SFWA: To Join Or Not To Join?


*gunfire*

*gunfire stops*

GROSSER: Comrade! Hey, comrade!

MARTIN: What?

GROSSER: Why don’t you just join the Union? We’ll go upstairs together and cap Daddy!

MARTIN: This union, is there gonna be meetings?

GROSSER: Of course!

MARTIN: … no meetings.

*gunfire commences*

* * *

I’m nesting on the idea of joining the SFWA.

I like what they represent, in theory. And given a lot of the, erm, fun that’s been going on there in the ranks lately, maybe adding a positive voice to the mix would have some value. Plus: Writer Beware! Such useful. Very service. Wow. I also know a lot of great people in the organization and, oh, hey: I am a science-fiction writer. In America. SO I GUESS I QUALIFY AND STUFF.

On the other hand: that Grosse Pointe Blank video above is kinda me? Like, I dig that writing is a community but at the end of the day this whole thing has a distinctly Ronin-writer-without-clan vibe to it. And right now my time is strained so hard the elastic in my schedule’s waistband is about to snap. If this just means I get more emails that I have to answer (and will probably fail to answer), woooo, jeez, please, no. And finally, given the, erm, fun that’s been going on in the ranks lately, I see some voices abandoning ship.

(A discussion on SFWA’s relevance to self-publishers is here. The comment section is a mix of interesting, thoughtful, and worthless, but that’s increasingly par for the course there.)

I joined HWA once upon a time and had a hard time seeing any benefit from it. And being there significantly increased the noise in my life rather than decreasing it.

So: you people.

What are your experiences? I’m not looking for a list of benefits available from the SFWA — I can see that from their website. I’d like to hear from writers who have joined, left, or chosen not to join — and why? What did you contribute? What did you get out of it? So on, so forth.


59 responses to “SFWA: To Join Or Not To Join?”

  1. While I haven’t joined SFWA, I find that the value of a group depends on relationships you build within it. I am part of a small group that I draw a lot from, and a much larger group whose meetings I occasionally attend. I am sure I could get a lot more from the larger group if I put more into it, but I seem to have found what I need in the small group.

    I suppose that must sound self-evident, but I think it’s worth stating.

  2. I second Katy Mann, the real benefit of any group is who you connect with. Getting to know people, taking the time to forge new relationships can be a bit draining so instead of getting sucked into the maelstrom and being the ‘floating log’ for someone else, you would need a pretty clear idea of the ‘droids’ you’re looking for. I tend to shy away from engaging if I don’t have the time to nurture new relationships – everyone is needy in the start – but floating around the edges and lurking until something sparks your genuine interest is not only acceptable but encouraged in most places. Really good groups invite lurkers. They keep a wary eye on you at first but you know, gain their trust, become one of them… once you’re familiar to them you never know, it could be great!

  3. I’m not an SFWA member, because I don’t qualify, so I’m not exactly who you asked for. But I am planning on joining the moment I can prove my first qualifying sales, because I believe it’s an organization made up overwhelmingly of very good, kind, remarkably talented people, working hard on a mostly volunteer basis to make things better for its members. Scalzi and Kowell are the most visible of these but there are many more, and we should be paying so much more attention to them than to the racist sexist asshats who have been getting the headlines lately. I’m an SFWA fanboy, unreservedly, and I’ll be very proud to call myself a member as soon as I’ve earned the privilege.

  4. I’ve made some sales that will qualify me, so I’m hoping that I’ll be good to go this year. For me, it’s sort of a levelling up goal. I’ll join when I’m qualified just because I can, for at least a year, just to check it out.

    It’s also attractive because it feels like I’m far away from the action here in Melbourne (though we do have an excellent writing community and hey, we’re a City of Literature!) But it might help build community?

    If I decide not to join, I guess I can just keep bailing up cool writers at cons.

