On Inexperience (A SFWA – Related Post)
Over at the SFWA’s ElectionBlog (actually a newsgroup), things are beginning to get interesting; VP Candidate Andrew Burt has shown up and decided that he’s going to make an issue of highlighting the fact that I am rather inexperienced in the ways of SFWA. He’s asking me if I’m aware of the work of this committee or that committee, or if I know that particulars of certain documents relating to SFWA’s governance. It’s a bit like he’s Alex Trebek, offering up the “SFWA Inner Workings” category of Jeopardy! to me. I will note I am not running the category.
There are a number of reasons why Mr. Burt is choosing to do this, but whatever the reasons, let me note that he is absolutely right to do this. The fact of the matter is that I don’t know all the inner workings of SFWA; I can’t name all the committees, I certainly can’t name all the people who are on the committees, and there’s no doubt that if I win, I’ll be spending much of my time from the announcement of my election until the advent of my tenure catching up on everything SFWA — what it does, how it does it, its financials and so on. I am every bit as inexperienced as Mr. Burt wishes to suggest I am; denying this would be foolish.
Naturally, I don’t plan to deny it. If you vote for me, you are getting an inexperienced president, period, end of sentence. You accept this fact the moment you write in my name and send in your ballot. What you have to hope for is that I’m a fast study (and I am) and that I will be competent from the start (which I sincerely hope I will be).
What is going to make a great difference here is whether, if I win, people help me out. One of the great theories I have regarding SFWA is that more members want to do more — SFWA clearly has a great core of volunteers (and I would be remiss in not noting that, despite my philosophical issues with their potential governance, Mr. Capobianco, the other presidential candidate, and Mr. Burt are among them) — but there should be more of us pitching in. This is why on my platform I make explicit a call to service. One of the joys of being a candidate so far is hearing from so many folks who have said “count me in.” I am counting you in, you know. If I win, my next stop is your doorstep.
I am going to need help. I am going to need old SFWA hands to catch me up on history and mechanics and to give me wise counsel (which may include an occasional slap across the head). I am going to need current SFWA hands to exercise generosity with my learning curve while I learn to respond effectively to their needs. I am going to need new members — I hope to God we get them — to bring their enthusiasm into SFWA so we can tap their energy and suck them totally dry in an orgy of initiatives. I want to be as good a leader to SFWA as I hope I can be.
I am going to need help. I hope you will give it to me, and in return I will give you the service I believe SFWA deserves.
As I said, Mr. Burt is entirely correct to point out that I don’t know what what’s going on with many of the committees. But here is a question for you SFWAns: Do you? I at least have the excuse, as I’ve noted a number of times, of having my SFWA membership as an affectation to this point, and not expecting or wanting anything from it. But I know many of you do expect things from SFWA. Has the organization made you feel like it is doing things you need to know? Has it been doing things you feel like you need to be engaged with? Do you feel like SFWA makes a difference to you and wants you to make a difference to it?
To my mind, this is one of the critical things concerning this election. I could name to you every committee that SFWA has and what it’s doing and how, but if you feel like it’s not material to you — and to your career as a speculative fiction writer — then there’s a big problem. And, I believe, this is the situation which faces SFWA today. Some of this has been because of past policy decisions that are at odds with how working writers get things done today; some of it has been that SFWA is opaque and sequesters so much of itself behind a private wall; some of it is because for a volunteer organization, it doesn’t seem to go out of its way to enthuse it members toward service. I do not wish to belittle the good and excellent service SFWAs volunteers give to the organization. They rock. That said, look: the fact that all five positions on the SFWA ballot were uncontested is a symptom of a larger problem.
Mr. Burt is pointing out that many aspects of my platform are not new; this is correct, they’re not. They are what I think SFWA should be doing. Mr. Burt is also pointing out that initiatives similar to what I suggest are underway at SFWA now. I think that’s wonderful; if they are indeed similar to what’s on my platform, than it’ll be less work for me to ramp things up. I didn’t know about a lot of these initiatives. Did you? Do you think that it’s a problem if you didn’t?
I am an inexperienced candidate for president of SFWA. There’s no getting around that. You need to consider that when you vote for me. What I promise to you is this: that should I be elected, I won’t be inexperienced for long. My delightfully obsessive-compulsive ways — the same ones that allow me to tell you the domestic box office of every Hollywood film made since 1991 (residue of my movie critic days) — will force me to learn every nook and cranny of SFWA. I will soon know everything there is to know about SFWA. And be assured I am going to tell you all about it.
Also be assured that I am going to make you part of it. Remember that I said that a vote for me is a vote for an obligation from you to SFWA. I will be on your doorstep.
I am going to need help. If I get it, I think I can be a good president.