SFWA and the Writers of the Future Contest

Published on December 10, 2018 by

UPDATE 12/28/2018: I’ve published a followup blog post.

UPDATE 12/19/2018:  The SFWA Board send me an official response via email yesterday. I’m adding it at the end of this post.

UPDATE 12/17/2018: After some thought, I have redacted portions of this blog post that dealt with internal Grievance Committee processes. I do not believe they violated the specific confidentiality rule in the SFWA Operating Policies & Procedures, but I know the committee prefers a general confidentiality about its work.

UPDATE 12/11/2018: SFWA has released a clarification on their membership requirements page:

Qualification Update: Publication Via Contests As Applicable to Rule III Sales

Short fiction and novels that are published as part of a contest, including publication in print or digital anthologies and magazines or online publication on a web site, can be used as qualifying sales under Rule III of the SFWA bylaws, provided they meet all requirements. The qualifying sales are subject to the same restrictions as sales to any other market (such as: no entry or submissions fee, no warnings by Writer Beware, no advisory by SFWA, appropriate minimum payment per word). The contract must show that the author is receiving payment for publication rights separately from any monetary contest prize that may also be received.

As far as I can tell, this means Writers of the Future Contest winners can still use publication in the contest anthology to qualify for SFWA; they just need to jump through a few more hoops to do so. I still have some concerns, but this seems like a good step.

ORIGINAL POST FOLLOWS:

Warning: Really long post ahead.

Last week, SFWA made a statement about the Writers of the Future Contest:

SFWA Statement on Complaints/Concerns Regarding the Writers of the Future Contest

The Board of Directors of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America have unanimously decided to formally and publicly acknowledge the multiple complaints and expressions of concern made both publicly and privately in recent months by former Writers of the Future finalists who state that they have had negative experiences during or after the event.

As a result, SFWA has formally contacted the WotF administrators, in hopes of launching a private dialogue between our organizations, and ensuring that these concerns are meaningfully addressed. In this effort, SFWA’s goal is to protect the rights of creators, thus strengthening all of science fiction and fantasy publishing, now and in the future. SFWA advises all writers to research carefully before participating in any literary contest.
For more information on contests, please visit SFWA’s Writer Beware page located here: http://www.sfwa.org/other-resources/for-authors/writer-beware/contests/.

This statement doesn’t mention another action that was also put on the website at about the same time: the rules for qualifying for SFWA were changed to exclude contest publications. Item 3 under Paid Sales used to read:

Contest prize money does not count toward determining the payment rate unless publication rights are required to receive the prize. (That is, only payments tied to publication are considered.)

It now reads:

By unanimous vote of the Board of Directors meeting in San Jose, California, on August 16, 2018, contest publications no longer qualify toward SFWA membership*, effective August 16, 2018. Current members in good standing who qualified via contest publications are unaffected by this change.

The asterisk is for the following new footnote below the Paid Sales section:

*Contests: Hundreds of literary contests, across a vast range of sponsoring organizations, offer paid publication as a prize for selected entrants. Determining whether each of these prizes, each year, meets SFWA’s standard of professional pay rates imposes a burden on SFWA’s employees and volunteers, beginning with its Membership Committee. Moreover, this burden is in the service of publications that never were envisioned by SFWA’s founders as professional qualifications. Like scholarships, fellowships, grants and guest-of-honor laurels, literary prizes are welcome at all stages of writers’ careers, and always to be encouraged, but they do not constitute publishing success in the professional marketplace, the arena which historically has been, and must remain, SFWA’s focus.

Back in April, when I became aware that SFWA was looking into complaints and concerns about the Writers of the Future Contest, I sent the following email to SFWA President Cat Rambo and the other members of the SFWA Board of Directors:

Cat (and other members of the SFWA board),

As a SFWA member who had Writers of the Future Contest sales as two out of his three qualifying publications — and whose wife just won the grand prize in the contest earlier this month — I have a very favorable opinion of the contest as an opportunity for new writers. I would hate to see the market disqualified on the basis of its association with the Church of Scientology.  As long as the publication of the anthology meets the criteria for qualifying markets, as outlined on the membership requirements page, I think it would be unfair to authors published in the anthology to disqualify their sales for reasons unrelated to the publication itself.

