SFWA and me: why I’ve renewed my membership

I wasn’t going to say anything about the SFWA Bulletin sexism issue. Many other people have already said plenty of stuff, and said it better (or maybe just earlier) than I could. However, in the midst of the breaking waves of the scandal, my renewal notice arrived.

Up until the scandal, I wasn’t going to renew. I have found the organisation ridiculously behind in the matter of self-publishing, which is where I get most of my writing income, and in general not very relevant to me as a non-US writer. If I could actually go to the cons and Nebula weekend, it would be different, but (shhh, don’t tell anyone) I’ve come to realise that I’m not a great fan of travel and would probably only make the effort of going if there was a strong reason for doing so.

And then there is the forum, which is something very special indeed (not in a good way).

But.

I decided to renew, and give them one more chance to become better and more relevant. Surely the scandal will not just ruffle, but pull out some feathers (it already has, by the way, not sure how much of it is public). Surely something good will come out of it. Or maybe I’m too naïve about it, but…

1. Our genre needs and deserves a decent professional organisation, dammit. Since there are no viable alternatives, THIS IS IT.

2. The whole thing is appalling. Not so much that mistakes were made initially, but in the way those mistakes were allowed to compound. If someone is offended, you do not go and tell them that they have no right to be offended, or “it’s not so bad”, even if YOU are not PERSONALLY offended, or if you don’t get why people are offended. It’s a professional organisation, and we expect a professional standard of conduct. This is not it.

3. I’m equally appalled by the level of name-calling in many of the complaints. Sorry, but if you call people “old fogeys” or “dinosaurs” how the hell can you expect them to not get defensive and not want to engage in further discussion, or worse, dig in even deeper. That is also not professional conduct. Surely there are ways in which we can let people know that something they’re doing is not OK without disparaging their entire personalities.

4. Similarly, many people have prefaced their reactions with “I’m not a member, but…” and have gone on to paint the entire organisation as sexist. Well, since they’re not members, what do they actually know of what many dedicated volunteers do behind the scenes? Many of whom are women. And are outraged.

5. The only reason everyone knows about this is because MEMBERS were upset and started to blog about it. Most members are furious. Members want change. I’ve voted with my credit card to be one of those members for at least one more year. I *want* there to be a good SF/F organisation.

All I ask is that people respect other people. That is what I expect in a professional organisation. I accept that at times, respect will be broken by private individuals and they can rant on their own blogs for all they like, but I expect an organisation not to drop its guard.

I have renewed because I’m curious to see what will rise out of this mess, and I’m willing to hope that it’s something good.

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8 comments on “SFWA and me: why I’ve renewed my membership

  1. Very fair point, I think there’s a lot to be said for changing the beast from within. I have to confess, there was one particular blog post I read which… well, to be honest I didn’t think the guy was serious. It is laughable and I have to confess, I’m not sure how many of us who are not American writers would think of joining the SFWA anyway. But as the voice of the genre in the biggest ‘english’ speaking country the way it behaves is important, and relevant, to all of us.

    Good luck, you and the other members who want to change it from within. It’s a hard road and a brave one but we will all benefit if you achieve your aim.

    Cheers

    MTM

    • Unfortunately, there are a few people I can think of who may well have been serious. Not many, but two or three who sprout such sexist drek that it’s laughable. They take themselves seriously, but everyone just laughs.

      I get a little hot under the collar about this self-defeatist attitude of “we’re not American, we can’t join anyway”. This is the only professional organisation that will speak up for us internationally and has the clout to do so. If you have three pro sales, you can join. If you’re a small publisher/reviewer/editor, you can join as affiliate.

      It’s only by people like us joining that change happens.

  2. Of course, I respect your decision (would have either way). People need to be in there making noise, because that’s the only way they can force positive changes. I’m on the outside looking in, and have a healthy skepticism of “task forces” doing much good in general.

    Your comment about them being “ridiculously behind in the matter of self-publishing” is spot on. I have a novella that has earned me far more than what I would have made by selling it at a “pro” rate of 5¢/word, and it continues to earn, but… whatever. Why would I join a club that wants me as a member?

  3. Pingback: Genre Wars – Why is SFR the outcast? | Tracing the Stars

  4. “Sorry, but if you call people “old fogeys” or “dinosaurs” how the hell can you expect them to not get defensive and not want to engage in further discussion, or worse, dig in even deeper.”

    ABSOLUTELY.

  5. Pingback: How Being Female Affects My Strategy As A Writer | triona guidry: fantasyworld

  6. I really enjoyed your post. I’m in a similar boat as you: I self-publish and SFWA refuses to accept me into their sub YA novel fold–even though I was an affiliate member. I just cannot spend money on an organization that isn’t helpful to me and is also not adapting to the times. If you’re interested, here’s my two cents:

    http://www.ronvitale.com/blog/2013/7/2/why-i-didnt-renew-my-science-fiction-fantasy-writers-of-america-membership

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