Ask John Scalzi Questions About His SFWA Presidency Run

Have questions for me about my SFWA presidential run? This is the place to ask them. Click here to see my reasons for running and my platform.

This is a thread for serious questions, so serious questions only, please.

If you want to ask questions of Michael Capobianco, who is also running for SFWA president, go here.

29 Comments on “Ask John Scalzi Questions About His SFWA Presidency Run”

  1. All things being equal (i.e. Peter Jackson doesn’t purchase the rights to thje OMW/GB/TLC trilogy for 6 billion dollars, you don’t turn into a recluse like Pynchon or Salinger. you dont go nuts like Howard Hughe and you don’t win and turn into the SFWA version of Hugo Chavez and declare yourself president for life) can we look forward to a future campaign if this one somehow falls short?

  2. If you don’t get many votes this year would you be interested in being part of a more organized campaign for the next year that would seek to actually put your name on the ballot for Prez (or VP or something)?

    Or would you be interested in being involved in/helping to organize a “reform” campaign for next year even if you were not a candidate?

  3. Bensdad00/Francis:

    If I don’t win this year I’ll look at running next year. A lot will depend on where I am with books and etc. I wasn’t planning to run this year, mind you.

    If I don’t run next year I don’t doubt I’d be active supporting a candidate who supports many of the same positions I do.

  4. Do you think that science fiction writers should play a role in helping to promote science *fact* in day-to-day discourse (i.e. news, politics, public policy?)

  5. deCadmus

    I think that’s up to the individual science fiction writers. I know some have (Allen Steele has testified before Congress on space exploration issues, for example); I would hope that those who choose such a role actually have a grounding the science.

    I don’t think SFWA as an organization should be out actively campaigning for science fact day-to-day discourse; there are better organizations for that. SFWA should focus its time/money on issues regarding writing and publishing, specifically regarding those issues affecting its authors.

  6. One: a plank or two of your platform involves spending money (most notably “hiring of a full-time and salaried Director of Speculative Fiction Evangelism”, though potentially the site revamp as well). Is the current SFWA budget sufficient to pay for this, and if not, how do you intend to make up the shortfall?

    Two: you say that you’re going into the position with plans to push hard to get things done and to “not necessarily be the most politic guy”. Given the natural herd-of-cats mentality of humanity in general and SF writers in particular, will that approach not doom your plans to endless squabbling?

  7. Stephen Granade:

    One: I doubt the current budget will suffice to hire a DofSFE. If I’m elected, I’m not going to start spending money immediately; I’m going to get with SFWA and prioritize on what aspects of my platform are most desirable and most doable. If most SFWAns do want an evangelism director, I imagine we’ll scope out what that would cost us and then pass on the cost to the membership, or find other ways to raise the funds.

    I don’t believe in magical thinking where money is concerned; initiatives cost money and money has to come from somewhere. SFWA recently raised its membership rates from $50 annually to $70; if SFWA members decide they want expensive new initiatives, we may have to raise membership rates. As a 501 (c), SFWA is able to accept charitable contributions as well; we may choose to do more fundraising.

    If SFWAns decide they like the idea of an Evangelism director but not the idea of paying for one, we won’t have one. Simple.

    For the site revamp, I want to see how much of that can get done via volunteer work from SFWA members. We’ve *got* the geeks; time to put them to work.

    Two: Well, to be sure, I don’t plan to be a dick all the time. We’ll have things to do and I want to get them done, and that takes a fair amount of willingness to bend. I have that. What I don’t have time for, and am not interested in, is bending so far that nothing gets done, or that ideas get compromised to death. Consensus is good, pointless frittering is not. I’m willing on occasion to be the jerk if being the jerk gets something done when it’s supposed to be done.

  8. 1. Has your opinion of the qualifications and goals of Michael changed since you opened up the debate?

    2. Were you aware of his platform before deciding to run?

    3. Besides the Nebulas, what does SFWA offer to a writer that Authors Guild doesn’t?

  9. Patrick M.

    1.: No. Also, as a matter of clarification, I’ve not debated Mr. Capobianco. Let me also state again my opinion of Mr. Capobianco’s fitness for the position of SFWA president has nothing to do with his personal character (he is by all I hear of him a perfectly excellent person) nor reflective of his previous experience as SFWA president; I have heard nothing either positive or negative about his previous tenure.

    2.: Yes.

    3.: I don’t know what the Author’s Guild offers, so I can’t say. Nor do I know that it’s relevant; SFWA is specifically for writers of speculative fiction, whereas I assume the Author’s Guild is a more general organization. I would suspect we have some features that match up and some that don’t.

  10. Ok, let me get this straight, Steve Carper post some basic details on the three largest writers organizations in your comments, makes several seemingly intelligent and valid points, and you don’t take 5 minutes to look up these organizations to perhaps understand what a writer’s organization should provide and determine where SFWA is lacking?

    Carper pretty much stated the problem. You need to double the income of SFWA. AG makes their money by charging an increased membership fee based on your writing income. The other two allow unpublished members.

    How do you plan to double the income of SFWA?

    This is basically Steve Carper’s question reiterated on the Ask John page.

  11. Patrick M:

    “Ok, let me get this straight, Steve Carper post some basic details on the three largest writers organizations in your comments, makes several seemingly intelligent and valid points, and you don’t take 5 minutes to look up these organizations to perhaps understand what a writer’s organization should provide and determine where SFWA is lacking?”

    I didn’t see the comment to which you refer, so, no. Nor am I obliged to read every single comment which appears on my site in great detail. The site gets quite a number of comments. Moreover, I am not obliged to respond to every single comment, much less respond in a manner you or anyone else deems satisfactory. I’m not a jumping monkey, whose sole existence is for the purpose of your amusement.

