My Post-SFWA Election Results Post
Posted on May 12, 2007 Posted by John Scalzi
(Nicked from My Elves Are Different’s SFWA Election Special)
People are already discussing the SFWA election results elsewhere online, which suggests the SFWA business meeting at the Nebula Awards Weekend is done, or at least far enough in process that the results are out there for people to know about. For those of you who are not currently at the Nebula Awards Weekend, however, here’s the scoop on the election results:
I didn’t win.
Now. Before anyone complains that I was robbed and/or that this is another example of how SFWA is miring itself in apathy, please re-read my Expectations Management entry, in which I discuss all the reasons why, in fact, I might lose. In particular, remember that I was a write-in candidate and that I announced after ballots were already coming back to SFWA. In that respect, this was always going to be an uphill battle even if I were to have gotten a majority share of ballots after I announced.
I knew going in this was an uphill battle and decided it was worth my time and energy anyway, because beyond winning — which was possible — there were serious issues to raise about the relevance of SFWA to working writers, whether the candidates running had the current publishing experience to make good decisions for working writers, and how SFWA was perceived by an entire generation of speculative fiction writers who see little use being SFWA members, because they can’t see what it does for them.
This was the main reason, in fact, that I made the decision to run my campaign for SFWA president out in the open rather than behind the walls of SFWA’s private groups — because I thought potential SFWA members needed to see what was going on in the organization and equally importantly I thought it was important that SFWA members — particularly the ones who have been so long inside the SFWA private garden that a LiveJournal community was something new and suspect to them — needed to see how SFWA was viewed by the people who should be SFWA members but are not. In short, a little shock treatment was in order.
I understand, of course, that there may be a number of SFWA members who felt this was unnecessary or possibly unseemly and that all we did with a public campaign was air a bunch of private dirty laundry out in public. The appropriate response to this, I think, is to note that all that dirty laundry had been festering in a pile for years and it didn’t seem like anyone was going to throw it into washer without a little prompting. Without this campaign, for example, we would not have had a frank and public discussion of certain loans provided for certain ventures that certain SFWA members found deeply questionable, nor would we have had the public declaration by a party involved that he would repay that loan on an expedited basis — returning that money to where it can be of the most use to SFWA, i.e., in SFWA’s coffers. I applaud that party’s choice to return that money to SFWA sooner than later, and hope he realizes that such promises are not to be lightly set aside, either for his own sake or the sake of the organization.
Likewise, this campaign also brought up other important issues: Whether SFWA is incorporated in such a way that makes sense for our mission and our members; Whether those members who use the Internet as a promotional tool are doing so to the disadvantage of others; Whether SFWA’s current stance on copyright (both official and perceived) is sensible and useful to its members; Whether the organization’s Web site fits the needs and wants of its members. And so on. A lot of this was not on the radar before I jumped into the race; now all of it is.
Let’s be clear that this is not one of those “we achieved a moral victory” set-ups here. I hate when people lose and they say they achieved a “moral victory.” Really, accept the fact that you lost, suck it up, and move on. What I can say happened was that I helped to change the SFWA landscape. We talked about what we wanted for SFWA now (which is different than how it is), and where we felt the organization should go in the future. These things mattered, and will matter — so long as the people who jumped in with both feet during the campaign want them to. I’ll get to that again in a minute.
First, let me speak a bit regarding Michael Capobianco, who is SFWA’s incoming president. When I jumped into the race, one of the primary reasons was that I did not believe Mr. Capobianco was the right person to lead the organization — he had been too long out of publishing and too cautious in his approach to what a SFWA president should be and should do. Over the course of the campaign, I saw that he was listening to the issues and complaints that folks brought up, and was trying to engage those issues positively — i.e., he was making a good and honest effort.
