Into the frying pan

For those of you who have been without internet for the last week or so, there’s been a witch hunt going on. Now, I can hear some of you already muttering that I need to step back, take a deep breath and find my coffee. Well, that’s true, but it has nothing to do with what has me wound up this morning. No, that started several days ago when I began seeing posts by authors and others in the publishing field condemning Mike Resnick and Barry Malzberg for what they had written in several editions of the SFWA bulletin. I have a lot of issues with how this “problem” has been dealt with and wonder if, in fact, it is actually a problem. However, I have no doubt that this conflagration is something that is doing no good to SFWA or to any author — but not for the reasons SFWA and those taking part in the witch hunt think.

Before we get into that, let’s review what SFWA is, or is supposed to be. According to SFWA’s homepage, it is “a professional organization for authors of science fiction, fantasy and related genres.” Still quoting from the homepage, SFWA is “open to authors, artists and other industry professionals, including graphic novelists.” That all sounds great, doesn’t it? Of course, being a home page blurb, it doesn’t really get to the heart of the matter, that there is more to membership than just being an author or artist, etc. You have to meet their definition of what a professional is.

To be considered a pro (or an “active” member), you have to prove you have sold three short stories (or similar) to a “qualifying” market at a rate of at least $0.05/word with a minimum payment of $50. If you can’t do that, then you have to prove that you’ve sold one novel to a qualifying market and received an advance of at least $2,000, or you’ve had one professionally produced  “full length dramatic script” that the committee finds meets the requirements.

That all sounds reasonable, right? Wrong. Where is the provision for publication through small presses that don’t pay advances but give the author a higher royalty rate than legacy publishers? What about authors like Rik Locke (Rik, we miss you) and others who make more on their self-published works than a lot of legacy published authors ever will make through their traditional contracts? I don’t qualify for SFWA membership despite the fact I made more than $2,000 on a single title through Amazon alone last month. There is nothing in the membership requirements that address the fact that there are a number of titles that come out in digital format only, hence no print version and no advance even if there is a lot of money made for the author.

Oh, we’ve heard the excuses from SFWA for the last couple of years. They were in the process of reviewing the issue. It would need an amendment to the by-laws, etc. etc., etc. Problem is, RWA reacted quickly to the issue. Its solution isn’t perfect, but at least it acknowledges the fact that the e-book revolution is here and has won its place in the publishing world. But, as far as SFWA is concerned, e-books, small presses and indie authors are nothing but embarrassments to be hidden from the rest of the world.

To become an associate member, you have to prove up one qualifying sale where you were paid at least $0.05/word with a minimum payment of $50. Of course, there’s no definition on the membership page that I saw that defines what the difference in membership levels is, other than qualification requirements. But even the associate membership requirements ignore digital publishing and indie publishing.

So, right off the bat, SFWA is losing its argument that it is still relevant and important to authors.

Then came this latest kerfluffle, a literary version of a witch hunt. The first time I became aware of it was when some of the folks on my Facebook “friends” list started condemning Mike Resnick and Barry Malzberg for what they’d written in two specific columns in the SFWA Bulletin. Words like sexism, misogynistic and — I kid you not — evil were used. Some of these same people started threatening to leave SFWA, or to never join it, if action wasn’t taken against Resnick and Malzberg. That action was, without a doubt, that they no longer be allowed to write for the bulletin and, if some of these folks had their way, never be allowed to write another word, anywhere, ever.

So, being curious because, while I don’t know either Resnick or Malsberg, I know people who do and who have had nothing but nice things to say about them, I went looking to see what was so bad about what they’d said. Color me not surprised to find out that the SFWA Bulletin is for members only. So the general public being hit by these accusations of misogyny, and worse, couldn’t read the columns and judge for themselves.

Then I started looking closer at the search results and realized that Twitter had been alive with the condemnations and calls for SFWA to take action. It turns out, this had apparently been going on in the members only discussion forums and had finally bubbled over to the public section of the internet. But no, this wasn’t an attempt to censor Resnick or Malsberg. This was merely an attempt to keep SFWA relevant and the forward thinking organization it is.

Oh, and of course, these two men could ruin the organization with their backward-thinking.

Then the blog posts started. Few quoted from the columns and only one that I can find actually uploaded scans of ONE of the two columns in question. I haven’t taken time to compare the scans to make sure they are full scans or not. Frankly, my blood pressure was high enough by then that I knew if I discovered they weren’t full scans, I’d have thrown my laptop against the wall and I really, really like this laptop.

So, knowing I wanted to address the issue, I put out a call asking for copies of the issues in question. I wanted to see for myself if there was anything in the articles that might be even close to as bad as what these folks with their figurative torches were saying. There’s not, at least not in my opinion. But that’s not to say I agree with everything Resnick or Malsberg had to say. Of course, I also don’t agree with the way one author and, iirc, former SFWA officer condemned the editor of the Bulletin at the time the issues in question were published for not only letting the columns appear but for, gasp, putting a woman in chain mail on the cover of yet another issue.

Give me a break. Sure, a woman in chain mail is not only historically inaccurate but could be called sexist. But have we lost all sense of humor? Have we forgotten that this sort of cover illustration harkens back to the Golden Age of science fiction? Oh, wait, I forget that we live in an age of such political correctness where a boy can get in trouble because the sign for his name looks too much like a gun or another kid can be expelled for chewing his pop-tart into the shape of a pistol — without meaning to. And let’s not forget school districts requiring Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer, as well as other books, to be re-edited to take out words now considered offensive. It doesn’t matter that these words were used accurately AT THE TIME THE BOOKS WERE WRITTEN. What’s next, we start re-editing Heinlein and the other Grand Masters because the science in their books has been outpaced by today’s efforts or because women have different roles in today’s world than they did almost a century ago?

