You may remember the controversy last summer over the SFWA bulletin, which encompassed, among other things, people being offended by some things said by Mike Resnick and Barry Malzberg, some other articles deemed sexist, and of course, the cover you see on the left. I discussed the situation in this post.
Well, now there’s another controversy brewing. Steve Davidson of Amazing Stories does a fine job of summarizing it here.
I’ll hit the high points, but you’ll have to track down some of the details on your own. During last summer’s fiasco, publication of the Bulletin was suspended. Plans are for it to resume. A few things need to happen first, like a new editor has to be hired. And there’s some sort of oversight committee that will be put in place to see to it that the Bulletin doesn’t publish anything that isn’t up to SFWA standards.
And that’s got some people upset.
Dave Truesdale, although no longer a member, is a former editor of the Bulletin. He sent a series of emails to SFWA President Steve Gould addressing some concerns about how things are currently being handled and how they will be handled once this oversight committee are in place. Specifically, he wants to know about censorship. Not satisfied with the response he got, he drafted a petition that this course of action be reconsidered. You can read the current draft of the petition here.
Notice who has signed the petition, names included at the bottom of the petition. They include (but aren’t limited to) Gregory Benford, David Brin, Amy Sterling Casil, C. J. Cherryh, Jack Dann, Harlan Ellison, David Gerrold, Janis Ian, Nancy Kress, Mercedes Lackey, Barry N. Malzberg, Jack McDevitt, Larry Niven, Dr. Jerry Pournelle, Mike Resnick, Robert Silverberg, Norman Spinrad, Allen Steele, Harry Turtledove, Vernor Vinge, Gene Wolfe.
Maybe you’ve heard of a few of them?
Only some of the biggest names in the field.
The only name I recognized (other than Gould) who has come out publicly in favor of the oversight committee is C. C. Finlay. The rest are people like Natalie Luhrs (who?) and Angela Korra’ti (again, who?). No disrespect to these ladies intended, but I’ve never heard of them, and I make an effort to keep up with new authors in the field. Obviously, there will be some new authors that I miss.
What I do find interesting (and disturbing) is that there seems to be a generational war going on in SFWA. At least it appears that way from the outside. (I’m not a member, have no desire to be a member, but that’s a post for another day.)
On one side are a number of people with career longevity, people who, for better or worse, have made the field what it is. On the other, those who, often in the name of “tolerance”, seem to want to silence those whose views offend them. A former officer of the organization even wrote a blog post asking some unnamed members to “shut the f*** up” or leave the organization. (There’s professional behavior for you.)
Science fiction and fantasy writers are an extremely diverse group. That’s a very good thing. But with so many different opinions, there are going to be some any given individual will find offensive. That’s inevitable. I don’t think it’s possible to create an organization of any size free from offensive ideas. So the question becomes how those offenses are dealt with.
SFWA has gotten a reputation for dealing with them publicly, and in the eyes of many, poorly.
Frankly, I don’t see SFWA having much relevance any more. The publishing world has changed too much. Again, a topic for another day. And yes, I know SFWA does some good work and has in the last year. But all of that has been overshadowed by the rancor and vitriol among its membership.
I am saddened by what I see as a trend of younger writers (referred to by some as “anklebiters” which is just as insulting as some of the names the older writers have been called) showing a total lack of respect to and for those who are currently giants in the field. Apparently because the older writers don’t have the same political or social views as the younger ones. And the result is not something that will make the field better because no one’s minds are being changed and prospective members are saying “Why bother?”
I have more to say on this, but I’ll stop for now. In the meantime, the fighting will continue. I’m afraid in the long run there will be few winners.