Now, when it comes to allegations of improper conduct in connection with the contest and/or publication of the anthology, I agree that SFWA has a duty to investigate the allegations in order to protect the interests of authors. That’s why I was willing to send a copy of my wife’s publication contract for review by the Contracts Committee. I would hope that any such investigation would allow the contest to respond to the allegations. Because I take the confidentiality of the SFWA forum seriously, I have not told anyone who works for the contest about the allegations that have appeared on the forum or the fact that SFWA is investigating, but it would be highly unfair for SFWA to take any final action against the contest without giving them an opportunity to defend themselves.

Thank you,
Eric James Stone

Last week, after the Board published the statement and updated the rules to eliminate contest publications, I sent the following email:

President Rambo (and other members of the SFWA board),

I have to say I am very disappointed with the statement about the Writers of the Future Contest published on the SFWA website.

I don’t really have a problem with what is in the statement itself, other than the gratuitous link to the Writers Beware page about contests, which looks like a deliberate attempt to tar the Writers of the Future Contest with the same brush as the scam contests listed there.

I do have a problem with what was left out: any acknowledgement of the positive experiences of some Writers of the Future finalists. You could easily have mentioned that the contest has been a positive experience for many, while still emphasizing the concerns SFWA has about the negative experiences. The fact that you did not leads me to believe that the board has decided to completely ignore those SFWA members who have spoken out about the good the contest has done.

Furthermore, it is clear from the separately published new rule against contests as SFWA qualifying markets that, despite what is claimed in the statement, the board has no real interest in working with the administrators of the contest to address the concerns that have been raised. [Redacted.] I understand the use of SFWA’s leverage to get markets to resolve issues. And, with this rule change that was obviously targeted at the Writers of the Future Contest, the SFWA board has elected to give up the best leverage we had for getting the contest to respond to concerns. What incentive is there for them to work with SFWA, since even if they correct the problems, they would still not be a SFWA-qualifying market?

And please don’t insult my intelligence by claiming that the rule change was based on the reasons given in the footnote about contests on the Membership Requirements page, rather than as a way to de-list the Writers of the Future Contest anthology as a qualifying market. What is the critical difference that makes an anthology that pays pro rates and has an open call for submissions a valid qualifier, and a contest with an open call for submissions that pays pro rates and publishes an anthology of the winners an invalid qualifier? All else being equal between two venues, why should one of them being a contest be disqualifying? If Neil Clarke renamed Clarkesworld Magazine to Clarkesworld: The Best Speculative Fiction of the Month Contest, with absolutely no other changes, then Clarkesworld would no longer be a qualifying market under the new rule. That outcome is ridiculous on its face.

The sham nature of this explanation becomes quite clear when one realizes the exact same justification could be applied just as easily to de-list all magazines as qualifying markets:

*Magazines: Hundreds of literary magazines, across a vast range of sponsoring organizations, offer paid publication for selected submitters. Determining whether each of these payments, each year, meets SFWA’s standard of professional pay rates imposes a burden on SFWA’s employees and volunteers, beginning with its Membership Committee.

You should be ashamed of yourselves for trying to pass off this rule change as merely a way to lessen the burden on the Membership Committee.

As for the historical argument that membership qualification based on contest publication doesn’t fit with what the founders of SFWA envisioned, the Writers of the Future Contest has been accepted as a qualifying market for almost two thirds of SFWA’s history, and it’s only in 2018 that the board realized it was against the founders’ vision? It’s been around as a qualifying market longer than electronic magazines. It’s been around as a qualifying market since before any current member of the board was published in a qualifying market. The second president of SFWA, Robert Silverberg, is a Writers of the Future judge and, to my knowledge, has never opposed the contest’s anthology as a SFWA-qualifying sale. And can you honestly claim to be basing your decision on what the founders of SFWA envisioned when you have recently changed the rules to allow self-published fiction and writing for games as qualifying work? (Note: I agree with allowing self-publishing and game credits to qualify. I am merely pointing out the board’s hypocrisy in using the historical argument.)

