How to fix the SFWA

Because you’re all just dying for yet another post about the never-ending carnival of hair-pulling that is the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, right? Right. Or if you’re not, go read Sarah Hoyt’s post. Which is, arguably, the greatest post about SFWA in the histories of the forevers.

But, assuming you’re still with me, allow me to post my own opinions on how SFWA might be fixed. (And why these things are unlikely to ever happen.)

1. Set the bar high!
No membership for people not earning the greater bulk of their annual income through fiction writing. Also, impose an annual fiction writing income floor, below which members cannot fall without being placed on the inactive list, and therefore losing the ability to vote and/or participate in the org. Sounds harsh, right? Well, if you want to “professionalize” your org, it’s not a bad idea to force it to be composed strictly of professionals. Not amateurs. Not even pro-am. Professionals. SFWA most likely will not do this because the majority of voting SFWAns are amateur and pro-am, some of whom only ever make sales irregularly, and almost nobody presently in SFWA will vote himself/herself off the island. Even if it means improving the org’s professional clout.

2. Hire people to administer the org.
Elections get messy because elections introduce politics and petty side-taking. Plus, no member on a board or in an officer’s chair will likely risk his or her reputation with his or her publisher by launching an investigative audit and/or lawsuit. The people doing these things should not have publishing skin in the game. They should be hired to run the org and be business-minded, without having their income dependent on the business model itself. Who picks and hires these front men (front women?) is something the org would need to figure out. Maybe a randomly-selected body of 7 members would annually review the performance(s) of the front men and/or hire people on an as-needed basis? The front men would also be empowered to kick out members who don’t pay dues, don’t meet membership requirements, etc. This is unlikely to happen because there are many SFWAns who covet SFWA office and/or would cry foul if ever SFWA actually began to prosecute their publishers in court. And because they get to vote, such a sweeping change in org governance is liable to be voted down.

3. Get rid of the Nebula Award.
Like elections, the award introduces politics, pettiness, grudges, etc. Thus division in the ranks. And for what? At present, the award carries very little value — outside of prestige. And then, it’s a limited prestige, because very few people beyond the ghetto walls of SF/F even know what the Nebula is, much less consider it a hallmark of storytelling quality. Scrapping the Nebula will never happen because there are a great many current SFWA members for whom attaining a Nebula nomination and/or win is a treasured, highly emotional goal. If the Nebula went away, these people would die a little bit inside. So, because they get to vote, they will never vote away the Nebula.

4. Jack up the annual membership fee.
As with Item 1, this has the intended effect of keeping the bar high. Anyone capable and willing to contributing $500 or even $1,000 U.S. dollars (or more) per year, is unlikely to be an amateur, or a pro-am. Plus, it forces members to have actual skin in the game. Presently, the SFWA dues are a minor trifling that earn each member “achievement unlocked” bragging rights, but little else. What is there to hang your hat on when the great majority of the group are not precisely Name Authors? It’s a true arrival moment if/when you can meet Item 1 and Item 4. Then you know you’re Somebody. This won’t ever happen because (again) the bulk of present SFWAns will not vote themselves out of the club. Especially for the sake of a hugely increased membership price tag. Even if it enables SFWA to effect Item 2.

5. No politics, no politics, no politics.
SFWA should not, as an org, concern itself with who is sitting in the U.S. White House, nor the U.S. Senate, nor the U.S. Congress. It should not concern itself with overseas military operations, nor domestic social welfare programs, nor city and municipal elections. SFWA should also not concern itself with social studies and humanities department theory, to include sex and sexism theory, transgender theory, race and ethnic theory, and so forth. The SFWA ought to be a business org dedicated to protecting and expanding the business opportunities of its members. Anything outside of business concerns, would be strictly off the table. Something for individual members to pursue on their own time, outside the walls of the org. This will most likely not ever happen because the present SFWA body is increasingly dominated by amateur and pro-am voices who want to make SFWA into an explicitly political organ with explicitly political doctrines, to include the org’s own magazine — its content, its editorial slant, etc. Ideally, the SFWA Bulletin would be neither Mother Jones nor The National Review. Alas, the reality is that the Bulletin is going to reflect the loudest opinions and voices in the present org, regardless of whether or not these opinions have anything to do with businss, or whether the voices have any qualifications to speak on business matters.