But back to the SFWA issue. What did Resnick and Malzberg do that was so bad, you ask? Well, at the beginning of the column in issue 200, he admits to have written — gasp — porn. And he sold it to a “lady” editor. He identifies female authors and editors as “lady” writer and “lady” editor. Oh, and he’s pissed — not that I necessarily blame him. He and Malzberg had been attacked in the SFWA forums for stating their opinions  in what is basically an op-ed column (gee, I thought that’s what op-eds were for). People were demanding that SFWA censor them by not letting them write the column any longer and, gasp, he called them out on it.

Could he have been more circumspect? Probably. Are some of his ideas old-fashioned? Of course. But that isn’t, in my opinion, the real crime with what’s been going on. The crime is how the detractors behaved. They took their issues with Resnick and Malzberg public without giving the public the opportunity to read the columns in question and make up their own mind. They attacked two men who have more experience in the field and, in the vast majority of cases, more sales than these attackers will ever hope to have. Instead of simply asking to post a counter piece to what Resnick and Malzberg said, they went on the attack, with all the name calling and vitriol they accused the two gentlemen — gasp, have I just committed the crime of sexism by calling them gentlemen? — of being sexist and misogynistic.

In other words, this very vocal but apparently small group resorted to bullying and threats to leave or never join SFWA in order to impose their own views on SFWA. Pardon me for not jumping on their bandwagon but I don’t support bullies and you can sure as hell bet that if the tables were turned on them, they’d be whining about how we just don’t understand and we aren’t enlightened or whatever the latest bullshit politically correct term happens to be.

This is an issue, if you want to give it that much credence, that should have been handled in-house. But no, these bullies took their complaint public but didn’t want to give the public the whole story. After all, if they did, the public might just see through all their catch phrases and righteous indignation. They demanded SFWA act so this atrocity never be allowed to occur again.

And SFWA caved and did so publicly and in a way that adds to the condemnation that has been heaped on Resnick and Malzberg, as well as the editor of the Bulletin. It did so without making the columns public. It did so and once more proved that, even if I did meet their requirements for active membership (I do qualify for associate membership), I wouldn’t join.

First, SFWA announced the formation of a “SFWA Bulletin Task Force” and specifically notes in the PUBLIC  announcement, “The board is aware of a number of complaints by members regarding Bulletin issue #202, specifically the article by Mike Resnick and Barry Malzberg. . . In response to this and previous feedback from members about recent issues of the Bulletin, I have authorized the formation of a task force to look at the Bulletin and to determine how the publication needs to proceed from this point in order to be a valuable and useful part of the SFWA member experience.”

So, from the outset, it is clear that this new “task force” is in response to the attacks on Resnick and Malzberg. Oh, wait, if you keep reading there has been feedback about other issues of the Bulletin. But we aren’t given any specifics about that. All we know for sure is that the two gentlemen have violated someone’s sense of what is right or wrong. Way to go, SFWA. You’ve just added to the pile-on, whether you meant to or not.

Oh, and while this announcement was made public — again reinforcing the condemnation of the two — you still haven’t made the issues in question public so the readers and other authors can judge for themselves what was so bad.

Then came John Scalzi’s public letter, made in his role as president of SFWA, about the controversy. While I give him credit for taking responsibility — which he should as president — I have to wonder at this: “I went into SFWA’s private forums and onto the Internet to look at comments and commentary, to better acquaint myself with the scope of the issue, so that I could as comprehensively as possible, within a reasonable scope of time, get up to speed with the concerns of members and of others.”

Does he say he read the articles in question? No. I will give him the benefit of the doubt, but not sure I should. Neither does he say he spoke with Resnick or Malzberg. No, he went to the forums and the internet to look at what was being said there. I guess he believes, like the girl in the commercial, that if it’s on the internet, it has to be true.

Scalzi goes on to write: “When they [issues] blow up, I believe that we need to respond in two ways. First: Own up to and take responsibility for the event. I have done so here. Two, put into motion steps that show immediately and concretely that the organization is committed to not making the same mistakes again.”

The problem with this is that it assumes that, just because a group of members has been vocal about their dislike of something, there was a mistake made. Again, the assumption that what Resnick and Malzberg did was wrong. Again, doing so without letting the public reading this letter actually read and decide for themselves if there was a problem in the first place. No, this is SFWA reacting instead of SFWA analyzing and deciding the best course of action — assuming one is needed.

And herein lies the real conflict for SFWA:

SFWA is an organization comprised of all its members; it must be seen to work for all its members. When we are both, we are a stronger and better organization.

To all our members, I say: You are welcome, you are valued, you are needed. We need you, and your voice and your willingness to make yourself heard when you feel that we are not the organization we can be. Be part of us, and help us be the organization you need us to be – that all science fiction and fantasy writers need us to be, and can be proud to be a member of.

In any organization, there will be people who aren’t happy. That’s life. If there’s more than one person present, someone is going to unhappy with decisions or courses of action at some point. You can’t keep everyone happy, nor can you work for what everyone sees as their benefit.

