Linda Nagata: the blog at Hahví.net

Times Change: “SF” vs “Sci-Fi”

Thursday, May 30th, 2013

Long ago it was taught to me that within the science fiction genre we should never say “Sci-Fi.” If we want an abbreviation, we use the initials “SF.” Otherwise it’s “science fiction.”

The general reason given for avoiding “sci-fi” was that logically it should be pronounced “skiffy.” (Shaun Duke and Jen Zink have turned this right around by creating The Skiffy & Fanty Show).

Really though, I think it’s a tribal thing. Within the genre, “Sci-fi” was seen as a term used by dilettantes, those who might have picked up a Michael Crichton novel or two, watched some Star Trek or Star Wars, but in all likelihood knew little to nothing about the core of the genre.

I used to wince when someone would say to me, “Oh, I love sci-fi!”

But you know what? Times change. I now freely use the term “sci-fi” — and twitter is the reason.

Twitter allows a maximum of 140 characters per tweet. “SciFi” without the hyphen takes up five. “Science Fiction” requires fifteen. That’s a HUGE difference when I’m trying to tweet something like:

“There Needs To Be A War Going On Somewhere” The Red: First Light is a near-future scifi thriller. Read a sample:

That’s 136 characters. Spelling out “science fiction” would break it.

So why not use “SF” which is even shorter? Because for most people “SF” stands for “San Francisco.” Yes. Truth. I have confused people by using SF in a tweet. I may be an “SF Writer” but I’m not a writer from San Francisco and The Red: First Light is not set in San Francisco.

So I have taken to heart a quotation from Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon:


I’ve put aside my tribal prejudice and, on twitter at least, I’ve adopted the use of “Sci-Fi.” I understand this is a kind of heresy, but then, I’m a fiery revolutionary indie publisher…or at any rate, I’m a pragmatist.

Ya’ gotta’ do what ya’ gotta’ do.

You know?