    “How do you plan to double the income of SFWA?”

    Before I respond to how I plan to double the income of SFWA, I would need to determine for myself whether SFWA’s income, indeed, needs doubling, or indeed, needs any increase at all. I suspect it does, particularly for programs I’ve outlined, but I haven’t spec’d out all the costs, nor have I looked at SFWA’s finances in fine-toothed detail.

    Should it be clear that SFWA needs to increase income for programs of mine it would wish to institute, my first inclination, as noted above, would be to have members pay for them through dues increases. As also noted, I would look for ways to increase philanthropic giving to SFWA. Those would be my initial impulses to increase SFWA’s income.

  12. Man, I am being a pain in the a$$…

    Holy crap! I’ve become… become… TCO!!!

    Kill me now.

    Sorry. I’ll go away.

    And also, sorry for misusing the word debate, I meant discussion or something.

  13. This discussion has come at a very interesting time for me. This morning at the Spring Meeting of the Michigan Section of the American Association of Physics Teachers, I listened to the President of the national AAPT talk about what the national organization needs to do/is doing. One of the items is about outreach to other relevent organizations and governmental units.

    So I raised the question of unconventional outreach activities — contacting people in Hollywood or an organization such as SFWA. Seems to me that Physics teachers and SF writers have some interesting areas of confluence of interests.

    For example, in my HS physics class over 30 years ago, I was introduced to a volume “Where Do We Go From Here?” edited by Isaac Asimov — it’s an anthology of SF short stories which includes discussion points and questions to use in the classroom.

    So, the question would be — does your Director of SF Evangelism include thoughts outside the box like trying to dialogue with teachers?

    Dr. Phil

  14. Dr. Phil:

    I think that SFWA ought to take advantages of opportunities wherever they come from.

  15. I just now posted in another of your threads that if you win, I’ll rejoin. I do mean that. But it reminds me of the single SFWA initiative of the last few years that has most discouraged me from rejoining, the recently-promulgated “SFWA Code of Conduct.” I’d like your view on that.

    My view is that, while most of it boils down to harmless admonitions to be nice and don’t hit, article 1 is a dealbreaker. It states that SFWA members should “respect intellectual property. Members should not plagiarize, pirate, or otherwise infringe intellectual property rights (copyright, patent, and trademark) or encourage others to do so.”

    I can’t sign off on that, and neither can a lot of other people. Not because we disrespect copyright or advocate its flouting, but because we can’t possibly agree that patent law ought to be in there. American and international patent law are a mess; it’s entirely possible for people whose behavior meets the highest ethical standards to be found in breach of it. I don’t “respect” it; I think it needs drastic reform, and given the wild inconsistency of the courts’ rulings on certain modern patent issues, I don’t think it’s possible, literally, to be sure that one is in fact refraining from “encouraging” others to violate it.

    I also don’t respect the phrase “intellectual property,” or the thinking behind it. In my view, this stuff isn’t “property” the way my shirt or my sandwich are property. It’s a charter, a monopoly granted by the state and society in order to, in the words of the Constitution, “promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.” As it happens, in the last few decades it’s become politically inconvenient for certain holders of valuable copyrights to admit that the thing they’re asking Congress to extend the lifetime of is a monopoly, so they’ve pushed the phrase “intellectual property” instead, since by and large people approve of property much more than they approve of monopoly.

    I’m in favor of copyright as a concept, even though I don’t agree with its recent extensions to multiple generations beyond the death of the creator. But I can’t honestly say I respect everything SFWA is stuffing into the container they call “intellectual property,” nor do I respect the label they’re putting on the container. Now, I might be wrong about all of this. Smart people come to wrong conclusions all the time and I’m no exception. What I’m very sure I’m not wrong about is that I’m far from the only respectable SF professional who thinks these things. By deliberately and needlessly building a maximalist position into their “code of conduct”, SFWA has said very plainly that they’re taking a political position that they know perfectly well all their colleagues don’t agree with them on. I don’t understand why a writers’ organization feels the need to urge its members to pledge allegiance to the modern state of patent law, but they are clearly doing so, and it’s every bit as offensive as it would be if Article 1 of their “code of conduct” said the SFWA members should all vote Democratic.

    And there was no need for it. Their “code of conduct” (assuming SFWA actually needs a “code of conduct,” something they got along for decades without) could simply have said that SFWA members should respect one another’s copyrights. SFWA should no more be taking a position on patent law than it should be adopting an official view on nuclear power, the later Heinlein novels, or emacs versus vi.


  16. Jerry:

    To the extent that it will be in my power, yes!


    You and I are basically in agreement regarding article 1. Were I revisiting the Code of Conduct, and didn’t decide to toss the thing out all together as unnecessary and condescending, I’d probably re-write article one as:

    “Be ethical in your dealing with other people’s copyrights.”

  17. Nick Mamatas:

    You know, I hadn’t given that any sort of consideration whatsoever. So: Dunno. Maybe?

    If the handbook is something we could have online in a new and improved SFWA site what doesn’t suck, I’d be more likely to want to put it there than incur the cost of printing up 1,500 copies.

  18. Hi. I’ve never been here before, but I’ve seen all this bubbling about in the wider SF blogosphere. Although I only qualify as an Interested-in-Passing Fan, one of my other geekeries is voting systems, and it occurs to me to ask if you’ve considered changing the SFWA voting rules to automatically include a “Re-Open Nominations” option on the ballot?[1] Reading your original announcement post, it seems that the lack of such an option is part of what motivated you to put yourself forward in the first place.

    [1] Though I’m guessing doing this might require one of the Dreaded By-Law Changes.

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