Kerfuffles at SFWA

There’s been two different, related, dramatic incidents going on recently dealing with people surrounding the science fiction/fantasy realm of fiction. I’m going to talk about only one of them. For the other, see here.

For the first, read this, so I don’t have to write a summary. I’ll wait.

When I first came across the Truesdale Petition, I skimmed it just to see what was going on, then I got to the bottom and found the list of co-signers (I’m assuming they’re approved names or by now they’d be off the list). Anyhow, I got to the list and was deeply disappointed to see some of the sci-fi and fantasy authors I most admire stuck on there. This made me think two things: 1) They just weren’t on board with the latest generation or 2) I didn’t fully understand the issues.

I think it’s a relevant observation, without over generalizing that (if you do some quick research) you find the average age of the identified participants on the Truesdale petition is 69, and the median age is 71. I couldn’t find ages for Cyd Athens or Lillian Csernica, and I suspect they would pull those numbers downward1.

And, I think it’s a relevant question to ask: Why does this group who is generally older2 than the average active SFWA member or former member oppose editorial review of a publicly accessible publication? They may have legitimate concerns about the path of the organization or the editorial process in question, but I question whether they actually read Truesdale’s petition thoroughly, or the response from Steven Gould, the president of the SFWA.

I am not a member of SFWA. I will doubtfully ever be a published fiction author, but I am a consumer of fantasy and science fiction and moreover I am a human person who respects that women and non-white-men have a good reason to feel marginalized inside the genre. It’s getting better, but it is not yet good. This is what makes me qualified to comment on this issue.

I think the SFWA is going through some serious, public, growing pains but the transparency of this argument speaks well of the process because at the end of the day, people will know who said what, and the ability of potential new members of the organization to evaluate whether it is a club, or a professional organization will only strengthen it. In the short therm, this may present a marketing problem to the officers and staff of SFWA, but I’m confident that the organization will end up in the right place.

Again I don’t want to over-generalize, or tar an entire age group with the same brush, but if a self-selected group is outside the average age range for a set of their peers, there’s something there. Call it generational, call it cultural, it’s still something.

  1. If we assume they’re both 40, the minimum age on that list, then the numbers are 67/70 []
  2. Huge assumption that I’m comfortable making. []
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