  5. I qualified about 10 years ago but I didn’t join until three years ago when I thought: ‘Oh, why not? Give it a try.’ It is, after all, one of those benchmark things for budding SF writers. I’m now in my 3rd year, but as a Brit I feel too far out of it to make any connections. I’ve tried the forums. So far I’ve seen a lot of people who know each other from North American cons talking to each other. They look like a community, but I’m not part of it.

    Last November World Fantasy con came to the UK (Brighton). In a few months Worldcon comes to London. Wouldn’t it be nice to see SFWA extending the hand of friendship to its European members? I saw/ heard nothing at World fabtasy and so far have not noticed any plans for London. I should check the forum and find out if I’ve missed anything. I’d be happy to volunteer to man a stand if they have one.

    When my agent retired and I needed to find another one fast I was told that SFWA kept a list of reputable ones, but apparently not. That would have been useful.

    So the short answer is that it gives me a vote in the Nebulas, the membership list and the Bulletin. Oh, hang on, since the last furore no Bulletin either.

    With my debut novel coming out from DAW in November, I feel I should stick with it and see if anything positive surfaces, but if I still feel like an outsider looking in byt the time my next subscription renewal comes round, I might reconsider.

    Katy Mann is perfectly correct when she says that the value of a group depends on relationships you build within it. I am a regular attendee at (and co-organiser of) Milford Writers’ Conference in the UK (MilfordSF.co.uk), which is for published SF writers only, and part of a small local group formed by former Milford attendees called Northwrite (northwriteSF.com) and the membership of those two groups tend to be where I turn for advice and support, either in person or by email.

  6. I joined in 2012 and will continue to be a member. Why wouldn’t I vote with my feet, given all the – as you say – recent drama? A couple of reasons.

    1. This is the representative organization for my industry in the US. There are others, which I will also consider for membership, but this one is the SF/F focused one. I want it, and SF/F to represent me. In all meanings of that phrase.

    2. Signal to noise ratio is high, yes. But there are a ton of things going on behind the noise. You mentioned Writer Beware. There are many others, small and large.

    3. Networking – it’s there. Not just in what you can get out of it, but also in what you can bring to it, by connecting with others at events and on the forum. Bring your own noise.

    4. Because standing outside SFWA talking about how X or Y or Z it is, and shaking fingers and saying “this is exactly why we won’t join, just look how ridiculous” doesn’t bring anything positive into the world. I have a stake in this organization’s success, and am part owner of its failures.

      • Fran, you know I adore you, and I didn’t think you sounded cranky. 🙂 But on your #4, I’d offer a slightly different perspective.

        I qualify for membership, but haven’t joined.

        When I point out why I haven’t, there is more to it than finger-wagging. First, it’s letting the organization know how its relevance and success is viewed by potential members, and that’s valuable information for an organization looking to at least maintain, if not grow, its membership base. Brushing off those criticisms, or telling those criticizing that they just don’t understand sounds like an inexperienced writer reacting badly to a critical beta-read. (And I almost deleting that last sentence for fear it sounded too confrontational, but I’m hoping you’ll understand what I mean.)

        Second, sometimes the option is between joining an organization that already matches your goals and views, or spending time changing an organization that doesn’t into one that does. I think it’s perfectly valid to choose the former over the latter.

        But I will say the debate has disclosed a great deal about movement SFWA is making on the topic of membership/inclusion for self-publishers–information that isn’t anywhere in SFWA’s public information, and had to be discovered via comments sections over numerous blogs and articles. It’s good to know, since self-published works are an increasing part of how readers experience the genre, but really too bad most people won’t know about it for quite some time yet.

        • > I’m hoping you’ll understand what I mean.

          Blair, I totally get it – and with coffee inside of me, I can clarify that everyone’s mileage may vary – this is what works for me.

          > joining an organization that already matches your goals and views

          THAT also works.

        • > I’m hoping you’ll understand what I mean

          I totally understand. And with coffee inside of me, I note that I forgot to add the ever-important ‘this is what works for me, YMMV’ caveat. Everyone’s what works is different. I love that you’ve given careful thought to this – as you give to everything. I also love the metaphor.

