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August 17, 2005

Rough Guide to Sci-Fi Movies Arrives

In the mail today:


Very pleased with the cover. Quite nicely iconic. At an earlier point, I think they were considering Rutger Hauer as Roy in Blade Runner for the cover, which would have been nice, too, but there were rights issues or some such. But I like the Metropolis cover just fine, myself.

The book itself is larger than I expected, both in physical size and in its length; I knew I wrote a lot, but I didn't realize how much until I thumbed through the thing. Even edited, it's fairly substantial -- but then, we did cover a lot of ground in the book. Aside from my work in writing it, the visual design inside is quite smart, and should you ever pick up the book for yourself, I humbly ask you to admire the index in the back, which was the work of Susan Marie Groppi, who absolutely saved my ass by doing such a fine job of it. Overall, a fabulous-looking book, and I thank everyone at Rough Guides (and Susan) for making it so.

One minor quibble I expect to see among the SF faithful is the fact the word "Sci-Fi" is in the title; when my Rough Guide editors told me what the title they were going with was, I noted some SF fen would not be pleased. However, the book is addressed not only to SF fans but to the wider reading audience, many of whom are more familiar with the term "sci-fi" than "SF" in reference to science fiction. I do have a sidebar in the book's introduction on the matter, which reads thusly:

Just as the citizens of San Francisco cringe when an out-of-towner calls the city "Frisco," so do many long-time fans of the science fiction genre become annoyed when someone outside their circle refers to science fiction as "sci-fi." To many longtime fans, "sci-fi" has the taint of being a "lite" version of the genre they know and love; therefore, many longtime fans use "SF" as their preferred shorter version. This antipathy is not universal -- many science fiction genre professionals don't care about it one way or another, and indeed, the US cable network devoted to science fiction and fantasy is the "Sci-Fi Channel" -- but inasmuch as the bias is there, we'd be remiss not to acknowledge it.
For the purposes of this book, we make no value judgments about the desirability of "SF," "sci-fi" or "science fiction" as labels -- we use them more or less interchangeably for the sake of variety. This book's author, a published science fiction novelist, does suggest that if you fall in with a group of longtime SF fans, that you use the term "SF" rather than "sci-fi" as an abbreviation simply to avoid the potential of being humorously ribbed by them about it (most long-time SF fans are actually pretty tolerant if you're showing genuine interest in the genre).
Also, should it come up, use "trekker" rather than "trekkie."

We'll see if that handles it.

One of the things I enjoy about doing a book for Rough Guides is the fact that it's edited by English people, so after they're done editing me, I end up reading like an Anglophile version of my self, complete with extra "u"s in my writing and the occasional bit of UK slang, like "knocked for six," which I assume -- but could not confirm if my life depended on it -- is an expression that comes from cricket. I think I would very much like to meet the Anglicized version of myself one day. He seems a fine chap.

As for the book availability itself: Amazon has it listed that it'll be available on October 17, which means it'll probably be available a little bit before then in bookstores, etc. Clearly, I think you should be on the lookout.

In any event: Whoo-hoo! Very happy day.

Posted by john at August 17, 2005 01:34 PM

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Ron | August 17, 2005 02:47 PM

Woo hoo! I just got my first copy of The Stewardess Is Flying the Plane late last week, too. Maybe we should tag-team our way across America's bookstores!

Chad Brink | August 17, 2005 02:49 PM

Looks good John. I like the cover they selected.

google 'Chad Brink' and you get John Scalzi in the first few hits.

John Scalzi | August 17, 2005 02:51 PM


"Maybe we should tag-team our way across America's bookstores!"

Indeed! We'd be like the Wonder Twins.

iain | August 17, 2005 03:25 PM

We'd be like the Wonder Twins

So, will it be a coin-flip that decides who gets to be Wendy?

Seriously, please post if you're doing any promotion up here in North East Ohi-uh.

John Scalzi | August 17, 2005 04:02 PM

I will of course update with any promotional stuff that I do.

abi | August 17, 2005 06:23 PM

"Knocked for six" is indeed a cricket term, the equivalent of hitting a home run in baseball. It's when the batsman hits the ball all the way over the boundary without it touching the ground and gets six runs as a consequence.

I could explain further, but it's against the rules.

mythago | August 17, 2005 08:09 PM


3³ | August 17, 2005 08:32 PM

I wish everyone could meet the anglicised version of themselves... unless they're actually English because then the universe might implode or something.

