Scifi or SF?

This is apparently a quite controversial issue.  The arguments over which abbreviation to use for science fiction run hot among those of us with nothing better to rant about.  Scifi is the more common term, and it just rolls trippingly off the tongue.  However, it has been appropriated by the general public to refer to a whole lot more than just science fiction.  Now, a lot of science fiction purists (me included) get snippy when people use the term to describe allspeculative fiction, including fantasy and horror.  The argument goes these are not science fiction because they do not involve science, therefore they shouldn’t be called scifi.  Because of this issue, a lot of the purists have decided to use SF as the abbreviation for science fiction, to show that they really mean science fiction, and ONLY science fiction, and no elves or unicorns or wizards are going to be leaping out from behind bushes at unsuspecting readers happily wandering along and looking for cool gadgets and time travel. 

I understand where they are coming from.  However, after careful consideration, I have decided I don’t agree with this path.  I like the term scifi.  It is what I grew up with, it is easy both to say and write, and it just makes me smile.  So I’m not going to surrender it to those who would ruin its meaning.  I’m going to fight for it.  So henceforth I will use the term scifi as it is meant to be used and if I see anyone misusing it, I will correct them.

So there.  That is my opinion.  (Imagine me sticking out my tongue and stomping my foot emphatically.) 

Anyone else agree or disagree?

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4 Responses to Scifi or SF?

  1. mattbruensteiner says:

    I more often see “SF” as an abbreviation for “speculative fiction”, meaning the broader category that includes both science fiction and fantasy. So you can use “SF” to mean whatever you want, but I think most people are using it to mean exactly the opposite of what you’re using it for.

  2. truscifi says:

    Hmmm…ok then. Nevermind 🙂

    No, really, I know some people use it that way, but I also read several posts on different blogs about using SF for science fiction. Anyway, I am sticking with scifi.

  3. crotchetyoldfan says:

    If you want to base your usage on historical foundations:

    SF originally stood for science fiction

    that abbreviation followed numerous attempts at a descriptive term, starting with ‘scientific fiction’ and ‘scientifiction’ – both coined by Hugo Gernsback; these eventually led to the shortened ‘science fiction’

    in the late 40s or early 50s, Robert Heinlein used the term ‘speculative LITERATURE’ to refer exclusively to ‘science fiction’

    later in the 50’s, Forrest Ackerman coined the phrase ‘scifi’ – which was roundly rejected by serious science fiction aficianados as belittling.

    later, science fiction fandom adopted the phrase ‘scifi’ to denote anything or anyone who were ‘clueless’ about the genre; it has also come to represent bad science fiction, or non-science fiction masquerading as SF, or something that the uninitiated merely thought was science fiction.

    during the 60s, as the new wae movement became stronger, authors, editors and publishers adopted the phrase ‘speculative fiction’ to denote a separation between what they were writing and the ‘science fiction’ that was not part of the new wave.

    it was/is also used by those who wish to give a more ‘literary’ mantle to science fiction, and by those who wish to make some kind of connection between related genres, such as fantasy or horror.

    also during the 60s/70s, purists who rejected the use of speculative fiction and scifi began using a mispronunciation of scifi – ‘skiffy’ to denote ‘scifi’ that was truly ‘scifi’ and not ‘science fiction’, in an attempt to maintain the differences between what they referred to as scifi and science fiction.

    of late, scifi has become almost interchangeable with sf or science fiction (indeed, with speculative fiction as well), with perhaps the only meaningful disctinction being that those of a literary bent prefer speculative fiction, more often than not ‘scifi’ is used in reference to media other than literature and SF or science fiction is reserved for use by the purists.

    for a purist that is steeped in the history of the genre, the only acceptable usages are ‘science fiction’, ‘sf’ and perhaps ‘speculative literature’; none of those phrases refers in any way whatsoever to fantasy and/or horror: scifi is interchangeable with ‘skiffy’ and is meant to have a negative connotation and the use of ‘speculative fiction’ reveals the user to be either someone trying to appropriate high literary standards for genre fiction, or someone who is trying to suggest that there is some level of parity between science fiction, fantasy and horror.

    As a purist, I’ve relaxed to the point where I will tolerate ‘scifi’ when it is clear that the user knows what they are talking about or when used in reference to media other than literary forms; I’ve taken to regularly substituting skiffy when I want to be pejorative. I’ll tolerate Heinleins speculative literature, but find it rather useless as in that context it means exactly the same thing as science fiction but takes longer to type and I have no truck with the use of ‘speculative fiction’ as, in the long run, new wave ‘speculative fiction’ is either ‘trash’ or SF and, again, it takes more letters to type.

  4. truscifi says:

    COF,
    Thanks for the history lesson. I actually didn’t know the origins of spec fiction or spec lit. Still, I’m a (relatively) young’un, and for most of my life scifi has been an acceptable term. Plus, as I pointed out in my original post, it has sentimental value for me. I do like the use of skiffy as the pejorative. It is a silly word perfectly suited to describe silly people and things. So I hope I will be one of the users of scifi you will tolerate.
    Tru

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