Sci Fi

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Pronounced "si fi" or sometimes "sky fi", an abbreviation for "science fiction", introduced by the wordplay-loving Forrest J Ackerman in 1954, when the term "hi-fi" was becoming popular. Though for many years little used within the sf community, the term became very popular with journalists and media people generally, until by the 1970s it was the most common abbreviation used by nonreaders of sf to refer to the genre, sometimes with an implied sneer. Some critics within the genre, Terry Carr and Damon Knight among them, decided that, since the term was commonly derogatory, it might be critically useful in distinguishing sf hack-work – particularly ill written, lurid adventure stories – from sf of a more intellectually demanding kind. Around 1978 the critic Susan Wood and others began pronouncing the term "skiffy". In 1980s-1990s usage "skiffy", which sounds friendlier than "sci fi", has perhaps for that reason come to be less condemnatory. Skiffy is colourful, sometimes entertaining, junk sf: Star Wars is skiffy. In the twenty-first century, however, the countless younger readers who have grown up with "sci-fi" as the perceived default term for sf tend to be puzzled by long-term fans' disdain for it, and to suspect that the insistence on "sf" may be an elitist shibboleth rather than concern for correct usage. Though old-timers still prefer not to use "sci-fi", continuing disparagement of this term has become counter-productive. [PN/DRL]

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