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).


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.