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Skiffy is a deliberate humorous misspelling or mispronunciation of the controversial term "sci-fi", a neologism referring to science fiction.
The term "sci-fi" was publicly adopted as an alternate form of "science fiction" by Forrest ("Forry") J Ackerman by 1954, in analogy to the then-cutting edge "hi-fi". Ackerman was a long-time fan who created Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine, which celebrated the monster/SF movies that were frowned upon by many hardcore science fiction fans as being too poor in quality to be taken seriously, and definitely not to be confused with "real" science fiction.
In the late 1960s, a new movement of science fiction writers, the "New Wave", arose. It tended to reject science fiction's pulpy background and to scorn the term "sci-fi" as being associated with bad monster movies. Even the term "science fiction" was seen by some in the New Wave as too limiting, and "speculative fiction" was introduced as an alternative. Some advocated the use of the initials "SF", as they could be taken to refer to either "science fiction" or "speculative fiction". Not everyone agreed with this new nomenclature, however, and while the term "sci-fi" continued to be widely used, and pronounced "sigh-fie", the pronunciation "skiffy" began to appear among science fiction insiders in the late 1970s.
One of the first well-documented uses of the term "skiffy" was in the name of a science fiction and fantasy fan club at the University of Chicago, which was formed during the 1980s, and lasted until it was disbanded in 2003. Skiffy is still the name of the science fiction and fantasy club at the College of William and Mary, as well as (not always affectionate) shorthand for the American cable channel then called Sci Fi.
By the late 1990s, the term "skiffy" was well-enough accepted that Mike Resnick and Patrick Nielsen Hayden released a book called Alternate Skiffy, an anthology featuring stories about what might have happened if the lives of various well-known science fiction writers had turned out differently. Spider Robinson also used it in a pair of Lord Buckley-style raps about Robert Heinlein in a short story collection.
- "Is This Stuff Sci-Fi, SF, Or Skiffy?", an essay by former SFWA webmaster Melisa Michaels
- Peter Nicholls, "Sci fi", in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, Orbit, 1993. ISBN 1-85723-124-4.
- SKIFFY - the science fiction & fantasy club of the college of william and mary
- Alternate Skiffy, ed. Mike Resnick & Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Wildside Press 1998. ISBN 1-880448-54-8.