Mike Williamson on SFWA, a really good post

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.

http://www.michaelzwilliamson.com/blog/item/sfwa–boldly-snatching-obscurity-from-the-jaws-of-relevance

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!

80 Responses

  1. I was hoping to read something from you about Resnick’s crucifiction. 😀

  2. They got upset about calling an attractive woman attractive?

    Do they also go for full gushing over attractive men?

    If so, maybe this is their indirect way of coming out of the closet.

    • I suspect they’d get upset over ANYONE being called “attractive”, as it’s discriminatory. “Lookist” is the term, I believe. Oh, and I’m sure there’s some blather in there about “reducing people to sexual objects, blah, blah, blah”.

      • Oh, there was.

        As was pointed out, the vast majority of those commenting had not read the offending issue (#200) and had only read Resnick’s and Malzburg’s (intemperate and hot-headed) reply (in #202). this didn’t stop them from angrily denouncing R&M for reducing women to sex objects and talking about them as nothing but attractive parts in swimsuits.

        Except, as best I can tell, the most offending quote >were these

        Almost synchronous with her [Catherine Tarrant’s] entrance was that of Beatrice Mahaffey as Raymond Palmer’s assistant editor when Palmer left Amazing to originate a series of his own magazines (beginning with Other Worlds) and I will leave it to you to introduce her; you knew her from the SF community of your early years and were, with so many, an admirer. She was competent, unpretentious, and beauty pageant gorgeous … as photographs make quite clear. Tell succeeding generations all about her, please.

        AND

        Ah, Bea Mahaffey…

        She was the only pro I knew in Cincinnati when we moved here from the Chicago area more than a third of a century ago. She was incredibly generous with her time and reminiscences, and I spent a lot of time with her, on the phone and in person, duting the first few months when I was learning my way around town.

        Anyone who’s seen photos of Bea from the 1950s knows she was a knockout as a young woman.

        Note that this was (i) about one person and (ii) about a person who they had met and (iii) about a person who they praised for her personal qualities before mentioning her appearance. I can’t even begin to see how that qualifies as “objectification”.

        This was described by one prominent feminist blogger as a “vile rant”. When I pressed said blogger to tell us if she’d read the article in #200, she first confused it with an article in #201 written by someone else entirely, then talked about R&M’s reply in #202, and then went silent on the matter. She did not, however, recant her description of the above quotes as a “vile rant”.

        As far as I can make out, R&M got pilloried largely because those quotes got distorted in a Chinese Whisper passed through people who hadn’t read the article and were too lazy to try to keep R&M’s comments separate from the other annoying features (the cover of #200 and the Barbie article in #201). And then Scalzi threw R&M to the wolves to pacify the loudest voices without bothering to even attempt showing any procedural justice for two people who were also science fiction writers, and better claimants to that title than any of those criticising them.

        I’m pretty damned lefty, but I was completely disgusted at the SFWA response.

    • They get the vapors over cleavage, but rock-hard abs prominently displayed on a cover is fine.

      It’s pretty much the argument, “But it’s okay if I do it…”

  3. They’re glad you’re not a member, Larry. And me. And John. And Laurell. And Sarah. And Will. We “writers” should just take our several hundred published books and go stand in the corner.

    • What are the consequences of ceding the ground, “go stand in the corner”, to these people? I ask because I am concerned about a broader pattern in cultural institutions. I recognize that I’m not on the line here, so don’t take the question the wrong way.

      • Andrew, it probably depends on the cultural institution. How many essential functions does that institution currently perform, what is the cost and potential benefit of leaving the institution, and what is the cost and potential benefit of fighting to retake the institution?

        Having read the posts by Correia and Williamson, and the comments here, it sounds like the SFWA is an institution that does not currently perform any essential functions, there’s little cost and some slight benefit to abandoning it, and little benefit and an unknown amount of cost (probably at least a medium-high amount of time) in trying to retake it.

        Other institutions have different functions, costs and benefits. I live in a rural area with a lot of farms. If the local volunteer fire department started telling farmers they couldn’t fight fires on their own with their own equipment but had to wait until the official fire fighters got there (which can easily take 20-30 minutes, the local fire district covers a large territory, most of it accessible only gravel roads), it’d be a completely different matter of function, costs and benefits, and there’d be a huge effort to retake that particular institution.

