Is “sci-fi” still a dirty word?

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?