What has become clear is that SFWA, at least under the current philosophy, will stick up for whichever segment of its membership that yells the loudest. Am I saying to ignore problems? Hell, no. But there are much better ways to handle the issue than have been done. If so many members of SFWA were offended by what Resnick and Malzberg had to say, let them write a counterpoint article. Or, better yet, do a dialog between several of them and Resnick and Malzberg. Or is SFWA and those condemning Resnick and Malzberg afraid of engaging in a dialog with them because their own prejudices and hypocrisy might be there for all to see?

Is this all just a tempest in a teapot? It should be. Why? Because the articles were published in a closed bulletin, one not available for public consumption. But those who took the discussion of what was “wrong” with what Resnick and Malzberg said took it public. If SFWA really wants to prove it is standing up for ALL its members, if it wants to prove it has relevance to readership of science fiction and fantasy, instead of caving to the bullying tactics of a few vocal members, it would make the columns public and let us judge for ourselves. It would tell the members who continue to beat this horse in public to shut the hell up and to quit airing the laundry in public. But no, it caves. It puts a muzzle on two gentlemen who, in my opinion and the opinions of others I respect, did nothing really bad other than show their age and then get mad when folks started attacking them.

SFWA, here’s my challenge to you: show a spine and publish a dialog between Resnick, Malzberg and two of the most vocal of their critics. Make that dialog, as well as the articles in issues 200 and 202 public and then see what the response is.

Oh, and while you’re at it, bring your membership requirements up to date. Isn’t it past time to realize there is more than one track to publication? (And, btw, I have no problem with having members prove on an annual or bi-annual basis that they still qualify.)

No, I’m not going to post the copies of the articles I received here. For one thing, they are copyrighted and I don’t have permission to post them — nor do I think I’d get permission to if I asked. The last time I posted anything even remotely critical of SFWA, I had one of the officers come here and try to show me the error of my ways. When I brought out the facts to back my position, that officer never returned. So, in order not to get my fellow MGC’ers in trouble as well as the friend who sent me copies of the articles, I’ll not post them.

Nor will I post links to the blogs condemning Resnick and Malzberg. All you have to do is search for “SFWA Bulletin 202” and you’ll come up with pages of results.

What I will do is say I’m tired of a vocal group of bullies telling us how we should believe and what we should write. If you don’t like chicks in chainmail on book covers, then don’t put them on yours. I have no objection to being called a “lady” or “female”. My son has no objection to being called “gentleman” or “male”. It’s time for us to quit taking ourselves so seriously and to get past this political correctness BS we’ve been mired in. It doesn’t fix the underlying problems. All it does in cement them more firmly into place.

As for Mike Resnick and Barry Malzberg, I don’t agree with everything they had to say. But, reading the articles, I found nothing to hint at any malice or intent to put down females in this industry, far from it, in fact. My final question to SFWA and the detractors is this: when did it become a crime to be old-fashioned and a gentleman?

111 comments

  1. When I decided that I was going to pursue writing on a professional level, I looked at SFWA. I realized it had nothing to offer me, and didn’t look back at it. I saw a little of this kerfluffle when it first erupted, and shrugged and ignored it. It was an irrelevancy to me, and it still is. But why do we still pay any attention to SFWA? Why don’t we, indie and self-published writers, take matters into our own hands, make them completely irrelevant, and offer a much better option without relying on those who are so far behind the times that they have nothing to offer us?

    As for the Resnick/Malzberg thing, I have only one thing to say to their detractors. Get a life. Humans come in two sexes. Get over yourselves, get off your high horse, and recognize that “lady” is a term of respect, and just because you’ve never earned respect in your life, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

    Signed, the Lady Sanderson.

    1. Well. I popped in to say something only to find Cedar already had. Plus one, good Lady.

      M

    2. Cedar, I wish we could — or would. The problem is that most of us are so busy trying to write, publish, etc., that we either can’t or won’t take the time to start the ball rolling on the creation of a new group. Then you have the organizational aspects to consider, etc., and it gets to be daunting. That said, I wish someone would do it.

      As for why we keep paying attention to SFWA and what it does, that’s simple. Because it is the only game in town and while it is a big fail at a lot of things, it does have a PR machine it isn’t afraid of using. Nor are certain members afraid of shouting their views at the top of their lungs. Unfortunately, those shouts are then picked up by others and it becomes like shi*t rolling downhill. We have to pay attention so we can deflect or deflate the idiocy that often comes as a result.

  2. 1) I’ve never met Resnick personally, but I have corresponded with him. He has written the best short story I’ve ever read (it was about a robot that cleaned a church and found religion but the congregation was horrified and deleted its memory, essentially killing it. The story was published in JBU and I’m ashamed I can’t remember the title.) 2)”Lady” or, especially today, “female” tends to be used by the military because at one point women were quite vocal about being addressed as via the youthful catchall, “girls”. So the military PCed to lady and female. 3) Really? Referring to someone as a “lady” is going to rile SFWA members up?

          1. Not lawyers, or not entirely. The problem with the modern world – or at least the west – is that we’ve fallen under the sway of intellectuals, mere fantacists, glib and often eloquent frauds, highly skilled in making idiots believe their fantasies are rational thought. Lawyers are a fairly small subset of this.

            Sarah, how would you feel about my posting the afterword for H Hour on why intellectualism is idiocy by another name?

                    1. They’re hamsters, so “swine” does not apply. Now if they were guinea pigs…

          2. Andrea Dworkin and Valerie Solanas spewing effluent and their admirers, disciples, .. and a Legend of willing “useful idiots” spreading it around like manure.