    • Hah! So true, Mike.

    • Even though I have no published books (or unpublished) I will proudly join you in not being a member of the SFWA.

      I think it’s like joining the athiest church.

      “Athiesm is a religion like ‘not collecting stamps’ is a hobby” — Penn Jillette

      We can all be aSFWA’s. From “a” meaning “without” and “SFWA” meaning ‘undesirable’.

      Pronounced “Ass-fwa”. Sort of like ass + fatwa.

      • Or, you could be the Science Fiction Authors Guild.

        The acronym is a touch unfortunate, however..

      • @Dr Kenneth Noisewater Methinks that Mad Mike already took care of that, when he posted the video from Team America, down-thread.

        Still, it’s proof that great minds think in parallel gutters !!!

    • This is part of of the same Literary Ghettoization that that keeps the Baen authors out of the Hugos (except Lois, but she got HER rep before the current crop. . . )

      Do they ever have PHYSICAL meetings ?? I can imagine you, Larrry, John, and the Krat breaking into one, getting the corners and the exits covered, then each pulling out a bullhorn and a book.

      And then do a public reading from each of your most politically-incorrect works. Most of the skulls in the room would explode from simultaneous exposure to Williamson, Correia, Ringo, and Kratman.

      I’m sure a collection could be taken up for the janitorial overtime afterwards. . . . (evil grin)

  4. You know, I’d kind of like to know which SFWA members were trying to torpedo Torgerson’s nominations. So I can avoid accidentally ever sending them money.

  5. Sigh… I really liked Redshirts and Agent to the Stars. It’s always disappointing to find out you gave money to someone who probably hates you.

    • Also, after reading the linked post, I note that I own more than one book written by the authors mentioned as being non-SFWA sci-fi writers, and more than one is on my “check webpage before shopping” list. Non-SFWA writers might be a good shorthand for trying new authors.

      • I’m not in favor of boycots. I figure people should read whatever books/authors they want to. If you want to read Scalzi, awesome. He’s a skilled author. Don’t be like those people who come over and threaten boycots against me anytime I post something that deviates from group think. Judge the work on the work.

      • I wouldn’t promote a boycot either, and certainly people should read what they wish. Still, it strikes me as unwise to fund influences that are destructive to one’s own interests. Redshirts is a good book, very funny, with some interesting comments on a life having meaning. However, if I fund a pernicious influence in exchange for being entertained, am I buying matches while enjoying the bread?

        Part of me wants it to be more complicated and involved, but I’m not sure it is.

      • I’ve never been able to get behind the mindset of “I won’t patronize this entertainer/establishment because they have X political view”. Largely because I find that there’s pretty much always going to be something I disagree with somebody about, and if I had to shop based on people who agreed with me, I’d starve in pretty short order, let alone not having anything to read or watch.

        Now, if I don’t like a book, or a particular author’s writing style, I won’t read on those merits, not because I disagree with the author. I quite enjoyed Redshirts, and I also enjoyed seeing Scalzi on Tabletop, even if I disagree with him politically. And I love Larry’s writing, even though I think he’s nuts for liking Coke Zero. That stuff is nasty. 😉 I even have some (slight) disagreements with him when it comes to politics– granted, not as much as someone like those mentioned often in both this and Williamson’s posts, but some. None of it keeps me from enjoying a well-spun yarn. I’m largely in favor of gays being able to have the same legal rights as everyone else, but I’m not going to participate in the silly boycott going around about the Ender’s Game movie because Card happened to have made a statement 20 years ago that got him labeled as anti-gay. Ender’s Game’s a good story, and I’m looking forward to seeing how it’s portrayed on screen.

        Same thing goes with shopping. I generally avoid shopping at Wal-Mart because it takes forever to checkout, and I can be in and out of a Target or Shop-Ko long before I’d get out of a Wal-Mart due to that reason. But I don’t avoid it on political grounds (unlike a number of people I know who buy into the “Wal-Mart is a right-wing bastion of greed and corporate avarice” mentality) because I can find something at any retailer where I’d disagree with them, and then where would I be when I couldn’t buy food or clothing?

      • I understand your reluctance, but I think the acid test isn’t if you agree 100% with what you believe, but if they work to reduce your freedoms.