[Redacted.]

I therefore resign my position as a member of the Grievance Committee, effective immediately.

Sincerely,
Eric James Stone

P.S. I plan to publish this letter on my blog later this week. If any members of the board would care to defend the integrity of the decisions and statements made in this matter, I am willing to publish their defenses along with my letter.

As of now, three members of the board have responded to my email. The first response was from Erin Hartshorn, SFWA Vice President:

Dear Eric,

I am very disheartened to see your resignation.

[Redacted.]  A few of the public complaints you might have seen include someone being misled about a signing venue; people who have been shamed about their body, attire, or choice of guest for the awards ceremony; and writers asked to sign release forms where the blanks had not been filled in beforehand. [Redacted.]

[Edited to remove reference to case that was not public.]

The vast majority of complaints we have seen, however, are ones where the writers simply want to know that what happened to them won’t happen to someone else. They’re not looking for restitution; they want the same thing that made you choose to join Griefcom — fair and honest treatment of authors.

I hope that you will reconsider your resignation, but I understand if you do not.

Thank you for your service.

Warmly,
Erin Hartshorn

The second was from Cat Rambo, SFWA President:

Erin’s summed up a lot of this, but I will add that this discussion has been going on for months at the board level, that it was based on feedback from many participants, and that it was not a step taken lightly or hastily, but one we felt necessary based on the multiple data points being brought to us.

Considering how scathing my email to the Board was, I think it’s to their credit Erin and Cat responded as graciously as they did.

Here’s my reply to them:

Erin and Cat,

I did see public complaints, as well as private ones shared on different private forums. And that is why, when I wrote to the Board in April about the WOTF Contest, I said:

Now, when it comes to allegations of improper conduct in connection with the contest and/or publication of the anthology, I agree that SFWA has a duty to investigate the allegations in order to protect the interests of authors. That’s why I was willing to send a copy of my wife’s publication contract for review by the Contracts Committee.

[Redacted.]

In the statement, the Board says:

SFWA has formally contacted the WotF administrators, in hopes of launching a private dialogue between our organizations, and ensuring that these concerns are meaningfully addressed.

That’s exactly the sort of dialog I presumed was quietly happening behind the scenes during the months in which the Board did not make any public statement about WOTF. At one point I did think about volunteering to carry on such a conversation on behalf of SFWA, since I have a good relationship with the WOTF Contest administrators and could approach them in a non-confrontational way. Now I really wish I had, but I thought the Board would be wise enough to handle things quietly until the issues were resolved, reserving public criticism of the contest and the possibility of de-listing from the Qualified Markets List as leverage to get the administrators to address the issues.

Erin’s summed up a lot of this, but I will add that this discussion has been going on for months at the board level, that it was based on feedback from many participants, and that it was not a step taken lightly or hastily, but one we felt necessary based on the multiple data points being brought to us.

And during those months of discussion at the board level, with feedback from many participants, and multiple data points, did any member of the board ever suggest that it might be a good idea to privately contact the administrators of the contest to get their feedback and point of view before taking any public action? If so, why did the board decide against it?

In my email in April, I said:

I would hope that any such investigation would allow the contest to respond to the allegations. Because I take the confidentiality of the SFWA forum seriously, I have not told anyone who works for the contest about the allegations that have appeared on the forum or the fact that SFWA is investigating, but it would be highly unfair for SFWA to take any final action against the contest without giving them an opportunity to defend themselves.

Instead, it looks like the Board voted in August to de-list WOTF (by de-listing all contests) without even having tried to resolve any issues, and then after several more months of silence issued a public statement critical of the contest right at the beginning of supposedly trying to open a dialog with the contest administrators.

If the Board’s goal was to convince the contest administrators to make changes, the chosen strategy was so incompetent that I have found it hard to believe the Board was acting in good faith.

