More on SFWA and the Bulletin

Initial thoughts, summary of the situation, links to screencaps, and links to other people’s initial reactions in my previous post here: http://www.slhuang.com/blog/2013/05/31/dear-mike-resnick-barry-malzberg-and-the-sfwa-for-giving-you-a-platform-fuck-you/

Since I posted the above entry last night, over 500 people have found it, mostly through search engines.  People are looking for news.  This heartens me.

This morning, SFWA announced a task force to see where they’re going next with the Bulletin.  I’m glad to see it.  They’re taking this seriously.

Rachel Swirsky, the current VP of SFWA, has also solicited feedback (at the above link), and her Twitter feed is worth reading, too.  She’s been handling the problem with seriousness and grace and not a single ounce of dismissiveness for anyone’s outrage.  This also heartens me.

Some SFWA people (not going to link, no wish to embarrass these people) have been sounding off about the people who are making noise and resigning, because they say SFWA should be defended, that it should be pointed out how much good work SFWA does, that this incident (well, incidents, plural) should not be seen by members as either sanctioned by the board, representative of the entire organization, or trumping than the good work SFWA does.  To which I say:

  • The people you really should be angry with are Resnick, Malzberg, and whatever editor(s) let their article through.  They’re the people who let down SFWA.  They’re the people who made your public face into sexist douchebaggery.
  • The article may not represent the board or SFWA as a whole, but it’s in the official publication.  Which means, in some sense, it does represent SFWA.  In fact, that’s exactly why people are angry.  We’re not upset because we think the whole board is made up of sexist assholes or because we think everyone in SFWA is a sexist asshole; we’re complaining because the editorial staff of the Bulletin made it so it seems like SFWA welcomes sexist assholes by being willing to give a platform to such sexist asshattery, and we believe that is not okay.
  • Responding to people’s anger on this issue with, “But look at all the good SFWA does!” strikes me like someone punching me in the face and then someone else saying, “But he’s a good person!  He rescues stray kittens and volunteers at soup kitchens!”  What the fuck?  I’m standing here with blood fountaining out of my nose and wondering whether I need to go to the emergency room and with a guy who likes punching people standing next to me and your main concern is that I know that he’s a good person?  If he’s such a good person, why don’t you help me stop him from punching people in the face again?  And how can you possibly fault me from walking away and ending any association with him, no matter what a good person he is?
  • All in all, I don’t understand why the people who are upset because this is stomping all over the good work SFWA does in people’s minds aren’t upset at the people responsible instead of at the people objecting.  You should be angrier at them than we are, even.  They’re the ones who trashed your hard work.  They’re the ones who made it so that when people google “SFWA,” they’ll get this sort of news instead of heartwarming stories of how you support writers.  You’re victims in all of this, too.  The people being loud about this are not the ones responsible—Resnick, Malzberg, and the people who edit the Bulletin are.  I feel sympathy for SFWA workers and volunteers, but come be angry WITH us!  It makes no sense to be angry at us.

Swirsky put it well:

6 thoughts on “More on SFWA and the Bulletin

  1. Patrick

    I think you’re basically right. I would observe, though, that I don’t know a single person concerned with these issues who’s actually more annoyed with the SFWA-leavers than they are with the various outbreaks of cloddishness recently published in the Bulletin.

    I think it’s understandable that, just as different people are going to have legitimate reasons to choose different approaches (leave SFWA, stay in SFWA to reform it, emigrate to France, lie on the floor and practice measured breathing), different people are going to have opinions about the appropriateness, worth, and effectiveness of other people’s choices. That doesn’t mean that those who disagree with the “leaving SFWA” approach have necessarily lost track of where the central problem lies. (Well, some might have, but you can always find one or two people who have any foolish opinion you can hypothesize.)

  2. slhuang Post author

    That’s true, Patrick. Very well said. Thank you!

    Just for the record — I agree, I would certainly not judge anyone for leaving *or* staying; everyone needs to do what they have to do in situations like this. (Measured breathing! Heh.) And you’re right, the people who are voicing concern about SFWA good works being steamrolled probably ARE more upset at the people responsible for the Bulletin mess. But . . . but . . . I find myself concerned, I suppose, about remarks that appear to be trying to turn the discourse about the problem — in this case, comments that read, to me, like, “these angry people being angry about one little thing are detracting from all the good SFWA does” rather than posts that read (to me) like, “I’m also angry because look at all the good work SFWA does, and Resnick and Malzberg are detracting from that,” which I would not object to. There haven’t been a lot of the first kind, but enough to make me squint.

    It bothers me when people say things that make other people, the outraged people, feel like they have to temper their ire. It’s something I see used as a silencing technique in social justice discourse sometimes, to dismiss people’s concerns as “that’s not worth worrying over because in the grand scheme of things Good is being done,” rather than acknowledging that good can be being done *over here* while *over there* there’s a legitimate problem that needs addressing. I’m not saying that the people pointing out the good SFWA does *mean* to be silencing or dismissive — I absolutely do NOT think they do, which is why I’m not linking to the remarks that did concern me — but I think those remarks can end up having that effect, whether they intend it or not. Hence, y’know, this post. :)

  3. Nonny

    You have it in one. I got in an argument with someone who was basically all, “But what about the GOOD that SFWA does!?” … and you know, the good doesn’t outweigh sexism and other *isms that MANY people have had issues with. It’s hard for me to see why I should be excited about the good things that SFWA does when sexism happens and not only are the sexist asshats defended, but the people who are dealing with yet more microaggressions in their daily lives are being blamed. Cause, it’s all our fault for speaking up, right?

    IDK, I am not a member of SFWA, but I have seen these things happen so much, so often, and have so many friends in SFWA that have been abused and harassed and haven’t been able to change things from the inside, that I wonder why I would want to subject myself to this.

  4. slhuang Post author

    Agreed on all counts. And yeah, it sounds like you ran into one of the same people I did. We’re not saying that SFWA doesn’t do good things, but that’s apples and oranges — the good things don’t mean there isn’t a huge problem here that needs discussing!

    For an excellent perspective from someone who, I hear, is one of the people who throws herself into doing those good SFWA works, I liked Mary Robinette Kowal’s heartfelt response.

    IDK, I am not a member of SFWA, but I have seen these things happen so much, so often, and have so many friends in SFWA that have been abused and harassed and haven’t been able to change things from the inside, that I wonder why I would want to subject myself to this.

    I’m hearing that response from a lot of people. :(

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