Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Almost as ridiculous as New Coke

I am a sci-fi fan.  This alone makes me unique.  The fact that I am a woman and a fan of the genre makes me even more so.

At least that's what a lot of marketers will tell you.

Then again, until recently there weren't that many story-rather-than-technology-focused sci-fi pieces out there.  Recently being something like 15-20 years.

Come on, NBC/Universal/GE.  GIVE ME A BREAK!

I have been reading sci-fi/fantasy since I was in 8th grade.  That's more than 25 years ago.  My nanny grew up on the original Star Trek, as did I.  I was in 2nd grade when I started watching Spock and Kirk and the original Bones.  I think she was too - and she is more than 15 years younger than me.  

For those of you who have no idea what I am talking about here's the gist of the story.  NBC Universal owns the SciFi Network.  For the past several years they have been trying to broaden the audience by introducing more story based shows and allowing those individuals who are not hard core sci-fi junkies to flirt with space travel and the paranormal without insulting the intelligence of those individuals who know more about the actual physics it takes to fly a battlestar like Galactica.  Kudos to you NBC - seriously.  That in and of itself is a remarkable achievement.

The process has been slow, probably too slow for Wall Street which seems to govern our every move these days including our entertainment options, but there has been genuine movement.  The difference between Babylon 5, a space-opera that was on Sci-Fi from 1994-1998, and Battlestar Galactica is tremendous.  I do not know many women who can tell you that Bruce Boxleitner played Capt. John Sheridan 15 years ago, but I have seen more than a few who list Battlestar as their favorite TV show on Facebook.  

So, how do I know all this?  It isn't just because I am a sci-fi fan I can tell you that.  Nope.  Its because from February 1995-November 1996 and then again from October 1997-February 1999 I was responsible for the AOL presence of Babylon 5.  I was the producer for the Sci-Fi section of AOL and then the AOL producer for WB Online.  (I was LASamuels for those of you who are might remember me.)

Yep - Sci-Fi was my job in the 1990s.  As a woman.  Guess what - I wasn't the only woman who was involved in sci-fi back then.  Most of my contacts at the time including my contacts for OMNI Magazine, one of the premier sci-fi magazines for decades, and the Sci-Fi network were women.

What's my point.  Simply put - changing the name from Sci-Fi (short for Science Fiction) to SyFy (good Lord I have no idea where they got this one) is not what will bring women to the channel or the genre.  Putting more quality shows like Battlestar Galactica, Eureka and the Stargate franchise over shows like RAW, Ghost Hunters and Scare Tactics will be what brings women to the genre.  Show the drama that has always been in SciFi - the comedy as well - and that will bring a broader audience.  For goodness sakes, bring on the stories!

But whatever you do, please don't treat us like idiots.  We aren't.  SyFy just looks like an idiotic business decision that is going to chase some of the most ardent fans of any genre that I have ever met away.  It might sell more advertising, but is it worth turning your back on the genre that made you?  Maybe, in this day and age of no loyalty, it is.  It is a shame to see as both a fan and as a former member of the small but close and imaginative world of science fiction writers, publishers and online producers.

Then again, maybe this has more to do with the cost of a URL.  Who knows - maybe www.syfy.com is cheaper than www.scifi.com.

Wonder who will get that URL next.  Anyone bidding yet?

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