Meanwhile, I have acted in good faith all along. I did not talk to anyone at WOTF about there being a SFWA investigation of the contest until today, after the public announcement from SFWA. And I did not mention anything about the specific concerns or complaints that I’ve only heard of through the SFWA forum or other confidential venues.

You said you hoped I would reconsider my resignation from Griefcom. I would be happy to withdraw my letter of resignation (and not publish it on my blog) if I were convinced that the Board wanted to resolve the issues with the Writers of the Future Contest in good faith going forward.

What would it take to convince me of that?

I guess it boils down to whether the Board now realizes they could have handled the situation better, and is willing to take action on that basis. Some steps I would suggest to show good faith:

1. The Board appoints someone who is not hostile to the Writers of the Future Contest to discuss the concerns and complaints with the contest administrators and make a good-faith effort to resolve them. I would be willing to serve in that capacity, but I’m sure there are plenty of other SFWA members who could do so as well.

2. A revision or addendum to the statement on the website, recognizing the fact that many SFWA members have had positive experiences with the Writers of the Future Contest.

3. A reconsideration of the rule against contests as qualifying markets. The goal of reducing the burden on the Membership Committee could be met by changing the rules to not count contest prize money at all. Contest anthologies could be qualified markets if they pay pro rates for publication, without counting prize money. The number of contests meeting that threshold would be very small. If you eliminate the prize money aspect, there’s no real difference between a contest anthology that pays pro rates and any other kind of anthology that pays pro rates. This would mean the reinstatement of WOTF as a qualifying market for now. Of course, if the attempts to resolve issues with the contest administrators fail to produce a satisfactory outcome, WOTF could be de-listed for that reason at that time. Alternatively, the Board could privately commit to revising the rule in order to reinstate WOTF if the issues are resolved in a satisfactory manner, allowing reinstatement to be used as an incentive.

These are not demands on my part; they are simply my suggestions as to what the Board could do if they are interested in working in good faith to try to resolve the concerns about the contest. Maybe you can think of alternative steps that would demonstrate that same level of good faith.

Sincerely,
Eric

Despite my doubts about the good faith of the actions taken by the Board, I really hoped that maybe, having been called out on it, they might be willing to move forward in good faith. Unfortunately, to date I have received only one more email from a member of the Board. This was from Andy Duncan, Director-at-Large:

Eric, thank you for your service to Griefcom. It is much appreciated.

I have only two further points to make.

One,  you suggest that these complaints against WotF should have come to the Grievance Committee. I refer you to the Griefcom rules published on SFWA’s website, specifically the section titled “Cases Griefcom Will Not Handle” (https://www.sfwa.org/member-links/committees/griefcom/cases-griefcom-will-not-handle/). There, you find:

“Third, Griefcom will not handle any grievances of non-members, affiliates, or institutional members.”

By definition, the vast majority of WotF contestants are not yet eligible for SFWA membership. They are too new. Whatever their skill levels and life experiences, they are, professionally speaking, newcomers, novices, amateurs in the best sense, writing only for love. Should these newcomers have cause for complaint, the Griefcom option is closed to them, because they are not SFWA members.

Having been involved in many organizations over many years, I well understand and sympathize with the tendency for veteran committee members to see all problems and issues through the relatively narrow aperture of their own committee. The SFWA Board, by definition, must take a wider view.

Two, you write, “You should be ashamed of yourselves.”

I cannot speak for the other individuals on the Board, but I candidly and freely admit that I am made of the same crooked timber as the rest of humanity, and therefore feel shame for countless things I have done and not done during my 50-plus years.

To take only one example, I am ashamed that for so may years, I viewed the field of science fiction and fantasy through such a privilege bubble that I could not even perceive the troubles faced by women writers, queer writers, writers of color, trans writers — indeed, marginalized writers in general. When complaints did reach my ears, I simply ignored them, believing that my track record of excellent experiences meant that others’ negative experiences were exaggerated, isolated, anecdotal, indeed non-existent. Many friends, colleagues, students and loved ones tried to tell me I was wrong; I did not hear them, either. For this, I am indeed ashamed, and will spend the rest of my career doing whatever I can to atone.

