What is SF Anyway?

April 21, 2016 Lisa Garforth No comments exist

Author: Lisa Garforth

What is sf anyway? When we started the Unsettling Science project discussions it seemed that we didn’t know (or couldn’t agree on) the name of the genre we are going to be studying. But how could we – and why should we? In sf terminology there are a lot more questions than answers.

What does sf even stand for? Is it ‘science’ fiction, and is that the same as ‘science fiction’? Do we prefer ‘speculative fiction’? If so, are we following Heinlein’s, Merrill’s, or – heaven forfend – Atwood’s usage? (There are many discussions of the history of this terminology; I enjoyed Andrew Milner’s)


Is science fiction a subset of a wider set of speculative genres as they expand and blur, or is speculation a sub-category of what science fiction does? We might start by consulting the inimitable Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (specifically Nicholls and Langford on speculative fiction; and I’m planning to explore what Gary K Wolfe has to say about it in ‘Evaporating Genres’.


Final question:

Why does the alternate short form ‘sci-fi’ feel like nails down a blackboard? Discuss.

Ward Shelley’s insanely detailed visual ‘History of Science Fiction’ or is it speculative fiction or SF or maybe even sci-fi…

You can see a large version of the print here, and more of Shelley’s work here.

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