I am a member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, which is the professional association for SF writers. This is my second year of membership (I think). Roughly every three months or so, SFWA erupts in controversy over racist or sexist comments. Most recently, it erupted in controversy over a petition that was distributed by some members to protest ‘censorship’ of SFWA’s in-house publication, The Bulletin.
I don’t think anyone actually cares that much about this, but we’re all on the internet and we’re all writers and we all have blogs and twitters and Facebooks and we all need something to talk about. It’s the 24-hour news cycle, but now we’re all perpetuating it. Whatever, that’s the world we live in. And it’s also pretty fun.
Whenever any SFWA controversy (or any other controversy of any sort) blows up, you can pretty much map where anybody stands in it by looking at who they’re friends with. I’m friends with one crowd, so I’m of one opinion about things, but I imagine that if I was friends with Dave Truesdale and Mike Resnick, then I’d feel differently.
So I just want to use this space to note that I actually have derived some concrete benefits from being part of SFWA. For two years running, I’ve been on the program at the Baltimore Book Festival, which is something that happened through the SFWA mailing list. I went to the Nebula Award Weekend in San Jose, which was amongst the funnest times I’ve ever had at a convention. And I went to the SFWA reception in New York earlier this year. And I’ve met tons of fun people through SFWA, like Cat Rambo, Sarah Pinsker, and the Baltimore Science Fiction Society crew and lots of other folks whose names I’m forgetting.
Furthermore, all of this SFWA stuff is often framed as something of a generational conflict, but I don’t think that’s quite fair. The SFWA tent at the Baltimore Book Festival is organized primarily by Catherine Asaro, who’s been in the field for more than 20 years, and she’s been very good about getting younger writers involved, in addition to being very friendly and very charitable whenever I’ve met her.
In general, I’ve not found SFWA to be an awful organization, and I don’t find it odious to be associated with it. Of course, I also don’t find it odious to be published in Orson Scott Card’s magazine, so, you know, my lines in the sand aren’t the same as other people’s.