Why I’m not joining SFWA

I’ll be honest – there’s a certain prestige to author organizations like SFWA. In the end, the decision not to pursue a membership was a difficult one largely for this reason. There are all kinds of awesome people involved with SFWA and, as somebody just starting out in his publishing career, there is a part of me that might like the feeling of metaphorically leveling up by joining a professional organization.

That there are a lot of amazing people in this organization was another reason I might have wanted to join. These are people who I like, respect and feel honoured to know. And I’ve no problem with them being in SFWA. That’s not what this blog is about; this is not a call for them to leave. This is not a boycott.

That being said, I’m not going to do it. And I have some good reasons, only a few of which are related to the issue you probably all suspect is weighing on me.

So why won’t I do it?

Well there are a few things.

I don’t exactly write sci-fi

I looked at SFWA’s member lists and I saw a lot of people who are SCIENCE fiction writers. Even Scalzi is pretty hard sci-fi most of the time. My debut novel may be set in the future but it’s about as conventionally sci-fi as an episode of Adventure Time.

So I don’t know what SFWA would make of it. Would a science fiction organization be able to effectively market a fantasy story set on a version of future Earth? Maybe, maybe not. What I do know is that I feel capable of marketing my story. I have a grasp of its idiosyncrasies and I trust my editor to have the same.

I’m not sure that adding another cook to the marketing and promotions broth would actually help matters, especially not when clarity and consistency of message are such important elements of marketing.

I can already talk to the awesome people in SFWA

Pretty much every author these days has a blog, a facebook page, a twitter account or some combination of all three. And authors all know each other. As a fan with a decent understanding and comfort with social media I was able to connect with many of the people who are becoming my peers. I’m socially comfortable enough to approach Names at conventions and this gave me the opportunity to get to know some of these people personally.

So having access to SFWA private fora doesn’t really feel like that much of a perk. I can understand, back before social media, that the professional networking aspect of professional organizations mattered.

But between that technological change and the extent to which fandom and the writing community blend into each other I just don’t see the value add in this anymore.

I live in Canada

So perks like the emergency medical fund don’t apply to me – although the Canadian designed health insurance scheme of the Writer’s Union of Canada is a substantial value add and I’ve not discounted applying to join THAT group.

And, of course, there is that big controversy

This is, honestly, not the biggest issue for me. Especially since much of the dissent against the blatant sexism from certain SFWA members has come from other members. However the truth is that, as it currently stands, I’d not want the SFWA bulletin. I would be concerned at the risk that my member dues were providing some sort of benefit to people like Theodore Beale.

So, although the controversy that has engulfed SFWA this summer is not the core factor in my decision not to join the organization, it certainly played a role in my thinking.

There is certainly room in the world for an organized writer’s union advocating for improved quality of markets, providing collective services to authors. However when most of your value add is as a social networking organization you’ve got to compete with sites that allow for a much greater customization of experience.

I’d love to see SFWA evolve to be more about advocacy and collective organizing. I’d love to see SFWA clear away some of the Old Boy’s Club nonsense, which I suspect is at the heart of the sexist diatribes and accusations of Stalinist Thought Police behaviour. But if the value of SFWA is the membership I already can access the more awesome members of the organization through other channels without having to ever encounter the less awesome ones.

Heck, I can follow the “PC Fascists of SFWA” on twitter and then block the person who compiled the list in the first place so that I never have to see a single one of his tweets.

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