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SFWA

SFWA -- the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, for those who don't recognize the initials -- is certainly no stranger to controversy. Ever since Damon Knight founded the organization back in the 60s, SFWA has shown a tendency to explode into war every few years. Maybe it has something to do with solar eclipses, or leap years, or the cycles of cicadas.

Some of the periodic wars have concerned important issues, from Vietnam to whether or not writers should be paid royalties; others have been fought over trivia, like Nebula rules and a proposal for an official SFWA tie. Most generate more heat than light. That's certainly true of the latest, a huge firestorm that had broken out all over the blogosphere, centering on issues of e-piracy, copyright, "creative commons," and SFWA's response to same.

The difference is, where most of the past wars have been fought internally, in the pages of the old print SFWA FORUM, or the private areas of bulletin boards like GEnie and SFF.net, this one is being fought in public, with the whole internet watching, thanks to the decision of a few of the participants to air the issues on their blogs instead of keeping them "in house." I think that's unfortunate, myself, but it's a brave new world we live in.

One of the unfortunate side effects here, however, is that I see a lot of people slagging on SFWA as a result. The ones that disturb me most are the posts from young writers, an awful lot of which say something like, 'well, I'm not a SFWA member, and now I'm glad,' or 'after all this, I've resolved never to join SFWA,' calling the organization stupid or clueless or out of touch or... well, I don't have to rehash it all here, the fight is being fought on a dozen different blogs right now. Read the posts, and weep.

The part that really makes me gnash my teeth is where I see young writers saying that they don't see what they can get out of joining SFWA, so why bother?

Maybe it's a generational thing, I don't know... but as I see it, SFWA is not about what you can get out of it, and never has been. Damon Knight did not form the group to boost his career, way back when. Robert Silverberg, Jack Williamson, Poul Anderson, Gordon R. Dickson, Joe Haldeman, Jane Yolen, Roger Zelazny, and so many more did not give up time and energy they could have devoted to writing novels and short stories to serve as SFWA officers because they thought they'd benefit from the networking, or get higher advances, or win a Nebula. It was all about improving the field. Writers helping writers. Paying forward. Heinlein said it best. You cannot ever hope to pay back the people who helped you when you were starting out, so instead you pay forward, and try to lend a hand to the ones who come up after you.

To paraphrase JFK, one of the heroes of my own generation, ask not what SFWA can do for you, ask what you can do for SFWA.

SFWA is not a union. (I wish it was, and during my own terms in office I tried to move it in that direction, but it's not). It's not the WGA, never will be, never can be under current laws. But it's the closest thing we have. It's forty years of writers helping other writers as best they can. It's the Grievance Committee and the Emergency Medical Fund and the Legal Defense Fund, it's Writer Beware, it's hospitality suites at cons, it's model contracts and random audits, it's the Nebula Awards (love 'em or hate 'em) and the Nebula anthologies and THE SCIENCE FICTION HALL OF FAME. It has done some incredible things during its tenure, and it has made some colossal fuggheaded blunders too. It can be amusing or infuriating. It's a brotherhood -- and a sisterhood -- of professionals that has included Robert A. Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Alfred Bester, Philip K. Dick, Ursula K. Le Guin, Andre Norton, Robert Silverberg, Jack Williamson, Clifford Simak, Fritz Leiber, Theodore Sturgeon, and more, and more, and more. That's a club that I'm still very proud to belong to.

I have been a member since 1972. I have considered resigning half a dozen times, pissed off by one or another thing that SFWA has done or failed to do, but I never have, and I'm glad for that. In the late 70s I served two years as South Central regional director; in the early 80s I was a member of the Nebula Rules Committee (may god have mercy on my soul); in the late 90s I was vice-president for two terms; I organized and chaired a Nebula Banquet once. If I had never done any of that, I'd probably have gotten more writing done (or maybe not). I accomplished some good things during my time as a SFWA officer. I made some mistakes as well (one very bad one). It was never what could be called "fun," but I did have the satisfaction afterward of saying I'd done my best for the field and my fellow writers... and looking back, I'm glad that I took my turn in the barrel.

And maybe that's the point of this message. So if any of you reading this are young writers who have the professional credentials to join SFWA but haven't... or aspiring writers who hope to have those credentials soon... and you're reading all this crap in the blogosphere and wondering whether or not you should join... well, I say you should.

SFWA has flaws, SFWA has warts, SFWA makes mistakes from time to time... but in the end, the good it does far outweighs the bad, and you owe it to those who came before you and those who will come after to do your part, whatever that may be.

