karen_w_newton (karen_w_newton) wrote,

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Riding a BC all the way to SF

Years ago when I first started following online chats and list serves about science fiction, I was surprised when a poster who used the term "sci-fi" promptly got jumped on for being disrespectful. He was told firmly that he had to say SF if he didn't want to insult people.

It struck me as incongruous because there were other posts lamenting the shrinking speculative fiction market and wondering why more people weren't reading it, or complaining that fandom was getting older and younger people weren't joining in. And yet, here was someone who liked science fiction getting blasted for using the "wrong" term for it.

I was also surprised that folks in the field had adopted the term "SF" because to me that clearly meant San Francisco, I know if I had walked into a bookstore back then and seen an "SF" section, I would have wondered why there were so damn many books on San Francisco.

Now, more than ten years later, I frankly don't care if people want to say sci-fi or SF. They mean the same thing to me. However, the froofraw is still going on, as outlined by a recent post on shunn's blog. Most of that debate is about other things but part of it is the old "sci-fi" bugaboo.

With my own early experience in mind, I came up with this :

Jim got his first bike in grade school and loved it from the minute he got on it. Riding a bike meant fresh air and freedom. After he graduated from college and got his first job, he bought a really good bike as soon as he could afford it. He rode every weekend when the weather was good.

And then one day he heard there was a bicycle convention in town. Lots of famous racers would be there, as well as bike manufacturers, biking journalists and recreational riders as well. Jim decided to go.

When he got there, he found the bicycle rack full of beautiful, sleek racing bikes, muscular track bikes, and everything in between. Jubilant to be among kindred spirits, he locked up his bike, and went inside. Everywhere he looked he was cheered to see people in cycling gear. He paid his $50 and received a schedule and a free t-shirt with a famous bicycle company logo. He stopped by one of the many booths staffed by different bicycling organizations and listened as two people discussed the merits of various local trails as far as the rides they offered.

"Oh, yeah," a woman said. "I loved that trail but I really tore up my BC on it."

"Well, it takes a real mountain BC," her companion said. "A road BC just won't cut it."

"Excuse me," Jim said, "But what's a BC? From what you're saying, it sounds like it should mean a bike."

The two people turned to him with a look of horror in their faces. "We don't use that word."

Jim was stunned. "What word? You mean bike?"

They both grimaced. "No, no!" the man said. "We don't call it that."

"People who look down on BCs call them that," the woman said in a rush. "They say we're not real athletes. They think the BC is more important that the rider." She sneered. "We say bike when we mean a cheap toy like you get at Toys R Us. When we talk about real bicycles, we say BCs."

"But," Jim said, "isn't that confusing? I mean, BC means 'before Christ.' And everyone I know says `bike,' regardless of how they feel about bicycles."

She waved a hand in a dismissive gesture. "We know what we mean." She gave him a stern look. "I hope you don't plan to use that word here,"

"Okay, I won't," Jim said, alarmed.

He wandered around and looked at more booths and listened in on more conversations. He checked the schedule and saw that there was a panel discussion starting on the merits of new types of brakes. It looked interesting. Jim went to the room listed on the schedule and found that one of the speakers had brought a new racing bike as a visual aid.

"That's a great looking bike," Jim said enthusiastically.

The man glared at him.

"Sorry," Jim mumbled. He slunk to the back of the room.

The discussion on brakes was interesting but Jim didn't ask any questions. He was too afraid he would say that word again, and so he never opened his mouth.

After one more session in which everyone discussed the ways in which technology had improved BCs, Jim got on his bike and went home. He still rode on weekends, but he never went to another BC convention again.

Just my two cents.
Tags: science fiction

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