There could be more done, but I think these five items cover it. Until or unless one or several of these items are implemented, I think it unlikely that I personally will renew my SFWA membership. Which is not a swipe at those present SFWA members and officers who have labored very hard (sometimes for many years) to make SFWA into an honorable body that does right by its authors. Rather, I have to look at SFWA in terms of its actual effectiveness in the field. For me, there is almost no function SFWA might claim to be able to carry out, which I could not carry out for myself. To include legal protection, health insurance, and me being my own best business advocate, where entering into (or severing) relationships with publishers is concerned.

Now, this might just be me being a self-starter who has independent access to things, via my military Reserve job and my full-time private sector job. And if you’re thinking it might be odd for me to want to see the SFWA bar raised to such an extent that I personally might not ever qualify for membership, I would point back to my military career. High bars don’t scare me. High bars are good. High bars make you work for a thing, and work to keep it after you’ve gotten it. I see no downside to a high bar, even if it means reducing the SFWA ranks to a couple hundred people, who all pay a lot of money to be members. I believe firmly that this would transform SFWA into an org capable of taking on almost any publisher, in court or out of court, and doing for authors what SFWA has, in its present form, been mostly unable or unwilling to do.


35 thoughts on “How to fix the SFWA

  1. “No membership for people not earning the greater bulk of their annual income through fiction writing.” I’ve been a SFWA member long enough that I remember this comment made by MANY over the years in past SFWA fights. This was Jerry Pournelle’s belief, I know –

  2. Brad, I suggest that part of item 1 is fine — setting the initial entry bar high — but I think you need to consider something other than writing income as the mark of maintaining professional status. For example, I know plenty of licensed Professional Engineers who are not practicing engineers (and who probably have not employed their PE stamp in years), but who maintain their status by meeting the continuing education requirements.

    The way I see it is that, unfortunately, not all professionals (however we choose to define it) behave professionally. And that will always be the case, said the pessimist.


    P.S. I don’t know if you saw my little screed on SFWA politics (, but I’d be interested in your thoughts on it. GR

  3. While I understand the greater bulk criterion, it creates interesting edge cases. Without getting into pay specifics, a programmer who writes on the side and brings in 30% of her income from writing might have significantly more writing dollars than a waiter who brings in 80% of his income from writing.

  4. What amuses me, are the people who claim that sales volume are not the metric by which you should measure writing success. EXCUSE ME ?? It’s the only marker. If no one is willing to pay to read your work, it obviously isn’t worth much. . .

    But then, they don’t seem to teach basic economics anymore. . .

  5. My only comment would be to run both—a developmental (tier one) membership for those who view qualification as credential that’s focused mostly around information-sharing and education; and a smaller, calmer (tier two) membership for those looking for competent advocacy to help support their professional lives. Not just the associate/full member thing, but actually separate functional groups that serve different functional needs.

    Any discussion of hedges or entry requirements will bring out boo-birds; a necessary cost of refining any long-standing organization. But it seems to me that separating the functions is necessary, and serving both populations is useful. FWIW.

  6. What you’re describing exists. It’s called the Writer’s Guild. Publishers actually pay attention to it.

    Quite a few very heavy hitters belong to that, and not SFWA.

    I pointed out that at least one SFWA member last had a professional sale in 1982. What that person thinks about the current state of publishing is irrelevant.

