Why I joined SFWA.


I remember an incident from two years ago: in response to Facebook changing one of its features, a Well-Known Male Science Fiction Author posted a tasteless rape joke on Another Well-Known Male Science Fiction Author’s status. I commented, “Wow, that is disgusting.” In response, WKMSFA went a little farther with the joke (slow clap); meanwhile, other readers jumped in to defend him, call me “rude,” or explain to me what he’d “really meant.” I looked them up. They were also mostly WKMSFAs.

I wrote, “What concerns me about this whole thread is the kneejerk defense of a well-known figure in the community…until people start calling [this behavior] out, in public, on well-known figures or not, people will keep getting hurt by comments like this. And—I might add—young writers like me will keep not wanting to identify with the spec lit community.”

I signed off feeling angry and helpless and disillusioned.

A year later, SFWA—Science Fiction Writers of America—had a stretch of scandal, concentrated around a problematic sexist column in the SFWA Bulletin. It was embarrassing. And The Girl in the Road had just gone under contract, so I was watching the controversy closely. The aftermath could easily have been a replay of the interaction above. But somehow, there’d been a shift in the community. People really showed up—loud people, important people. K. Tempest Bradford. Mary Robinette Kowal. Amal El-Mohtar. Kameron Hurley. Patrick Nielsen HaydenJim Hines (who collected all these links). Benjamin Rosenbaum (who also happened to be the only person who stood up for me on the aforementioned thread). John Scalzi, then-president of SFWA, stepped up and took full responsibility.

And that really, really impressed me.

I saw people fighting for what was right. Even at the risk of their careers and their reputations. Would that those in the literary fiction community had the self-awareness and bravery to do the same.

So? I just paid my first dues for SFWA. Because I want to be part of the change. Thank you to those of you who fought for a welcoming space.

Here’s to the future of literature.

3 Comments on “Why I joined SFWA.”

  1. jorhett says:

    The SFWA response was lackluster and quite late. Even Scalzi who is usually better than this was like “Oh, is there something bad in the Bulletin? For I dunno, the last three months? I hadn’t noticed.”

    And how about the previous year when one member committed hate crimes against another member using the SFWA resources? SFWA did not take their legally mandated action of supplying the information to law enforcement. The response was at best “Oh, do we have to do something? Is that necessary?”

    Yes, there were some very well written comments from prominent SFWA members, but that really didn’t come from the top. So yes, by joining you can add yourself to the apparent minority who want change– but don’t assume that the organization itself supports you.

    • Hi Jo,

      I don’t assume anything in any direction. Merely that I’m encouraged by the trend I’ve seen and want to take a chance on SFWA on that basis. An individual decision. And it will be if I ever leave it, too.

  2. Being part of any positive change is an absolute necessity.

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