SciFi is SciFi not SyFy

[Editor’s Note: This is a rant.]

From my Facebook group SciFi is SciFi not SyFy, click the link to join the Revolution!

This morning, I heard that the Sci-Fi Channel decided to rebrand and call themselves SyFy. At first, I had to check the calendar to make sure it wasn’t April 1st. Then, it sunk in.

They were serious.

I read the New York Times article and my jaw dropped…

“We couldn’t own Sci Fi; it’s a genre,” said Bonnie Hammer, the former president of Sci Fi who became the president of NBC Universal Cable Entertainment and Universal Cable Productions. “But we can own Syfy.”

Really? Is is all about owning a name? I thought it was about creating good television. Silly me. I forgot how this works, but now I’m starting to remember.

Recently, I read a similar bit about the Cartoon Network executives chomping at the bit to get some more live action on their channel. They felt it would boost ratings. Live action? Uhhh… it’s CARTOON NETWORK, folks. Silly me, right?

If the folks at NBC no longer want to own, I’m happy to take it. I’ll even pay for the domain transfer fee. No problem. Trust me. I’ll take good care of it. I won’t try to rename it or make it easier to text (because four characters is sooo much easier than six). I won’t even try to compete with the new SyFy Channel as I’m sure that after the rebranding anything resembling Science Fiction will be removed from the network.

Or has that already happened?

A Little Skiffy History

Today, I created a group on Facebook to protest this change. Pretty soon a number of friends came in and Wrich Printz posted this comment on the wall:

I really wish they would focus more on good shows, and less on copywriting.

Farscape – gone
Battlestar – soon gone
Caprica – unknown
Dresden Files – gone (as well as underperforming and poorly plotted….much different than the books)

When AMC can do Mad Men, and Breaking Bad (Two asskickers of shows)…there is no reason that top notch SF cannot be produced and served to the public more frequently, by Top 4/5 channels.

Changing their name to SyFy is not going to suddenly improve their content, or make them more than an aggrigator of C movies and fake ass ghost shows.

Yeah, so maybe it doesn’t matter. Maybe the SciFi is already gone from SyFy and the name change is only the formalization of an ongoing process.

Here’s a nice comment from author Gregory Frost that came in on Twitter:

For years I’ve called a certain type of speculative fiction “skiffy.” For example, the remake of “Day the Earth…” Skiffy.

I like Skiffy. It’s funny and it’s meant to be used by people who know better to make light of things like SyFy. People like Melisa Michael of the SFWA:

I believe it was in the sixties that I was first told (quite firmly) that one does not say “sci-fi” when referring to what I thought was called sci-fi.

“Sci-Fi means bug-eyed monsters,” I was told. “B movies. The Blob. Hollywood.”

Her essay was written way back in 1996 and ties into a conversation stirred up by Damon Knight on the term sci-fi. The thoughts of many authors are archived on this page. I think my favorite of the bunch is from Eileen Gunn:

Eileen Gunn: I think “sci-fi” is a very useful term — it can be used straight-forwardly with people who don’t have negative associations about it, and it can be used offensively, sarcastically, or ironically with them that do.

What does do with SyFy? Is it useful?

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

Matt Staggs has an excellent post on the subject of Geek Militancy over on Enter the Octopus.

Rather than being helplessly weak and socially handicapped, geeks, weirdos and eccentrics have always made things happen in this world. We are the font of all innovation. We aren’t scared to wander away from the safe confines of the campfire and return with the bounties of art, science and culture. Prometheus was the original geek, and all of us are his children. The linear thinkers, desperate conformists and dullards of this world need us, and deep down, they know it. They ridicule and point fingers because they’re afraid if we realize we’re the givers of culture and science then we’ll start demanding what’s rightfully ours. And what is that? What is rightfully ours? Respect.

Really, you should read Matt’s post. It’s magnificent.

You have to hand it to the massive marketing geniuses at SyFy. I mean, after all, who would want legions of trekkies and nerds flocking to their network?

It’s not like this demographic is generally employed in some of the best paying fields in the economy. It’s not like they worship the genre or anything. No, let’s just trash all that and go for the bling. Let’s get some real high-end advertising.

Getting back to Eileen Gunn’s comment, maybe that’s the best thing to do… Keep calling SyFy The Sci-Fi Channel regardless of the multi-million dollar rebranding effort under way. Keep calling it Sci-Fi channel because the people who want to change it have some negative association with the term. Keep calling it Sci-Fi because we are the Children of Prometheus, as Matt suggests and we’re going to stick it to the gods who think they know better because their focus group tests tell them so…

Or maybe it’s time to join my revolution… 🙂

What do you think?

Update: Check out Randy Henderson’s: 16 Reasons Why Sci-Fi can go SyFy. That’s not the name of the post, but it ought to be. 🙂

14 thoughts on “SciFi is SciFi not SyFy

  1. Well said. Much better said than this geek can say it, so I will let you say it and I will stick to my code and Sarah Conner Chronicles. No wait, that’s Fox not Syfy, Sci-Fi, wait. I am confused.

  2. Very well put! Thanks for writing this. Many of the smartest, most affluent people I know are members of this “alternative” geek lifestyle. And thank you for the links to more sources. I’ll be joining the group on FB next time I log on.

