There has been something of an outpouring of bile directed at NBC for its decision to change the name of the Sci-Fi channel to Syfy.
I will attempt to forget, for at least a moment, that "Syf" is the Polish word for "total bloody mess." (It seems to have its roots in the lesions of syphilis.) And "Syfy" would be, well, the plural.
Then I'll feel free to admit that the name change might not be so terrible.
I know that those who feel that science fiction is an entity to be venerated like the relics of a saint may feel deeply aggrieved, though the Sci-Fi channel doesn't actually present all that much programming that might strictly be defined as science fiction.
However, I suspect that somewhere beyond the arguments for wanting a name the channel can trademark is an argument that the phrase "science fiction" has become a little old.
Sometimes words or phrases linger in the language and take on personas that those who love them didn't quite mean them to have. Sometimes, and it's happening far more, thanks to the Web, words and phrases are exposed so much, they mutate beyond anyone's control. "Liberal" is one. "Conservative" is another.
Perhaps one of the biggest of these is the word "literature." Too often, literature has been uttered with a very fine British accent in an attempt to make it the Ritz-Carlton of books. Instead, it's become the Buckingham Palace. A place where some might stop and stare, but which far too few could imagine they'll actually enjoy. So they don't bother trying.
Science fiction sometimes feels a little like that--an exclusive and aging club for those who possess the trappings of membership: some facet of supposed nerdism, some commitment to scientific superiority.
Moreover, isn't there something a little strange when so many who live, breathe, and adore brands called Google, Twitter, Yahoo and, my favorite this week, Aardvark, and whose lexicon comprises such abbreviations as "luv," "LOL," and "IMHO," suddenly toss spit at science fiction being reduced to Syfy?
The childlike word trend (and there's nothing wrong with it, IMHO) surely got its thrust in tech. Should the phrase "science fiction" be immune from that?
Of course, what will matter greatly is which shows Syfy will create. And for whom. Maybe, just maybe, it wants to get beyond some of the limiting notions of the phrase "science fiction." Maybe it will create a new interpretation that is somehow more involving for more people.
On the other hand, there's Syfy's tagline: "Imagine Greater." I'd love to try to defend it (and fail). But my attention is being pulled toward imagining a greater dance floor version of Steve Wozniak. Is that within the realm of human possibility?