And sometimes it’s not too hard to decipher the code at all

As you may have heard, SciFi have recently taken the decision to rebrand as SyFy.


Well, the word SciFi (or scifi, or sci-fi) has been around since Forry Ackerman invented it in the 50s.

(Most serious SF buffs don’t like the term, considering it a bit gee-whizz, and prefer, well, SF instead.)

And as SciFi is a word in common use, that means you can’t trademark it. No brand extensions, no protectable spinoffs.

So they decided to rebrand, and this rebrand has the benefit of sounding exactly the same. Fair enough. It also has the advantage of moving away from the pure-geek connotations of SciFi among the general public.

I can’t say I have any particular feelings about it one way or the other.

But the interesting thing is this blog post from Landor, the branding agency who consulted with SciFi… er SyFy on the rebrand.

Now they don’t actually say the words “We begged them on our knees not to do it” anywhere in the article, but nevertheless it’s instructive to read.

The last paragraph is the meat of the matter:

“Yes, we worked with the Sci Fi Channel, and it hired us to consult on the project. However, Syfy was a name generated internally and pre-tested at the channel before our involvement. Once Landor was involved, we explored new names as part of the process, but it was the Channel’s call to go with Syfy.”

Note the specificity of the wording.

Generated internally.
Pre-tested at the channel before our involvement.
We explored new names.
It was the channel’s call to go with SyFy.

I’d love to have a look at Landor’s internal documents on the testing of this.

Because you don’t put this on a public-facing blog – even in code – unless you really want to move away from being associated with this rebrand, and fast.

Unimportant Things

Tagged by John Soanes.

1) Put the link of the person who tagged you on your blog.
2) Write the rules.
3) Mention 6 things or habits of no real importance about you.
4) Tag 6 persons adding their links directly.
5) Alert the persons that you tagged them.

Two out of five ain’t bad. Let’s see if we can improve on that.

Thing The First

In my early twenties I contracted Bell’s Palsy. One of the nerves in my neck became inflamed, swelling and trapping the other, which resulted in complete paralysis of half of my face.

This led to such exciting symptoms as drooling and being unable to close one of my eyes properly (meaning I had to smush my face against the pillow to go to sleep).

The first symptom was a taste of iron in my mouth. The second was that, while out in a pub with an ex, she asked me if I was leering at her. After denying it, she told me to check my face in a mirror, which I promptly did, to discover half of it wasn’t working any more.

The diagnosis was that almost everyone gets completely better, and it just takes time. This proved to be true in my case, and the only remaining symptom is that when I eat spicy food, I cry – but only from one of my eyes.

Thing The Second

My first novel was written in a school exercise book, and went through several drafts.

(Well, I thought it was a novel at the time. It’s a novel in the same way that The Young Visiters is a novel. But I think Ms Ashford has a better style, if less ray guns.)

If you imagine the potboiling SF novels of the thirties with a dash of V, you’ll be in the right ballpark.

It came in six chapters, at the end of each our heroes were knocked unconscious.

I still have it somewhere.

No, you can’t read it.

Thing The Third

I’m cross-dominant.

Surprisingly, this isn’t a kinky sex thing, but means that while my dominant hand is my right (for throwing, catching, and so on), my dominant eye is my left.

This is not generally a problem in everyday life. However it’s a known problem in target shooting.

Should I ever wish to take up shooting – or alternatively, should I be forced to fight for survival in a terrifying post-apocalyptic world – I should try and shoulder the weapon on my left, rather than my right, in order to aim correctly.

Thing The Fourth

In primary school, I was in a school play.

Unfortunately, when I got onto stage, I was completely dry. Nothing. The line-thief had come and stolen everything from my brain.

I stumbled offstage very embarrassedly, and was so mortified I didn’t get on a stage again until university.

Which is a shame, because acting’s great. It’s fun, and as a writer you learn a lot.

And when you’re not a child, you know what? The other people working with you will help you out.

So it’s not scary at all.

Thing The Fifth

I adore cliffhangers.

This is probably a result of being raised on Doctor Who and 30s serials.

I love the way that they force you to wait for a resolution. How will our heroes escape? What’s going to happen next? Cliffhangers help your imagination to engage with a text in a way that a revelation ending doesn’t.

It makes me quite sad that no-one really does cliffhangers any more, except for the occasional two-parter in Doctor Who.

The first series of Alias was also notable for having a cliffhanger at the end of every episode.

Sadly, the Network made them stop it after the first series. Which made me sad.

Thing The Sixth

I dress to the left.

I tag, in alphabetical order by last name, Jason Arnopp, Phill Barron, Michelle Lipton, Christine Patton, Stuart Perry, and Danny Stack.

Letters From America: Funny Man

originally posted 4th March 2004

Stand up comedy occurred last night.

It seemed to go down well, though it’s difficult to tell when you’re actually performing. I got laughs, and was told that it was excellent for a first timer, so it’s all downhill from here. I have one definite gig next week, then I’ll figure out whether I’m going to do it again. I suspect not (other fish to fry), but we’ll see.

Note for those attempting comedy work: Unless you have a talking penis, keep the microphone closer to your chin than your tummy. Or you won’t be heard at the back of the room.

It took less than two hours from stepping off stage to the first person saying: “So you’re a comedian, eh? Say something funny.”