One of the drawbacks about being non-traditionally published is that so far I’m not eligible to join writers’ organizations in the genres I write in. Even though I have two books out, the fact that one of them is published via a digital publisher and the other is self-pubbed (both digitally and in print) means I’m not eligible to join SFWA, the Science Fiction Writers of America.
This, for the longest time, was one of the things you needed to accomplish if you wanted to be taken seriously as an SF/F author. It’s still one of the things you need to accomplish if you want to be eligible for the Nebulas. (ETA: Noting from comments below that while you don’t have to be in SFWA to be nominated for the Nebulas, you do if you want to vote.) And while SFWA membership isn’t necessary to get you nominated for the Hugos, the underlying criteria for said membership are still pertinent there too–i.e., you have to be published via qualifying markets. Which still means, at least if you’re a novelist, markets that can get you into print and in bookstores.
Please don’t get me wrong. I love having books out there available for the digitally-inclined to read. But there’s still a part of me that feels like I’m still a fifth-tier citizen in Writerland, just because I can’t say “here is this organization of Writers Who Know What They’re Doing who have agreed that why yes, I am in fact One of Them”.
And then I hear about things like the latest blowup involving SFWA and I wonder if this is really a goal I want to accomplish after all.
In the latest issue of the SFWA Bulletin, they published a piece by Jim Hines. Those of you who know of Jim know he writes excellent fantasy novels, that he’s a staunch anti-rape advocate, and that he’s been relentlessly skewering the inherent ridiculousness of how female characters are portrayed in SF/F cover art when compared to their male counterparts. Jim’s piece goes into said cover art and the radical notion that women are people–pretty much the words he used, in fact. In a genre where too damned many people are still whinging about “fake geek girls” (a notion guaranteed to raise my blood pressure), Jim’s voice is all too necessary. Especially when women saying the exact same things sadly do not get nearly the same attention as men.
The problem is, the same issue also published a rebuttal by Mike Resnick and Barry Malzberg. And from everything I’m seeing posted on the topic, their rebuttal was horribly sexist and essentially boils down to “nobody called us on our sexist bullshit back in the glory days of the 70’s, so why are people doing it now? OHNOEZ CENSORSHIP!”
Jim’s got a link roundup post on the matter right over here, so I’m not going to go into too much depth on quoting Resnick and Malzberg. Many others already have, and again, I’d like to keep my blood pressure down, thanks. (Though I will note Foz Meadows has an excellent post on the topic, and so does Kameron Hurley.)
As for me, I’m standing back looking at this and I’m thinking, “And this is the organization I have to eventually join if I want to be taken seriously as an SF/F writer?”
I swear, people, it makes me wish I actually were more of a romance writer rather than someone who writes SF/F with a side helping of romance. For one thing, the simple fact that I’m a woman and that I put any love story at all into my plots will get me labelled as a “romance writer” by the same sort of cloud-yelling, cane-shaking, rampaging sexists that can’t deal with the notion of girl cooties all over their precious rocketship stories. For another thing, I’m also sick of the sneering condescension far too much of the SF/F world levels at the romance world in general. Because I don’t know about the rest of you, but I got enough shit for my reading choices when I was a kid that I know exactly how it feels, and I’m not going to turn around and level that kind of garbage at somebody else who might happen to be reading a genre I don’t like. This is exactly why you won’t even see me sniping on people for reading Twilight or Fifty Shades of Grey or whatever.
I’ve got my share of issues with the romance genre, sure. I can’t read most contemporary romance because it’s way, way too heteronormative for me, and more often than not the gender roles and expectations in play set my teeth on edge. And because I am at heart an SF/F reader, I tend to get really bored really fast if a novel’s only focusing on the development of a relationship. I need more going on than that. Give me a fun rollicking historical with spies, or the Napoleonic era. Or something with magical or paranormal elements, like Zoe Archer’s excellent Blades of the Rose books.
But you know what I won’t find in the romance genre? People in positions of power, people who’ve been in the field long enough to have respected names and who should in theory have the experience to know better, telling me how cute I am for trying to write my little novels. Which they then promptly dismiss anyway.
I’m heartened that there’s been a big outcry in response to Resnick’s and Malzberg’s cane-shaking bullshit. But I wish it wasn’t necessary.
ETA: Dara has a few words to say on this topic too, right over here, on the general theme of Gosh This All Looks Familiar.
Son of ETA: Holy hopping gods, a lot of you are coming in to read this post. Hi, visitors! May I offer you a cookie?
Revenge of the Son of ETA: Mary Robinette Kowal has an excellent post on the matter over here. She’s been heavily involved with SFWA so she’s looking at it from the inside, so it’s valuable to me as someone who can’t join the organization to see her voice speaking up too.
Bride of the Rampage of ETA: And, Ann Aguirre, whose work I have in fact read, speaks up VERY LOUDLY and with absolute justification that yes, women who write SF/F are still sneered at, and worse, by their male peers. THIS SHIT IS NOT OKAY.