      1. The “poses” thing is really funny, actually. But it’s not funny because there is anything wrong with having a sexy woman in a goofy pose on the cover of your book. It’s funny because he’s a goofy looking man. (Hey, I want him to do a Darkship Thieves pose… double dog dare!)

        And it’s not as though women are uniquely subject to sexist covers. Romance went through a “hey lets avoid all the embarrassing skin that makes women not want to go through the supermarket checkout with our book” phase but it didn’t last, and it didn’t last for a reason.

          1. Yep. Funny how those complaining about the chicks in chain mail don’t say a word about the bare chested, zipper of the jeans open men on other covers.

            1. To be fair, they very well may have complained about it.

              But like Sarah said, skin sells. If I have a book out (hypothetically) what I’d be most interested in is that it sells. Sometimes the bare chested, zipper of the jeans open romance covers give me a fit the giggles. What I don’t see is getting up in arms as if it’s something *serious*. Certainly not serious enough to rant over, (unless I rant about an overuse of Nair.)

              1. My big problem with romance covers is that I’m not used to reading stuff with risque covers. Even stuff like the cover to DST is not that bad. So, I went to RWA, got a bunch of freebies, and on the plane back, I’m reading one of Madeleine Hunter’s — this was five years ago, and I don’t remember the name. Might have been The Sinner. But it’s this regency gentleman semi-undone, and this lady with skirts hiked about to climb… on his lap. Let’s say nothing was exposed but what they were doing was obvious. I was traveling alone. I put the book down, face down, on the airplane seat, to get my bag on the overhead, and I see the gentleman next to me staring transfixed at the cover. I must have turned all colors.

        1. Even more funny – there may be an exception, but every book they mocked that I remember seeing was written by a women, and marketed to women…. Look at the Laurel K Hamilton covers, and WHO buys them?

    1. Of course it will. These are the folks who also complain about writers who don’t have their female characters doing the exact same thing as the male characters, whether it is realistic — or even possible — or not. These are the ones who applaud when some Hollyweird star says she refuses a role if the woman shows even the slightest hint of vulnerability. Sorry, but I happen to know that even though I am a second degree black belt and a very good shot, there are situations when I’d be at a distinct disadvantage against a man. I might not like it and it is up to me to make sure I’m never in that position, but it is the truth. But that doesn’t mean I have to hate all men, or the women who admit that we aren’t always equal, because of it.

    2. The actual problem with “lady” is about exclusion not politeness. It is when someone is writing about authors and then suddenly draws a narrow box for the “lady authors” either explicitly or implicitly implying that females in the profession are not permitted the full range of expression and are to maintain additional limitations that the males are not subject to. It is a thing. Sometimes it is a thing that gets under people’s skin.

      Of course I haven’t seen the original articles. The blog post I saw on the subject cited irrelevance of SFWA based on exactly the self-publishing thing. And then noted that she’d found the last two bulletins personally offensive, and all together saw no reason to continue contributing to the organization.

      If you don’t like something and are feeling ripped off, it is pretty reasonable to say so in public. Maybe other people are considering joining and you’d like to influence their opinions.

      1. I have seen the articles, read them twice, and there is nothing really objectionable in them. At least not in my opinion. Could things have been worded differently? Sure. But there was nothing in either article to justify the public condemnation that has ensued. This isn’t a case of feeling you’re being ripped off and going public with it. This is a case of character assassination without giving the public you are crying to a chance to read the articles for themselves and make up their own mind.

        As I noted above, if this was so objectionable to some, why not have a counter-point article explaining why in the same publication? My guess — because that wouldn’t cause nearly the uproar that their bullying tactics did. They get to stand up and say how outraged they are that these two older men are ruining their organization with their sexist attitudes.

        Remember, these articles were published in a journal that is not available to the public-at-large. That’s why I’m not putting the articles up. I don’t have permission. However, I can and will say that if anyone was offended by the articles, they have a very thin skin and take themselves way too seriously and life’s just too short for that.

      2. What in HELL is exclusionary about lady? Are they that upset about having (or knowing other people have vaginas?) No? Then what exactly was a problem? Yes, women have limitations. So do men. If you don’t think so, you don’t have male kids in the school system these days and never had a male friend who went through a divorce. “Exclusionary” is a stupid thing to say of language. I’m a linguist, I know. ALL language is exclusionary. When I say table I don’t say chair. When I say dog, I don’t say cat. That is the PURPOSE of talking. Perhaps that’s SFWA’s next battle “words are evil and stuff.”
        In an historical retrospective “Lady” as a qualifier of writer is particularly important to HONOR the difficulties that this used to entail. I’m SO tired of this idea that “if you mention I’m female, you’re putting me down.” As Heinlein would say (about women) I am female and I expect all the privileges and perks I can get for it — all the traffic will bear. As a writer I’ve faced different challenges (note, not more difficult but different) than men have. I don’t mind if people mention I’m a woman (or a lady — though I suspect I’m not that most of the time) because it recognizes my path is of necessity different.
        I dropped SFWA for their siding with the big publishers against Amazon, when Amazon was opening doors for writers. It’s not that they NEED to be irrelevant. It’s that they chose to be. They COULD/should fight the tough battles. Writers need some sort of fraternal order to help the (often lonely) aging and ill. Writers need health insurance (but the association that can’t manage to incorporate is helpless on that too) and writers need advocates against increasingly predatory publishers. Oh, and newbies could use guidance because they’re the biggest victims of the “we print it, you promote it, you sell it, we give you 5% ” scams. But it’s easier to whine and browbeat people, and they’re more interested in their “status” as members. Those who seek to save their position shall lose it.

