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Science Fiction & Fantasy Farscape, Babylon 5, Star Wars, Firefly, vampires, genre books and film.

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Old November 24 2012, 03:20 PM   #31
Kegg
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Re: Is The Science Channel after our hearts?

Christopher wrote: View Post
There are many people in literary SF who'd disagree with you passionately.
And they would be factually wrong. Novels with no interest in hard science are marketed as, sold as, and win awards as science fiction.

You can argue about what you want science fiction to mean, but that is different from how the word is widely used.
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Old November 24 2012, 04:37 PM   #32
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Re: Is The Science Channel after our hearts?

^I'm not talking about the level of science here. That's got nothing to do with it. When I'm talking about "sci-fi" versus "science fiction," it's an entirely separate subject from the main thrust of this discussion about science content in SF; it's a sidebar having only to do with the reason The SciFi Channel's executives gave for choosing that name instead of "The Science Fiction Channel."

No one would call Harlan Ellison a hard-SF writer; his work tends to be more literary and often borders on the fanciful. But he's always been one of the most ferocious objectors to the term "sci-fi" (as he is about most everything else). Same with David Gerrold, who also wrote some strongly worded essays on the subject that I recall reading.

You have to remember, a generation or two ago, in the '50s and '60s and '70s, science fiction as a genre was not well-regarded by the general public. It may be hard to understand today, when virtually all the most popular and profitable film franchises in history are SF/fantasy, but back then it was considered an entertainment ghetto -- mindless, lowbrow stuff that was only suitable for children, the stuff of B-grade monster movies and Captain Video and Lost in Space. When most people -- and critics -- in the general public referred to "sci-fi," that's what they were thinking of, so they frequently used the term with derogatory intent. And so people in the serious science fiction community resented being painted with the same brush, having their intelligent, literary work dismissed as no better than Attack of the Giant Rutabagas. Calling what they did "sci-fi" was seen as fighting words.

These days, with less scorn for fantastic fiction among the general public, I think the stigma attached to the "sci-fi" label has subsided, which may be why you're unaware of what a slur it was once considered to be. But I think it's still useful to draw a distinction between the two labels. There is a lot of difference between prose and mass-media SF -- not simply where science content is concerned, but in countless ways. Generally the mass-media content is for a more general audience, and so there are a lot of things it just doesn't take nearly as far as prose SF does. There's less in-depth exploration of ideas and exotica, less of the sort of things that an experienced lit-SF audience would be primed for but a more general audience might find off-putting. For instance, there's prose SF whose protagonists are far removed from being human, whose values are very different from those of our society, whose environments are staggeringly alien. You won't really find that in mass-media SF because that audience needs more familiar protagonists that are easier to identify with. So the concepts tend to be more basic, the plot and character tropes more familiar, the SF or fantasy elements a smaller part of the whole. And while there is certainly a lot of prose SF/fantasy that blurs the lines between the genres, it's rarer to find film or TV material that doesn't blur them to some extent. Again, the latter is aiming for a broader, mass audience, less niche-oriented, and so it tends to encompass a broader range of ideas that get blended together. Countless people, critics, magazines, bookstores, etc. use the term "sci-fi" to encompass SF, fantasy, horror, sometimes even stuff like James Bond movies -- the whole continuum of fantastic/genre fiction perceived as a blended whole.

So while the terms "sci-fi" and "science fiction" do certainly overlap in meaning, it's fair to say that "sci-fi" is a term that can be used a lot more broadly -- that has been used in pop culture for decades to encompass all fantastic fiction whether it's science-based or not. So I think it's useful to draw a distinction between "science fiction" as a more precise category and "sci-fi" as a looser, broader label.

