Wednesday, March 18, 2009
The term "sci-fi," is usually attributed to Forrest J. Ackerman. Forry, aka 4E, and "The Ackermonster," was a long time fan of fantasy and science fiction, a member of First Fandom, and a publisher, writer, and collector of science fiction movie memorabilia. By the time he died, he had a museuem of stuff in his house, including some pretty famous props ranging from King Kong to one of the Gort suits from The Day the Earth Stood Still.
"Sci-fi" the term thus had an honorable genesis. However ...
Along the way, and partially because the "mundanes," i.e., those who weren't science fiction fans, coöped the term and began mis-using it, it came to mean something different to hardcore fans of the genre.
"Sci-fi," when used among the propellor beanie set, means bad science fiction movies, ala Godzilla or Mothra or the first Star Trek movie ...
Everybody in the field knows this. The more profane among us play with it. I once had vanity plates put on my Volvo that said "Sci Fi," just to tweak folks. And it is also fun to use the other term that fans detest, "skiffy," when in an iconoclastic mood.
I bring this up for two reasons: First, I don't care if folks call it sci-fi, because I know the ones who don't know any better don't mean anything by it. Second, if you use the term in the presence of somebody who visibly winces when s/he hears you say it, that's the reason. For them, you call it ess-eff, or speculative fiction -- spec-fic sounds like a disease, don't it? -- or just science fiction. Sci-fi rings their bell.
Long ago and far away, the producer of the first Star Wars movie journeyed to Miami, to the World Science Fiction Convention, to accept a special award for the picture. During his acceptance speech, he used the term "sci-fi," and was roundly booed for it. He didn't know any better. He had an excuse.
The fans? They were just boors, no excuses for them ...