          I think SFWA does need to continue to hold a mirror to how it appears on to the public and to potential members. Every professional organization does – in an ongoing fashion, not just once in a while.

          You sound like you’ve found an organization that works for you, and does what you need it to do. That’s positive action as well.

  7. I joined. Stayed a year. Didn’t renew. For me, the experience was neither bad nor good, it was just meh. Part of that may have been because I didn’t put a lot into it…but part of THAT was because I very much felt like a tiny, unnecessary part of a very large machine. Why? Three reasons, I think: (1) I’m not nearly as well known as you are; (2) I’m female (and got a distinct “old boys club” feeling about the organization, especially its publication); and (3) I write dark urban fantasy, which may not be the best fit for a sci-fi/fantasy group. Oh yes, and being Canadian (and geographically challenged when it comes to US groups) didn’t help.

  8. As one of the people who has been standing outside the organization for the last year and criticizing, I decided that it was time to actually do something so I joined as an affiliate member (as a critic/editor I don’t qualify for active membership). SFWA does a lot of good work and I do believe that they are trying to become a more inclusive writers’ organization, however, change can be a slow and painful process.

  9. I joined SFWA as soon as I could, and I am very proud to be a member, kerfluffles aside. Having been an active member of the Society for Creative Anachronism for five years, SFWA-related kerfluffles are more public (being more largely online), but not particularly any worse than what I’ve seen in the SCA or in other groups/communities.

    For me the benefits are both tangible and intangible. I’ll break them out.

    Tangibles:
    1) I got to participate in SFWA-organized programming at the Baltimore Book Festival, helping raise my profile, connect with readers, and participate in the Baltimore Literary Community.
    2) SFWA suites at conventions, with free food, and a space to connect with fellow professionals. I also have the ability to bring in non-member guests, helping connect newer writers and/or folks considering joining SFWA, to help show them the benefits.
    3) The annual SFWA reception for Publishing Professionals in NYC, which allows me to meet colleagues and fellow publishing professionals, to make new connections and strengthen existing ties.
    4) SFWA runs booths at various conventions, providing promotional space/opportunitites at conventions where I might not otherwise have them.
    5) Access to the SFWA forums, which thanks to the efforts of Cat Rambo and many others, has become far better in the last year in terms of signal:noise ratio.
    6) Ability to nominate for and vote on the Nebulas, one of the highest awards in SF/F, allowing me to bring attention to works that most moved me in the year.
    7) Access to GriefCom and the Emergency Medical Fund.

    Intangibles:

    1) Knowledge that I am helping fund a group that provides services to my colleagues (GriefCom and Emergency Medical Fund, as above).
    2) The prestige of being a SFWA member, which is a goal I’d had since I became aware of what SFWA was.
    3) The ability to participate in making the culture of SFWA more like I want it to be and therefore, more respectable and useful to others. I don’t have much time to volunteer right now, but as a member, I have the ability to decide where and when I can step in to help.
    4) I want SF/F writers to have a strong professional organization that is able to do things like condemn unacceptable contracts, help advocate on behalf of writers during a merger/selloff, etc.

    Ultimately, the decision is each person’s to make. I see the recent waves of drama as being backlash against the work SFWA is doing to become more relevant to the current publishing realities and to better represent and serve its diverse membership.

    • I have to agree with everything Mike included, and add another Baltimore area benefit, which is the occasional SFWA meet-n-greets that Catherine Asaro puts on in this area. She’s the one who organizes the SFWA booth at the Baltimore Book Festival as well, which is basically a one stream mini-con. These very tangible events made me feel a stronger connection with the organization than a lot of people have joining from other areas. I’d love to see this sort of thing happening in other areas, as well.

      I’m running for the board this year, even though I’ve only been a member for two years and this is my first year qualified as an Active member. I think enough of what SFWA is and could be that I want to be part of the shaping of its future.