So what should I call San Francisco?

And what a great day too when America's Finest News Source "The Onion" gives us the great headline, "Evangelical Scientists Refute Gravity With New 'Intelligent Falling' theory." Which I think might amuse you.

Bill Peschel | August 17, 2005 09:05 PM

Love the cover and think it better than Roy. I love "Bladerunner," but "Metropolis" is more iconic and older.

Just today, wife and I were discussing 2001, which she and son saw last night (son's reaction: "Crap" but, then, he's 15). We were trying to figure out what SF movies were around before '69 but draw a blank at the memory bank for the '60s.

Would the guide tell me what was around during that time?

Bill Peschel | August 17, 2005 09:06 PM

(Sorry, forgot to add): I mean, a chronological list of titles, so we could slap the foreheads rough and say, "How could we forget THAT?"

John Scalzi | August 17, 2005 09:09 PM

The 60s are definitely discussed in Chapter two.

claire | August 17, 2005 10:07 PM

john, it's unfortunate that you chose the san francisco analogy, because san franciscans tend to abbreviate san francisco as ... you guessed it: "SF".

this is why, although i get geekier by the second, i still say "sci-fi". otherwise, i'd be an SF SF fan.

by the way, san franciscans don't just cringe when people say "frisco" (which almost no one says anymore) but also when people say "san fran". (best way to peg yourself as an outsider is to say "san fran".)

Jim | August 17, 2005 10:27 PM

Actually, I rather prefer "Sci Fi" in the title over "SF" because, after all, what the motion picture industry produces is far more likely to be Sci Fi than SF. That said, I lined up with my forty cents admission (student discount price) to see all of those fifties creature features -- giant ants, giant grasshoppers, giant spiders, flying saucers, growing blobs, incredible 50 ft tall women, incredible shrinking men, and "Klaatu barada nikto" -- and decades later saw a movie I had thought (at age 14 or so) to have been superior to the run-of-the-mil Sci Fi feature receive a thorough (and deserved) trashing on Mystery Science Theatre 3000.

Damn! I am looking forward to your new Rough Guide to Sci Fi Movies almost as much as I am the sequel to Old Man's War.

Patrick | August 18, 2005 09:48 AM

Congratulations. That is indeed a wonderful cover, and it's got at least two things going for it:

  1. It is an image of a robot.
  2. It is from an SF film from 1927, #89 in IMDB's top 250, and a reminder that the SF film legacy extends further back than Robby the Robot and "Klaatu barada nikto".

jas | August 18, 2005 12:01 PM

What, John, no digression in your sidebar to reference the now-prosaic "scientifiction?"

From http://www.absoluteastronomy.com/encyclopedia/s/sc/science_fiction.htm:

Another synonym is scientifiction, attributed to...Hugo Gernsback, creator of Amazing Stories magazine, but it has since fallen into disuse.

John Scalzi | August 18, 2005 12:18 PM

"What, John, no digression in your sidebar to reference the now-prosaic 'scientifiction?'"

I discuss "scientifiction" in Chapter One, on page 10, actually.

David Moles | August 18, 2005 12:36 PM

I've been trying to argue that it's about time we re-claimed "sci-fi" (and started rhyming it with "hi-fi") -- cf. "queer" -- but the idea hasn't gotten much traction.

Mark Ensley | August 19, 2005 03:15 AM

David Miles said, 'I've been trying to argue that it's about time we re-claimed "sci-fi" (and started rhyming it with "hi-fi")'

So... how is "sci-fi" supposed to be pronounced? I've always rhymed it with hi-fi.


Patrick | August 19, 2005 09:41 AM

Mark Ensley said:
So... how is "sci-fi" supposed to be pronounced? I've always rhymed it with hi-fi.

I understand that, when used in a derogatory manner by an (arguably snobbish) SF fan, it's pronounced "skiffy", and usually has connotations like "I can't believe I watched that lame ray-gun skiffy movie" or the like.

joh@n | October 1, 2005 07:17 PM

Hey John, are there any reviews on your books out there on the internet somewhere?

John Scalzi | October 1, 2005 07:44 PM

Not for "Sci-Fi Movies" as of yet, since it's not been released. But there are quite a number of reviews for Old Man's War, and some for Agent to the Stars as well. And of course there are a few for each on their respective Amazon pages.

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