        Personally I don’t find working to rig an award against an author to be an ethical practice. I dislike dealing with the dishonest or unethical.

      • @Julaire: It’s not that I would avoid doing business with someone with whom I disagree, but that I’m concerned about funding those who are actively involved in creating a society where I am unwanted. A person who advocates for an idea I dislike may well be someone I can deal with. A person who wants to create a world where I’m persona non grata, not so much.

        I get that we want to enjoy a story on the merits of the story, but is it really that odd to avoid doing business with people who will take your money and instead of “thank you” say “we don’t want your kind here”?

      • The problem is, thats the exact message some of us are getting from the majority of the SFWA members, and have been for years. Which is why i largely avoided buying SF books in the 90s.

      • I wouldn’t call Scalzi a “pernicious influence”. I’ve enjoyed reading his books, and I’ve even thumbed through my copy of “Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded” several times. The thing about Scalzi is that he is a moderatish liberal who tends to pick on so-called “safe” target issues. If he wasn’t a successful author, then he would just be another internet blogger on the other side of the issues whose posts wouldn’t have enough rancor or lopsidedness to merit a good fisking.

      • If you want to read Scalzi, awesome. He’s a skilled author.

        Ripping off Heinlein and Philip K. Dick is a skill… of sorts…

        He’s not getting a dime of my money, I know that much. I make a point of buying books from authors who don’t piss all over me in public.

        if I had to shop based on people who agreed with me, I’d starve in pretty short order, let alone not having anything to read or watch.

        Meh, it’s not like there aren’t millions of great books to read written by people who don’t hate me — or at least, don’t flaunt the fact that they do.

        I don’t watch TV or movies anyway… they stink AND you’re giving money to transnational socialists. Not giving them money is a win on so many levels!

        I think “Old Man’s War” was one of the best books I’ve ever read.

        Ermmmm…. read more books… starting with the one he ripped off when he wrote that book.

      • Which book was “Old Man’s War” ripped off from? I think I’m familiar with the entire Heinlein set, having grown up on it. And I don’t want to start an argument, I just want to know another really good book.

        I’ve thought of a couple of interesting spin off possibilities from OMW, by the way. Starting with:

        Spin off 1: The doctor recruit who was in pretty good shape, but had cancer. What if his old body refused to die, and escaped? What if he started freeing other ‘terminal’ shells. What are the old body’s rights? Is it actually legal to abort the older body, or are they violating interstellar law for wholesale murder? Can the original body sue to get his own stuff back? Is it a capital crime to escape the killing?

        It’s pretty plain that consciousness isn’t transferred, but copied.

        Spin off 2: Since it’s a copying technology anyway… ‘Clone Wars’!

        Spin off 3: Make backups. When good folks die, make another clone, and reinstall the operating system. Anything communicated over wires can be recorded and replayed.

        Spin off 4: The wrong clone body is used by mistake. There are now two soldiers who look very much alike (close enough to mix up visually) but are slightly different. And possibly insane, since the non-identical brain wouldn’t have all the same storage slots, and the OS downloads landed in the wrong sections. Synesthesia? Something far worse? Better? (unlikely) Always fatal in the past, but it worked this time?

        Spin off 5: The rich and powerful will use this for infinite life extension. Does each copy have cumulative transcription errors? Will this create an aristocracy who truly are soulless bastards?

        Anyway, I’d really like to find the original book. Thanks!

    • I think “Old Man’s War” was one of the best books I’ve ever read. That said, I know Scalzi believes that only the brain-dead would ever vote for a republican.

      I know this because he said exactly that on his blog. I purchased redshirts afterwards, and enjoyed it, but there is always a sour taste whenever I see his name on the cover of anything.

      • I understand this entirely. I’ve read and liked the books like Redshirts and Old Man’s War, and I do look in on his blog. I think I have gotten too used to dealing with some people who are generally OK but are too used to “assumed agreement”. To wit, I am a political conservative teaching at a small private college in New England. Engage these people on their prejudices first hand, and they don’t hold up. Scalzi has even backed off on his brain-dead/republican schtick on his blog as well.

        I like authors from all over, but I defeinitely feel more comfortable in the Baen end of the pool.

