SFF.net is the discussion forum website of the SFWA, but has always maintained two sets of forums: public ones, sff.*, that anyone could read and to which anyone who registered with an email address could post, and private ones, sff.private.*, that were only open to SFWA members. (I’ve long read a number of public SFF groups via an NNTP reader.) The posts in question were from sff.sfwa, one of the public groups.
The posts had to do with certain figures on the opposite (which is to say, non-sexist) side of the debate from those taking part in the discussion, most notably Mary Robinette Kowal. One particular member of the discussion, Sean Fodera, who works in the contracts department at Kowal’s publisher, Macmillan, compared his reactions to Kowal to his phobia of dogs. John Scalzi hasblogged about his and Kowal’s reactions to the whole affair.
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Scalzi has still been following the discussion (as can anyone; it’s still taking place on a public forum after all) and derived great amusement from a post complaining that “[t]he newer members who Scalzi et al brought in [during his recent tenure as SFWA President] are an embarrassment to the genre” and referring to them as “insects who…don’t scramble for the shadows when outside lights shines (sic) on them—they bare their pincers and go for the jugular.”
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The true question is, is the SFWA even relevant to me? And will it ever be relevant to me? I posted this question in the discussion thread on Scalzi’s post, and Scalzi deleted it for being “off topic,” which is fine—his blog, his rules. But I think my question is valid, and indeed important in this brave new world of self-publishing.
Let’s look at the SFWA’s membership requirements. Essentially, they are three prose fiction sales at magazine rates to “Qualifying Professional Markets,” one prose fiction sale of at least $2,000 to a “Qualifying Professional Market,” or a professionally-produced dramatic script that has big enough names for the Membership Committee to okay it. Those seem to be valid requirements for an organization that is all about professional (which is to say, “traditional”) publishing. (Even if the recent antics of some of its members seem to be anything but “professional.”) Looking at their document on “Why Join SFWA,” they list all these benefits that mainly apply to people in deals with traditional publishers. A Grievance Committee to negotiate contractual disputes, for example.
What does the SFWA have to offer people who only self-publish?
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What is the SFWA doing to reach out to [self-published authors], or to assist these people? At the moment, it seems determined to pretend they don’t exist. An author could make $100,000 from his self-published works but still be completely ineligible for SFWA membership if he didn’t feel the need to make a traditional sale also.
Link to the rest at TeleRead