Comments

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dragonet2
Dec. 2nd, 2007 04:09 am (UTC)
thank you for
a more calm and distanced view (timewise). I've decided I'm just going to watch the spectacle and stay out of it as much as I can. I'm not a prolific writer by any means (am spinning my wheels right now because of external issues such as a hostile boss at the day job that provides our - Jim and my - health insurance) but I see value in keeping up my SFWA membership.

I too wish it wasn't being fought out on the internets, but such are the times.
princeaeneas
Dec. 2nd, 2007 04:31 am (UTC)
Beautifully said.

Where'd you learn to write like that?
(Deleted comment)
allbery
Dec. 2nd, 2007 05:19 am (UTC)
Re: Related reading
Uh, well, I think you missed the reason why Stross and Scalzi are so upset: they *did* offer to help, they volunteered to be on the committee to figure out what to do, they made what they thought were pretty good suggestions, and then the SFWA leadership made a complete public relations hash of the result and made a decision on appointments that really looks like a slap in the face to the work of the committee.

This isn't a case of people who didn't roll up their sleeves and try to help criticizing people who did. It's complaints from people who feel like their hard work was cast aside.
Re: Related reading - grrm - Dec. 2nd, 2007 07:34 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Related reading - allbery - Dec. 2nd, 2007 07:39 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Related reading - swan_tower - Dec. 2nd, 2007 05:44 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Related reading - mabfan - Dec. 2nd, 2007 07:45 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Related reading - swan_tower - Dec. 2nd, 2007 08:47 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Related reading - delkytlar - Dec. 5th, 2007 04:48 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Related reading - ckd - Dec. 2nd, 2007 08:47 pm (UTC) - Expand
jonquil
Dec. 2nd, 2007 05:35 am (UTC)
Unfortunately, the original mistake (confronting Scribd with an inaccurate list of copyright infringers) was not made in private, but in public, and in the blogosphere. Of the people who mentioned the latest problem on their blogs, two had tried to address the issue in the appropriate venue -- the copyright committee -- and had had their efforts thrown away -- and the third, Cory Doctorow, was a non-SFWA member whose rights had been infringed in the original Scribd mess.

This is not a purely SFWA-internal matter; if it were, SFWA would not have felt it necessary to issue a press release on the website. It is, however, a matter whose public relations SFWA's leadership has very badly bungled.

People infringing authors' copyrights electronically is a BAD thing. Let me make that clear. I do not approve. However, SFWA's public reactions to infringement to date have not been those of a technology-aware or publicity-aware organization.
grrm
Dec. 2nd, 2007 07:48 am (UTC)
public and private
How was the original mistake made in public? My understanding is that the original mistake was made in a letter from SFWA's e-piracy committee to Scribd, demanding that a long list of titles be removed from their site. That's not public as I understand it. The issue did not hit the blogosphere until Doctorow posted about it on BoingBoing.

If that is incorrect, please feel free to correct my facts.

If that is the actual sequence of events, it still seems to me that the whole thing could have been easily rectified without all this vitriol. The titles that were taken down could have been put back up again (as I believe they have been in any case), apologies could have been made (as I believe they have been) and accepted (less sure on that point), procedures could have been reformed to prevent it happening again, and everyone could have gone about their business.

Bottom line, I think it is wrong for to post an author's work on the net without his permission, and I also think it is wrong to demand work be taken down if the creator wants it up. This is a thorny issue, no doubt, but until it all shakes itself out, it has to be left up to the individual author. I don't know that anyone, in SFWA or out of it, would disagree.
Re: public and private - autopope - Dec. 2nd, 2007 11:14 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: public and private - ruralwriter - Dec. 2nd, 2007 07:31 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: public and private - prusik - Dec. 2nd, 2007 09:33 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: public and private - ruralwriter - Dec. 2nd, 2007 10:28 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: public and private - grrm - Dec. 3rd, 2007 02:06 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: public and private - swan_tower - Dec. 3rd, 2007 04:43 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: public and private - barbarienne - Dec. 3rd, 2007 04:07 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: public and private - strangedave - Dec. 4th, 2007 03:46 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: public and private - delkytlar - Dec. 5th, 2007 05:05 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: public and private - jonquil - Dec. 2nd, 2007 03:31 pm (UTC) - Expand
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Re: public and private - grrm - Dec. 3rd, 2007 01:55 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: public and private - makomk - Dec. 4th, 2007 01:42 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: public and private - mike_van_pelt - Dec. 4th, 2007 06:15 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: public and private - makomk - Dec. 5th, 2007 01:50 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: public and private - strangedave - Dec. 4th, 2007 03:50 am (UTC) - Expand
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Re: But is Doctorow an Active SFWA member? - mabfan - Dec. 17th, 2007 04:40 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: But is Doctorow an Active SFWA member? - leahbobet - Feb. 25th, 2008 06:22 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: But is Doctorow an Active SFWA member? - delkytlar - Dec. 18th, 2007 02:01 am (UTC) - Expand
lonfiction
Dec. 2nd, 2007 05:55 am (UTC)
Hi George,