    • Enh, it’s not so bad. I used to play D&D with Brust, and he’s a declared Trotskyite. And I have all of Kratman’s stuff, and he’s directly called me stupid because of my positions on intellectual property.

      I figure, I’m paying for the entertainment value. I get my dollar’s worth.

      I mean, heck, even Correia and I disagree on political philosophy quite a bit. If I only read authors with whom I agreed all the time, A.) I’d never read anything, and B.) I’d never learn anything.

      • We agree most of the time, but disagree on certain issues, but you’re always cool about it and always have a reasoned response. Personally I love that sort of thing.

  6. http://www.jerrypournelle.com/chaosmanor/?p=14487

    Jerry Pournelle even got wrapped up in this nonsense.

  7. @Andrew, it’s probably best to know less about authors than I do in the internet age. It’s so much easier to enjoy folks like Card, Scalzi and Banks when you don’t know how distasteful they are (well, were in Banks’ case)

    • I can really sympathize with your POV, Lemming. However, if a writer chooses to politicize their platform, aren’t we all invited, even obligated, to react to that message and consider if it is wise to continue to fund that platform? Certainly, people who disagree with Mr. Correia do the same. That’s fine. Everyone gets to choose which ideas they support. It’s not like there’s some sort of official list of approved authors.

      SFWA is apparently doing it as well, under the direction of its current officers. By doing so, it makes the decision to no longer represent science fiction writers of America, but rather “science fiction writers of America who think in a way of which we approve”. That’s what it means when they don’t want members who don’t agree with them. It would be nice if they’d admit it and change the name, but then they wouldn’t be able to claim to speak for the community of “real” writers.

      I can feel the mega rant coming and will instead go back to my Barb Everette meets Owen Pitt vs. Things That Should Not Be daydream.

      • I’m not actually disagreeing with you. I’m just saying that “ignorance is bliss.” But it’s hard to be ignorant in the internet era.

        I’d really like to be able to enjoy a Card novel without pondering his anti-gay stance. I’d like to be able to again enjoy a Banks novel without pondering his antisemitism.

        Alas, these are folks who climbed up on a soapbox and declared their positions. ignorance is no longer an option.

      • I’d really like to be able to enjoy a Card novel without pondering his anti-gay stance.

        Because of all the coded anti-gay messages in his books that are permeating your subconscious mind?

      • Tarl: No, because sometimes it sucks to read a book by a guy who you know is a jerk.

        (Scalzi is a jackass on the six year old “Oh yeah, well you’re a POOPYHEAD!” level. Card strongly implied that violent overthrow of the government and everyone who supported it would be an appropriate response to a legalisation of gay marriage. Slight difference there. Also, Scalzi is a liberal pantywaist. I take even potentially facetious threats from LDS more seriously, just because they’re generally more competent human beings.)

      • Tarl, no. perlhaqr’s reply is near perfect, but I never konw when to shut up, so….. Card isn’t obviously anti-gay on the page. Neither was Banks overtly anti-semitic on the page. Heck, most MIchael Jackson songs are pedophilia free.

        (Actually, this is sort of my point, read on)

        It doesn’t change the fact that, for me, the artists have created a situation where their persona distracts from the art. YMMV, naturally. For me, I’d rather not know quite so much about the artist, when the artist turns out to be such a putz.

  8. This whole dust up is pretty sad. Does historical context factor in, that the authors who were bashed by not being “PC” have not been “PC” because there was really no “PC” when they started? It’s just a shame to read older novels or novels by authors who have been around awhile. Heaven forbid a culture should in any way acknowledge its shared history. Even if it is a shared history of Speculative Fiction. You can only speculate within certain, specified boundaries, because that’s good speculation.

  9. I followed your exchange with Howard on the twits, I wouldnt have guessed he would defend the SFWA like that…

    But maybe I should have. Is he is blinded by friendship, or hope that they will let him in the club?

    • Whoa, back up there. Howard is a good guy and a good friend. We just disagree on this topic.

  10. Scalzi is a real piece of work. It continues to bother me I needed a couple months of following his blog to recognize that.

    • Once I saw his “white priviledge” BS, I stopped reading him. Completely. I wish Amazon had a setting for “This Author Is Dead To Me” on their recommendations pages.

