Is The Science Channel after our hearts?

Discussion in 'Science Fiction & Fantasy' started by Gotham Central, Nov 23, 2012.

  1. Silvercrest

    Silvercrest Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Oct 4, 2003
    Maybe they should change their name from Science to Science Fiction. SyFy can hardly complain at this point. Poetic justice.
     
  2. JD

    JD Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Jul 22, 2004
    Location:
    Arizona, USA
    I'm starting to think Syfy should change their name to something more fantasy based, since other than Defiance, which doesn't even air until April, and Alphas, most of their stuff is more fantasy (Lost Girl, Merlin, Warehouse 13) or reality (Ghost Hunters, Face Off, Hot Set). I don't have a problem with the fantasy stuff, the three I listed are 3 of my favorite shows, but they aren't sci-fi. And before anyone points it out, I know fantasy is often categorized with sci-fi, but that doesn't change the fact that it isn't sci-fi.
     
  3. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

    Joined:
    Mar 15, 2001
    Well, "sci-fi" has generally been a much looser term than "science fiction" or "SF," since it's more of a pop-culture and mass-media label, and the lines have long been far more blurred there.

    Anyway, the network's title has never been intended as a mere functional description of its content. The reason they originally chose "The SciFi Channel" as their name rather than "The Science Fiction Channel" was because they wanted something that was more of a distinctive brand than just a description, since they were always open to showing fantasy, horror, and other types of entertainment than just science fiction. The change to "Syfy" is taking it even further -- not only is it is a unique label, but it's one they can trademark. (I suspect the same reasoning is behind the Sleuth network's recent name change to the rather ridiculous "Cloo.") What it literally means is beside the point; it's about creating a recognizable brand identity.
     
  4. JD

    JD Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Jul 22, 2004
    Location:
    Arizona, USA
    I guess that makes sense. I would have rather seen them go with something more generic, like Imagine or something more vague like that.
     
  5. Temis the Vorta

    Temis the Vorta Fleet Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Oct 30, 1999
    Location:
    Tatoinne
    I've never met a single person in my life who said they expected to learn science from sci fi on TV or in movies.

    People may assume that TV and movies reflect reality rather than being a lot of BS created for the purpose of entertainment, but let's face it, those people are probably hopeless and their idiocy shouldn't impact how shows and movies are created. And again, I don't actually know people who are that dimwitted, although that might be more a result of my selectiveness in who I associate with, than anything else. ;)

    In my experience, people do understand that just because Ross on Friends has a huge apartment, that doesn't mean every person with a moderate salary in Manhattan has a huge apartment. And just because the Enterprise flies faster than light, that doesn't mean it will ever be possible in reality.

    I thought that was the reason behind the silly name change, to signal that they're not "just" sci fi (and also have something copyrightable). I currently don't watch anything on SyFy, because nothing appeals to me, although I'm not positive that would change if they had more sci fi content.
     
  6. JD

    JD Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Jul 22, 2004
    Location:
    Arizona, USA
    ^I'd heard that about Syfy when they first changed it, but since then I've heard that the only reason they changed it was so they had a name they could trademark or copyright. I can never remember which you do with something like that.
     
  7. cylkoth

    cylkoth Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Jan 16, 2003
  8. Kegg

    Kegg Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Sep 24, 2009
    Location:
    Ireland.
    Not particularly. The use of the label in media is not really any different from how it's used in literature.
     
  9. stonester1

    stonester1 Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Nov 14, 2004

    Exactly. "Real Science" in science fiction is fine, but science fiction, regardless of the sub genre, is about "ideas". Never mind the moving target that real science is (what is possible, never mind what is "real" is constantly changing or being reconceptualized), science fiction is more about provoking thought. And even the "hard science fiction" variety should be more about our current conceptions about what is real and what is possible. It should be about the limits, the edge about it, speculate beyond it, and mediate about what it means for us, humanity and the future.

    It should make me ponder, make me feel, make me wonder.

    And that is about far more than what goes on in the lab. Like the special effects, as interesting as it all is, it is just a prop. Not the point.

    Now, I will grant you that incorporating "real science" can add a grounding as well as a gee whiz factor. And I'm all for it, as long as you accomplish the REAL mission of good science fiction, be entertaining and thought provoking, both of the latter two in equal measures.
     
  10. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

    Joined:
    Mar 15, 2001
    As long as you harp on that, you're missing the point. You're approaching it from the wrong direction. The point is not about what people "expect," because expectations are often self-limiting. The point is that the reason people have that expectation is that few SFTV producers have tried to make their work educational. And so people haven't seen what's achievable.

    Science fiction can be a powerful educational tool. I know that from firsthand experience. And there are, in fact, people who are working to promote greater scientific literacy in film and TV -- scientists, educators, and filmmakers cooperating to make it happen. It's called The Science & Entertainment Exchange. Follow the link, read the site, learn the facts instead of being trapped by what you "expect."


    You're making a false and arrogant assumption. Every human being is equally susceptible to this. As I explained, it's just a function of how our brains evolved. I'm sure there are quite a few things you believe to be true that you've unconsciously osmosed from film and TV, that you've never questioned because film & TV are your only exposure to them. It's not "idiocy," it's just an unavoidable consequence of a lifestyle where so much of our perception of the world is shaped by what we see on TV rather than what we directly experience.


    I'm not talking about the obvious breaks from life experience. I'm talking about the things that people have no other basis of comparison for and thus don't realize are implausible. As I said, countless people really do believe that crashed cars are time bombs waiting to go off, and they really do injure people trying to rush them away from their car crashes as a result. Countless people have similar misconceptions about police procedure and courtroom procedure because they've never experienced the reality, only the pervasive fictional misrepresentations. They don't question their assumptions because they've never been told anything else.

    And there are tons of Americans out there who don't even know that the Earth revolves around the Sun, or can't tell the difference between a star system and a galaxy. They're not going to know that what they see on TV is wrong. But that's exactly why it's such a missed opportunity. Teach real science on TV and in movies, and it'll help make up for that gross deficiency of science education in our schools.



    It's a little of both, but mostly what you said, JD. In fact, as I said, the reason they called themselves The SciFi Channel rather than The Science Fiction Channel to begin with was because they didn't want to limit themselves by claiming they only broadcast science fiction. So there was nothing new about that. The main reason for the change to Syfy was for trademarking purposes.



    There are many people in literary SF who'd disagree with you passionately. For decades, people in the prose SF community considered "sci-fi" a derogatory term, and many would protest as vehemently as if it were an ethnic slur. I think that attitude has faded somewhat, but I'm sure it's still present. In the prose SF community, the preferred terms are science fiction, SF, or sf. "Sci-fi" is often seen as a term for mass-media content that has the trappings of SF but isn't the "pure" stuff.
     
  11. Kegg

    Kegg Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Sep 24, 2009
    Location:
    Ireland.
    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.
     
  12. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

    Joined:
    Mar 15, 2001
    ^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?"
     
  13. Kegg

    Kegg Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Sep 24, 2009
    Location:
    Ireland.
    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.

    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.
    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.
     
  14. Owain Taggart

    Owain Taggart Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Nov 30, 2009
    Location:
    Northern Ontario, Canada
    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.
     
  15. stonester1

    stonester1 Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Nov 14, 2004
    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?).
     
  16. RPJOB

    RPJOB Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Apr 11, 2012
    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.
     

Share This Page