01 June 2013

This Is More Like It

Some follow-up to yesterday's SFWA doings, and a response to some valid (and less valid) criticism.

First, the follow-up:

John Scalzi has announced that the SFWA is creating a task force to look into the situation with the Bulletin and to decide how they should go forward. Hopefully this will result in some genuine changes moving foward, and not just the wagging of fingers and an arms-akimbo "Oh, you!" directed at the parties responsible. As an interested outside observer I do not think Malzberg and Resnick should be removed from the Bulletin, as they are experienced industry professionals and deserve to have their voices heard--but they clearly need to be reminded that, when they write in the Bulletin, they are representing SFWA as professionals, and should maybe conduct themselves accordingly (and this is vaguely important, so I'd like to call your attention to it as I plan to address it again in a minute).

This is a positive step, and more in line with what I expected from Scalzi, Gould, et al..

Next, the criticism. Laura Anne Gilman offered this up on her website. A few things caught my eye, notably this:

IMGO, leaving SFWA because we (alas) have asshats in the organization makes me wonder if those people are also going to leave the human race. I think that’s a fair question?

To be perfectly honest? No, it's not. Because it avoids the issue. It's not about the asshats, Laura. It's about professionalism (see. I told you I'd come back to this). Professional people expect professional representation, and they do not feel comfortable continuing to associate with an organization that seems determined to let its quarterly newsletter walk around with its pants around its ankles while wearing a pair of "HOME OF THE WHOPPER" boxer shorts. 

Asshats are asshats, and you are quite right to point out that they are everywhere. We do and should put up with them when we have to. But there is a time that comes when they are doing more harm than good. Malzberg, Resnick, and C. J. Henderson have just landed a very significant series of rhetorical torpedoes in the side of the SFWA in the form of their Bulletin content. And it's not that they're asshats that is causing people to head for the lifeboats. It's that this has been going on for six goddamn months now, people at every level of the industry are looking askance (or starting to) at the SFWA, and the SFWA leadership only recently seems to have noticed that the ship is taking on a little water. That they're responding is commendable. That it took six months for them to do so? Not so much. 

It's not that Resnick, Malzberg and Henderson were asshats. It's that the SFWA didn't seem to give a shit how said asshattery was affecting the organization. 

Finally, Laura finishes with a statement that I couldn't agree with more:

This is particularly grating on a week when some of us have spent our time volunteering to make sure that the SFWA booth at Book Expo America (BEA) runs smoothly, and our members are well-represented to the publishing industry (including librarians, bloggers, and audiobook people, etc). This kerfuffle has totally overshadowed any mention of what we’re doing, and I may be a bit cranky about that.

Holy hell, yes. This. Emphatically, unequivocally THIS. I believe in the SFWA's mission and its goals, and I made sure I went out of my way yesterday to point those things out. I want to do so again now, because the SFWA provides vital advocacy and services and resources for writers, publishers, editors and librarians (and more) at every level of the industry. They by and large do a fantastic job. And that's what makes what happened with the last few issues of the Bulletin even more of a shame. It makes the SFWA look like it doesn't know what it's doing. And on a "street level," at least, that couldn't be further from the truth. Laura has every right to be cranky. I would be too. 

In closing, I wish the SFWA leadership luck in righting the ship. It's clear they need to, and it's clear they are finally taking that seriously. A lot of industry eyes are sure to be watching you now, folks. Don't muck this up.

1 comment:

  1. http://www.fantasticalandrewfox.com/2013/06/20/burn-the-witch-swarm-cyber-shaming-in-science-fiction/

    I haven't had the opportunity to read the articles in question. But if the representation from the above link is anywhere near accurate then I have to wonder about this matter. I consider myself a feminist, though a man, though I'm aware that I'm not up to date with the sensibilities of the youngest generations.

    But I'm sitting here wondering why this elevated to the level of outrage from the people who took issue. Whatever happened to pointed commentary?

    Someone had to resign over this, really? What victory does that represent for anyone? Winning the day is about winning the argument.