Is “sci-fi” still a dirty word?

Paul Raven @ 08-12-2008

The gals and guys over at io9 have reheated the perennial debate of whether or not ‘science fiction’ is an accurate or useful descriptive name for the genre, with a side excursion into ‘is it OK to say sci-fi?’

As pointed out by plenty of commenters there, it’s not really a very important question. However, I am unable to get on my high horse about it, because I do tend to get sniffy when people who don’t know anything about the genre beyond Trek and Wars dismiss my book collection as ‘sci-fi’… and don’t get me started on people who say “oh, proper science fiction… like Heroes, yeah?” [image by Jim Linwood]

But from a marketing perspective, there’s a worthwhile question at the root of the debate: is the label of science fiction (however you contract or recast it) a kiss of commercial death? The massive success of Michael Chabon’s Yiddish Policemen’s Union – very carefully not marketed as science fiction, but embraced by the genre scene nonetheless – seems to suggest that the public can stomach the material of the genre.

So maybe it’s the internecine bitching over ephemera that puts them off?

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