  3. I remember when cool things used to show up on the Sci-Fi Channel. I also remember that it started to become, as you say, little more than second – (or third or fourth or fifth) rate fluff & nonsense.
    Let them have SyFy, and let someone who gives a rat’s ass about the genre reboot Sci-Fi as a network, say I.

    Heather´s last blog post..Emotional Witch-ducking, part 2: The Next Adventure

  4. Yeah, SyFy… it’s a gimmick to dry and draw people commercially back to their station, especially now that the only two original shows they had going for them popularitywise: Battlestar Galactica and StarGate, are both done. now as SyFy, they’ll be in the news, and people will get curious for a few months. Ratings will go back up… I used to have such high hopes for the channel, but really, now it doesn’t matter what they call themselves. I couldn’t care less.

    Jenny Bean´s last blog post..If it isn’t broken…

  5. I’m thinking that if SyFy wanted to be cool… well, is there a better time than now to be a geek?

  6. Jamie, I am not a die hard Sci-Fi fan but even I think the name change is ridiculous. When cable first started the niche channels I was excited that I could turn to a channel, like Sci-Fi and catch Twilight Zone episodes. I could count on that channel to deliver programming in its niche. In recent years however, many of these channels seemed to have stretched the boundaries inserting other programming in, in an obvious attempt to broaden its base. So the Sci-Fi might carry a movie where the lights go off cause you know that could be science fiction. Good on you for the revolution. If we the people stay silent…well you know what happens.

    Karen Swim´s last blog post..Savoring the Now

  7. Why not SyFy? I get the idea, if you Gooogle “Sci-fi”, you get a lot of stuff not relevant to their channel. Now you can find them that much faster. And it goes to the four-letter format that guides like TIVO use.

    Is it stupid? Yes. Do I get it? Yes. They should have thought of this the first time. Changing away from “Sci-Fi” to “SyFy” is not going to be popular. Starting out there might explain away better.

    Maybe they blamed ambiguous marketing for poor DVD sales of their Sci-Fi Original movies? *stifles guffaw* And no, a name change won’t improve the shows unless it represents a true change in thinking…but I don’t think a change to “improved marketing minds” will help.

    I always thought a variation on a Clarion workshop as a reality show would work well on Sci-Fi (SyFy?) in connection with their website. I’d watch it. So would a lot of writers, wannabe writers, and better-than-any-writers out there with a television set. Bonuses for the attendee with the best story rating each week…something like that. No need to vote the worst story home unless you’re just getting a thrill from the meanness of it all.

    Okay, I’m supposed to be commenting, not blogging. I’ll stop typing.


    Oso´s last blog post..the pressure is getting to me

  8. @Matt It’s ok. I’m confused too. Not as confused as the SyFy people but confused nonetheless.

    @Trish It’s kinda crazy isn’t it? I mean, well, maybe it’s fine in the end. Like Heather says, Sci-Fi used to be cool.

    @Heather Well said. 😉

    @Jenny Seems to be a trend forming here. I’m starting to think I shouldn’t care either. Still, it was nice to have a reason to use Photoshop to make my logo. LOL

    @Karen You know what’s odd is that I’m not a Sci-Fi purist either. I like all the varied elements of the genre. I think what upset me about this is the the fact that they sort of tossed a whole group of people into the rubbish bin. That is, ultimately, the reason for my call for revolution. Like you said, the people cannot remain silent. 🙂

    @Oso In my comment to Karen, I think I got to the root of the problem. I also wish they’d done something a wee bit more interesting. A fellow I work with suggested SyFi and maybe that works better. Meh. Like you said, a name change certainly isn’t going to change the quality of the programming.

  9. I do tend to notice that companies get popular by doing something in their niche really really well, then messing up by trying to expand outside the niche. Better to maintain the niche and its followers and develop a new niche altogether. Why mess with something that works? (Because of the stupid idea that if business isn’t growing it’s shrinking creating an overcomsumptive mentality that ruins any decent product).


    Alex Fayle | Someday Syndrome´s last blog post..The Theory of Suckiness

  10. @Alex It’s crazy isn’t it? Btw, am I seeing your avatar correctly? Are you wear a tie???? 🙂

  11. It doesn’t matter. Any and all quality science fiction on the Sci-Fi channel is, at this point, pretty much gone.

    I used to love the Sci-Fi channel…

    I lamented the fact that, when I moved, my new cable company didn’t carry the Sci-Fi channel. I harassed them month after month until they finally started offering it.

    These days, however, I hardly ever watch it. They’re constantly airing crap or re-runs. The crap I can do without, and the re-runs I can get many other places.

  12. “Sci-Fi” itself irritated us fans, who have said “SF” since Hugo Gernsback’s original “scientifiction”, abbreviated “stf”, fell out of favor in the 1930’s. No, I’m not *that* old, but I’d voted in two Presidential elections before the first “Star Wars” movie came out. The founders of the Sci-Fi network got complaints, but those founders were pitchmen who didn’t give a damn about anything but finding a way to pitch to people who would rather read than watch celebrity scandal, brain-dead sitcoms or the murder-of-the-week.

  13. Changing the name of the channel to “SyFy” is the stupidest thing I have ever heard.

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