The Science Fiction Writers of America. It’s a writers’ guild, ostensibly. Thing is … compared to the other writers’ guilds out there — it’s a boys’ club that has delusions of being a gentlemans’ club.
Am I being unfair? Maybe a little, but only a little.
Most writers’ guilds I’ve encountered will accept aspiring authors — a sensible thing, it allows them to communicate with authors in the genre as well as other professionals, thus helping them to improve the story before publication as well as aiding in finding an agent/publisher. SFWA not only doesn’t accept aspiring, it doesn’t accept anyone published in anything that pays less than a certain figure.
This exclusivity is quite a turn off — SF is a notoriously poor paying environment. Seems to me that it’d make more sense to be as accepting as possible of the aspiring artist to try to discourage them from becoming published by scam artists — instead you shut them out and they miss out on this bit of advice, or you look pretentious so the advice when found seems more pompous and is unheeded.
They’re a bit unaccepting of self-published. Again, odd. This is being very exclusive. SF is one of the genres I see a lot of self-pub out there. And by accepting these people in, perhaps more of that self-published work would be of higher calibre due to the opportunity to converse with more experienced writers and editors. Other guilds, very accepting, and lauded for the help that is found there in crafting a better story.
Finally there’s this: It’s officially the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. Fantasty almost always gets left out, and in both the internal discussions as well as the public discussions fantasy is treated with a great deal of disrespect. Then again, there’s the fact that not only do unheard of members criticise the nominees and winners of writers’ awards (namely the Hugo and Nebula awards), but even prominent and well known ones who, rather than congratulating their fellow authors and fellow guild members, will write scathing tirades calling the system rigged, or other stupid nonsense. Of course these people aren’t censured (as in told, hey, you’re out of line — keep this up and we’ll kick you the fuck out, this isn’t the kind of image we’re looking to promote … etc.), so … seems condoned, neh?
Let’s add to this the scandals of the president before Scalzi, who’s idea of how to fight internet piracy of books was to upload pirate copies with typos?! And who would not only get public domain or creative commons works taken down from shared places (including, as I recall, Project Gutenberg), but doing so on the behalf of people who were not affiliated with the SFWA, never minding that even the member works were not at the request or knowledge of the members. Then there’s the newer scandal with the blowhards being so horrible to the female members of the industry, and worse to the black female members …
I guess the way to put it: I pay my fees to my ISP. If I want scandal, drama, insults, and other such nonsense … that’s all I need pay. I don’t have to add an $85/yr membership fee for any of that.
Really … I doubt heavily that the SFWA is going to die off and become defunct, but I can’t believe that, without some radical change, that it’ll remain relevant. I’d not be the least surprised to discover a new SF guild emerging from this. The SFWA has been a bit of a joke for awhile, Scalzi renewed some of its old respect, but … vultures are circling, and disgruntled members have left and some are considering it. Starting a new guild has been discussed already, too. Who knows … maybe that I’ll join.