  7. I actually think the most important of these is #5. It is the politics that are causing the violent upheavals in the SFWA. Perhaps another organization needs to be founded (International Association of Professional Speculative Fiction Writers?) which could expand on the ideals that the SFWA was formed on. A writers organization should hold *Freedom of Speech/Freedom of Expression* as the highest of its tenets. When any faction dictates, it is inherently wrong. The current president of the SFWA drove me away from his blog by wiping his own fans out of the comments and blocking them for disagreeing with him. There is irony that he used a paraphrase of his totalitarian approach in the email that was included in the *inflammatory* petition: He basically said, this is my house, you want to say what you want, you can do it at your own house. That was enough to keep me from buying more than one of his books, and to drive me away from his site. His comment to Dave Truesdale basically said the same thing: I can say whatever I want, this is my porch, and me and my friends don’t have to let anyone else in. Which is more frightening than the large sum you propose for the SFWA. I don’t think that the larger scale payments or the amount someone publishes would make a difference in the politics, it would just seat a different elite on the porch. Diversity is good; politics are evil. But, hey, that’s just my opinion.

  8. If the current trend continues on a reasonable line, I will make enough money from my fiction writing within three years to support a family of four well above the Federal poverty line. (All of my writing is either science fiction or fantasy.)

    It still won’t be the majority or even a significant fraction of my income. That’s hard for me to say, because I was brought up not to talk about money like that. But it certainly does support your assertion.

    On the other hand it’s a moot point in some ways since I still won’t be eligible to join SFWA, as I’m an independent publisher. (Which is especially funny since I’ve qualified by the numbers many times over.)

    My proposed rule for improving SFWA, although I support most of Mr. Torgerson’s, would be: “No members who are not active, publishing writers. No members who are employed by any qualifying publisher, even if they are also active, publishing writers.” The fact that editors and publishers can join an organization whose alleged purpose is to support their counterparties in business transactions is beyond ludicrous to me.

  9. It’s interesting to see how differently the current SFWA president’s words in response to a petition written by a non-SFWA member have been read by different people.

    Brad, many very very talented authors working in the SF field would never meet your entry criteria – and would never want to. Basically, telling people that they must keep writing/making money every year forever in order to be part of this group? And have to pay serious money for that “privilege”? I don’t see that as setting a high bar, more as saying “there is a very specific type of writer we want and the rest of you are irrelevant”, which makes your hat-tip to “diversity” later on rather amusing. It would almost certainly lead to the formation of a different writer’s organisation that would try and represent a wider group… Which is kind of what SFWA does right now.

    Which makes me think, in fact, that SFWA as it stands does not necessarily have a major problem for most of its members. But if you feel there is merit in the idea you propose, then I can only suggest that you don’t just talk the talk, you walk the walk. Get this organisation established.

  10. Yeah, I also was raised not to discuss these things at the individual level. Suffice it to say that I didn’t come up with my figures entirely at random. I tell people I’m a writer with a lucrative programming hobby.

  11. Brian, the chief problem with keeping the bar low (as SFWA presently does) is that it allows numerous people with no real business skin in the game, to participate in the voting and running of what is supposed to be the business face of science fiction and fantasy writers et al to the publishers.

    Now, if you’re arguing that SFWA is instead a social club, and that social clubs should not impose overly restrictive rules for entry, that’s something rather different. Presently, I think SFWA is very much a social club, with a modest bar for entry; and it also unfortunately suffers from having precious little clout. No publisher lives in fear of SFWA ordering an audit, or filing a class action suit. There are publishers which certainly deserve these things.

    Has SFWA sallied forth on behalf of its members? No. And it’s not liable to. And because of this, I personally find the business value in SFWA to be almost nill. SFWA cannot protect me, nor prosecute publishers who’ve done me wrong.

  12. Pingback: SFWA, Accessiblity and Diversity | Adam Israel

  13. Setting the bar high would tend to make the group either irrelevant or a club. The pro rates for short stories is going up — and still too low to be a full-time gig. So it becomes the Science Fiction Novelists Association. Plenty of well-respected authors have day jobs. Publishing doesn’t pay in even regular intervals. Nowhere in the act of being a writer or artist does it says be a writer or artist to the exclusion of all else. Now I know you DIDN’T say this, so to some extent we’re arguing degrees. At the WOTF workshop, they said you’re in the anthology — therefore you are a professional writer. Because you got paid, and at a certain rate. With SFWA, we’re arguing degrees. Interestingly enough, the Olympics used to have the opposite problem — who is an amateur.

