Sci-Fi Is Not A Dirty Word

Say it with me, kids.

“Sci-fi” is not a dirty word.

Really. Trust in your Overlord.

Okay, so I know I’m not the first or last person/writer/blogger/Evil Overlord to discuss this term in detail. Maybe even ad nauseum. Old school writer, and all around bad-ass Harlan Ellison had some things to say about the term sci-fi and science fiction, involving cuss words (color me surprised) and the word “loathe.”

I think that early writers of science fiction struggled to have their work seen as, you know, real literature with a good, paying market full of fans with half a brain. Even now, sometimes people will shy away from a genre that they claim to dislike solely based on what they see as the parameters of the genre. I recently had a devout non-science fiction reader tell me that she absolutely enjoyed The Hunger Games. I had to tell her the dystopian futures with a Big Brother overlord was in my not-so humble opinion, firmly in the realm of what she claimed to dislike.

So, why do writers shy away and utterly loathe the term “sci-fi”?

I think in an effort to distance themselves from what they perceived as the “non-serious literature” in the genre, that they slapped the term “sci-fi” onto anything and everything that seemed low brow. That Science Fiction was finally pure, and high, and literary, and that piddling Sci-Fi was low, and crass, and obviously fluff. The sci-fi is fluffy Space Operas with Green Chicks with Three Boobs, and Star Trek Let’s Turn a Mirror on Our Society, and Star Wars Obviously Fantasy Magic Based Farm Kid With Powers IN SPACE, and An Alien Human Looking Two-Hearted Time Lord in a Time Machine and all those Pulp mags with weird alien encounters and robots. Sci-fi was very obviously to be separated from everything else.

That is bullshit.

Repeat it, kids. Bullshit.

You know why? Because low-crass-fluff is also awesome. All those things I just described, even if they’re also in the realm of TV Land are beloved by millions. It’s the same damn nerd and geek kids who buy plastic Sonic Screwdrivers that are reading Asimov, and Wolfe, and Brin, and Bear. And if they aren’t, they’ll likely find their way there by the ever expanding society of nerdists.

“Ah, but B.C.,” you say, “what about the term Speculative Fiction?”

Despite the fact that Speculative Fiction is hard to say, and makes it sound like you’re muttering about speculums and your last papsmear, it does encompass a lot. Not just Science Fiction heavy on the science part, or Sci-Fi, but also Fantasy and allllll of the numerous subgenres and sub-subgenres and sub-sub-subgenres of both.

Do I use the term “sci-fi” really?

Short answer: Yes.

Long answer: Nope.

Er, I mean…I use it when I’m nerding. I’ve been using it since I was little, and I don’t see myself stopping anytime soon. I use it to describe books, film, and television. I use it because it kicks as much ass as I think it does.

However, I don’t use it in “da’ bidness” of writing. It marks you as an amateur sometimes, or at least that’s the sense I get. Oh, you said you’re a sci-fi writer? Uh-huh. Reeeeally professional.


So, what do you think? Does it matter what we call it?

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