      For one, his thesis is that by having a society that favors people who show up on time, well-groomed, work hard and stay within the law, we’re “favoring” “whites” who, apparently, do these things instinctively. Except I don’t know ANYONE who did any of that instinctively; everyone has had to learn it, usually by parental enforcement, sometimes the hard way. So his position is false from its very beginning.

      For another, heck, he said he was born into a life set to “easy”; he clearly doesn’t need or want my help.

  11. Wish I could wear a chainmail bikini. Well, I could but no one would want to see it…including me. Sigh.

  12. Larry, (And Mike, cause my response here is kinda to yours too)

    I remember hearing about the SFWA when i was a high school geek getting picked on when carrying SF and D&D books around school. I thought it would be a cool thing to be in and would have loved to be in a group of theoretically like-minded individuals, with luminaries whose stories inspired me to write in the first place.

    Then I basically forgot about them. Even with the advent of the Internet, i really never looked at them again until Larry linked to Sarah Hoyt’s blog some time ago.

    I’m a writer, I make money off of writing, and get paid for writing. I guess that makes me a professional writer.

    After I started reading Sarah’s blog, I started reading Mad Genius Club. After reading a post there a few weeks ago, I realized I actually qualified for SFWA membership in 1998, when i was writing and doing art for White Wolf.

    Based on what I’ve read the last few months, I wouldn’t become a member of their precious organization if they sent me a membership for free. $80 a year? That would renew my NRA membership and pay for a couple boxes of ammo… screw them.

  13. I disagree with a number of Larry’s stated political stances. However, I’m not silly enough to confuse his fiction with a political endorsement, and I’m not silly enough to confuse my entertainment dollars with a charitable donation to a political party or organization.

    I will continue to disagree with Larry on a number of core topics (and agree with him on others), and I will also continue to buy his books because he’s a hell of a writer.

    I do not see how this is complicated.

    • Larry can be a dick, but he’s an entertaining dick.

      And Scalzi is a pussy.

      And SFWA are assholes.

      Language warning:

      • I award Michael +2 internet points for the on topic Team America love, as well as getting a YouTube video in the MHI blog comments.

      • I knew this was coming. ROFL.

      • Larry is a dick, but he’s my dick.

        Wait, that came out wrong.

        Larry is a dick, but he’s definitely my kind of dick.

        No, that’s still not quite right.

        Larry is a dick, but… you know what, I’m just going to put down the shovel before this hole gets any deeper.

      • Uh…

        Hmmm….

        Well…

        Thanks?

      • It’s Banzai’s Law of Holes: once you’re in a hole, there you are.

  14. As for scalzi, I never thought I would say this but now I’m glad he wrote fuzzy nation, I book I feel is worse that how Howard Taylor feels about bloodrayne the movie. It showed me that I never wanted to read anything he wrote ever again paid or free, and if he was on fire I *might* urinate on him to put it out, the jury is still out on that.

  15. Sounds like the SFWA needs a conservative version, kind of like AMAC was started to counter the left-wing AARP.

    • I don’t think that’s a good idea. A writer’s advocacy group doesn’t strike me as something that needs an ideological test, left or right. I’d much prefer to see an organization that recognizes the value of intellectual diversity in speculative fiction while focusing on business, professional development, and craft. Surely there would be ideologically based disagreements within such an organization, but it would be better to avoid excluding people due to unorthodox ideas.

      • Since the Left does not believe in ideological diversity at any time, under any circumstances, and an any organization whatsoever, I don’t know why you’d think a writer’s group would be exempt.

        “Freedom of association”? Racist! Sexist! Homophobic! Intolerable!

      • Obviously it’s not exempt, but I don’t think it improves things for there to be two factions running around claiming to be the One True Way for SF writers.

      • Ah, so we’re just supposed to join the SFWA and shut up, or have *no* organized representation that shares our beliefs. thanks for clarifying that.

      • @Draven: I’m not sure if you’re being obtuse on purpose, but I’ll clarify just in case. An organization that wants to foster the development of SF as a craft and assist writers in the marketplace is not well served by intentionally excluding a group of writers on an ideological basis. It’s perfectly fine to have a group dedicated to the promotion of ideological fiction, but that’s not the same type of group, and the goals of the latter would interfere with the goals of the former.

