We’ve been having fun with a certain candidate for the president of SFWA here, but in the comment threads at least a couple of people have asked a good question: What if Andrew Burt does become SFWA president? Is it truly the end of SFWA? Partly to keep those folks who are now well and truly sick of hearing me blather here about SFWA over the last few days from having to drag their eyeballs through yet another entry, my answer to this lies behind the cut.
The answer: No, it’s not the end of SFWA, at the very least not in the short term. For one thing — and this is indeed a very important thing — the president of SFWA is not the entire executive branch. There’s also the rest of the Board of Directors, four seats of which are open for the general membership to vote on: President, Vice-President, Secretary and Treasurer. Of the latter three positions, there are some really excellent candidates this year: Elizabeth Moon is standing for VP, Mary Robinette Kowal and Lee Martindale are doing the same for Secretary, and Amy Sterling Casil is up for Treasurer. I don’t see any of these candidates letting Burt run SFWA into a wall without putting up a hell of a fight. I don’t envy them, because I expect they’ll spend a fair amount of their time counteracting his foolishness, but as I mentioned in a comment elsewhere on the site, a Burt attempt to put a fast one over any of these candidates is likely to have the same result as him walking into a buzzsaw: Lots of blood and little chunks of his ego splattered all over the wall. If Burt’s smart, he wouldn’t try; I lack confidence he’s that smart.
But the point is, I suspect Burt will have a board who sees it as their duty not to let SFWA go kerplooey, and because of that, there’s a very good chance it won’t. Of course, SFWA’s board shouldn’t have to be on high alert to babysit its president; it should be working on things to improve the organization. This is one reason among many why I believe Russell Davis to be the better candidate for president; no babysitting will have to be applied or even considered.
That said, a Burt administration does present SFWA with credibility issues that will dog it in the long run, most of which I already detailed in my previous essay on the matter; simply put it doesn’t look good to install someone with so little practical publishing experience or with such high negatives across the board, inside and outside the organization. It’ll make it more difficult for SFWA to do its work for SF/F writers; it’ll make recruiting efforts for the organization substantially more difficult. And it will drive some members out of the organization. What SFWA needs now is to be seen as (and to be) effective for its members in their careers. A Burt administration, in my opinion, won’t help that.
That has long-term effects on the organization. It doesn’t mean it’s a kill shot on SFWA. It just makes everything harder going forward, at a point in time when SFWA doesn’t need things to be harder.