Cable’s Sci Fi channel is changing its name to Syfy, which sounds the same but can be trademarked, in an attempt to "broad[en] perceptions and embrac[e] a wider and more diverse range of imagination-based entertainment including fantasy, paranormal, reality, mystery, action and adventure, as well as science fiction," according to the network’s statement. Which…I guess? It looks like "siffy" to me, but okie doke.
I know that selling sci-fi is an uphill battle — is there another genre with such a stigma that it’s commonplace for people to categorically refuse to watch any of it? As someone who’s spent the last four years and change recommending Battlestar Galactica, I’ve started to appreciate how severe an aversion some people claim to have. I’ve even said, "it’s not really sci-fi!" in attempting to convince people to give it a try. Well, uh, eff that noise.
Let’s take a pledge, PopWatchers, all of us together: Let’s stop apologizing for sci-fi. Let’s stop playing into the idea that sci-fi is fringe, or a guilty pleasure. Let’s rightfully claim fantasy and superhero literature as part of the sci-fi family — a family tree whose roots and branches are so intertwined that it’s impossible to tell where one begins and another ends. We may not be able to agree on a strict definition of sci-fi or speculative fiction, but we can agree that while it may not be synonymous with fantasy or superhero stories, there’s a lovely gray area where the genres overlap.
Most of all, let’s reject the notion that sci-fi isn’t mainstream. In the last decade, two Star Wars movies have been the top-grossing films of their year. If we use an inclusive definition of sci-fi, we can add Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and Return of the King to our list of box-office winners; The Dark Knight, Spider-Man, and Spider-Man 3 aren’t too far off. The top five grossing movies for 2005? StarWars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith, The Chronicles of Narnia: TheLion, the Witch and the Wardrobe; Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire;War of the Worlds; and King Kong. In 2007, Transformers, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, and I Am Legend were in the top six. Last year, The Dark Knight, Iron Man, and WALL-E were among the top five. Star Trek is coming back. Lost and Heroes have generated buzz on TV. But tell me again about how many people would never watch sci-fi.
So if changing a station’s name to the contrived "Syfy" helpswussies cop to their fandom, fine — I can deal. Because I know, andyou do too, that science-fiction by any other name is still totally,totally sweet.