And apparently the people who decided on the name "The SciFi Channel" felt the same way. I wish I could cite the interview I read a couple of decades ago wherein the channel's executives explained their thinking about the difference in meaning between "SciFi" and "Science Fiction," so I could prove that I'm not presenting my opinion, but relaying theirs. What I recall them explaining is that they chose "SciFi" because they felt it was a less restrictive and literal label for their network than "Science Fiction," that it would better convey the broader, more flexible programming range they intended.

Although clearly it failed to do so, since people still had the impression they were supposed to be only science fiction, and that's part of why they changed to "Syfy" -- not as a change of policy, as some assume, but as a clarification of what their policy had been all along. Although you still hear people making the same complaint -- "Why call it Syfy if it's not just science fiction?"
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Old November 24 2012, 04:55 PM   #33
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Re: Is The Science Channel after our hearts?

Christopher wrote: View Post
^I'm not talking about the level of science here. That's got nothing to do with it. When I'm talking about "sci-fi" versus "science fiction,"
But what I'm saying is there is no seperate category for "sci-fi" in bookstores.

There are no seperate labels or awards for "sci-fi" books.

The term was originally coined as a shortening of science fiction and - other than use as a derogatory term, which yes, I am familiar with - it doesn't have any further concrete meaning.

How science fiction is used as a genre signifier in literature and media is not basically different. Red Dwarf and Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy are basically in the same genre box.

Countless people, critics, magazines, bookstores, etc. use the term "sci-fi" to encompass SF, fantasy, horror, sometimes even stuff like James Bond movies -- the whole continuum of fantastic/genre fiction perceived as a blended whole.
Which one finds - in specifically literature tersm - with science fiction and fantasy usually sharing the same shelf space, and with the current popularity of slipstreaming fiction that is either both science fiction and fantasy or is otherwise ambiguous in its genre relationships.
"Why call it Syfy if it's not just science fiction?"
On that subject, right now two of the three science fiction series I'm watching are Syfy's HD broadcasts of the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation and their broadcast of Showcase's Continuum. The third seasons is the Syfy produced webseries Battlestar Galactica: Blood & Chrome.

While it's true the first two cases are Syfy's UK channel and thus not applicate to American viewers, the station is still doing pretty okay by me.
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Old November 24 2012, 08:39 PM   #34
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Re: Is The Science Channel after our hearts?

I'm thinking that it's not so much realism, but a lack of attention to detail by either script writers or visual effects people,and I feel it's one of the weaker areas of Science Fiction on TV and movies. Whenever something specific is mentioned, 90% of the time, it's completely factually wrong, and it's as if nothing was researched and it comes across as really lazy, and it's an area where things could be educational if done right, but they take the easy way out. I mean, I understand that Science Fiction has some fantastical elements, but to the things that are known factually, there's little to any excuse for any of this to be happening.

To be fair, it's not just Science-Fiction, but anytime science is invoked in a TV show, or even a commercial. There's a recent Little Caesars commercial, as an example, where a father and son are doing some astronomy in a field. That part they got right as it looks very much like what someone would be doing if they were out observing. The setup is good, but: a) keen observers would note that there's bright white light shining in their faces, blinding them and preventing them from seeing anything. If you were to bring white light to an observing site, one would be promptly yelled at for doing so and told to turn off their light. And B), the scope is pointing in the wrong direction, where he'd be seeing his knee instead of the sky. Both things could have been easily researched and fixed, and the result would be a red-light shot which would more astronomically correct and likely also get a better atmospheric shot.
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Old November 25 2012, 08:14 AM   #35
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Re: Is The Science Channel after our hearts?

Little things of that nature don't bother me. But when they are aggregious, it can be annoying (such as bad usage of astronomical terminology in the original Battlestar Galactica) to the point of unwatchable (Armageddon, where do I start?).
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Old November 25 2012, 06:54 PM   #36
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Re: Is The Science Channel after our hearts?

Saying that miniaturizing the air molecules makes the science better is laughable. It's a silly, goofy concept and a fun episode but there's no science there any more than the mention of evolution makes Threshold's "science" better.
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