    I below to several professional organizations. The American Physical Society expects you to have a degree, a job or a publishing record in Physics. Yes, you can be a crackpot, but you have to be an accredited crackpot. The American Chemical Society also expects you to have two members lonely you. You have to be a crackpot with friends. The American Association of Physics Teachers has looser requirements, recognizing that many assigned to teach Physics don’t have the necessary credentials.

    All of these organizations allow for emeritus status. None of them kicked me out for failing to teach or publish for most of 2013 because I was in the hospital for 5½ months.

    There’s nothing wrong with a threshold per second — I don’t yet qualify for SFWA — but make it too restrictive and it ceases to be important and relevant.

    Dr. Phil

  14. Damn auto-correct. “Lonely” should be “sponsor”.

    Without sponsors, I guess you would be lonely…

    Dr. Phil

  15. Set the bar high? Jack up the fee?
    It’s like you don’t actually want people to join SFWA. I guess it would be a lovely country club for the few, the lucky, the well-to-do, and the small percentage who do manage to make a living from their writing.
    I’ve been an Affiliate and Associate member of SFWA for quite a few years now, because for everything I do, I still haven’t met the stringent qualifications for Active. It’s galling, somedays, to realize how long I’ve been at it, when other people blaze right on in after selling a book. It’s likewise frustrating to realize that it’s easier to stay in than to get in…and that you could have sold a book and joined before I was born, never done another thing, and still have more rights and privileges.
    And it’s disheartening to know that some members of SFWA would like to keep even more of their brethren out. Sorry we’re Just Not Your Kind of professional writer. 🙂

  16. Fair point and thanks for the clarification. I am not sure, however, that a far smaller SFWA would be able to wield any clout either. There is a case to be made that, as publishing changes, publishers are less relevant and powerful than they used to be – but of course publishers are reacting against those changes and trying to find ways to retain their power. ‘Twas ever thus. For my part, I see various problems within SFWA – perhaps the major of which is the issue of successful independent/self-publishing folk – but I also see hard-working people doing their very best to improve that organisation and the lot of their fellow writers.

  17. I’m a founding member of NINC (, was involved in the discussions and meetings prior to writing NINC’s original bylaws (including membership requirements), I was put in charge of the first revision of membership qualifications we ever did in NINC (2007), I was on the NINC BoD for 2 years (one year as president), and I revised the Bylaws in 2008 (ratified by m’ship in 2009).

    I’m not a SFWA member anymore, so I generally avoid commenting on SFWA.
    I’m commenting here on your proposals from a general standpoint of proposals for a professional writers organization.

    1. Membership qualifications.

    NINC has the highest bar to membership of any fiction/prose organization that I’m aware of. For example, you, Brad, do not qualify. This is a key reason that Ninc is small—approx 600 members most years even though, unlike SFWA, we draw membership from all genres. (The org is for career novelists in commercial fiction, not for any particular genre.) We also run a m’ship survey every few years, and what I know from this is that even with the highest m’ship bar in the biz, a significant portion of our m’ship (I think it’s 1/3) would not meet the bar you’re proposing.

    So, for starters, you’re talking about a TINY organization for the SFWA that you envision. And just as huge size (ex. RWA) has its own set of problems, so does tiny size. MONEY being an obvious one. The smaller your membership, the smaller your dues base, the less you can do. (Ex. We spend a lot of $ on our monthly newsletter content and our conference, to ensure that these are professionally valuable to our members. Quality costs money.) Below 500 members, last time I looked, a writing org isn’t eligible for ACA Coalition funds, which is where about 20 writers orgs (including Ninc, SFWA, MWA, RWA, etc.) get substantial funds annually. Again, quality costs money for a writing org, and your proposed m’ship criteria might ensure you omit access to an important source of funding.

