Michael Capobianco’s SFWA Presidential Platform
Yesterday I announced I was a write-in candidate for SFWA president and presented my platform here; the fellow who is actually on the ballot, Michael Capobianco, dropped his platform into the comment thread for folks to see as well. I thought it might get lost there so I’ve bumped it up to its own entry. You’ll find it behind the cut. If you’re planning to vote in the SFWA election, please read both so you know what you’re getting.
If you have comments or questions about the platform, feel free to leave them in the comment thread; I’m sure Mr. Capobianco will be happy to answer them. Remember that in his time here he is my guest and I would be, well, disappointed if you took his participation here as an invitation to snark.
Michael Capobianco’s SFWA Presidential Platform
Yes, I’m running for President again. For the newcomers among us, I’ve been the Authors Coalition liaison for going on thirteen years and have served on a number of other committees for a decade or more. I have been Vice President, Treasurer, and President of SFWA. In short, I have quite a bit of experience with this organization, and I believe that I understand how best to move it forward. I’ve been kibitzing for a long, long time now, and anyone who reads on sff.net probably has a pretty good idea of how I feel about SFWA.
When I was President from 1996-1998, I accomplished quite a bit. I created the position of Executive Director and hired SFWA’s first full time employee, my Board and I re-wrote the By-laws, and I revamped the Officers’ Guidelines and Grand Calendar. Under my leadership, we got Star Trek authors compensation for books that were being exported, fought against the Star Wars flat fee contract, and put Uwe Luserke, the notorious German “agent,” out of business. Times have changed and there are many new threats to members. Here’s what I plan to do if I’m elected:
I’ll concentrate on authors’ rights and getting authors a place at the table as publishers and the Internet giants discuss the future of our digital rights. We’ve been systematically excluded while Google and Amazon plunge merrily ahead, scanning and displaying large portions of our works whether they have the right to do so or not. I understand that members have divergent views on copyright, but the bottom line is that the individual author should have the ultimate say over how his or her work is used. This is a matter that concerns me both generally and individually, and I will be pursuing it vigorously. As a beginning, I would like to set up a conference at which authors on both sides of the issue try to work out points of agreement.
I’ll work to make SFWA functions more automated. This includes making it easier for officers and selected volunteers to update parts of the website without having to bother the webstaff. I hope that we can do this with the Forum, Online Directory, and NAR, as well as updating the Officers’ Guidelines and the like. I’d like to do both a private and public SFWA blog, to increase real-time communication with the members and readers, in addition to maintaining an ongoing presence on sff.net.
I’ll advocate for an ongoing program in which SFWA dedicates 2% of the General Fund per year for infrastructure improvements, and 3% per year to special projects. The Fund is large, and we can afford to tap it in small amounts. Other than this, we should live within our budget. The Authors Coalition money we receive every year is not going to dry up, but it should be used for author advocacy, not day-to-day expenses. I see several areas where we might be able to save some money, especially with the Forum, but I’ll tread carefully and reach a consensus before doing anything drastic.
One of our biggest problems is that the Board exists in an information vacuum. Attempts to collect information such as contracts or royalty statements from members have largely been unsuccessful. I propose that, as an experiment, SFWA pay a small bounty to any member who sends a copy of a current contract for analysis by the Contract Committee, somewhat less if the contract has been redacted. Maybe then we can return to the kind of contract analysis that was favored by Damon Knight as one of the main goals of the organization.
I believe that SFWA should follow up on its Orphan Copyright work and continue efforts to make it easy for potential publishers to find members in order to buy rights. We began this effort ten years ago with the Authors Registry, but, the Registry, which is run by Authors Guild, has stalled. If it can’t be brought into the present via online registration and information updating, SFWA may have to create and maintain its own registry.
In order to bring SFWA up to speed, I don’t believe we need to make any immediate changes to the By-laws or Award Rules. I will reconstitute the By-laws Committee with an eye towards a future restructuring of the organization in which the employee(s) are more firmly integrated, but I don’t see that happening any time soon. I do believe that we need a written Policies and Procedures Manual for the Executive Director position, and a long overdue rewrite of the Officers’ Guidelines, and I will do my best to get that done during the next year. I will also fully implement the Worker Relation Guidelines (http://sfwa.org/private/offguide/EmployerRelations.html) that create a procedure for the President and Board to handle disputes that may arise with employees.
If you elect me, I promise I will again give the organization my best efforts.