    • Excellent points!

      I’m not usually a typo nit-picker, but since you used it twice I can’t resist. It’s kerfuffle, not kerfluffle. And it’s a great word that definitely should get used more. 🙂

      • Since I can’t edit my comment, I will instead comedically double-down on my typo and claim artistic license, or something. 😛

        But yes, kerfuffle it is.

  10. I joined SFWA as soon as I qualified, just in time for all the hubbub. But I’m sticking with it, because the organization does a great deal of good, and I can pretty clearly see that the people screaming are doing so because of the changes underway. I can be part of those changes. I want SFWA to be more professional society, less hangout for people who’ve known each other for decades, though the two aren’t entirely incompatible (member of multiple professional societies in several disciplines).

    There are networking benefits, especially if you make an effort. I volunteered for something almost immediately after joining, because in my experience that’s the best and fastest way to meet people.

  11. What, you’re not sold on the ability to virtually meet authors you read in your youth, and find out that they’re dreadful people? (Some of them are lovely, mind you, I just wish the ratio was better…)

    Nah, ignore me, I’m embittered. But I still re-upped, partly because screw-you-I’m-the-future-deal-with-it partly because there are some really wonderful people involved there.

    The current forums are lovely, well-moderated, good signal-to-noise, and generally very positive toward self-publishing–the hold-up, so far as I can tell, isn’t foot-dragging, it’s the fact that they’re trying to reincorporate in another state and can’t change any major bylaws until the IRS gives them the go-ahead to be based in the other state. *grin* There’s a good amount of knowledge sharing going on on those fields, mostly of the “Anybody tried this? What did you think? Anyone know anything about these guys?” sort. You could get something similar at a place like Absolute Write, but this one’s much more tightly focused.

    But in all honesty, I can’t say I’ve derived significant benefit from SFWA, as such–we can make a case for networking, but I haven’t needed to use any of the services they provide. Mostly it’s one more place to poke around on the forum. But I’ve met some very neat people, and it’s got that intangible something that makes me return to a forum instead of forgetting about it for years at a stretch, so there’s that. And I like the notion that if something goes terribly wrong somewhere, Griefcom’s got my back.

    So that’s my two cents. It’s okay, not life-changing, but I keep re-upping anyhow.

  12. I’ve been mulling about joining. I qualify, but was put off by what I’ve heard from other women writers about the “good old boy” club. Also, the last thing I need in my life right now is drama. I barely have time to make my word count and certainly don’t have time for games.

  13. I’ve been a member for several years and plan to continue. To address in particular the point you bring up about your schedule and extra emails, etc., I’ve found that my time commitment has been nicely elastic. I’ve chosen to go to regional meetings at cons lately, I’ve chosen not to in the past. I’ve chosen not to necessarily spend a lot of time on the forums.

    I actually had a conversation about a fellow writer who was thinking of joining RWA rather than SFWA to fit a different subset of the many things she writes. She cited more of the small group networking/mutual support/meetings/face-time that I’d be the first to admit aren’t SFWA’s strongest point. But that actually suits me perfectly. Like you, I don’t need another face-time/meetings thing to shoehorn into my life. I am very happy to have my dues supporting things like Writer Beware and the Emergency Medical Fund and other professional support aspects that are there to reach out to if I need them. I’m happy to network minimally at the SFWA suite at cons. So it’s a good fit for me, but I can see how others’ mileage varies.

  14. I hear you on the SFWA stuff. You won’t get a lot of email, though. I like it for it’s emergency fund for health accidents and it’s advocacy for writers in terrible contract positions. And, I like the idea of SFWA more than the reality (I think a lot do) and want to stick around for a bit and see where it is heading. Also, I was on the Norton Jury this past year which meant publishing houses sent me beautiful hard cover books to read all year long.

  15. For what it’s worth, I think the organization is doing a better and better job representing the interests of 21st century sf/fantasy writers, increasing its relevance, and broadening its appeal. I just rejoined after quite some time away, actually.