    Additionally, how would you track this requirement, realistically speaking? Lots of people lie about their income, after all. Reviewing writers’ tax returns would probably be your most reliable resource. And I’m probably not the only full-time, self-supporting sf/f pro who would rather keep my income (and my tax returns) private than share it annually with a writing org in exchange for the privilege of paying dues to them.

    2. Hiring people requires a lot of money. (I know, for example, what hiring staff cost us at NINC. And the smaller the org, the smaller the revenue, and the more difficult is it to afford staff.) Where will this organization get the money for this?

    3. In fact, the time, focus, money, and energy wasted on awards, combined with the infighting that tends to accompany them, is precisely why we chose not to have awards in NINC. (IIRC, we even wrote this into the Bylaws, to ensure it was a decision that couldn’t be changed easily.) I don’t have any criticism of this suggestion (in fact, I would enthusiastically vote in favor of it, if I were a SFWA member!), but I know from sitting through SFWA meetings that too many members—including writers who meet your proposed criteria—are too invested in the Nebulas for this to be a remotely realistic proposal.

    4. RE jacking up m’ship fees…. The higher the fee, the more of actual value you need to offer to members, and to prospective members. And you need to offer it BEFORE you jack up that fee. In this proposal, you’re talking about a fee so high that I—as a full-time,, self-supporting sf/f professional—can’t think of anything a writers organization can offer me to be worth the sort of fees you’re proposing. You would, in effect, have to reinvent the whole concept of writing orgs and offer very extensive services to merit the sort of fees you’re suggesting (I seldom spend $1,000 on my -lawyer- in a given year; what do you propose to offer that exceeds the essential services I get from the attorney who negotiates my publishing contracts and helps resolve my professional problems/disputes?)

    . I agree: No politics is, in fact, a firm guideline since the beginning of NINC, one we adhere to in all NINC business and interaction. However, there is a custom in SFWA of characterizing professional issues as political ones, including among writers who would qualify under your proposed m’ship criteria. But if you hope for it to change, why not lead by example? Consider defining and discussing yourself, others, and SFWA problems, issues, activities, and proposals, from this moment on, strictly on the basis of standards of professionalism and professional relevance rather than on the basis of politics.

  18. Your comparison with NINC is helpful, Laura. As I tried to indicate above, although I messed up the numbers, the relatively large membership is the only thing that gives SFWA a chance to be the organization it purports to be, one that would have the money to hire a professional staff and pursue legal actions against publishers. The problem is that SFWA is trying to grow beyond its clubbish, impoverished origins and develop the infrastructure, institutional memory, and volunteer coordination that would let it operate at a level beyond minimally effective. The large membership of less-than-fully-professional writers does not, in any way, limit the ability or will of the Board to steer the organization the way you and others would want. Crises like the latest ones do nothing but distract the Board from doing its job, make it reactive rather than proactive. When I’ve been SFWA President, I’ve repeatedly asked Jerry P. and other full-professionals what they wanted SFWA to do to advance their business interests, and in most cases, there was no substantive answer.

    I think Laura’s comparison with NINC is useful, too, in that NINC appears to have a much more limited mission statement. Maybe I’m wrong, but it seems as though, of all the major genre writing groups, SFWA is the most activist when it comes to advocating for authors’ rights. When we submitted a white paper to the Copyright Office on orphan works in 2005 and again last year, for example, none of the other genre writers groups did, although a few agreed to sign on to our submissions. Likewise, SFWA was the only genre writers group to submit a statement at the Google Books Settlement hearing. It could be argued that the problem is that SFWA has too broad a mission statement and is only able to perform a subset of its mission at any given time.

    I would modify Laura’s statement to say it this way — Defining and discussing SFWA problems, etc. strictly on the basis of standards of professionalism and professional relevance rather than on the basis of politics -or personalities.-

  19. “It’s called the Writer’s Guild.”

    Since your master is on record as wanting to abolish the SFWA, and you have complete contempt for those people who want to join it *now* who aren’t multi-million dollar earning authors, why do you even care what happens to it? If you think the Writer’s Guild is all that and a bag of chips, then off you go.

    Brad’s idea will kill the SFWA. I don’t know why you both don’t go off and form your own exclusive club of really high-earning authors who don’t need any organisational help anyway. Many of the existing SFWA members consider themselves active and successful according to their own goals. If that offends you so deeply, gents, then make your own clubhouse.

  20. Michael wrote: “I would modify Laura’s statement to say it this way — Defining and discussing SFWA problems, etc. strictly on the basis of standards of professionalism and professional relevance rather than on the basis of politics -or personalities.-”

    GOOD EDIT. I agree 100%.

  21. Recently, I reread an interesting interview with Fred Pohl in an early 1990’s SF Chronicle. Apparently, at the time, there was a debate in SFWA about whether or not to morph into an SFFA, or : Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. Pohl was opposed to it. He asserted that SF was a unique form of literature with a special, often overlooked viewpoint, and that it needed its own organization and its own space. Around the same time, I read a book of essays about SF by Norman Spinrad, in which he described SF as a form of literature that could only have come about as part of the Enlightenment. It has occurred to me that the shocking contempt and disregard of the P.C. crowd for free speech issues is an outgrowth of the loss of these Enlightenment values held by a cross section of both traditional liberal and conservative SF writers, whose consensus endorsement of the Truesdale petition drives the P.C. crowd into an insult-laden frenzied stream of denouncing their opponents, whether from the right or left, as insensitive sexist, racist old farts whom they they can’t wait to have DIE OFF as soon as possible. It was the so-called Romantic Era that followed the Enlightenment that gave us irrational, overemotional political thought, literature, and movements, including, and especially crackpot religious waves and totalitarian ideologies. Most of these have had no respect for civil liberties, and almost always have clever, seductive rationales for restricting the freedom of speech. Rather than fixating on Malzberg’s atypical and somewhat foolish remarks in that Bulletin article, people should go back and reread his remarks in his October 2010 Locus interview, in which he gives a dead-on diagnosis of how SF isn’t SF anymore; since about the time of the death of Asimov, it’s unravelled and been squeezed out by fantasy in the bookstands, the professional groups, and at the conventions. This resonates with me. It really is a proud and lonely thing these days to be a fan – a Science Fiction fan, for chrissakes, whether standing in the “sci-fi” aisles of my local bookstore surrounded by all of the zombies, elves, dragons, vampires, unicorns, Medieval-drag laden horde, etc., ad nauseum, with barely a rocket or robot to be seen anywhere, unless in the employ of a light-sabre or pointed eared media franchise, powered by bad esp powers that would have made JWC, jr blanche in the worst of his fall from greatness into crackpot irrelevance. I like REAL SF. I struggle to find it every month in the bookstores and the “new books” sections of resources like Locus (the latter I have come to believe is actually contemptuous, if not hostile to it). When I look at the names of the people who are making the most fuss about the Bulletin and calling not for polite, rational, if impassioned discussion and consideration of their viewpoints, but for censorship, resignations, death, “f—you” style denunciations, and calls for Kommissariats for Political Correctness to monitor writers’ publications, I am intrigued to find that I either have never come across them in the places where find real SF, or that they are fantasy writer, usually pushing the pap that, well, “sci-fi” and fantasy, it’s all just different kinds of magic, really, isn’t it? No, it isn’t, and its values and background are totally different, and its no great surprise that Enlightenment values are being sneered at as well.

  22. Yes. THIS.
    And pretty much everything else Laura said. SFWA has a lot of problems, but limiting membership further probably won’t solve any of them.

  23. I don’t know what a realistic nuts and bolts solution is, but your premise is right on the money. This bizarre race/gender narrative that fronts SFF as a combination of GLAAD, N.O.W. and the NAACP is driven by people who rank very high on the political correctness totem pole and very low in terms of professional accomplishment and artistry. The truth is that you have blogs and even semi-writing careers (working a day job full time) being sustained by pure race/gender gospel rather than a devotion to SFF literature or success within that field. Needless to say, literature itself is on the back burner. Unfortunately the solution to that – marginalizing them – is dependent on cultural custom and practice – peer pressure, not hard and fast rules. Last year, two Nebula nominees and one winner were people who never shut up about “Western” and “too white” in a pejorative sense – and by “never” I mean “never.” In fact that racial disdain is orthodoxy within most of SFF’s institutions. Take that ethnic sales pitch away and you have – as pure artists – nobodies from nowhere. If there is a solution, it is to educate people on who these people really are and what it is they are really selling, and it ain’t love of humanity. In other words, the financial division you address is no coincidence, and contrary to what the PC believe, were that financial division to be enforced, it would severely undercut the race and gender-baiting filling this community. Amateurs are driving this PC narrative as well as authors upgunned from a 50mm to a 105mm cannon for no other reason than their devotion to so-called “social justice,” not art, not literature.

  24. For those of you who think is new/recent or some sort of “PC” problem… No. Constant internal feuding of this sort (but with a variety of topics–and with a few of the same people who’ve been around for decades) have characterized SFWA since long before I became a member around 1992. I was ambivalent about becoming a member precisely because I’d already seen so many focus-dragging feuds in SFWA from the outside for years before that. This is a problem of SFWA’s internal culture which will not be eliminated by excising one particular group–unless you can find a way to excuse absolutely everyone who is not willing to leave their personality issues and politics at the door.

  25. If they actually believed in inclusivity they wouldn’t be dead set against keeping ebook authors out of their little club. Some brethren are more brotherly than others, it seems.

    That a science fiction group does this beggars the imagination. You can have Kindle sales orders of magnitude higher than what you’d get from one of their “qualifying” outlets, but no SFWA for you.

    My advice would be to spend less time currying favor with left-wing hack editors and more time becoming acquainted with the 21st Century. They won’t do that, of course, any more than they’ll take any of Brad’s advice.

  26. You’re wrong – we know this is not new – personality and political differences will be found anywhere in the world you go. This is something new, and it is only a few years old within the SFF community. For want of a better term, “PC” is absolutely at the bottom of this. The reason this has stirred up a hornet’s nest even with people who have nothing to do with the SFWA is because a cult of racist and gender bigotry that claims to be conspicuously fighting the exact opposite has become institutionalized with SFF. This PC cult maintains the right to boldly racially slur and negatively profile white people while even the thinnest excuse the opposite way, i.e. “cultural appropriation,” ” white privilege,” too many white people on Dr. Who, is automatic enrollment in the KKK. The PC do the exact same thing with straight folks and men. The solution is there and it is simple: stop allowing these racist and sexist bigots a platform using ONE standard for bigotry, not two. When someone is on Twitter making daily – DAILY – racist remarks, including against entire continents, you think that would be a clue. There is no opposite number here when it comes to such remarks from within SFF’s institutions. For every boldly sexist, racist or bigoted remark against PoC, women or gay folks by a Nebula or Hugo nominee or con organizer within the last 5 years, I can present 10, 20 the other way. If we put money on that idea believe me, you wouldn’t play, unless your fond of having your bank account cleaned out. The idea this is he-said, she-said is laughable. There are no calls for white writers for a white anthology to celebrate “whiteness” and “Eurofuturism” because there is no white supremacism within SFF. The call for all-female, gay and PoC anthologies is an endless stream. Those are accompanied by supremacist doctrine and rhetoric. When people are writing posts on webzines calling for fewer white saviors in stories and with bizarre supremacist notions during AfroSF symposiums complete with segregated “safer-spaces” for non-whites at WisCon, that is a problem. When a WisCon organizer is retweeting “Your specific ancestors needn’t have been slave-owners or native-killers for you to benefit from white supremacy,” that is a problem. That enrolls every white person on earth in a racial supremacy that hasn’t been tried since Nazism. I could list 18 kazillion more quotes – statistically speaking, you got nothing in reverse. And John Scalzi, AS SFWA president, presented this white racial privilege not only as orthodoxy, but a settled science as obvious as “gravity.” We’re talking about maybe a dozen ringleaders. Boot them out of this community and peace will reign.

  27. I’ll leave alone the first four items, which are mostly to do with what kind of SFWA you would want.

    Number five is oddly muddled, though. A “no politics” rule is great, and it does work for a lot of issues, but it’s also a source of status quo bias. The effect of what you suggest is that the status quo always wins any political argument, and any change remotely connected to a political issue becomes impossible. In this case, those who feel that the issue of representation in sci-fi is important would automatically lose any and all arguments, simply because their side is not the status quo side. If that rule were implemented now, anyone who would want to get one of those (perceived as) sexist covers on Bulletin would automatically lose an argument. That’s a serious effect you’re not taking into account.

    Point the second: the idea that discrimination is a political issue in the first place. While it’s certainly something that two sides can disagree on, that doesn’t mean it’s really a political issue. Everyone you ask will oppose discrimination, the question is simply how proactive SFWA should be in this regard. It also shows that the “no politics” rule can be oddly political, because the act of declaring something to be political is a political act in and of itself.

    Thirdly, the implication that if SFWA was simply a business, you wouldn’t have this is really not true. Every business and every magazine has to deal with these issues, and many publications have representation/discrimination rules. You would be having this discussion regardless of whether or not SFWA was run more like a professional business. In fact, you would have articles in Bulletin dealing with this very subject — because it does affect every author’s business.

  28. And, um, after writing a comment like that, you don’t see yourself as part of the problem of “politics and personalities” that Michael and I discussed above? O…kay…

  29. Exactly what would be political about, say, hating black people? And how can I have a personality conflict with people I don’t know? Is that the same personality conflict I have with David Duke, whom I also don’t know? And why would so many people such a strong reaction to internal personality conflicts? The easy answer is they don’t. They’re reacting to filthy smears like “white privilege,” and other smears like the cishetero racist white supremacist patriarchy so fondly talked about by the PC. Get a principle, lady. I don’t even care what it is. Just apply it to everyone, cuz the way things are right now, the PC are seeing racism and sexism in trees and cloud formations, while ignoring their colleagues saying “cracka ass cracka” and calling whites “sour dough-faced” on Twitter and then going onto con panels about writing the “other” and heading up writing grants for PoC. Do you even know what a double standard is? Why not just ask David Duke to hold a workshop about writing the “other?”

  30. The ‘politics’ rule would simply devolve into endless bickering about what is, or isn’t, political vs. an appropriate topic of discussion. “No politics!” would be a conversation-ending kill-card for anyone who didn’t like the way a subject was going, even if the subject were actually relevant to SFF. If a senior editor of distinguished SFF house declared he was no longer going to publish anything by white male authors, would SFF membership be allowed to discuss that, or what the SFWA should do in response? Under the no-politics rule, no, they would not, because that wades into racial and gender political issues.

    Regarding the ‘income rule’…Well, maybe an example would clarify why this is a terrible idea. Assume that we have a group of writers, each of whom spends 15 hours a week writing and makes $50K annuallly. Writer A spends the rest of her time lounging around playing Call of Duty. B does not do any other paid work, because he’s an at-home dad and his wife’s administrative job pays $250K a year. C works 40 hours a week at a fast food restaurant and brings home $25K a year to supplement her income. D works only 30 hours a week, but his IT consultant job pays $100K a year for that time. E spends 5-10 hours a week writing nonfiction articles for technical publications, which brings in $50K a year. And F has a trust fund.

    So only A and C are clearly eligible to join Brad’s SFWA. What about B? Well, I guess that depends on whether you consider only ‘his’ personal income (in which case he’s eligible), or whether you look at his household income and factor in his wife’s (in which case he isn’t). C spends more time on non-writing work than anybody else, but because her day job doesn’t pay as well as, say, D’s, she’s eligible and D isn’t. And even though E spends more time writing fiction than nonfiction, because nonfiction pays better, E is out. Don’t even ask about F.

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