        1. Not to even mention the fact that these very same female authors want to be credited merely as authors when it suits them, and credited as woman authors when it doesn’t suit them.

          How “lady” can be both exclusionary AND necessary to the same people at different times is something that I do not, and likely will never, understand.

          1. Words are tough and stuff when you’ve been crammed full of the Marxist Theory of Everything TM. I know some of these ladies — they had excellent educations in our BEST liberal arts colleges. Pfui. As someone who attended an excellent European college, it took me years to think clearly afterwards — even though I never bought the “marxist theory of everything” TM because by then my experiences precluded it. Some of these er… tough grrrrls haven’t reached that point yet, or maybe just can’t. And they’re scared, and the field as they know it is imploding and they don’t have the temperament to look at indie. And then there’s a civil war in SF because for the FIRST time the rest of us dare to talk back, since we no longer care what publishers think of our opinions… And they can’t cope with THAT either.
            Over the next few years they either wake up or go completely insane. Buy stock in popcorn!

            1. Few, if any, of these people are Marxists. They tend to be identitarian liberals, what equity feminists like Christine Sommers call gender feminists. If they were Marxists, their solution to inequality would be to share the wealth rather than go on a campaign to police the world’s language.

              Their theory comes from Derrick Bell and Kimberle Crenshaw, a couple of identitarians who had no interest in socialism. If you’re curious, I blogged about them in “The Man Who Changed Middle-Class Feminism, or Derrick Bell and Critical Race Theory, Where Racism and Anti-Racism Intersect”.

              I think there are problems with the phrase “liberal fascists” because fascists loved corporate power, but it’s more accurate than the “marxist theory of everything”. Marx wrote in support of free speech, after all.

              Well, quibble aside, I don’t share your politics, but I agree with much of what you say about the current SFWA kerfuffle.

          2. That’s the main problem for me with this, I guess. It’s just not logical. We are supposed to celebrate women this and women that (or black, or Latino, or whatever) but pointing out that somebody was a woman at a job at a time when most people in it were men is then condescending?

            Not logical.

            1. Logic has never been a part of that sort of thinking. If it were, well, they wouldn’t be upset in the first place.

    3. For anyone curious, I think the story about the robot cleaning the church is “Article of Faith.” It’s a good story.

  3. If I ever post enough in some way qualify as a pro I would be happy to join the ISFPS (Independent Science Fiction Professional Society). If, o0f course some of the writers I know going indie are willi8ng to form such a relevant group. SFWA, not so much.

    1. Why not post a requst for “who’s intrested,” on FB? I suspect that there might be a great many that are willing to drop kick SFWA, and start a useful group.
      SFWA once did some very good work, but I would be disinclined to join today.

    2. For a moment there I thought that ISFPS existed.

      What services are the most vital for a professional organization? I’d think group life and medical insurance (though that’s a bit in limbo at the moment).

      What else?

      1. Contract help. Knowing what is industry norm and being willing to stand up for the members of the organization when the norm is no longer fair. Networking, workshops, etc. Frankly, even though it is far from perfect, RWA is a pretty good example of what a professional organization should be doing.

        1. Are there any general genre writer’s organizations? Does it have to be science fiction – fantasy specific?

          I’ve been a bit skeptical of RWA because they encourage non-professional memberships and the membership fees are so very high. Local RWA affiliated writing groups require membership just to belong to the group while you’re trying to write your first manuscript and it’s extremely pricey.

          1. Not that I’m aware of. As for the RWA membership fees, I found it worth it when I belonged. I plan to renew my membership soon and let it lapse at a time when that money could be better spent elsewhere — like for food. But the resources available to writers of all levels is well worth it, imo.

  4. I know Mike, I know John. And I know many authors who are in SWFA because they were forced into it by their publishing houses. The SFWA is a bunch feminist liberals who are out of touch with the country. Here is a clue…how often do they show up on the New York Times Best Seller List? Answer – Not very often. I love Esther, she is a great woman, but she was offended when the FANS chose the title “Fangs for the Mammaries” for her modern day vampire collection. (This is the typical of SWFA members.) Yet when was her last NYT Best Seller?
    The Hugos got their comeuppance last September when authors who were nominated told them, “Thanks, but I can not come. DragonCon is more important then your award at Chicago WorldCon”. SWFA this is your eye opener too! You are losing relevance every day.

    1. The problem with that, Brad, is that SFWA isn’t listening. Those who said that aren’t taking to the internet to shout their dissatisfaction with the organization. Instead, they sit back politely, holding their comments to themselves or saying them under their breaths while the other side continues to harass and harangue and keep SFWA in their hip pocket.

  5. Wow… i just realized i qualify for an SFWA membership. Not that its worth anything for me to get it, but I qualify…

  6. When I was an aspiring teenage science-fiction writer back in the day, I dreamed of qualifying for SFWA membership. Today, I still do, but only so that I can tell them “No” and have it mean something.

  7. There are no Ladies in the SFWA. There are, unfortunately, it seems, a bunch of Old Women of both genders. Who. Cares. They’re the same ilk that claimed they “wouldn’t feel safe” if Elizabeth Moon were a Guest of Honor at some con. They are yentas, the lot of them.

    SFWA and it’s paroxysms mean nothing to the real world. Let them devour each other and leave the field more open in every sense of the word.

