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When did the term sci-fi come into usage?

  • It's always been around, but until the advent of big-time shows like Star Trek/Wars, the usual reference to science fiction was just SF, pronounced /ɛsɛf/. Today sci-fi, pronounced /sayfay/, refers more to film, video, game, and comic genres of science fiction mythologies -- often mixed with fantasy indistinguishably -- while written science-fiction is still called SF, and distinguished (usually) from fantasy as a genre. – John Lawler Jul 4 '14 at 18:58
  • I remember reading an essay by someone like Asimov about the term (and it's history vs. SF etc); the guy was so prolific I have no idea where I might have seen it, but perhaps an introduction to a compilation? – starwed Jul 4 '14 at 22:51
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    I'm not sure how current it is, but among the fans who used to go to science fiction conventions and publish fanzines, SF is what we read, and Sci-Fi, pronounced "skiffy", is what those-people-who-don't-know-any-better are interested in. – Colin Fine Jul 4 '14 at 23:49
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According to ngrams it started increasing in popularity around 1965.

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The OED online has a citation from 1954:

1954 Variety 17 Feb. 38/4 ‘Junior Science’, aside from its positive qualities, is a rewarding change of pace from the more thunderous sci-fi and spaceship packages.

And it notes that sci-fic and S.F. are earlier:

S.F.:

1929 Sci. Wonder Stories June 92/3 The S.F. Magazine. (Science-Fiction).

1948 G. Conklin Treas. Sci. Fiction p. ix, Many SF writers are feeling the urgent need for social controls over our physical powers.

sci-fic:

1939 Le Zombie 18 Nov. 2 Popular Pubs does not now publish a sci-fic mag.

1952 J. Merril in Thrilling Wonder Stories Dec. 6/1 Does your science-fiction story taste different lately? Is the flat familiar stale taste disappearing?.. There's a reason. Its name is Synthesis, and sci-fic is its prophet.

  • The OED2 provides a 1955 citation from Britannica Book of the Year and a 1957 one from MD Medical Newsmag. I wouldn’t be surprised if they’ve found prior references since then. – tchrist Jul 4 '14 at 19:38
  • @tchrist I've updated the answer to include some background. – Mr. Shiny and New 安宇 Jul 4 '14 at 20:45
  • Yes, I see; thanks. But alas, it won’t let me upvote again. :) – tchrist Jul 4 '14 at 20:46

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