        I’m against any group that wants to establish an ideological monopoly in expression, particularly in speculative fiction. The genre is made stronger by having a multiplicity of viewpoints. More ideas create more possibilities and allow us to explore those possibilities in fiction. I want left leaning thought in fiction and I want right leaning thought in fiction because I want those ideas to fight it out and improve.

        An organization that promotes the creation and open exchange of ideas through speculative fiction is a valuable thing. Promoting and protecting those that create such fiction is also valuable. I want them to serve both ideas I advocate and those with which I compete. Monopolies are typically unhealthy.

        See, it’s not that John Scalzi is a lefty that matters. I knew this when I read his books, and it didn’t really matter. What matters is that he works to create a world in which the ideas he disagrees with are denied an opportunity to compete. There’s a big difference there, and I don’t think creating an organization that makes the same mistake in my favor is a goal to shoot for.

      • See, it’s not that John Scalzi is a lefty that matters. I knew this when I read his books, and it didn’t really matter. What matters is that he works to create a world in which the ideas he disagrees with are denied an opportunity to compete. There’s a big difference there,

        There is? Seems to me that intolerance of competing ideas is a fundamental characteristic of the Left. The Left regards competing ideas as dangerous, therefore such ideas must be shouted down, crushed, and suppressed.

        So, he is a Leftist, and is working to create a world in which Leftism can prevail. His behavior is consistent after all…

  16. I judge the work on the work. It is, however, no coincidence that I’ve paid Mike W. for autographed copies, bought multiple copies of both Mike and Larry’s work to send to my friends, am eagerly awaiting MHI Challenge Coins, etc. Overall, I’d say the “dissenters” have more linear feet on my bookshelves than Mr. Scalzi. I respect and appreciate his work but would point out that his blog “Whatever” used to have a logo of “Taunting the tauntable since 19xx.” He couldn’t be any more straightforward about his objective. Say what you will, but he’s not being sneaky or underhanded.

    Generally, and I recommend this approach for everyone, I vote with my wallet and deliberately buy books which entertain, uplift and inspire, and trigger many interesting thoughts and considerations. I don’t buy books which bludgeon me with holistic crap or exist solely as vehicles to espouse failed economic or social policies.

    Plus – I like reading about violence, mayhem, derring-do, guns, gadgets, strong men and hot babes (YES, I said BABES!!! DEAL WITH IT!!!). How does our society glorify women on every magazine at the checkout stand and every “reality” show on cable, but somehow they can’t hold a place in science fiction?

    • But… Scalzi’s books don’t bludgeon with that sort of thing. Ironically, I’d say his books are pretty anti-government.

    • Conversely, I Eff the Ineffable. My blog is the Sacred Cow Slaughterhouse. I don’t fear any subject, and I don’t wank about a ban hammer for “carefully managing” debate. If someone disagrees intelligently, we might learn something from them. If they agree unintelligently, we can see their position is silly, and be entertained.

      “Managing” a discussion is an admission that you don’t think your statements can stand for themselves.

  17. “The Banhammer.” False bravado at its worst.

    • +1

      The hipocracy dripping off his gun post after the Newtown shootings, while claiming moral high ground with his ban hammer, is where I finally got a clue left him to his little kingdom.

  18. Sounds like Conquest’s laws are in full force in the SFWA.

    They won’t give you a level playing field. I suppose that it is up to you to decide whether it is better to create a competing franchise, or to try to take this one back from the Liberals – a difficult proposition.

  19. I’m writing this having read MadMikes article, but not the rest of the comments here.

    Just… Wow. And he was much harsher on MR Kowal’s posts than I was even considering. I’m glad Howard has mostly kept out of this, but the only reasons I’m aware of her existence now are a) her presence on Writing Excuses, where I found her to neither be a drag, but also not much of a boost, and b) her screeds. From the podcast I could see where she may be just as charming in person as Mike notes, but her passive-agressive rabid online rantings over these latest kerfluffles – the “lady” sexism and the post that was “nudge-nudge, wink-wink, not passive agressive at all and directed at everyone as general guidance, but all her fans know she’s talking about Pournelle who’d just been publicly lambasted on twitter and elsewhere and others…” – well. She’s crapping on and attacking a guy I look up to as a mentor, the guy who got me into history REALLY hard core via his “There Will Be War” and “Imperial Stars” series, and most specifically, the realization that one of the first Falkenberg shorts was the Nika revolt. A guy who is ridiculously accomplished in multiple fields, and unlike the accusations thrown at him by the anklebiters, NOT clueless about things like memes. A gentleman that counts political opponents as friends and regular hosts.