    1. The problem with that, Lin, is that in this day and age of the internet, those who yell the loudest create followings and that does impact the real world. Look at all the blogs, some of them by authors with a “name”, and the tweets and the fb postings about this. Now look at all the comments, including by readers who aren’t members of SFWA and have no idea about the politics and crap going on in the organization. Because Scalzi and company have given the mantle of legitimacy to the bullies in this case, the reader coming on the posts without any background information will be more likely to believe the BS being posted. That can impact sales of titles by both Malzberg and Resnick.

      But it goes beyond that. We owe it to ourselves and to the readers out there to let them know that sf/f isn’t what these bullies allege. We need to let them know that there are good stories out there, stories that are enjoyable and celebrate the human spirit. So for every one of these attacks, we need to counter: not only with responses to the attacks but with our own stories and novels to offer an alternative to the dreck coming out of most publishing houses these days.

      1. You’re right. How else to know to stay away from them if we don’t expose what they are?

  8. ” show a spine and publish a dialog between Resnick, Malzberg and two of the most vocal of their critics.”

    As a Supreme Court justice once said, if you don’t like what you hear, the remedy is more speech, not enforced silence.

    1. Yep. Not that I’d blame either Resnick or Malzberg for declining such an offer. Who wants to keep returning to the place where you are kicked and beaten and not given a chance to defend yourself?

      1. Isn’t that exactly what the complainers are complaining about, though? — that they feel like the Resnick/Malzberg articles are kicking and beating *them*, and their response is only *them* defending themselves, and deciding that they don’t want to return to a place where that happens if their defense isn’t aired or taken seriously?

        Cycles of hostility always perpetuate because each side feels like it was the first attacked, after all. I don’t have a lot of sympathy for these folks, but I can appreciate the objection of saying, “Who are you to tell me what is or isn’t ‘worth’ getting angry over?”

        1. Not really. If that were the case, they would have limited airing their “concerns” to the SFWA discussion boards or with complaints directly to the SFWA leadership. No, this is — in my opinion — simply yet another example of how a few very vocal folks are trying to shame SFWA into conforming more to what this group feels is the “correct” vision.

          I’d be a lot more apt to consider their complaints if they’d actually made the articles they were objecting to easily available to the public and if Scalzi and the others hadn’t gone on to publicly condemn Resnick, Malzberg and Jean Rabe without giving those who have been reading the attacks the chance to also read the articles in question. I’d really be more apt to take the protests seriously if they’d simply written an opposing article, one well researched and not full of vitrolic diatribe. But they didn’t choose to take this path. No, they chose to take it public without giving the public access to the articles. That is not defending themselves.

          1. I feel like there’s a “proving your bona fides” bandwagon going on here now, too. Where it’s gone beyond what the actual or perceived “insults” really were and become “Look, I’m enlightened and respectful, too!” Which makes me wonder when we’ll start seeing people who condemned Resnick, Malzberg, and Rabe being called out for not having condemned them *enough*.

            1. Oh, bullshit. Sorry, but if you go back through all the posts on MGC and all the comments, we are a pretty respectful group. Yes, we sometimes get our knickers in a twist and speak our minds a bit bluntly. But to tell someone they were out of line for attacking a commenter with stuff not mentioned in the original post or in the subsequent comments and then thanking the person attacked for behaving well in the face of the attack isn’t “proving your bona fides.”

              As I said in another comment, I’m cranky today. So take that into account.

              1. Amanda,

                I was talking about the people elsewhere who were going after Resneck et al. with ever-increasing fury when I wrote about a “proving your bona fides” bandwagon, because I think that’s playing into their reactions now. I wasn’t referring to you or MGC, and I agree with how you handled the situation in the comments that you mentioned. I should have been more clear in my wording, and I’m sorry for the confusion.

                And we all get cranky at times. It happens. 🙂

                1. Sorry, Wesley. I’d just come in from almost four hours of tree trimming and clean up. Thanks for the clarification and you are right, at least where some of those commenting elsewhere are concerned. In fact, one of the blogs I read before writing this one started with the blogger establishing his “bona fides” before attacking Resnick and company.

  9. “created a task force” Yep and we all know how well ‘task forces’ work when enacted by liberal brain damaged @#$@ing morons without [in my own estimation] more than 2 brain cells to rub together. I’ve got more common sense in a hair follicle from my hair gluteus maximus than they have in their entire bodies. They do these things because..”creating a task force” allows them to LOOK like they are doing something without in actuality doing a single goddamn thing, or taking any responsibility.
    *snort* I doubt most of these idiots can add 2+2 and come up with 4, let alone balancing a check book. *snort* Those of the ‘holier than thou’, You must do as I say not as I do, and I know whats best for you better than you do, set make me exceedingly……………….and rabidly predatory. I haven’t had fresh blood and meat for a while and it’s waaaaay past my feeding time.

    Wolfie

    1. Unfortunately, Wolfie, they do do things — at least in this case. They condemn two men with more talent and publishing cred than most of those screaming about how evil they are put together. They do so without giving the public a chance to decide for themselves if what was said was wrong and sexist,etc., or not. We’re just supposed to take the bullies at their word.

      Sorry, but I don’t work that way and most folks I know don’t either.

    2. Maybe he could “create a task force” to edit his abject capitulation. For an official document from a professional writing association, there are a lot of typos and errors.

      1. That’s probably why the task force will be consulting with others who have editorial experience….WTF?!? If you are going to have a task force to oversee editorial content, shouldn’t they have editorial experience?