On the matter of our Board actions regarding WotF, however, I sleep well at night.

Yours, Andy

And my response:

Andy,

By definition, the vast majority of WotF contestants are not yet eligible for SFWA membership.

True. Also, pretty much irrelevant. Let’s look at the complaints Erin mentioned in her email:

A few of the public complaints you might have seen include someone being misled about a signing venue; people who have been shamed about their body, attire, or choice of guest for the awards ceremony; and writers asked to sign release forms where the blanks had not been filled in beforehand.

Every single one of those complaints was from a winner in the contest, not merely a contestant. And every single one of those winners was, by virtue of their sale to the contest anthology, eligible to join SFWA as an associate member. If you go back and re-read the Griefcom rule you quoted, you’ll see that grievances by associate members are not excluded.

Of course, since you voted to exclude contest publications as membership qualifiers, you have made it so that future winners will not be eligible for SFWA associate membership as a result of their wins, thus closing off their access to Griefcom.

On the matter of our Board actions regarding WotF, however, I sleep well at night.

I can’t help but notice that, so far, no member of the board has bothered to deny that the rule change was intended to remove WOTF as a qualifying market, and that the publicly posted reasons for the rule change were merely pretexts. Is deceiving the members of SFWA about the board’s actions something you feel comfortable with? If so, I think that’s something the membership should be made aware of.

–Eric

P.S. As the first and so far only (as far as I know) Hispanic winner of a Nebula Award, I appreciate your efforts to support diversity in the SF field. I have made it a point to encourage women writers, queer writers, writers of color, and trans writers whenever I can. During my time as an assistant editor at IGMS, I championed stories by writers from all of those categories. The issue of IGMS for which I was guest head editor had an equal number of stories by men and women. The charity anthology I edited had 17 stories by women, 12 stories by men, and 2 stories by writers I don’t know the gender of. The gender balance on the anthology you edited was very heavily skewed toward male authors, but maybe that’s one of those things you’re ashamed of now.

I’m probably beating a dead horse by now, but I have a few more points I’d like to make:

  1. Under thy SFWA Bylaws, the Board is given the power to determine eligibility requirements for membership, so I’m not denying they have the power to de-list all contests as qualifying markets. I am questioning the way they went about it.
  2. Even if you agree with WOTF being de-listed, I think you should be concerned about the process implemented by the Board. Imagine that one of your favorite publications was being targeted for de-listing, and the SFWA Board acted to de-list before even communicating with the editors about any concerns or complaints. Would you consider that a fair process? If it wouldn’t have been a fair process for Clarkesworld or Asimov’s or Strange Horizons, then it was not a fair process for Writers of the Future.
  3. I think that any reasonable person who actually wanted to “…ensur[e] that these concerns [about WOTF] are meaningfully addressed…” would have contacted the WOTF Contest administrators to discuss the concerns before taking the action of de-listing the contest as a qualifying market. The only reasonable excuse for not doing so would be some sort of urgent need to act immediately in order to prevent harm, but since the Board voted in August and failed to make it known until December, that excuse doesn’t seem to apply here. Since it is a stated goal of the Board to see that the concerns are meaningfully addressed, the fact that they do not appear to have exercised reasonable care in attempting to carry out that goal could mean they have violated their fiduciary duty as Board members.
  4. None of the members of the Board has answered the charge that the website gave pretexts for the Board’s action in removing contest publications as qualifying markets, while the real goal was to de-list Writers of the Future specifically. The Board’s actions don’t make sense if the objective was to get the contest to address concerns, but they make perfect sense if the objective was to de-list WOTF. Why would they have that specific goal? When I wrote to the Board originally, I was worried that some people might be targeting the contest because of its association with the Church of Scientology. If that was, in fact, the case, and the members of the Board were either in agreement with such an objective or willing to cater to such people, it would explain why the Board would de-list the contest before even going through the motions of resolving concerns about it, and it would also explain why they disguised the motives for their action in the explanation offered on the website.
  5. I regret that, due to my strong feelings about what I feel were unfair and/or unethical actions by the Board, I have ended up accusing some people who I have considered and would like to go on considering as friends. (Yes, I do have friends who do things I consider unfair or unethical. I can like them as a friend without condoning their actions.) But I can understand why they might hold being accused of being unfair or unethical against me.
  6. Finally, I’d like to call attention to something Cat Rambo wrote in her blog post “Promises for the 2018 SFWA Presidency” (some of which is satirical in typical Cat Rambo fashion, but I hope this part was not): “And finally, as always, when I screw up, I’ll admit it and say what I’m doing in the future in order to do better.” Cat, you screwed up. Please admit it and try to clean up the mess. I’ll be happy to help.

