So obviously, kerfuffle, asses being shown, not going to retread that. There’s so much bothering me about the situation I could rant about for days, which could really be summarized by me throwing my hands up in the air and shrieking, “You’re grown damn adults, so act like it!” Meh. I have a really rough core description that’s melting down most of my higher brain functions right now, so my capacity for continued melodramatic outrage is on hold.
But I do want to say something, because I think it’s actually important: Since the start of this, there’s been a sort of hoo boy there goes SFWA again attitude, with a helping of glad I’m not part of that hot mess, which I’ll admit is pretty standard when you’re enjoying a steaming cup of fresh schadenfreude on the internet.
Obvious fact: I’m a SFWA member. And I’m actually pretty proud to call myself that. I’ve been even more proud recently because we’re weathering a wankstorm that, from where I stand, got thrown our way for doing the right thing.
This is not going to be me going on and on about how much we’re trying. Because no one really gives a shit. Do or do not, there is no try. All nerds know that. What I want to tell you is why I joined SFWA to begin with and why I’m still a member despite occasional moments when I really just want to start chewing on my own office furniture.
I joined SFWA in 2010, literally the same day I signed by contract with Beneath Ceaseless Skies for The Book of Autumn. To a certain extent, this was actually John Scalzi’s fault, because I’d been reading his blog forever, and he mentioned SFWA from time to time. But it was more because I’d decided I wanted to start writing seriously. It didn’t take a whole lot of research at that point to figure out that the list of SFWA-approved publications generally paid better than others, and were far less likely to jerk writers around. By that time I was also very familiar with Writer Beware.
(You do regularly check Writer Beware, right? If not, you really should. That site has saved my ass a couple of times. There are some bad people out there who like feasting on the desperation and bank accounts of people who want to be published.)
I also, I’d like to note, owned my very own copy of Atlanta Nights before I joined SFWA, and maybe you can point to that as the main event that made me an actual fan of the organization. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, do yourself a favor and go read about it. It’s a hilarious story and something of a caper, and it actually happened.
In a way it was also my own experience as someone who started her professional life in a union that made me so eager to pony up my membership fee. I thought of SFWA (and still do) as a loose sort of writer’s union. Not something that had the power of collective bargaining, say, but an organization with enough heft that it could at least put a dent in the actions of abusive publishers and try to encourage better contract conditions and pay.
The nice thing is, from that angle everyone has the potential to benefit from the organization’s existence whether they belong to it or not. Anyone can get information from Writer Beware. Anyone can submit stories to markets that SFWA considers qualifying. I’d daresay anyone can tattle to SFWA (or probably any of the other professional writers’ associations out there) about the shitty behavior of a publisher and get their attention. In the less than four years since I joined SFWA, I’ve seen the organization go after multiple publishers who weren’t meeting their contractual obligations to their authors. I’ve seen the organization pressure publishers who were trying to trying to slide by shitty, predatory contracts (eg: the original Random House Hydra Imprint contract).
When I got my contracts sorted out for my third qualifying short story sale, I immediately upgraded my membership.
There are a lot of other things SFWA can do for members, most of which I haven’t needed to go near yet, and I honestly hope I never will. I’ve never had to use the Grievance Committee. I’ve never needed help from the Emergency Medical Fund. To be honest, any immediate material benefits I’ve received so far from the organization, I would still get without membership. But I’m there anyway. I want to support an organization that’s already done a lot to make my floundering attempts at a writing career easier, and I’m in a financial place where I can definitely afford to do that.
And don’t get me wrong, there are definitely things actually being in the organization has done for me, some of which are much more fuzzy in terms of immediate benefit, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I’ve gotten to meet and talk to some really amazing people I probably wouldn’t have gotten to meet otherwise. I’ve gotten to watch some really informative (and entertaining) arguments take place. I’ve heard about opportunities and been warned about pitfalls. I’ve got access to a group of people to whom I can ask silly questions without being worried I’ll get shit on for it. I’ve gotten to play door dragon at the last two Worldcons and you have no idea how much fun that is for me. I’ve made the current president of SFWA laugh so hard he spilled his drink (a nice whiskey) down the front of his shirt.
The first SFWA officer I ever met was Jim Fiscus, incidentally, during a regional meeting at Mile Hi Con. I told him I had just joined SFWA, and he shook my hand and welcomed me in. I walked away from that conversation with one of the biggest warm fuzzies of my young writer life. It makes me incredibly sad to think that not everyone has gotten to have even that simple, kind experience. I know that not everyone has had my good fortune, and I wish that wasn’t the case.
This shouldn’t be read as an attempt at recruitment, or a slap at people who could be members of SFWA and aren’t. Whoever you are reading this, you make your own decisions about what’s best for your own career and sanity, and I don’t make a habit of arguing about that kind of stuff. Like
most all things on my blog, this is about me. Me, me, me. In light of the wank still circling on the internet and the muffled screams emanating from my own frustration, I wanted to lay it all out there.
When you love someone (or something, I suppose in this case) it can frustrate you like nothing else, probably because you do love it and expect great things. Sometimes you get disappointed. Sometimes (hopefully most of the time!) you don’t. And I have a lot of reasons to hang onto SFWA with the kind of ferocity normally reserved for terriers when you try to take their favorite toy.
Don’t be surprised if there’s growling.