First I want to say I really appreciated this post and perspective. I'm a newer writer and one who has been on the fence in 2007 about joining SFWA. You are absolutely right that the public airing of debates is turning people away, or at least in my case delaying potential members like me from joining. I'm all for "the noise of progress" but the things I hear coming out of various bullhorns sound more like the cacophony of Congress. :)

In fact, a few months ago I decided that I'd give HWA a try for a year first, since most of what I sell tends to be dark anyway and SFWA's official stances just don't seem to be a right fit, right now. Would I have put my limited funds toward SFWA instead, had the last year of foul-ups, bleeps and blunders not occurred? More than likely. Joining SFWA had been my goal for years, and I'll be honest: it was for the mentoring, professional community, and networking opportunities more than anything (i.e. the selfish reasons.) Which isn't to say that I wouldn't pay forward if the opportunity presented itself, or I found a way to do so. I'm a huge advocate of paying it forward, but first you have to have something to pay forward.

I've dedicated my entire adult life to serving in a large dysfunctional organization that often seems to be at cross purposes with itself. :D But one staple of the people within that organization is that they look out for each other and for the successful accomplishment of the mission, whatever that may be. There is also an entrenched part of the "organizational culture" which looks upon any who deviate from presenting a "united front" to outsiders/the public with about the same level of revilement as a Satanist at Sunday School. I see strong parallels with what you seem to be saying about SFWA as an organizational culture. (To be honest, with just about any large opt-in organization...)

But I am not so sure I agree with you that supporting SFWA is the same thing as supporting the field. The genres are strong. They have pervaded every medium of story-based entertainment in a way that indicates they won't be going away any time soon. The various parts of the field based solely on the written word may occasionally have a cough or sniffle, but they are not on death's door. Is some of this a cultural pervasiveness a direct result of SFWA and its members, past and present? A whole, whole lot, I'm sure. But if we look 20-50 years down the line, will the same thing still be true? Will science fiction and fantasy writers still be a driving force in our culture's story-based dialogue? I have no doubt at all. Will SFWA still be a part of that force? I'd like to hope so, but right now the magic 8-ball says "Reply Hazy - Try Again."

The fact of the matter is that we now live in an age where the way our culture transmits itself has changed--fundamentally and logarithmically. The heart of the copyright debate is a very SFnal debate, and one that SF helped bring into existence in the first place. I have to agree with those bloggers who say that the current SFWA leadership are ironically unaware of the revolution taking place around them... the one SF helped create. I appreciate them bringing this conversation out to the public in the same way that women in my "other" field appreciate the backward attitudes of Tailhook being made into a public conversation. From that heat, there did finally arise some light.

Every writer will make their own decisions and who knows? Next year I might feel differently. But as it stands, SFWA's actions appear to be more about keeping SFWA from changing with the times than about shaping and--dare I say?--helping writers to harness the revolution taking place for their own good as well as the future of the field. I hope that changes, and I hope that people inside bring it up to those outside when it does. Because in the meantime, it feels like a sad sort of winter for a genre with so much spring still in its step.

Sincerely,

Lon Prater



grrm
Dec. 2nd, 2007 08:16 am (UTC)
HWA
Well, good luck with HWA. Let us know how that works out for you.

I was one of the charter members of that organization, back when Rick McCammon founded it. In the beginning it was called HOWL -- the Horror & Occult Writers' League. I had high hopes at the start.

After a few years, however, it became apparent that HWA was intent on repeating every one of SFWA's mistakes and adding a few of its own. Most notably, right from the start, the awards tail started to wag the organizational dog, and we got endless wrangles about how the awards rules had to be "reformed." For all I know, the debates are still going on. It was around then I let my membership lapse.

