Out in the Open (A SFWA-Related Post)

Patrick (not of the Nielsen Hayden persuasion) has this to say about the recent SFWA-related posts:

Honestly, at this point, you boys need to take this inside. As fascinating as it is for me to watch and provide pointless distractions, this is now an internal issue.

Two things:

1. This is my site and I get to decide what goes here, and if y’all don’t like that, tough;

2. I disagree that this is now an “internal” issue.

Which is to say: Yes, SFWA is a particular group with particular aims that are of interest to only a relative small number of people — i.e., science fiction writers (and more particularly science fiction writers who are members of SFWA and those writers who would like to be members), and its elections and etc are not generally open to public purview. However, I don’t think that’s either needful or wise. SWFA is a group that in my opinion needs to grow; SFWA is also a group that in my opinion is viewed as increasingly irrelevant by a generation of up-and-coming writers, not in the least because so much of what goes on in SFWA is opaque, either intentionally (private newsgroups, etc) or unintentionally (a navigationally difficult Web site).

I think there are certain things about SFWA that may need to be discussed privately by SFWAns alone — current sensitive policy debates, for example. Nor would I deny SFWAns their private forums to bitch and moan, even if I personally prefer to bitch and moan in public. However, I think the default setting for SFWA should be set on “open”; there needs to be transparency in the process so the people that SFWA is for can see that it’s useful, and can see that they can be useful in SFWA as well. There ought to damn well be a compelling reason not to do things openly, and “well, we’re not comfortable with that” is not a damn good reason.

My aim is to have this election process as open as possible; at the very least I intend to be open about it as possible. I’m not worried about it losing me the election; frankly, I’m worried about it winning me the election, and then I’ll have to go from spouting high-minded ideals to actually trying to implement them, and we all know what a pain in the ass that can be. It’s a risk I’ll just have to take.

If you don’t want to read the SFWA-related posts, do what you do with other posts you don’t like: stop reading them when you realize you couldn’t care less about them. Another, non-SFWA-related post will be along shortly, I assure you.

17 thoughts on “Out in the Open (A SFWA-Related Post)

  1. SFWA is also a group that in my opinion is viewed as increasingly irrelevant by a generation of up-and-coming writers

    As one of those up-and-coming writers, I truly appreciate the recent public dialogs. It shows there is some life in an otherwise very opaque (to steal your word) group.

    I honestly saw the SFWA as the group that picks the Nebula winners, and very little else. It’s nice to see a little more from the outside.

  2. As someone who aspires to join SFWA one day, this is useful for me. While I have enough friends involved to have some idea of what SFWA *could* do and intends to do and talks about doing, it’s nice to see someone kicking the organization in it’s collective arse and suggesting it get on with *doing* rather than thinking about doing.

    Default set to “open” makes a *lot* of sense. But then I’m just an old Berkeley reprobate :>.

  3. There is one respect in which this affects those of us who are not SFWA members but are SF readers. The current lack of credibility of the Nebulas detracts from the credibility of the genre as a whole. Whether or not you win, I hope you have achieved something simply by opening that debate.

  4. John, that first comment wasn’t nice. Patrick is going to be shattered to learn that other people do not maintain blogs and engage in conversations purely for his entertainment.

  5. I’ve got to second all of the above. For those of us “wannabes,” this is surely a lot more information about SFWA than I’ve been able to gleen in the past five years. It makes me want to belong, again.

  6. I, for one, welcome our new election-discourse overlords.

    No, seriously: I think I’ve learned more about the SFWA, what it does, and how it runs from the posts here over the last couple of days than I’ve ever gotten from the website. Reading comments from members and current and former leadership has been extremely enlightening.

  7. I’m too lazy to do my homework.

    What the /hell/ is an SFWA? Is is like a SXSW? Am I missing something else 2.0?

  8. clvrmnky: SFWA stands for “Stilts For Wobbly Antelopes.” It’s one of those hippie tree-hugger things to help lame antelopes better avoid packs of hyenas. Details here. Disclaimer: I’m not a member, just an interested observer.
    And I noticed that site doesn’t even have a favicon. Tsk.

  9. Wow! A post because of me. I must be especially cute today.

    While I am honored by the naming, I do find it sort of cumbersome to say “Patrick (not of the Nielsen Hayden persuasion)”

    The simple “M.” should do.

    I hope my comment wasn’t read to imply point 1. Meaning, I wasn’t saying that you shouldn’t post this on your site or that I was saying what does or does not.

    I think there are certain things about SFWA that may need to be discussed privately by SFWAns alone — current sensitive policy debates, for example. — This is exactly why I made the comment. I would think the driving issues of a presidency would be of that persuasion. I’ve been wrong before and it has never dented my ego, so this is no big deal. I’m still cute.

    My other thought is that you were simply turning this into a popularity contest. You know, come to my site and defend yourself from my numerous friends and fans type thing. That’s also your prerogative. Silly if you don’t really want to win.

    I agree that the visibility is great. By making it public it may help bring back many who have left and many who have felt no overwhelming need to join. Do carry on. I’m being entertained and enlightened and misinterpreted. That’s pretty much what I strive for.

  10. Count me as a lurker who has no aspirations to be eligible for SFWA membership, but who, nonetheless, finds this series of posts and the ensuing threads interesting and useful.
    The specifics may be exclusively SFWA, but the concepts John is addressing and opening for discussion apply to all non-profit, more-than-one-person organizations.
    All organizations have, or ought to have, conversations which touch on all these issues: how open are discussions, how transparent are the workings of the governing body, how does the group define itself, what are the group’s goals, how will those goals be manifest?
    Go for it, John. Lead by example as you are so capably doing.

  11. Ann S., that’s exactly right. I said to another member of the household not five minutes ago that while this discussion is germane to SFWA, it could easily be transferable to almost any other membership organization.

  12. Oh, thank you!

    As a hoi polloi specimen, this pleases me greatly. I don’t think it’s ‘dirty laundry’, any more than any other form of open source.

  13. I am not now, nor have I ever been a member of the SWFA (for obvious reasons) and when it comes to almost any organisation ‘je suis Marxiste, tendence Groucho’. That said, your view extends to any and all organisations – if it ain’t open it ain’t democracy.

    Good luck, whetever the outcome. Vote, vote, vote for… just vote.

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