Friday, August 31, 2007

Why SFWA has crossed the line

Ok, so I'm late coming to the party here. I admit that I purposely didn't get internet on my honeymoon, so I missed this until I found it this morning. By now, there is intelligent and rational discussion of it all over the internet. My brain is still not working at its optimum level, so my comments will be brief.

Basically, SFWA, the Science Fiction Writers of America, has fraudulently ordered the removal of works from the Scribd website, under the guise of the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act), which I have always hated as a piece of legislation. They have done so, by and large, without the consent of their members or any prior notification of those authors whose works were removed without their consent. They have exposed themselves to a potential legal liability. And they have made general asses of themselves.

Cory Doctorow explains the situation here, in much more detail and eloquence than I am able to muster at the moment. Chris (who I am talking to on the phone right now, as I write this post), thinks that this is madly inept of them. I agree completely with him. Dr. Andrew Burt, please excuse my language, but you seem to have fucked yourself and the organization royally.

I'm late in renewing my affiliate member dues, as I was caught up in the chaos of getting married. At the moment, I'm not actually sure that I want to renew them, if this is the the sort of face that the organization is putting forward to the public. I have many issues with SFWA, least among them that affiliate members are often treated as second-class citizens. I am not even allowed access to the discussion forums, and I pay over $50 a year. I get the privilege of having my name listed in a directory and being allowed into the SFWA suite at cons. Woo hoo.

So instead, as a possible alternative to SFWA, I point you to my friend, Lisa Mantchev's LJ post about the subject. I'm the first comment there. I'll publicly state here that I'd help a new genre writer's guild in a capacity as a nascent genre writer, as well as a professional agent. If I can do something to make it better for people, then I will. So hop on over to Lisa's LJ. Comment here. And spread the word.


Carl Frederick said...

I'm a full SFWA member and have been for, I think, three years. This year, I've not yet paid my dues. And (from the SFWA newsgroup) many other have not yet paid as well. To be honest, the only reasons I keep my membership is first,I enjoy the Resnick-Malsberg dialogs in the Bulletin. The main reason though, is that I like attending the SFWA Editors and Writers event in NYC, and that mainly because Stan Schmidt takes me (and other Analog writers) to dinner beforehand.
I've felt uncomfortable with SFWA for some time now: its clannishness, pettiness, and frequent mean-spiritedness.
Also, SFWA, by its mere existence, defines insiders and outsiders. And I must admit, I feel more comfortable as an outsider.
This latest SFWA strangeness might well do it for me. I'm loathe to send in my renewal dues at the moment. And, as I'm very subject to inertia, I'll probably neglect to renew at all.

E.B.L. Gorton said...

Once upon a time I wanted to be part of the SFWA.

I am shocked and thoroughly pissed about this circus and the way they are treating the tool we call the internet. Thank you for pointing this out to me.

Loquacious Me said...

As an aspiring author, I have always listed membership in the SFWA as something I wanted to do, when I was able.

I think I've changed my mind.

joycemocha said...


Thanks so much for the comment. I'd just gotten on and hadn't checked Making Light yet, or I'd have known about it.

I appreciate and support your stance--and, like Carl, I'm uncomfortable with SFWA. In the process of trying to get published off and on over the past few years (and my involvement with writer friends), I've been privy to the many SFWA debates and heard a lot of pros and cons.

Until today, though, I'd always been leaning toward SFWA based on the contract support and information they put out.

Now? This has actually crossed a line for me.

Kelly Swails said...

Interesting read. Since I'm two sales shy of qualifing for membership, I hadn't really paid attention to SFWA's comings and goings. I've always just seen it as a benchmark of my career (Yeah! I can join SFWA now! woot!). Now, I will stand back and really study the organization before I join.

I read your friend's post and the comments; one comment--I forget by who--suggested that the way to fix SFWA was by running for office. I would have to agree with that, I think. Yes, a New Genre Guild would be great, but it would take years before it was as "respected" in the industry as SFWA, and that's ultimately what you want, isn't it? If the new guard fails to get elected, well, then...start a new Guild.

Sometimes you gotta try to glue the teapot back together before you give up and grab the hammer.

K.B. said...

SFWA has commented upon the incident, here:

DementedM said...

I would love to support a new organization that fostered new writers as well as established ones. The SFWA has been working up to this sort of meltdown for a while. I have rarely heard anything good about them and am not actually all that surprised to see what they've done now--that's how bad their rep is.

I'll follow the links you posted.


Patrick McNamara said...

It sounds like they were just being lazy and thought a global search would be the solution. They should have checked their list to assure that each one was indeed a violation.

For a group that's suppose to consist of intelligent people (as SF writers like to consider themselves), it's a very stupid mistake.

Yasmine Galenorn said...

Quite frankly, I'd have to read more about this incident, but I will say I am grateful the SFWA was there when I *was* e-pirated last year. There are readers who cross a very hard and fast line when they decide to distribute copyrighted works--entire books--for free on line, and I, for one, do not appreciate seeing my work splashed all over the net without permission.

So the SFWA isn't a big demon monster--it sounds like they screwed up, yes, but they've done a tremendous service over the years for writers. Don't forget that.