  16. One reason I joined was to support outreach like Writer Beware, which continues to perform a vital service. I also believe that the best way to change an organization is from within. External pressure is one thing, but there have to be people inside of the organization who are not only willing to work on making those changes happen, but be sure the changes are in keeping with the goals of the organization. And yes, that does include making changes to those goals, but in a sensible manner. If their goals and criteria for membership are shifting like quicksand, it’s not good for the organization or its members.

  17. I’m a member and I’ve been re-thinking it. Not because of the various problems that have been popping up with some of their members, though. I think for the most part they’ve been handling those things fairly well.

    They’re a great organization, and I think they do good things, but I don’t really feel like I’m getting much out of it. That’s quite possibly because I haven’t dug into the benefits of the membership much so there are maybe things I’m not aware of / taking advantage.

    But the things I do know they provide just aren’t ones that I’m likely to take advantage of. I don’t go to cons very often, I’m not likely to use their emergency health fund, the forum gives me a headache, the Bulletin has never felt relevant and I’ve never met anyone via the SFWA. There just aren’t a lot of tangibles that make me feel like it’s worth my while.

    That said, other people do get benefit from the organization and I like what they stand for and are designed to do, so I throw money at them, anyway. I doubt I’ll be able to keep doing that much longer, though.

  18. I find it amusing that I read your post within a day after reading Elizabeth Bear’s post on the subject. (Yes, I was behind on reading.) She quotes George R. R. Martin as saying that the way organizations change is by new blood joining. If you want it to be a different organization, it really helps if you show up and help make it that.

    No, there’s not a lot of e-mail, and you can opt out of even things like the announcement of how the Board voted on whatever motions were before it. How much time and energy SFWA takes is really up to you.

    I’m a member. I try to be semi-active on the forum (SFWA.org’s forum, not the sff.net morass), but (contrary to Jacey’s comment above about people who know each other from cons) everyone I know, I’ve met online — through Twitter or Codex or Facebook or through the SFWA forums. I do little things to help out (such as tabulating forthcoming releases for the SFWA MG and YA group), and some year, I may feel crazy enough to run for an office or volunteer for a committee.

    What do I get out of it? I’m meeting new people. I’m seeing the sausage being made in some instances, and in not pretty. And I get a feeling of being useful, even if I am very, very small potatoes in the field. I think maybe I can contribute to making it a better, more welcoming place that people aren’t going to have to ask “Is the drama worth it?”

    You’re already well known in the field. You know people; you don’t need to network. You have a very solid idea of what you can do with different avenues of publication and how to negotiate for what you want. You even already have a platform where you can and do reach out to others to help them learn what you know. So most of my reasons don’t apply to you.

    For you, I would guess the most applicable reasons would be solidarity and helping to make a change, even if it’s not by being active as a volunteer or a Board member.

    Good luck with your decision.

  19. My first novel sale wasn’t qualifying, and I don’t write short stories, so it’s likely I won’t have to actually make a decision on this point for some time now, but as I’m an obsessive planner and honer of the Great What If, I’ve already given it some thought.

    1. The bursting boils of the last couple years are troubling and I hope not representative of where the bulk of SFWA’s “base” wants the organization to stay.
    2. I’m not currently in SFWA, so I really can’t guess at that. I am almost a member of the Washington Science Fiction Association, which puts on Capclave and hosted both John Scalzi and GRRM in the last two years and where they were thoughtful enough to have both a lecture on harassment by the fabulous EC Myers AND panels on whitewashing book covers as well as general diversity (I was on that one, in fact). Right off this makes me feel like my local organization is more inclusive and accepting.
    3. I agree wholeheartedly with what several people have reiterated above, that joining for a year or two once I do qualify is probably the best way to find out if I go in with an open mind and the intention of taking some time to make a nest there.
    4. I probably will join at least for a year.