My outsider's perspective is that HWA tries to do many of things that SFWA does, but does them less well. Maybe that's wrong. If so, let me know.

I knew it was a bad sign when the first thing the organization did was change its name from HOWL to HWA, because the former was "too silly." Some people take themselves Very Very Seriously.

Me, I still like HOWL. It was cool... and much more memorable than the alphabet soup of SFWA, MWA, RWA, etc.
Re: HWA - lonfiction - Dec. 2nd, 2007 03:26 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: HWA - nihilistic_kid - Dec. 2nd, 2007 04:15 pm (UTC) - Expand
electorprince
Dec. 2nd, 2007 07:41 am (UTC)
Woo!! So say we all! Well done and well said, ser!
owen_stephens
Dec. 2nd, 2007 08:38 am (UTC)
Well, I have more than 2 million paid words of science fiction and fantasy content in print, but because they are in the form of rpg manuals, I don't qualify for SFWA membership. I don't see that there is anything I can do, since they won't have me.
hippoiathanatoi
Dec. 2nd, 2007 09:24 am (UTC)
Having been following the story as an interested but mostly non-writerly type, I think there's really nothing wrong with the basic idea behind making the discourse public. The SFWA's actions and attitudes towards copyright and the Internet are of public interest, and both writers and readers can have an opinion on this.

If anything, the public discussion has at least provided some explanations to the wider audience interested in the wider SF/F writing community that mitigate (if not resolve) some of the apparent problems with the SFWA. For example, it seems clear to me, anyways, that the organization itself is currently led by individuals who do not themselves have a real stake in the copyright-related decisions, and I believe that's a bad thing. Neither Mr. Capobianco or Mr. Burt have published anything in the last ten years, roughly; and Mr. Burt, at least, seems to have managed to just scrape by the skin of his teeth into qualifying for membership in the first place. When people get upset at "science fiction writers attacking their own fans" (which you just know someone out there must have said in the course of the scribd thing), it's because two non-writers who happen to lead the association made mistakes that effect the working membership. Maybe it would not have happened quite the way it did if the people executing the decisions were going to be professionally affected if they made a hash of it... or maybe not, I don't know. Mistakes happen, as you say, and often with the best intentions.

Because it's so tied into personalities, ultimately it's a "this too shall pass" kind of thing, especially if credible members challenge Capobianco and Burt on the ballot and replace them. I suspect they can undo a lot of damage in short order. But given that Capobianco went almost unchallenged and Burt _did_ go unchallenged on the last ballot, how likely is this to happen? There is a great deal of ennui around from what a number of writers have said, because the easiest way to prevent this from happening would have been for people to make a real campaign of SFWA elections, and they simply did not.

So, perhaps hopefully some members who are upset with the recent leadership will take you up on the suggestion of running on the ballot to replace Capobianco and Burt, and succeed.

One additional positive for public discussion: that the fact that it is a public, wide-open discussion _could_ be encouraging to people who have been disaffected with the leadership of the organization, but have felt that doing anything about it is not worth it. There could be at least a small additional sense that fighting over it matters when they see that their sense that it's a serious issue is correct, and that there are people out there who see it the same way as they do.

I think you're absolutely right that not enough is made of the things the SFWA does right, though, like the Emergency Medical Fund. That can easily get lost in the vitriol.
buggery
Dec. 2nd, 2007 09:27 am (UTC)
I fully intend to join the SFWA as soon as I'm eligible. I don't know of other yet-to-be-established writers who feel the disdain towards the organisation you describe.

That said, I agree with the other commenters who feel the issue should not have been kept internal (which it would be hard not to read as 'hushed up'). Malicious (or simply incompetent) accusations of copyright infringement have real and serious consequences. The DMCA may have been enacted with the best of intentions, but it can be and has been used against people who were not infringing any copyright but who lacked the resources (financial, emotional or otherwise) to contest the accusation. This is a serious issue for all writers, whether they are SFWA members or not, as well as for many readers of SFWA members' work -- there was an incident earlier this year where a former LiveJournal user had his account revoked on the basis of his having written a review of a fantasy novel (a clear-cut case of fair use) over which a representative of the author sent SixApart a DMCA takedown notice.