    That kind of behaviour shows one to be a petty person no matter what kind of face one wears for the public.

    So it’s obvious we’ve reached the phase where, in the Russian revolution, we’ve not only started killing off the enemies of the state, but redefined many of the founders as enemies, as well as the mensheviks and the trotskyites for not being bolshevik enough.

    Mike also mentioned Vox. Despite being such an obvious (self-projected) asshole that it hurts his cause in some ways (he punched some of Mikes buttons re: religion pretty hard, I’m glad they both dropped it) – His statements stand or fall on their own for the truth contained – or not. He at least has accomplished real stuff in the real world above and beyond many of his detractors in several fields, and I’m also glad he’s willing to act as the focal point to expose a lot of the B.S. If the people heading up the SFWA had been the type to allow, much less address/debate, opposing viewpoints without resorting to personal attacks of their own (some direct, some very passive-agressive) and public shaming of people who can’t defend themselves because the “offense” is hidden (as was the case for Pournelle and others) – they’d likely be doing their jobs and we would not be here discussing this.

  20. On a different note – since you mentioned sexy book covers – well – when Hines and Scalzi decided to get dressed up to protest sexy book covers with unlikely poses because SEXISM!!!, I quickly realized almost all of the books they spoofed were written by women, and marketed to women.

    Hey, Im a submariner. I also like old Bugs Bunny cartoons. Guys getting silly and dressing up in drag as a joke? I wouldn’t, but noo problem.

    Not understanding what you’re making fun of by doing so?

    You just look like an idiot.

  21. Jeepers. It’s *science* *fiction.* I love the stuff but (on the ‘reader” side) pretending it’s not A) competing with your beer and candy-bar budget and B) something you used to have to rip the cover off of if you wanted to carry it around grown-ups is just damn silly.

    Is writing it a craft, a trade? Yep. Like most trades, they practitioners have a wide assortment of opinions. Eric Flint, Fred Pohl, H. Beam Piper, Arthur C. Clarke and Joanna Russ are prolly not going to be voting the same way I am, or seeing the same issues in the same way, but they can sure-as-hell write when they want to. It’s unfortunate that the SF writers “union” has been ideologically captured, but as a long-time and somewhat reluctant IBEW member, I’m certainly familiar with the situation. At least SF writers can opt-out!

    So can readers — but don’t confuse the workman with his work. Eric Frank Russell, who wrote some classics of libertarian SF, was a thoroughgoing socialist and is said to have not been a very nice guy; it doesn’t make “…And There Were None” any less enjoyable. I’d encourage readers to buy or avoid books base on what they like. The work will last long after the writers and their politics are safely dead.

  22. I’m so glad you weighed in on this Larry. Kowal’s nutbar posts about this almost made me blow a vein in my forehead.
    I like her on WE, she gives some good tips on writing, but this ‘keep your free speech to yourself’ sh** drives me nuts: “there are 1788 other members of SFWA who also value their freedom of speech and manage to exercise it without being raging assholes.” Are you F***ing kidding me!!! Read your own damn post you nut! This is so typical of socialist tactics; Just call anyone who thinks opposite of you a sexist, racist, fascist etc. without correctly quoting them in context. They seem incapable of having normal debates because they have no solid evidence to stand on. All they can do is drown out free speech by shouting “shame, shame, shame!”

  23. I blame George Bush because racist.

  24. I can handle getting me to read the back of the book. I hate it when the back of the book does absolutely nothing to get me to try to read the rest of the book.

    NEVER let them replace the blurb on the back of your books with just a bunch of reviews. Especially reviews of other books.

  25. From my seat on the sidelines, some questions stand out:

    1) In this day and age, would a trade organization advocating for SF&F writers be of actual benefit assuming it stuck to its core mission?