Update: I received the following official response from the SFWA Board on 12/18/2018. I don’t see any point in continuing to argue with them, so I’ll let them have the last word: 

Dear Eric,

The SFWA Board thanks you for your thoughts on the Writers of the Future Contest statement published on the SFWA website. We take all communications sent to the Board very seriously.

Our statement about the Writers of the Future Contest was initiated by numerous complaints. Much like Griefcom, the Board keeps such communications confidential, and we cannot comment on the scope or nature of information received and reviewed. The Board discussed these issues extensively over a period of six months. As you noted, our process was not conducted hastily.

Nor was this the only issue the Board confronted this year as part of an overall revamp of how we handle qualifying markets, something discussed at length during the two day Board meeting at the Nebulas this year. The decision to eliminate contests as a venue for qualifying for SFWA membership solved multiple contest-related problems while serving to reinforce SFWA’s mission to protect and enhance the careers of professionally motivated authors.

While we understand that you have a personal and passionate interest in the Writers of the Future Contest, the issues around it were not the only ones the SFWA Board sought to address in making the contest-related decision. As you also note, scam contests are problematic, particularly for aspiring and inexperienced authors. Writer Beware exists to provide information and resources for authors, so that’s an appropriate venue for cautions of this nature.

SFWA isn’t in the business of either praising or decrying the Writers of the Future Contest. There was no effort to discuss positive experiences anyone may have had with the contest, any more than SFWA officially endorses any contest outside of the Nebula Awards. The negative experiences relayed to the Board regarding the Writers of the Future Contest were considered appropriate for Writer Beware and so were referred to that venue as such.

As stated in the announcement, a letter was sent to the Writers of the Future Contest, outlining what the SFWA Board identified as problematic practices. We realize you would not be aware of this letter, as we did not consider it appropriate to release it publicly. If the administrators of the contest wish to address those issues, they are welcome to contact the SFWA Board.

However, SFWA has no stake in applying leverage to impel the contest administrators to respond. The Writers of the Future Contest and SFWA are entirely different entities. What they choose to do or not do is up to those administrators. Having members in common is no more relevant than SFWA having members in common with other writers’ organizations such as RWA or HWA. Nor would the SFWA Board attempt to impel changes in those organizations either. But if practices in those organizations were identified that SFWA found problematic for SFF authors, the Board might consider issuing an advisory.

The Board deeply appreciates your long service as the Short Story Griefer on the Grievance Committee and agrees that Griefcom is one of the most important services SFWA offers. However, we understand that due to your strong feelings on this issue that you cannot continue to serve in an objective capacity, free of any conflict of interest. We accept your resignation with gratitude for your service. Thank you again for expressing your concerns.

Regards,

The SFWA Board

Filed under: General

7 comments on “SFWA and the Writers of the Future Contest”

  1. Thank you for this.

    As the lead judge for the contest, I’ve had a lot of positive experiences with it, and I’ve tried for some 30 years to make sure that others do, too.

    SFWA of course has never contacted me about any complaints, but I would be happy to resolve any issues that I can.