Andrew Burt has proved he isn't competent to handle e-piracy or any other copyright issues on behalf of himself or anyone else. (There are serious statutory consequences for misuse of DMCA takedown notices, which he made the entire SFWA vulnerable to in the Scribd debacle, and it was only because the victims declined to use that form of legal redress that the organisation didn't have to literally pay for his mistakes.) For him to be put back in charge of these very issues on behalf of the SFWA and its members is a dangerous situation for both writers and readers, and there's no reason for his appointment or its circumstances to be kept secret. Rather the opposite.
sfdiplomat
Dec. 2nd, 2007 09:44 am (UTC)
Sorry George, but I don't think your position adds up.

On the one hand you want to say that the SFWA is all about helping out new young writers and it's a selfless thing. Fine, I can get onboard with that idea.

On the other, you're criticising the young and aspiring writers who say that they're not members and have no intention of becoming members because they don't see the point.

Is this not the whole problem with the SFWA? it's supposed to be helping writers but actually it isn't and, in the case of the Scribd thing, it's actually hurting some of their reputations.

If the SFWA is all about paying it forward but the supposed recipients either don't get or don't perceive any advantage in joining up then clearly there's something very wrong as people are paying it forward and nobody is benefiting from the fruits of those labours.

It's the equivalent of a charity that sets itself up to help disaster victims and people spend time and money on the assumption that they'll help disaster victims but when you ask the disaster victims what they think they claim to have either never heard of this charity or they claim that the charity in no way helps them and actually might well harm them.

That's a sign of a broken charity. Of an organisation that doesn't work.

It's all very well the SFWA being built upon good intentions but then we all know what the path to hades is paved with.
hippoiathanatoi
Dec. 2nd, 2007 11:14 am (UTC)
"it's supposed to be helping writers but actually it isn't"

This statement seems to ignore all the positives George expressly mentioned simply due to the fact that the "cause celebre" of the moment which is the bad adminstrative decisions of certain officers of the organization. This is not how serious cost-benefit analysis is going to be made.

The cost-benefit analysis for many members of the SFWA is almost certainly likelier on the side of membership being a benefit rather than a cost, _even_ with the current bad publicity thanks to actions and decisions of Mssrs. Capobianco and Burt. For _some_ members, it is obviously becoming a cost rather than benefit, because they don't benefit from many of the SFWA services, and feel harmed by the current controversy.

There are certainly many writers who have received and continue to receive positive support from the organization in various areas. George has listed a number of the unquestionably positive services the SFWA provides its members, such as the Emergency Medical Fund, the Grievance Committee, model contracts, and so on. I suspect they are really valuable to two particular segments: neophyte writers, who are likeliest to need the professional advice and support related to the business in their first years as they build experience, and older writers, who in the face of rising health costs may find more and more need for the Fund's assistance.

It's the first segment that is most affected by this discussion, not having committed to joining the SFWA or not having been members long enough to know of the positive benefits during the storm that's concerned with a glaring (but assuredly momentary) negative. All many of _them_ see is the discussion focused on Mr. Capobianco and Mr. Burt and their various inequities, blown up to stand in for "Everything Wrong With The (Useless) SFWA".

The SFWA's disrepute in certain spheres right now will blow over, because Mssrs. Capobianco and Burt will not be officers forever. The sooner new names show up, probably the better. Ultimately, it is for the SFWA membership to take care of their own house, and ultimately they are the ones who have to act to fix it.

To sum up, the SFWA has helped many authors, does help many authors, and will continue to help many authors. The issue is not how to make SFWA a "good" -- because I think many members would say that on the whole it presently is -- but how to make it _more_ of a "good" by avoiding public relations nightmares and bad administrative decisions which has presently turned the SFWA into more of a cost than a benefit for some of the membership.
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jasonsanford123
Dec. 2nd, 2007 01:14 pm (UTC)
Comment from one of those younger people on SFWA
Dear George R. R. Martin: Thank you for your excellent comments on the SFWA debate. I'm one of those younger people who have publicly stated they will not join the SFWA because of how this issue is being handled. However, my reason for not joining--even though I now qualify for associate membership--is not because I don't see getting anything out of the SFWA. I believe in service to the community, have volunteered with a number of organizations over the years (including the Peace Corps), and would willingly do the same with SFWA. The main reason I refuse to join is that I don't want to get caught up in all the bickering and fighting that seems to characterize the SFWA these days. If the organization ever gets its act together and stops creating fight after fight among its members, I'll be happy to join and help out. Otherwise, I feel joining would be a waste of my time.
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_standback_
Dec. 2nd, 2007 01:36 pm (UTC)
Thank you, George
It's all too easy to get caught up in arguments and politics, and it's a shame when that happens, because the SFWA does so much and can do so much more. While it's easier to steer clear of the whole thing, much better would be to focus energy on more positive avenues rather than solely on the flaws.
littledrow
Dec. 2nd, 2007 02:17 pm (UTC)
Speaking as a member of "the market", also known as a "consumer", personally I wouldn't want to read a book or a comic book on the computer. Where's the fun in that?!

