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.

insect army color“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.

First Mary’s take on it:

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!

insect army b&wMary 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.

Be fearless.

Matter.

* 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.

Artwork by Ursula Vernon.

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3 Comments

  1. denise
    Feb 20, 2014

    Rock on!

    • Prajin
      Mar 17, 2014

      Writers Gawking At Vox wrote: oooh look at me arent i clever yes sir i am bleilng the cat in his lair oh hoo hoo hoo how daring of me how dashing oh wait being daring and dashing are misogynistic power moves used by white male oppressors to objectify nonwhites nonmales no must rethink ah yes i am fearlessly charging my enemies like la pucelle no wait she was a christian cant be like her all enslaved by some great sky daddy i wish my daddy had cared about me plus she fought for a king for god’s sake a noshit medieval monarch can you believe it nope not me plus they burnt her i hope it hurt i wish i could burn all the christians it wot they deserve fucking smug selfrighteous bastards always judging people telling them whats right and wrong not like us no sir the sfwa would never judge anybody nor assert a single immutable moral standard something might be wrong for you but not wrong for me like hating [n-word] oh wait thats always wrong and not being for gay marriage wait thats always wrong too and people who dont agree are evil and no tolerance for evil burn them all i say round them up in caps and gas them filthy homophobic racists every one turn them into soap and lampashades and when all the whitemen and christians are dead then then then my friend we will truly live in a free world a world where peace love and justice exst for all eternity so fuck voxday and his jesusworshiping klan trying to impose their ideas on the world well see about that my friend well see whose ideas get imposed because we are AT WAR with anybody who disagrees with sex in any form with feminism transgender rights people of color supremacy peace and freedom daddy where are you why did you leave me why dont boys like me please daddy im scared kill kill kill kill kill kill kill kill kill killtl;dr

      • pooks
        Mar 17, 2014

        I have no idea what you just said, but am leaving it here in case it means something to somebody. I reserve the right to change my mind. Just as I edited out a word I found too offensive to have on my site, I will remove this comment if necessary. For now, it’s here.

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