Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Sci-fi, Syfy, and Forry

It seems the Sci-Fi channel is changing its name to Syfy. The stated reason for the change is to make something that can be trademarked, a name that can be owned. I guess it's as good a business reason as most. And I can't get too upset at renaming a channel that has wrestling as one of its staples.

But the outflow of indignation from (us) geeks is a little fun to watch. It's as if the network officials saw Sci-Fi as a market to attack, so they put on the costume, swooped in, and when they were sated, they changed clothes again. Hey, it could be true.

But I've been around the ghetto long enough that it's all old news. When I was selling my first stories to Analog, I was told "Don't use sci-fi, it's science fiction. Sci-fi was made up by Forry Ackerman as a riff off of hi-fi." This wisdom was handed down with the implication that one of fandom's legends was just a little too pandering to the masses for the true believers. The advice probably didn't take as well for me, because Forry had bought my very first story as a filler in the back of the Perry Rhodan series of translations. (Don't look it up. It's forgettable.)

But sci-fi wasn't the only attempt to name the genre. There was scientifiction and when the tide was turning away from science, it was speculative fiction, and it's derivitive, spec-fic.

There are certainly others, but these are the ones that come to mind. I guess the whole question about "Syfy" is whether it will have anything to do with literature of the mind. Certainly not if they use the opportunity to add more wrestling.

1 comment:

Chris Meadows said...

You forgot "SF," which I think sees most use these days. (Which amused me when I saw that SciFi guy claiming that "SyFy" was the way people would text it anyway. Why would they use two extra letters?)

It's also amusing to recall that people originally didn't like the name "Sci-Fi" for the TV channel much the same reason as your editors. You'd think they should be happier now that it's being changed.

The real reason for the change is, of course, that a neologism is more trademarkable than a term already in common use. All the stuff about trying to move away from science-fiction is really just window-dressing, given that they still show an awful lot of science-fictiony stuff there. (I wonder if it's some kind of natural law that cable networks created to appeal to niche markets will inevitably try to broaden their appeal as time goes by. MTV, TNN ("Spike"), now SFC.) Still, the "basement" comments were a textbook example of "biting the hand that feeds you."

(I'll have them know that I don't live in my parents' basement—I live on their first floor. This broken leg with Taylor spatial frame wrapped around and embedded into it won't let me do stairs yet!)