I can't touch the pages, can't randomly close the book to look at the cover and say "Ah HA! This is the scene the artist chose!". A laptop does not nicely fit into my bag so that I may read my book on the train, in a park, on break at work, nor can you stick a nifty, homemade bookmark in it.

Maybe I'm old and set in my ways. Maybe it's a tactile thing, some childhood need still clinging to my desires. Whatever it is, I'm not giving it up, and I certainly won't pay good money for some nebulous "file" in a plastic box.

Putting books and comic books on the computer is a slippery slope, in my opinion. This will be just one more program we will have to purchase, install and oh, don't forget to upgrade your computer to accomodate for it. You'll have to have it in order to read the new books and comics, and it's only $499 with a $50 mail in rebate. Then the books and comics themselves will be another cost.

Bother.

I'll stick to my bulky pulp and buy a new bookshelf.
matociquala
Dec. 2nd, 2007 02:23 pm (UTC)
Hey, George.

I'm one of the young writers saying that I won't rejoin. (I was a member--it had been a career goal of mine--and I found SFWA unwelcoming enough that I left.)

And when I say that I don't see what I get out of joining, what I mean is, I don't see how SFWA benefits the field (either as a trade organization or as a social club), the genre, and the authors working in it. The mentors I've found, I've not found through SFWA. The mentorships I've taken on, I've not taken on through SFWA. When I say that I'm going to send my $75.00 a year to Stephen King's Haven Foundation, it's because I want that money to go to benefit writers in need, not to pay for Andrew Burt's mad anti-E-piracy schemes and slapfights on the SFWA message boards.


--Elizabeth Bear
sarah_prineas
Dec. 2nd, 2007 04:20 pm (UTC)
I'm another one of those "young writers" (okay, let's say "newer writers") who has left SFWA this year, and as it was for Bear, joining was a career goal of mine. I did volunteer--I served on the Norton jury for two years--but even though that was a positive experience I cannot remain a member because SFWA does not represent me, and as has been said above, it is unwelcoming and its culture is toxic. I've found other online resources far, far more helpful in my writing career.
benefiting the field - grrm - Dec. 3rd, 2007 02:47 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: benefiting the field - matociquala - Dec. 3rd, 2007 02:53 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: benefiting the field - matociquala - Dec. 3rd, 2007 03:02 am (UTC) - Expand
la_marquise_de_
Dec. 2nd, 2007 02:30 pm (UTC)
I'm a new writer and not yet a sfwa member. I'm one of those who has asked 'should I join?' although not one who has commented on sfwa behaviour. Your arguments here are very thought-provoking and have sent me back round on the 'shall I, shan't I' carousel again. The issue for me is this: I believe very strongly in trade organisations for their own sake. What I receive in return isn't hugely important -- it's the sense of belonging together with the knowledge that I am supporting colleagues. All good, where sfwa is concerned. And -- as the spelling shows -- I'm British (though signed to a US publisher). So medical funds etc are relevant to me only in the sense that I'm glad they are there for the wider group. Where my hesitation arises is over politics. I'm left-of-centre by UK standards, I define as a socialist (which I recognise has different connotations in the US to here). Sfwa over the years has sometimes had the reputation of drifting to the right in its attitudes and of being unkind to those who are not. So I umm and I ahh and while part of me says 'get involved and be proactive' another says 'but you're British and a fantasy author and will be totally marginal at best and yelled at at worst.' It's probably cowardice, I know, but I still have no clear decision.
My name is Kari: we have met at one Irish convention and two British ones and you will have no reason to recall me. You might remember my partner, Phil, as you had a very long conversation with him about lead miniatures in Glasgow in Green Room.
grrm
Dec. 3rd, 2007 02:53 am (UTC)
British members
SFWA has had British members from its founding. The problem is, there has never been very many of them, so you have a very small sample.

I don't think being a socialist should impact your welcome in SFWA one way or another. The organization includes far-right loonies, far-left loonies, and every possible shade of political opinion in between.
Re: British members - la_marquise_de_ - Dec. 3rd, 2007 10:44 am (UTC) - Expand
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