Science fiction… 

Let’s call it speculative fiction.

I’ve been thinking about it since the Sci Fi Channel changed it’s name to shed the connotations of geekery– SyFy (That’s right, it only makes a difference when said aloud).

“The name Sci Fi has been associated with geeks and dysfunctional, antisocial boys in their basements with video games and stuff like that, as opposed to the general public and the female audience in particular”

Tim Brooks, TV historian

Yet it has been a great few years for science fiction, on television, in the cinema and in print media. That stereotypical view of geeky basement boys rolling dice and reading about aliens hasn’t been true for decades and still it persists in the mind of marketing departments… 

You know what I think? I think it’s a double bluff… Here, have a look at this list of the top 40 grossing films to date, notice how many of them feature aliens, alternate universes, genetic experiments or comic book characters?

Sci-fi is mainstream, and clearly has been for a while.

So, why do the marketing boys and girls make such a fuss about making it accessible to a greater demographic?

Without wanting to sound like I’m filled with some sort of X-files-ridden paranoia, I’m going to suggest that it’s because they know that, numerous as we are, fans of science fiction like to feel as if they belong to some exclusive club – That we enjoy the connotations of geekery and that when it comes down to it, we get off, a little, on that smug, warm feeling that we are a little superior.

I suppose what I’m trying to say is, that despite rumours to the contrary, we are not alone.

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38 thoughts on “Frickafrak

  1. “Just liking science fiction doesn’t make you a geek.”

    That’s the t-shirt slogan for the campaign

    “Then there’s the difference between the sort of Sci Fi”

    And there’s what we call denial.

  2. I’ve read a fair amount of science-fiction and I do think there’s different kinds for different people. Mainly with either a focus on sociological issues or on technology. But you can turn any of it into a hollywood hit or an appealing series. It’s an genre, neiter mainstream nor niche but both. I think ‘SyFy’ just wanted to grab a bit of attention because profits were low because of one show or another. Meanwhile, the world keeps revolving and we’re all watching the new Star Trek, Fringe or Doctor Who.
    I’m a big fan of Farscape myself. As far as sci-fi slang is concerned, I use the word ‘frell’ a lot.

  3. i remember reading an essay by Issac Asimov where he was making a distinction between the media that went under the separate terms SF and Sci Fi. he considered the latter term to be for lower-quality but more commercial stuff like TV programs, fit only for the lesser order of geeks.

    i sort of resent the implication that i’m inherently any less nerdy or socially dysfunctional, too.

  4. ““Then there’s the difference between the sort of Sci Fi”

    And there’s what we call denial.”

    Oh yeah? People are going wild for the new Star Trek but sit any regular person down and make them watch Enterprise or Deep Space Nine and watch them die of boredom, meanwhile Trekkies are enthralled with every little TOS reference and made-up technical detail. True geeks get into things that are practically unwatchable but appeal to their geek instincts. The new Star Trek actually balances this fairly well, throwing in lots of geek-friendly details that go right over the heads of casual viewers while injecting lots of action and humor and special effects to hook norms.

    The Great Joe Bivinss last post..Comic Comments WOO BACK YES.

  5. You’ve got to love the laser-like academic arguments from an ‘historian’ who uses the incisive and clear phrase “stuff like that”.

  6. That’s what I’ve tried to explain to my mom several times, though she never listens. Sure the super powers, technology, magic, etc. are cool little things on the surface to lure you in, but many of the worlds presented in those stories are much more realistic socially than in most movies based in a “realistic” (a.k.a. physically possible, as far as we currently know, anyways) world. Take, for example, “Final Fantasy X” exemplifying religion’s influence in society, as opposed to the main character of “While You Were Sleeping” not facing any consequences from the family she had been lying to for months, with the exception of the male lead who eventually reconciled with her (as is typical in romantic comedies).

  7. I’m just yanking your chain. I have to admit that there are different strata of sci-fi, however I’m not sure using Enterprise is a good example. The theme tune alone….

    but yes, I can hardly see masses of people reading books, no matter how good they are, like Roadside Picnic (… (or read it here:

    But I stand by my assessment that we are a lot more mainstream than we are led to belive. If anything, us sci-fi fans are the testing ground ground for popular entertainment.

  8. The whole name change of Sci Fi to SyFy is so dumb to me. I was reading about it the other day and talking to my friend about it. Apparently because they can copyright the name “SciFi” because it is a genre they decided to change the name and have been coming up with stupid excuses/lame justifications for doing this. All that, being more open to a new demographic is just a bunch of BS. Changing the name to SyFy sounds ten times less appealing and i DOUBT it will help them get more traffic.

    UnconsciousINKs last post..Queen of Puddings [guest] by Philippa Rice

  9. Here’s the thing: I don’t see what’s wrong with the situation Tim Brooks describes- are we all meant to be the exact same group of people, or something?

    Why is it inherently ‘bad’ that there are people out there who are male and/or don’t like (for instance) Football, or whatever socially acceptable mainstream pursuit he has in mind?


