Why What I Think About SFWA Matters [and why I embrace being an insect]
First, the words that set off the insect army, as quoted by John Scalzi. Just for reference.
“The problem is that the ‘vocal minority’ of insects who make up the new generation of writers don’t scramble for the shadows when outside lights shines on them—they bare their pincers and go for the jugular. Maybe it is a good thing that SFWA keeps them locked up. The newer members who Scalzi et al. brought in are an embarrassment to the genre.” — (name withheld*) on SFF.net, during the recent unpleasantness.
Second, if you want the big picture of what is going on, read this.
But for me, for now, it’s simply about the insect army.
I’m not a member of SFWA. I want to be, but I haven’t sold work to any SFWA-recognized publications. I care, because long before I ever planned to write in this genre, SFWA provided me and other writers with Writer Beware. I want to be a member of the pro organization that reflects my current writing.
It has been on my ‘someday’ list of priorities, as in, ‘When I am able to focus on it, I will start writing short stories and submitting to the markets that will gain my SFWA cred.’
And then all this bullshit blew up and I made an offhand remark to a friend, it’s time like these that I wonder if going through the motions of joining the SFWA matters.
The SFWA is experiencing growing pains but is on the downside of the slope, embracing the rights of all people to be represented by their professional organization with the respect and dignity that the genre deserves. This is a genre of that embraces fiction about and by all people, regardless of their race or gender-identification. And there is an effort to make sure the professional organization that purports to represent this fiction also shows respect for all people. Wow, what a concept.
Some people are confusing this with a freedom of speech issue [which it isn’t–nobody is saying you can’t write or say whatever you want, but they are saying that a professional organization has to hold to a different standard].
So my casual dismissal wasn’t fair. John Scalzi and the ‘insects’ he encouraged to get active in the SFWA are proof to me that it’s worth joining.
Still, it’s easy to shrug this off as ‘not my problem’ because I’m not a member of the SFWA.
John Scalzi, former president of the SFWA, and Mary Robinette Kowal, former Vice President and current target of the nastiness, both addressed this problem and set me straight. It’s important because it’s about how all women are viewed and treated everywhere. This is just a single example.
Then I replied to the messages saying, “Honestly, I’m fine. Four years in office inured me to this so mostly I’m just laughing.”
And this is the part that I feel I should draw attention to — I was “mostly” laughing. I was also having mild stress reactions. Dry sweats, elevated heart rate. I was ready to shrug them off as, “Meh, doesn’t materially affect me. I’ve seen worse.”
Until someone pointed it out that I was basically saying, “I’m inured to being abused, because I was abused for years.” See… the things those folks are saying in that public forum? When I was in office, they would email that bile directly to me and because I was an officer, I could not chose to ignore it. I had to read every single one. And I had to reply politely to them. Strangely, sometimes I had trouble doing that, but a polite response was the one that was expected. Now? Being out of office for two years, I can say whatever the fuck I want, but most beautifully, I don’t have to read the emails.
So this is why I feel weird about writing about this. My impulse is to tell you all that I’m fine and that this has no material affect on my life. And that is true. But I also know that I am a useful representative sample of the abuse that happens to other women.
Scalzi simply voiced his own opinion at first, in defense of Mary.
Likewise, anyone who would publicly characterize a woman who has reached the highest levels of two separate creative fields (puppeteering and speculative fiction), winning awards and acclaim in both, and who has offered up a significant amount of her personal time and effort to work on behalf of others in her fields as “no one you should have heard of, and no one you should concern yourself with” is so deeply and profoundly wrong that the only thing they should feel at such an appallingly ridiculous dismissal is shame.
But then he came up with a better idea, and Mary joined him. They have created an insect army!
Mary and I are no longer officers of SFWA, but I think our commissions at the head of the Insect Army are still in effect: After all, not every “insect” is in SFWA (yet). And so I say to you: Join John and Mary’s Insect Army! You must write! You must be fearless! You must stand your ground in the face of deeply silly insults, clacking your pincers derisively at them! And, if you believe that every person — writer, “insect” and otherwise — should be treated with the same dignity and honor that you would accord yourself, so much the better. Together we can swarm to make science fiction and fantasy awesome!
I write. I am fearless. I will stand my ground.
I believe that every person–writer, insect and otherwise, should be treated with dignity and honor.
I joined the ranks. I am a proud member of the insect army.
My friend Diane Pharaoh Francis has blogged about why it matters.
Juliette McKenna has blogged about why it matters.
Many people have. And now I have, a little.
Join the ranks.
* There was no reason to withhold the name, as the guy was stupid enough to post his insidious comments on a public bulletin board on the internet and assume nobody would see it but the troglodytes who agreed with him, and despite his threats to sue everyone, has only himself to blame.