Will his presidency be what my presidency would have been? Clearly not, which depending on your point of view is probably not an entirely bad thing. He’s not me, and I don’t suspect will have the same concerns or drive to do the things I felt needed to be accomplished. I think he’ll continue to need to be prodded, and I think those of us who are actively working writers need to make sure the organization addresses our needs in current time. But the fact Mr. Capobianco was listening and was working with a changing situation was a good thing.
I am happy for Mr. Capobianco, I offer him congratulations and an open door when he wishes to have my perspective on SFWA issues, which I hope he will not come to regret when I am occasionally less than perfectly politic, as i suspect I will be. I’ll be the first to applaud him when SFWA’s board does things I feel is necessary for the organization, and the first to point out when it doesn’t. Yes, I’m fun to have around. I do believe Mr. Capobianco wants the best for SFWA; I hope he can achieve that and will help him when I can. I do suspect he faces a number of real challenges in his tenure; I hope he always considers what is right for SFWA in his decisions and choices.
Now, whether any of the stuff brought to light and discussed in the campaign stays in the light depends on the SFWA membership itself, and particularly those of you who voted for me as an agent of change. You don’t get to have me as president, so change, to that extent, becomes that much harder to achieve. However, it would be a shame if all the groundwork laid down over the last couple of months went to waste. I think you need to feel free to demand certain things of SFWA’s incoming board: That it is responsive, that it is useful, that it is ethical and that it is transparent in process and motivation. In my opinion, the board is obliged to be all of these things. It answers to the SFWA members. But if SFWA’s members don’t demand these things of the board, there’s no assurance they will get them.
That’s all I’m going to say about that. All y’all are grownups; you don’t need me to lecture you on what you should or should not do, as regards SFWA or anything else. If you want a better SFWA, you’ll ask for it (increasingly stridently if need be). If you don’t, that’s fine, too. It’s really all up to you.
I’m sure people will want to know if I plan to run for SFWA president next year. Well, remember that in my candidacy and platform statement this year, I was pretty explicit that I didn’t really want the gig this time around, but felt obliged to run for various reasons. What I’m hoping is that next year (preferably in time to be on the ballot) more than one person runs for each office, and that they have enough differences in their platforms and experience that SFWA members have some real choices. And of course I hope at least one of those people has ideas somewhat like mine. I’ve noted before that my platform is “open source”: I encourage anything thinking of running next year to willfully scoop up the parts that make sense to them and run with them. Please, be my guest.
Which is to say that actually, I’d prefer not to run next year if I can at all avoid it. I fell short of the mark this year; I’d like to see someone else pick up the flag and see if they can carry it home. If no one steps forward (or, alternately, if I think precisely the wrong person steps forward), I may offer myself up again. A lot will depend on where I am and where SFWA is next year. But, basically, I wouldn’t put money on it. Once is enough in any 12-month span, I think.
I’ve saved the most important thing for last, which is that in many ways running for SFWA was an overwhelming experience; it’s a hard wall to bang your head against. But in the end I’m glad I did it, not only because I think the campaign in itself was a wake-up call for SFWA, but because so many SFWA members stepped forward and cheered me on, offering not only their vote but their creativity, their support and offers to pitch in. I was upfront and said that I would need help; people promised they would give it.
Most of all I am stunned and humbled by the faith people had in me, even when they thought I was simply crazy to have run. I had more than one person tell me that they honestly agonized about whether to vote for me, because, essentially, they didn’t know why they would want to punish someone they liked by making him SFWA’s president. But in the end they wrote me in and trusted that I could make it work.
I like to think I could have made it work, and perhaps will, at some point in the future. For now, all of you who voted for me, and who cheered me on inside and outside of SFWA, should know that I did not take that support lightly. It sustained me, actually, during the times where I was wondering just what sort of insanity I had decided to put myself into. Your votes and your support made a real, honest and true difference to me, and I thank you for them, and for the trust implicit in them. Every vote I received was one where the voter had a choice. I am honored to have been that choice.
Whatever Everyone Else is Saying