    2) If so, what’s to stop Correia-esque sensible writers from creating such a group and (as it grows to a size to make it possible) hiring a couple of minions and maybe an attorney to handle administrivia and legal adventure?

    • Back when I was just starting in the business (and I’m still just starting–I’ve been “just starting” for 20 years now but that’s another story), there were a few things I saw that SFWA were good for.

      First off, SFWA is not a union or anything like one. Still, they had several benefits:

      – The Grievance Committee. If you had a problem with a publisher, the Grievance Committee could sometimes talk to them on your behalf and, thanks to the “gravitas” of SFWA then having most of the “names” in the field as members could sometimes get things resolved to your benefit.

      – The SFWA publications. These provided a venue to learn about the field and what’s going on in it. In particular there were things like the SFWA model contracts to give you some idea of what a contract should look like. Also articles in the Bulletin and in the “SFWA Handbook” (an on again/off again small book that sometimes came with SFWA membership) on what to look for, and what to be wary of, in contracts.

      – The Emergency Medical Fund. Freelance writers often have really sucky health insurance. The EMF could, in some cases where writers had serious medical expenses, provide a no-interest loan to help cover medical expenses.

      – The Legal Fund. Similar to the EMF but for legal issues.

      – The Random Audit. For a while (a short while, I think) SFWA would pick one member’s book “at random” and (with the member’s agreement–this was not done unilaterally) audit the publishers books for that book. It was an attempt to help keep the publisher’s honest.

      I think SFWA still does the EMF and Legal Fund but I’m not so sure about how much, in practice, any of the others function today.

  26. Really good post, and Williamson’s post was really good too. I’ve seen a number of voluntary groups (whether trade, hobby, or whatever) in various stages of self-destruction, and this post and Williamson’s are so far the best descriptions I’ve come across in how that happens and what it looks like if you stumble across it mid-process.

    As a very nitpicky comment: ‘victory is determined by whoever can scream ”I’m offended!” loudest’ is NOT restricted to just liberals, I’ve seen a number of conservatives do it too, as well as people who generally didn’t talk about politics much.

    I saw it most often when I was living on the west coast. It seems to be less correlated with politics and more a cultural thing about someone (a) wanting to avoid ever making a decision, if at all possible, and (b) if a decision must be made, make it in favor of whoever started wailing about how much pain they were in first and/or loudest, and then talk about how favoring the loudest person is an example of how understanding and sympathetic one is to other people’s feelings.

  27. I’ve bought Scalzi’s books. I’ve bought Card’s. I enjoyed all of them. Except Codas 2 and 3 in Red Shirts. What was that about? Anyway, I was fortunate enough to seen both of them speak at the Los Angeles Festival of Books. Scalzi screamed something about Gay Rights out of the blue during a panel discussion. Wasn’t sure why. It felt scary, fanatical. Sounded like a Tourettes moment. Card, on the other hand, shared anecdotes about watching Harrison Ford coach Asa Butterfield during the filming of Ender’s Game. He also talked about Jane Austin being one of his favorite authors. No shouting Anti-Gay sentiments during his discussion. I went to listen to great writers talk about their incredible contributions to SciFi, not be yelled at for whatever political hot button is getting the most traction.

    Anyway, I am going to see Ender’s Game! I’ve waited for years for it to be made. If that makes me a hater, so be it. Boycott, protest all you want. I am there on opening night. I might even stop at Chic-fil-A on the way.

    • “Except Codas 2 and 3 in Red Shirts. What was that about?”

      Heavy handed literary device so he could write Coda 1 is first person, Coda 2 in second, and Coda 3 in third. I expect if there was a fourth person, there would have been a coda four.

  28. Most people here seem at pains to point out that the political leanings of authors “don’t make any difference.” Well let me dissent. I don’t subsidize collectivists or other sorts of pig statists with my dollars. I read Stross, until I found out he’s a Scottish Socialist Party wanker; no more. Sorry. I read Scalzi until I found out he’s all exercised over “white privilege”; no longer. Others have qualifed along the way; if their politics suck, I’m not interested in helping them and their egregious political tomfoolery by spending money on their books, no matter how good a yarn they may spin (I can get them at the library if I must). So for those of you who think it would be okay to read sci fi by Adolph Hitler (call Godwin!), EXCUUUSE…ME!

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