Saturday, September 02, 2006

What Should SFWA Do For Me?

In the middle of several issues that have arisen lately, it occurred to me that I have been hearing a variety of people state a variety of beliefs about what SFWA is, and about its relevance (or lack thereof) to them. And so I have decided to set up this forlorn blog post as a distinctly unscientific sample on what people expect and what they want from SFWA as an organization.

Some simple ground rules:

Other than that, it's wide open. Please let other interested parties know, and let's hope I don't get bombed by someone who thinks it would be good sport.

Addendum: In case it needs to be said, this is not a SFWA-sponsored poll, despite my involvement on the Board of Directors.

Well, let's see if I can respond without getting peevish. I'm not a SFWA member, and I'm not eligible for membership in spite of having published a book that has sold better than 2000 copies and been nominated for a Crawford Award, a Sunburt Award, and two World Fantasy Awards. Um, not to mention the stellar reviews in Asimov's, Vancouver Sun, and NYRSF. Okay, it's probably crude and unmannerly to complain of shoddy treatment when in fact I've been dealt with very well indeed by the industry at large, but come on. So my publisher didn't pay me 2 grand up front. This means I'm not a professional? I think SFWA needs to consider using criteria other than income for determining membership eligibility.

Okay, so I was a little peevish. At least I didn't use bad words.

Holly, Canadian born & bred
I'd like the officers to make more time to explain what they're doing and why, preferably on, but if not there, in a blog somewhere. I'd also like them to use as a sounding board for ideas -before- they decide to implement them.

Michael Capobianco
Hi, Derryl. I've enjoyed my SFWA membership immensely (except for the two or three really awful business meetings I attended--I've also attended some pleasant ones). Through SFWA I've met scores of helpful, knowledgeable folks who gave me advice and guidance. I have learned quite a bit about the business end of the industry. I've been motivated and instructed and validated by meeting some of the people whose writings I most admire.

I also enjoy the security that comes from knowing if things go south for me that I'm part of a group who over and over again have helped members through problems.

There's no down side to that, and that's exactly what I would hope a professional organization would do.

I'm excited about the project SFWA is helping to fund that Robin talked about at LACon, the SF curriculum web site.

It is true that the SFF.NET room can get ugly (in an entertaining way most of the time), but I don't think folks shouting phosphors at each other are SFWA. The SFF.NET lounge is where the organization shows its most extreme sides, and not always its best ones.

I've never begrudged my dues, and I don't think I will in the future.
Well, by and large, I think SFWA is a pretty good deal. I've enjoyed the company of other writers, and I think there are some specific areas where they do very good work, like "Writer Beware."
I am an active member, and will probably remain so, and get involved some more if I ever get far enough along to quit having two other jobs besides being writing. Until then, there just isn't much spare time in my world.

The one ares where I think SFWA could be must more useful is as more of a teaching/encouraging/helping organization for professional writers. Think RWA, although obviously smaller. Why not combine the nebs with more a more useful convention designed for writers? I love sf/fantasy cons, and they have a multitude of grand uses, but what about a convention for us? Something with a more advanced set of writing info than we get at normal cons and a nicely designed venue for meeting with editors and the like?

I don't, by the way, participate much in the discussions. I've seen some discussions that were good. But they tend to get a tad unprofessional from time to time, and I'm just not very into venting about much, unless I do it verbally.
I'd like to see SFWA be consistent in its application of its own rules and procedures. And I'd like to see rules and procedures in place that are clear and -- if not forced -- unspinnable by an ever-changing roster of officers.

On the other hand, I've wanted that for the last decade...

Sharon Lee
SFWA member
I think we're at our strongest when we focus on advocacy and education, and would like to see us continue to focus there. It's things like Griefcom and Writer Beware that keep me paying my dues.
John Scalzi in his own blog here:

Derryl, I'd be interested in hearing what you would like to see SFWA accomplish during the remainder of your term as CRD.

Michael Capobianco
I guess not.

Michael Capobianco
Capo, sorry about that. I will have an answer, hopefully this week for you. I've been jotting down thoughts, but having just moved and started a new job within a week of each other, and trying to deal with the BoD stuff, I plumb forgot I was going to come and ask for your patience.

SFWA seems pretty pointless to me. Maybe useful for encouraging future readers and writers, but does it do anything for present writers? Or readers? The SFWA Web site is useful in many of its parts, but that's not SFWA unless something has changed in the last few years; it began and as far as I know continues more in spite of than because of SFWA.

I spent years contributing what I hoped would be a useful service for writers -- Something SFWA was and is quite short on. I expected nothing from it and I got nothing from it ... except bullied by loathesome Big Name Male Writers till I finally quit SFWA to get off their radar. (Thankfully, that worked.)

It would probably be nice if SFWA's purpose were to help writers rather than to award Nebulas. Some real support for real writers (and not just currently successful writers, either), on the order of Griefcom, but in various other areas that might prevent the need for Griefcom, would be cool.

But the mere thought brings on an attack of ennui, because imo there's no sense talking specifics. SFWA is a social club. (And not a very good one at that.) Oh, there's a core of people who really care, who do all the work that does get done, but most of them burn out from overwork and abuse after a time, so the value of the organization doesn't increase. It does well to hold its own.

Hm. That all sounds more embittered than I feel. I regret that SFWA is not particularly useful, but I'm not really even in the business anymore, so I don't really care.

Melisa Michaels
Former Member
Hey, no problem, Derryl. I'm just a beginner in blogland and I guess I'm more used to time scales. And of course I understand that the BoD has a lot on its plate at the moment. From my perspective, blog structure seems to get in the way and encourage topics to die. I'm watching the SFWA tea party blog with interest, since it's come to a grinding halt and I'm not sure if that means it's actually dead, or just resting.
Hi, Melisa. I'm still pitching for you to get a Service to SFWA Award, which, like as not, you would find pitifully too late to do any good.

It often feels like I'm one of the loathesome bullies, because I'm always harping on things that it appears no else in the organization can see or understand.
Hi, Capo. It's a nice thought about the service to sfwa award, but I truly don't care. I didn't do that for an award, I did it to do what I could to make sfwa more useful to more people. My reward is that it remains one of the most useful (and visible) aspects of sfwa. I'm right proud of that.

And you're certainly not one of the bullies who chased me out. That was personal attacks by a Big Name Few for reasons that continue to escape me. What you are is one of the invaluable core people who truly care, and who spend time and money trying to make sfwa the best that it can be.

The fact that most of sfwa doesn't understand why you harp on things that seem insignificant or even irrelevant to them is telling, imo. You're a stickler for Doing It Right. That's not a comprehensible attitude to many of them.

Woa, there I go sounding bitter again. I don't know what that's about. I don't expect I'll ever write sf/f again, so at this point it's all really irrelevant to me. I guess I just regret that something with such potential, full of wonderful smart people, amounts to so little in the end.

Could I do it better?

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