        1. Also, how relevant can the SFWA’s own Bulletin possibly be if the SFWA President can’t be bothered to read it?

  10. Echoing a comment I made on Sarah’s blog today… As of the September issue of Analog, I’m one publication away from qualifying for SFWA. But I doubted I would join. Too many pros I respect had problems with it, even pros who are pretty liberal compared to folks here. And though I enjoy Scalzi’s writing, his moral scold act really turns me off.

    But one pro has consistently spoken well of SFWA and made me think I should join. That pro, of course, is Mike Resnick.

    Smooth move, SFWA…

    1. Martin, you aren’t the first to say that about Mike Resnick. That’s yet another reason I can only shout against the wind, hoping someone understands what an injustice they’re doing to both Resnick and Malzberg.

      1. I didn’t get the impression that SFWA was so overrun with volunteers to be able easily make broad brush changes like that. @Jean hope the additional time is useful to you in other pursuits.

    1. Jean, when you were editor my entire family was in SFWA (okay, not the younger one. He’s still not ready to share his brilliance with the world) but three of us were.

  11. Just a brief clarification:

    The SFWA Bulletin is not a closed members-only publication. It is the “public face” of SFWA and is available to libraries, to subscribers who are not members, and I have even seen it (once) for sale in a Borders (back when Borders still existed). It is not available in an online form that I know of.

    The SFWA Forums are members only.

    1. Thanks for the clarification. The fact I couldn’t find it online led me astray as did the fact that you have to search to find any information on subscription availability on the SFWA site. That said, it is still something that should be addressed by making the columns public — as in posting them on the SFWA site for everyone to see — since SFWA leadership has seen fit to single out Resnick and Malzberg in the very public and easily found letter about the controversy as well as the announcement of the task force. Fair is fair — and from where I sit, I’m not seeing a lot of that being applied and that is where I have a problem.

      1. One would think that in 2013 an sff writer’s association would have its journal available online if it is meant to be the public face. I don’t know why it isn’t but I totally agree it should be far more easily accessible if it is going to be advertised as such.

    2. Kate,

      That’s all very well apart from one small problem. When very high traffic blogs like Scalzi’s Whatever excoriate work published in the Bulletin without that work being easily accessible to most of the people who read the savaging, they slander the authors and give the petty, small-minded trolls who started this idiotic storm in a B cup the fuel and validation they want.

      When people who want to know the whole story can’t find it, it does a disservice to all concerned.

      Frankly, SFWA’s regular toddler tantrums and failure to do a damn thing worth the money I’ve been sending them for years is why they’re not getting my money this year. I don’t want any part of an organization that gets its knickers in a knot over two gentlemen reminiscing over the lady authors, editors and publishers they so clearly admired and respected.

      For a “public face”, the Bulletin is about as useful as the notice of construction in a rickety filing cabinet in the lavatory in the basement of the Department of Transport’s least used sub-office, under the sign that says “Beware of the alligators”. Highly public, I’m sure.

      1. Kate, it was a clarification to point out that the Bulletin is not members-only. I made no other statement about the situation.

        Although, to be honest, I am a little surprised there is no online edition. Since I’m not involved with the Bulletin I don’t know why that is. Mine hasn’t even come in the mail yet.

        1. Kate, fair enough. It just seems members only because it seems like SFWA is treating the thing like a state secret instead of a public document.

          I’m not surprised it’s not available online, but I am disappointed (as much as my already low expectations allow for disappointment). There’s no reason not to put back issues up.

          1. Totally agree. There should be an online edition, and back issues should be online (as volunteers have time to put them there).

            What I don’t know if this is possibly an issue with time/labor to do an online edition, but again, I just don’t know.

    3. I’m going to step in here. I haven’t seen any of Kate Elliott’s posts supporting any of the issues as you say. Not saying she hasn’t, just saying I haven’t seen them. Plus none of that was brought up in her comment to me. So, let’s extend a little bit of a branch and maybe get a dialog going. If she wants to discuss these issues, or the issues I’ve raised with regard to SFWA and the issues of the Bulletin, cool. Otherwise, let’s take anything else to her blog where these comments have been made.

      1. Thank you. I know zero about Kate Elliott. Zero — except that here, in this thread, she has been informative and polite. Attacking her here without any provocation strikes me as extremely similar to what’s happening to Malzberg and Resnick: the star chamber treatment, where verdict is pronounced even though evidence is not produced.

        It is wrong. Always. No matter who does it or who it’s done to, it’s wrong.

        1. James, stop it now. You can discuss my post. You can discuss things said in responses here. But Martin is right. Kate Elliott came here and pointed out an error in my research. I accepted it and thanked her for it. She responded with civility to other comments as well. You want to take the fight to Ms. Elliot, then do so on her forum or in response to her tweets. I, for one, have no intention of letting this post and the comments to it start resembling the very blogs and comments you are condemning, especially when they were not part of the original post.

          Look, I suggested a dialog, not a diatribe. I plan to keep to that.

        2. No, James. You make the accusations, you back them up with evidence. Until then, you’re EXACTLY THE SAME as those denouncing Malzberg and Resnick based on secret evidence.

          I’m sorry you can’t see that. I happen to agree that the behavior you allege is wrong. But Kate did NOTHING here but politely correct some misinformation and agree that there’s no reason for the Bulleting to be so hard to find.

          When you make an accusation, it’s not my job to “educate myself”. It’s your job to back the accusation up.