    Dave

  2. John Brown says:

    As you point out, what SFWA decides is and isn’t qualifying is up to them. All I can say is that I’m very happy to have won a prize. WOTF has been nothing but good for me.

    I benefited greatly from the workshop where I received excellent instruction from Algis Budrys and Dave Wolverton, and the rest of the events where I got to meet pros like Tim Powers. It was awesome.

  3. […] (1) SFWA AND THE WRITERS OFTHE FUTURE CONTEST. SFWA member and former Greivance Committee member Eric James Stone, whose wife Darci Stone won the Writers of the Future Contest 2018 grand prize Golden Pen Award, has shared his correspondence with the SFWA Board in a blog post where he strongly disagrees with the organization’s actions against the Writers of the Future Contest. Says Stone, “In short, I feel the SFWA Board has acted incompetently and/or unethically.” — “SFWA and the Writers of the Future Contest”. […]

  4. Tommi Godfrey says:

    What I find interesting that no one is talking about is the political maneuvers that are behind this. Everyone at SFWA knows that Mary Robinette Kowal has the ambition to become the next President of SFWA. She is facing significant members of our community who, regardless of her or their political leanings, understand that she is too divisive. That she can not rein in her distaste for those not in her circle to be an effective leader nor one that could bring SFWA into more prominence. I suspect that this includes members of the current Board.

    Causing a fracture like this now will have people who are mostly opposed to her walk out of SFWA allowing her the chance to be coronated with reduced opposition. It’s simple enough for Mary Robinette with her talents in activism to apply political pressure against board members to push through something that will polarize members of SFWA. especially since it is against a group that has connections with a religion that most would be ambivalent towards. This actually shows what most members of SFWA are concerned about regarding her temperament if elected leader of SFWA. She is willing to damage a group that has given writers like Dave Farland, Kary English, Eric Flint, and even her “besty” from Writing Excuses Brandon Sanderson their start in order to build on her own ambitions.

    I personally think that as a member of SFWA that the organization needs to come clean about two things. First that this is specifically a move to eliminate and fracture the vote regarding Cat Rambo’s successor. The second is specifically where and who is applying this pressure in order to fracture SFWA and the reasons why.

    • Mary Robinette and I have been friends for years, despite our very different political views, so I find this conspiracy theory a little hard to swallow. I’ve also been friends with some members of the current board, and, while I don’t like what they’ve done, I think they were capable of reaching that decision on their own, without being manipulated or pressured by Mary Robinette.

      Also, the timing of the board’s decision doesn’t quite make sense to me if the goal was to get people to quit SFWA before the next SFWA election. Most people who quit do so by not renewing their memberships when they expire. Since the balloting is done in the spring, the best time to cause a controversy that would get people to quit would be in the spring, so as to maximize the number of people who don’t renew their memberships before the Board election the next year. At the very least, the Board could have announced their decision immediately after the vote in August, rather than waiting until Decmember, to have fewer members renew.

      So, while I guess it’s possible that Mary Robinette is such a brilliant Machiavellian that she’s fooled me for over a decade, such a brilliant Machiavellian would also have timed this controversy perfectly to maximize the non-renewing members before the vote next year.

      • Tommi Godfrey says:

        Despite our mutual agreement on most political issues Mrs. Kowal and I are *not* friends. I find her bullying tactics and condensation towards other writers both her junior and senior odious. It is my personal opinion that if she were a character in a Tolkien novel, she would be the great dragon; Smug.

        Now if the board is capable of making such an insane decision on their own then the shame is on them. However, it would be hard pressed to convince me that such a decision was made so in a vacuum.

        In regards to The Great Dragon’s so called plot, she does not need them just to renounce their membership merely turn away or become disinterested in participating. In fact it is the perfect time, far enough away that tempers would cool into just apathetic disgust when the time comes to vote as well as turn any away would be challengers that may draw their votes from WOTF neophytes. Its not so much Machiavellian as Trump-esque.

  5. […] 12/10/2018, I published my blog post about SFWA and the Writers of the Future Contest. (I’ve since updated it a few times for various reasons, including an official response from […]


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