SFWA — Housebreaking a Puppy or Abusive Relationship?

So I’m a member of SFWA, the Science Fiction Writers of America.

I joined a few months back, because my buddy Mur said “Dude, you should totally join SFWA!” and I thought vaguely “Oh yeah…they do some good stuff…I approve of that…” I never aspired to it, particularly, I have been eligible for some years, but I figure hey! Professional organization for that thing I do! Lawyers on tap if somebody tries to screw me! A Good Thing! And also I like John Scalzi, both because he runs a rockin’ blog and because he handed me my Hugo, which means I’m sorta biased.

I tell you true, gang, I’m starting to think that was ninety bucks wasted. I could have bought like 30 really good TV dinners for that. The Boston Market ones with the really good mac & cheese, even.

Instead, I got a ringside seat for…well…excitement. Of that tiring “why are we doing this again?” sort.

The issue at hand is The Bulletin, the professional newsletter put out quarterly by SFWA, which is supposed to…I don’t know, do something for us. It takes a rather large percentage of that TV dinner money, anyway. Apparently it’s supposed to be a useful thing for professional science fiction authors, and possibly it is, at least for people who are not actually me.

Three issues in a row, it has printed something moderately derogatory toward women. The cover art one, I’ll give a pass on as simply vaguely embarassing—I drew chainmail bikini babes in my day too, so meh, whatever.

The bit about how hot various lady editors were was…um.

The part where Barbie succeeds because she conducts herself with quiet dignity, “the way a woman should,” made me stare at the ceiling for a few minutes, in that way you do when you are wondering if your stomach acid really NEEDS to be that particular pH, and whether you should go for the Tums or take your reflux medicine a few hours early.

And then there’s the current issue, where people complaining about the previous things were accused of being anonymous commenters seeking censorship and—you can actually read it for yourself, if you’re feeling like getting mad. (It even has a “This story was okay to tell because a woman told it to me, so it can’t be sexist!” In the wild and everything!)

Well, there was an uproar after the first one, and after the second one, and people said they’d change and there would be fixes and there was calling for more editorial, y’know, editing, and a general air that damnit, this can be dealt with! And then of course it happened again, and there’s another uproar, and I don’t know, maybe that’s how it always works—maybe there’s an uproar every time and promises to fix it and then somebody yells that they’re being censored. Couldn’t tell you, not enough data.

So I thought “This sucks. A lot. And I am annoyed and also tired because there is too much shit going on and I have too much on my plate and a comic due next week and a show in a month and I have poison ivy in both armpits and a tick-bite on my ass and a book that needs to be written pronto and there’s a half-ton of stone in the car that needs to be unloaded and—no, damnit, I’m still annoyed.”

(And while what happens on private forums stays on private forums, let me just say that it’s sad when you finally get to interact with some of the Big Names of science fiction and they turn out to be old men yelling at clouds. Goddamn thin-skinned humorless clouds! They were better in the old days. Clouds knew their place. They didn’t get all offended by jokes about their formation. Kids today just want to ban cumulonimbuses altogether.)


And then I thought “But SFWA does good things—they did that one thing with Hydra and that other thing with Games Workshop and that was awesome and people are saying they’ll fix this and won’t do it again–”

And then the wheels ground to a screeching halt, because, ladies and gentlemen, if you are telling yourself in your head that someone is Not That Bad, even though they belittle you and promise they’ll change and then do it again and then promise no, really, they’ll change, and you start tallying up the things that they’ve done that are good to try and get over the bit where they’re doing something bad that embarrasses you in public—no. Just no.

That’s an abusive relationship. We do not have those, except possibly with cats, who are allowed to treat us like crap when they feel like it and then purr and be made of love when it suits them, because we extend these privileges to cats and not to any other living thing.  Not to other humans. Not to organizations.

If I wish to have an abusive relationship with an organization, I can join any number of lousy churches, and at least they have free donuts.

I am trying to think of anything that could fail three times in a row, in short order, and I would still give another chance. Hmm. Housebreaking a puppy comes to mind. That’s about it.

So now I’m going “Hmm. Abusive relationship…or stupid but well-meaning puppy?”

And that’s the question, isn’t it? Can SFWA learn? If we hit it with enough rolled-up newspapers and rub its nose in big piles of Seriously-Not-Okay, will it get better? Will the puppy learn to go outside?

Or is SFWA just gonna go “Aw, you know I don’t mean it, babe…” and pinch our respective asses and turn around and do it again…and again…and again….

I don’t know the answer.

I’ve got nine months to run on my membership. By the end, I might know. And the nice thing is that since I don’t have much of an emotional investment here, if I want to walk away, I can do so—and never think about it ever again. Which is good for me. But not so good for SFWA if that’s what your members are thinking.

So maybe next year the puppy will have learned to go outside.

Or maybe I’ll just change the locks and keep all my TV dinner money to myself.