          1. James May, if you guys recall was the gentleman — er — who made my blog comments living h*ll a while back by making unsupported comments about my research then changing the goal posts.
            I don’t even necessarily disagree with him about the aims and motives of the people pursuing this war on Resnick and Malzberg, (except he sees coordination and conspiracy where I see an “excellent” liberal arts education with the per-requisite dose of Marxism. Thank heavens by the time I got that I was immunized) but he has hit my “drunken uncle at a wedding” rule. There is no reason for the civilized to put up with the drunken uncle reeling about, yelling inflammatory stuff not related to the immediate situation.
            People who want to talk and enjoy themselves or try to understand each other should be able to do so without having to shout past the people who can’t control themselves. Avert your eyes. The hammer has fallen.

  12. Shows what blows up when you aren’t paying attention. Maybe I forgot to notice because it is irrelevant. Anyway, I was trying to decide whether SFWA is worth renewing. Last year I told them I didn’t think it worth renewing – especially as the only money I had was from Amazon. Did they want that dirty money? They said it was a valid point, (but they still wanted the money) and asked me what I thought they should be attending to. I sent them a list of things I felt they ought to pay some attention to – the issue of membership with Independent sales, the slow, unreliable and non-transparent accounting practices of publishers, and the nepotism in the awards process (and thus crashing value) of the Nebula. They said they were valid points and they would look into them. So far their total return to me on my membership has been… a stupid irrelevant kerfluffle. I feel vaguely guilty I used the Bulletins for firelighters without bothering to read the articles they made a fuss about.

    Oh well. Decision made.

    1. At least you put them to good use, Dave. But then you are a wise and wonderful monkey. You know shite when you see it — unlike some others I could name.

      1. Expensive firelighters, and they don’t burn as well as newsprint, which I get free. The MASSIVE unfixable problem with SFWA is its membership policy. Once in, you’re in for life, even if you never write another thing. It’s not an organisation professionals or wannabe professionals, and has been overtaken by drones who don’t have to write for a living and aren’t trying to (look at the membership list. You won’t recognise 90% of the names.) As such its clout has been eroded, hugely. Who cares if a bunch of folk who last sold shorts to barely-qualifying and now extinct market fifteen years ago are withholding their manuscripts from your company? Secondly, a professional protection and united front group does not allow the people its members are likely to have trouble with – ergo agents and publishers to be privy to their discussion. You’re an editor/bookseller/agent – don’t even apply. You’re an author who has taken a job editing/agenting? good bye. We want to be able to talk freely about your – and other editors practices and plan action that we don’t need you to pre-empt and wreck. You’re an author who hasn’t sold anything for 5 years? Bye. You’re welcome back when you do.

        We need a pro organisation, because alone we get divided and abused. But SFWA is not that organisation.

        1. Dave, you’ve hit many of my objections to SFWA as it stands today. Add in what they say equates to a pro sale and that leaves a number of us out who have actually sold more than a lot of those who have qualified.

        2. Not only that, the paper is too slick to use for the other time-honored purpose.

  13. One thing that I will never understand is their visceral disgust for authors who publish as e-books and skip the normal publishing houses, when some of these very same e-book authors are selling more copies than many if not most of their members.

    1. Heh. You don’t understand? I think you answered your own question: “…some of these very same e-book authors are selling more copies than many if not most of their members.” They are the reactionary defenders of the old order. The only thing worse than an upstart who refuses to follow their proscribed path is a SUCCESSFUL upstart who succeeded without following that path.

  14. I wonder if Mike refers to “lady editor” because he was referring to writing and selling porn, and wanted to make a point that females were involved with the print porn industry?

  15. Um, thanks, you guys.

    I’m trying to hear a range of opinions. I do have strong opinions (which I express on my blog and on Twitter) but the older I get the more I feel the need to listen which as far as I can tell is the only path to understanding.

    I really agree with you guys that the publishing world is changing rapidly and radically with the advent of ebooks, e-publishing, the explosion of social media and how it has made the old gatekeepers irrelevant, and so on. We need new ways of dealing with what this means for writers, and what writers can do to help each other and negotiate the new terrain.

    (In any discussion of SFWA I like to mention that I have huge respect for the many hours put in by the dedicated volunteers at SFWA, recent example the long and drawn out business with Night Shade Books).

    1. Kate, thank you for coming here and being so polite and informative, especially in the face of an unprovoked attack. Thank you also for pointing out information I had not found in my research for the post.

      While there is a lot about SFWA that I don’t like — including the, in my opinion, outdated definition of “pro” and the fact that once someone qualifies, they don’t have to keep publishing — I do respect the organization when it fights for its members. My problem is when I see something like this latest issue where members are being publicly vilified without the public being given easy access to the reason, even when the president of the organization perpetuates the vilification by naming the two gentlemen in question in his public apology or when I see someone like Jean Rabe attacked and, again, the so-called offensive issues are not readily available to the public that is being pulled into the controversy.

      That said, I — as well as the other members of MGC — always welcome dialog and we appreciate you coming here and discussing this with us. As you said, listening is the path to understanding. I might not always agree with what someone has to say, but I hope I will always try to listen before jumping to judgment.

  16. Technically, if they really wanted to be historically accurate, the chicks wouldn’t be wearing chainmail – or ANY armor for that matter, nor would they be allowed to fight, or pretty much leave the towns where they were born.
    I’d rather have Red Sonja.

  17. After this latest kerfluffle, I’m kind of glad I let my SFWA membership lapse. I rejoined mainly to be able to recommend and vote for SFWA awards. Not worth it for this level of drama.

  18. Amanda, when a Lady says “she’s being cranky”, I think of “most dangerous of the species”. [Nervous Smile]

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