[Ads-l] Small antedating of "sci-fi"

Jesse Sheidlower jester at PANIX.COM
Mon Mar 28 18:31:10 UTC 2022

We've looked at the history of the term _sci-fi_ at various times on the list before. Despite the coinage being often credited to Forrest J. Ackerman in 1954, it has the feel of a Varietyism, and Fred Shapiro found an example in Variety on 17 Feburary 1954 (the earliest we have from Ackerman is December 1954). (There's a "1949" example in a collection of Robert Heinlein's letters, but this was subsequently shown to have been an editorial mistranscription of "sci-fic".)

Ben Ostrowsky, a reference librarian who has been contributing extensively to the Historical Dictionary of Science Fiction, found a reference in HathiTrust to a supposed January 1954 use in Cue magazine, and was able to confirm this in a physical issue (thank you, Indiana University library staff!). So, that's another three and a half weeks! Note the italicization of "sci-fi", as if it's a foreignism.

1954 J. Zunser _Donovan’s Brain_ in _Cue_ 23 Jan. 20/3 (review)
This is a taut little horror film about a surgeon who falls under the malignant influence of a disembodied brain he has extracted from a corpse. Taken in the usual _sci-fi_ spirit, it’s fun—a weird combination of fact, fiction and conviction—well acted by Lew Ayres as the surgeon, Gene Evans, Nancy Davis and Steve Brodie.

Jesse Sheidlower

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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