Hutchison
    Last edited by grant hutchison; 2021-Jul-17 at 01:32 AM. Reason: "I" instead of "you" makes nonsense!
    Science Denier and Government Sponsored Propagandist. Here to help.
    Blog

  26. #26
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    Location
    Nowhere (middle)
    Posts
    39,923
    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    At which point the proprietor received a round of applause from his customers.
    Ah, traditionalists then.

    But as a customer that shop would certainly lose my business. No one likes a rude server.
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

  27. #27
    Join Date
    Mar 2004
    Posts
    20,830
    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    Oooh, it does.
    I've told the story here before of how I was queueing in a coffee-shop in the west of Scotland, when a young woman in front of me made her order by saying, "Can I get a flat white, please?"
    To which the proprietor replied, "No, you can't, unless you jump the counter and know how to work this machine. You may have a flat white. And I can get you a flat white."
    At which point the proprietor received a round of applause from his customers.
    This was less than five years ago, remarkably enough.
    That makes me think of the example I gave above of the old-hands insulting the newbie mentioning “sci-fi,” probably leaving the newbie embarrassed but wondering what they had done to deserve it. It’s not the sort of thing I’d support. If your example above happened to me, I’d be wondering what just happened and why, and would just walk back out to find a place that cared about customer service. If they took the order and on the side explained what was common usage there, they could be helpful rather than putting the customer down.

    I don’t honestly know if I’d say “Can I get . . .” but it certainly doesn’t sound alien to my ears. Off hand, I suspect I might start with “I’d like . . .”

    I don’t believe it would occur to me to say, “May I have . . .”

    "The problem with quotes on the Internet is that it is hard to verify their authenticity." — Abraham Lincoln

    I say there is an invisible elf in my backyard. How do you prove that I am wrong?

    The Leif Ericson Cruiser

  28. #28
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Posts
    21,466
    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    Ah, traditionalists then.

    But as a customer that shop would certainly lose my business. No one likes a rude server.
    But would he care? Evidently not. And the place was full of (I presume) regulars, who clearly relished his being rude to passing trade.
    We're talking about a part of the world where locals will actually start to speak in a different language in order to ensure that a newly arrived stranger from out of town feels properly excluded. So having your English usage disputed in English by the owner is actually a bonus.

    Grant Hutchison
    Science Denier and Government Sponsored Propagandist. Here to help.
    Blog

  29. #29
    Join Date
    Mar 2004
    Posts
    20,830
    So is the entire country interested in driving away tourists or just the occasional rude … well, I won’t use the word here. Just asking if it is a country I should avoid entirely (I’m thinking of doing some travel one of these days).

    "The problem with quotes on the Internet is that it is hard to verify their authenticity." — Abraham Lincoln

    I say there is an invisible elf in my backyard. How do you prove that I am wrong?

    The Leif Ericson Cruiser

  30. #30
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    Posts
    15,088
    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    Ah, traditionalists then.

    But as a customer that shop would certainly lose my business. No one likes a rude server.
    For me it would depend on whether the coffee is good. If the people around there felt strongly about it, I’d be willing to make that small adjustment and to rephrase it to “may.”


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    As above, so below

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •