SFWA is the Science Fiction Writer’s Association. An organization that was once useful, but which is now so obnoxiously PC that they probably wouldn’t let Heinlein be a member.
Author Mike Williamson wrote this blog post about SFWA’s descent. A few of us writers were having a conversation via email about the recent SFWA kerfuffles, so he quoted me.
It is a really good article, and if you are in the world of sci-fi, you should read it, as Mike makes some very good points.
I’m not a member. I was all sorts of excited to join when I first started out because it struck me as an I Made It badge. But then I looked at what they actually did, and my reaction was meh… Good thing I saved a little money on that membership, because they’re actually way more useless than I thought they were.
Fast forward a few years, and I’m doing extremely well, and now SFWA spends most of its energy having emotional freak outs about various totally useless topics. They might actually do good works, but I wouldn’t know, because those are overshadowed by them bitching uselessly on the internet about totally useless topics. (and I can do that on the internet for free!)
Recently a couple of old school gentlemen, Malzburg and Resnick, caused a giant shit storm of controversy because they refferred to an attractive women they knew as an attractive woman in the newsletter. HOW DARE THEY! SCRREEEEEE!
Then the controversy got even bigger when the SFWA bulletin had a scantily clad warrior woman on the cover (like about half of all books published do) and that just threw gas on the flames and the freak out became super hilarious. And sadly the picture wasn’t even racy. Of course, SFWA El Jefe, John Scalzi immediatly apologized on behalf of an organization of science fiction/fantasy writers for using a pretty standard science fiction/fantasy type cover, because when liberals argue victory is determined by whoever can scream “I’m offended!” loudest, sort of like how little kids play Uno.
Behind the scenes, the reason publishers use good looking women on covers is because that gets potential readers to pick up the books in the store long enough to read the back cover blurb (and I get that fact from my female publisher). Humans like to look at attractive people, and guys like Don Draper figured out along time ago that if you use attractive people to sell stuff, it sells more stuff. Publishers do that too because they like to sell stuff, and as a writer, I happen to enjoy getting more money. Crazy. I know.
Of course none of this is too surprising since this is the same organization that actually debated whether SFWA should have an official position on the Iraq war… Sigh… Of course, many of the authors I’m friends with wouldn’t have been able to vote because they were actually in Iraq at the time.
A couple of years ago a SFWA officer asked me to join. I asked what was in it for me. Basically, nothing. However, she pointed out that I would be able to help new authors, and because I’m pretty successful it would give SFWA added credibility… The thing is, I help new authors now, and I can do that without giving anything related to John Scalzi any extra credibility.
For the record, his bullshit about racial difficulty settings was one of the dumbest things I’ve ever read. The real racists are the ones that believe America has a caste system. The real racists are the ones who believe people of certain skin tones are unable to make it in life unless the government is there to save them. Why the hell would I want to give that added credibility?
President Scalzi, who is a white suburbanite liberal and thus an expert on racial issues and “priviledge”, is super awesome at finding controversial issues to milk for publicity for name recognition so he can sell more books, (hey, I’m a master of controversy generated traffic, I can recognize it when I see it) runs an organization that doesn’t really do much to help its members sell books. And sometimes, SFWA is even good at helping its members do things which help them sell fewer books.
The really funny part is that an organization of SCIENCE FICTION writers has yet to really understand the concept of “internets” and the super crazy idea that you can even sell books over this internets thing! And because of that, some writers are making buckets of money more than their traditional counterparts, but even the ones that are selling tens of thousands of books aren’t “real” writers. They don’t qualify. Somebody that sold a short story to a magazine 30 years ago totally qualifies as a real writer.
Which is sort of backwards, but what do I know? I grew up without “priviledge” on a higher difficulty setting, so maybe all of these big words are just confusing me.
Sure, this trade organization could concentrate on trade issues, but where’s the fun in that when you could be spending your time holding purges?
This nonsense has become so ingrained that when a friend of mine, who happens to be a brilliant writer, got nominated for some big awards, a bunch of SFWA members started an email chain to make sure he lost because he was a “straight white male”. Of course, none of them actually read his work, but this dude was a “remnant of the patriarchy!” Because everybody loves paying dues to a trade organization whose members actively sabotage your trade.
SFWA is supposed to be an organization that benefits its membership, but instead it is turning into just another useless sounding board of like minded individuals patting each other on the back about how awesome they are. Then when members leave, they rejoice, because who wants those tainted dissenters polluting the ranks?
Meanwhile, readership shrinks, traditional publishing flounders, the industry is changing, contracts are getting more dangerous, pay rates are staying the same or shrinking, new technology is leaving them behind, and SFWA is focused on making sure the right kind of people’s feelings are never hurt.
You’re a trade organization. Do stuff to help writers get paid!
They offer some good stuff. There’s no doubt of that, otherwise they wouldn’t have been around this long. They are supposed to help authors understand contracts. I know of one writer they helped out a few years back with a terrible small press contract. Awesome. Credit where credit is due. Yay. However I can also get contracts read over by a bunch of other people for feedback too. And some of the contracts that are still being signed today by SFWA members are utter garbage. I’m stunned by some of the crappy, stupid limits imposed on authors in some of the current big publisher contracts my friends have.
SFWA can help inform you about bad agents. Okay. That was super handy before they invented Google.
They are supposed to help in business disputes… So on that note, there’s all this evidence that big publishing houses are actively lying about how many books authors are selling in order to rip them off on their royalties. As a former auditor, there are some things out there publically which don’t pass the smell test. You would think allegations of publishers committing fraud would be issue number freaking one. Where’s SFWA on that huge issue? I don’t know, but I certainly know where they stand on chainmail bikinis!