  10. I always loved how John Edward, the auctioneer medium (literally, the bloke who hosts “Crossing Over,” a program about communicating with one’s deceased loved-ones but talks so fast it sounds more as though he wants you to bid for your relatives’ souls than to speak to them), claimed ad nauseum that he wasn’t making up any of his pitch, but his show aired on Sci Fi. If it were real, wouldn’t they just show it on the Science Channel? Without the “Fi”?

    golfwidows last post..himalayan me out flat

  11. ‘associated with geeks and dysfunctional, antisocial boys in their basements with video games and stuff like that’

    ‘and the female audience in particular’

    Hey no fair! thats just sexist, are they saying that Sci Fi is just for boys, if thats the case then i have an angry mob of girls who can correct Mr Brooks. However we won’t as we are ‘anti-social’ and to busy with our ‘video games and stuff like that’

    ..and yet here we are, socialising.

  12. you’re back! for a while, you disappeared.
    and i’m in the mood for romance, not battlescar bullactica.
    that’s the true definition of geek.
    missed you.

  13. I’m with you guys: this is sort of dumb. I’d like to open the discussion up to pronunciation though. Who pronounces “Sci Fi” as “s-eye f-eye” (sy fy) and who says “skiffy”? I’m told ‘skiffy’ is actually the more common pronunciation, but I’ve never heard anyone say it that way.

    Also: my favourite sci-fi slang word is GROK. Amazing addition to the language, that one.

    Do y’all read 365 Tomorrows, speaking of Skiffy?

  14. Sci-Fi indeed remains a powerful source for the marketers even today! How true you’re when you say that those geeky basement boys rolling dice and reading about aliens still persists in the minds of marketing departments

  15. I wonder if anyone pronounces it Sy Fih? That’s the way the two syllables are pronounced in their origin words.

    This reminds me of an argument I used to have with a pianist friend of mine about his mispronouncing “pianist” to make it not sound like “penis”. Maybe if he was using some accepted regional pronunciation I could let it slide, but he’s just shifting the emphasis to avoid puns! My other friend who used to mispronounce words never bothered to justify himself, he just insisted that it didn’t matter and that he was still smarter than me (I was in the Gifted program and we all acted intellectually superior as a matter of course).

    The Great Joe Bivinss last post..COMIC: BAADD: Blobs All About Drunk Driving

  16. Fih is such a difficult vowel to end a word with, at least in English. It’s the sort of thing Jack’s giant would say, were he perverted more than mean: “Feh fih foh fum, I like the look of that English bum!”

  17. I thought the name change was a total waste. Is there some legal reason they had to change it? Why would you give up “SciFi” which is instantly recognizable for that garbage name?

  18. I hate football. It is a game for closet homosexuals.
    That aside, I also agree with everything else you said.

  19. It’s OK, we all know you are a dysfunctional geek of the highest order…

    I resent the idea that mainstream sci-fi is any less valid than the sorts that hide behind terms such as ‘speculative fiction’… it’s like the same distinction between ‘comics’ and ‘graphic novels’. The value, or merit doesn’t vary, only the level of pretension.

  20. Ha. You’re right there,unless ‘stuff like that’ is an academic term I am unaware of…

    Actually, TV historian is a bit of a ropey academic subject anyway. How do you differentiate between one of those and a couch-bound stoner watching re-runs in the middle of the day?

  21. Auctioneer! As in, ‘going, going, gone’?

    A great way to annoy the dead there.

    I quite like the term ‘mediums’ too… it makes therm sound a little more impressive than ‘smalls’, but not quite as impressive as ‘larges’.

  22. Yes, the scifi… I mean SyFy, channel will be showing a ‘documentary’ about my amazing re-appearing abilities this Autumn.

  23. The only time I’ve talked about it was when I ranted on my Twitter about how NBC Universal is ruining television (because I was angry that they cancelled My Name is Earl). I gave many examples, including the stupidity of SciFi Channel’s name change, but the chief of my arguments was that giving Jay Leno the ten o’clock slot would rip a hole in the spacetime continuum, as that slot belongs to hour dramas, unless the network is Fox, and Fox is the LAST channel NBC needs to emulate. Also I hate Jay Leno, but I hate Carson Daly too but he’s on late enough that it doesn’t matter.

    The Great Joe Bivinss last post..COMIC: BAADD: Blobs All About Drunk Driving

  24. The footballers here like group sex, scrums, etc. By group sex, I mean, 12 guys and one woman. So, I stand by my closet statement.

  25. notice how many of them feature aliens, alternate universes, genetic experiments or comic book characters?

    E.T. was also a “family film” and directed by Steven Spielberg (whose films Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and Raiders of the Lost Ark) had made him a bankable name. Jurassic Park, another Spielberg film, can be cross-listed as action-adventure, and even nature-revenge.

    Independence Day = Will Smith already had Bad Boys and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air under his belt.

    Another question could be how many of these top grossing films of a sci-fi nature are also action-adventure or packaged/marketed as a (franchise) blockbuster? Moreover, once you control for or even remove the director/cast members as selling points, how many top grossing films of a sci-fi nature would remain?

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