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What would a diverse SFWA look like? - Zer Netmouse
March 9th, 2009
11:27 am

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What would a diverse SFWA look like?
We're in science fiction and fantasy here, right? the genre of speculation? Let's do an exercise in imagination.

(I know people who actually participated in RaceFail '09 are licking their wounds right now, but I wanted to throw this thought out there.)

The SFWA web site says nothing about diversity. It says nothing about minorities, or people of color, or women or GLBT authors. None of the subcommittees directly address isues having to do with these groups.

SFWA is undergoing an internal restructuring, and their website is being redesigned as well. If you are a SFWA member (or have considered becoming one), and you want SFWA to welcome minority authors and feel that their peers value their membership, how would you want SFWA to do that? Please feel free to comment here, please contact SFWA (email SFWA secretary Mary Robinette Kowal, secretary at sfwa.org), and please pass it on.


ETA: temporarily Friends-locking this post at a request from Mary (explanation pending- she was in a rush and dropped me a quick email asking if I could hold off on blogging it). It may be that she/SFWA was already working on something and hoped to reveal it internally from SFWA before we appeared to request it, I don't know. Knowing how I have always hated being asked to do something just before I was going to do it anyway, thus being robbed of the appearance of initiative, I will ask people to hold off on re-blogging this for the moment in case that's what's going on.

EATA: ok, Mary commented below and I'm unlocking this post.

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From:cos
Date:March 9th, 2009 04:31 pm (UTC)
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I would find POC, women, and GLBT authors who have said they feel like outsiders or unwelcome or something of the sort, and ask them this question. I'd find some who haven't said so, and have participated, and ask them as well. I wouldn't necessarily presume that this is the organization they want to be better-included in, but I'd ask and see.
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From:netmouse
Date:March 9th, 2009 06:45 pm (UTC)
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nodnod. Thanks for your comment. I sent out an email since I know some POC authors who don't read my blog. I don't think it's a question just for them to answer, however. I mean, there is the question of whether or not this organization is one they want to be better-included in, but then there's also the question of whether or not the organization is one that *wants* to be one that all sf writers want to be included in. And I guess that's up to the members. So I sent the email to other non-POC members, as well.
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From:cathshaffer
Date:March 9th, 2009 04:47 pm (UTC)
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Well, for one thing, I think it's high time the SFWA web site included blogs--more than one. And if they do, one blog should be devoted to these issues. (And, obviously, authored by one or more minority/female/GLBT members.) It would also be great if SFWA could feature opportunities for minority/female/GLBT authors. There are frequent anthology projects looking for these voices, so giving them a boost says "We care." They could also include a column in the Bulletin on the subject of diversity in sff. The Resnick/Mazburg dialogues are hopelessly tired and hackneyed.

I think SFWA should take more of a "customer service" orientation and think about offering content not only for members, but a full featured section for readers that would take into account different subcultures in the audience.
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From:elizilla
Date:March 9th, 2009 05:59 pm (UTC)
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Steven Barnes has an interesting blog where he sometimes brings up topics like this. You might see what he thinks.

OTOH, you can't just pick out someone from a minority group and act like they're spokesman for all. That's part of the problem.

It's a tough thing to get at, and without a variety of voices, how do you address it? But where do you find that variety of voices?

I don't get a sense that there are lots of minority folks out there wishing to get in, and feeling excluded. Fandom has so many people that love to point out exclusionary behaviors, and who can find slights where none exist, that you would think that if we were excluding minority voices we would hear more complaints about it.

ETA: I just googled "RaceFail '09" to find out what the heck happened. Now I'm tempted to delete my comment. It sounds like a whole lot of people with more background knowledge than me, and with serious axes to grind, jumped down each other's throats. Yikes! I guess their are complaints. FWIW, I'd be thrilled to see more diversity at the cons, but if I did XYZ to help us be more inclusive, would I offend the very people I'm trying to include? Better to keep my mouth shut, and my eyes and arms open.

Edited at 2009-03-09 06:21 pm (UTC)
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From:netmouse
Date:March 9th, 2009 06:41 pm (UTC)
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Yeah, I actually made this post after a young author of color commented to me in a post-racefail blog discussion that she nearly didn't join SFWA because of its lack of mention/support on various issues, and that having been a member for two years she's likely to quit this year. She also commented that any press that specifically welcomes and supports writing from minorities ought to make a statement saying so. I guess the base assumption is becoming that people of color are not welcome/safe in joining unless a hand is explicitly extended to them.

I often wonder what cons could do to encourage young readers of color, and for them to become congoers. This is part of why I hope AASFA's books to schools program will extend to primarily black Detroit-area schools, and I think we could also do a better job targeting in-city colleges and trade schools with our marketing.

I tried looking at Barnes' website and blog just a little while ago to contact him about this, but his sites do not contain any contact info or form for contacting him, and I didn't feel comfortable hijacking a blog post to this subject...
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From:dd_b
Date:March 9th, 2009 07:39 pm (UTC)
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Well, based on past experience and some extrapolation, I guess a "more diverse" SFWA would look mostly like black ink on white paper and a certain amount of <color> pixels on <background> screen, often saying something stupid. That is, identical to current SFWA ;-).

I have the impression there's quite a generation gap problem with SFWA already, and maybe that needs to be addressed as a major part of the issue, if SFWA wishes to remain relevant.
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From:maryrobinette
Date:March 10th, 2009 07:23 am (UTC)
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Well, you pretty much hit the nail on the head there. We've been working on things for the last year and are about a month away from rolling outs some of the more visible changes. For instance, the new website rolls out in the beginning of April and that's just the most visible of the changes. It takes a long time to make a cultural shift, but that's what this administration is working on. Russell Davis, the current president, ran on a "big tent" platform, in that he wants SFWA to be as inclusive as possible, while not losing sight of our primary goal, which is to support professional SF writers.

Just to give you an example, here's a draft some of the text that's going on the new site."

"The Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) does not
discriminate against individuals on the basis of race, color, sex, sexual
orientation, gender identity, religion, disability, age, veteran status,
ancestry, or national or ethnic origin.

SFWA is a writers' organization that is focused on science fiction and
fantasy - the literary landscapes of the future and of the imagination. As such, we encourage and welcome diversity within our organization."

Clearly, if the website and this were all we were doing, that would be some pretty poor window dressing. Not every change will come online all at once, because above all these things need to be sustainable.

Thanks for your time and attention.

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