    That said, I have some reservations, and (this may be the 14-year-old pariah in me talking) what’s made the news for the last couple years makes me already feel like as a newbie female fantasy author who speaks about the need for greater diversity and better representation of women that I would start out a teensy bit unwelcome.

  20. I considered it, but a) didn’t qualify as I’m self-published, and b) I didn’t care for their attacks on those who help self-published authors to self-publish. They seemed more like an attack site with prejudices than a supportive group.

  21. I’ve been a member of SFWA for a little over twenty years, and have served on the Board in various positions including President. I’m currently helping with Writer Beware (technically, WB is SFWA’s Committee on Writing Scams). I suppose my view is a little different. I see SFWA as the perfect platform for volunteering to help other sf/f writers. It works only as well as those individuals who choose to put in the time and effort make it work, and, currently, there aren’t enough of them. Writer Beware is a good example of the kind of effort that literally could not exist outside of an organization like SFWA, primarily because SFWA provides its legal advice and liability insurance, but also because it’s useful to have a large organization as a calling card and backstop. WB is the volunteer effort of a small number of members, and look at the difference it makes. I didn’t join because of what I can get, but what I can give.

  22. I am a member of SFWA. I am also a member of HWA and SFCanada. I used to believe that joining or not joining was about what these organizations could do for me personally,p–how they could have direct utility in my life and career. And like you, I was a Lone Gunman type.

    What I realized, eventually, is that joining the organization, paying the minor dues, and tolerating the minimal annoyances of membership (a few more emails I probably won’t open, etc.)…was worth it. Because what I am paying for as a member is not a bicycle pump to inflate my own career and ego directly. It’s the opportunity to exert power.

    The Writer Beware blog is something that I am paying for, as a member if SFWA and the HWA. Like a taxpayer who coughs up every day and every April so that there can be roads and universities and cops and grade schools and prisons, the very fact that I pay my dues means that all writers benefit from my willingness to participate passively, but positively, in the system.

    All writers also benefit from the concept of “pro rates” and “best practices” and “creator rights” existing in the industry as well…and we need to accept that these concepts do not spring from the innate largesse of corporate masters. They are territory that unions for writers have fought and bled for, and as soon as those unions cease to exist, that territory will be remorselessly and quickly re-claimed by capitalism. If Reagan taught us nothing else, let’s learn that lesson. The world needs unions.

    All writers also benefit from having unions that hunt down and squish bad publishers and dishonest agents, and all members of SFWA and the HWA also enjoy some opportunities and access that are not available to others, but…we have to accept that “opportunities and access”is really all they are. Opportunities and access. Options. I can choose to exercise them or not, and mostly the answer has been “not” for the last few years. I often vote for the Nebulas and Stokers, but I’ve never nominated anyone or asked anyone to nominate me.

    Lately I’ve been asking myself why. I don’t have an agent or an editor or some other profiteer stumping for me, despite being a full time pro. A lot of other people who do excellent work are in the same boat. This last year, Innsmouth Free Press and Silvia Moreno-Garcia did some amazing work. It was completely unrecognized by the greater membership of the HWA and SFWA, even in the horror poetry category… which really surprised me. But then I had ask myself why the hell I was surprise! And why I hadn’t ACTED, and used my membership to at least nominate that work, and TRY to get it recognized.

    Anyway. I’ll continue to pay my dues, I’ll continue to vote. I’ll continue to be a loudmouth on my own little blog and social media. I’ll probably continue to wear black and sunglasses and hate meetings.

    But next year I will probably also exercise at least one or two of my additional options. Because I can. I’m with the union.

  23. One of the reasons SFWA is having so many… issues these days is BECAUSE it is in the process of changing, and people who are uncomfortable with change are rating to that. This is, unfortunately, what happens when change happens. People who want SFWA to change successfully should stick with it, because I think the noise is proof that change is winning.

  24. I think we need an alternative to SFWA. One that recognizes small house, independent, and self published authors. There are a lot if good people in SFWA, but there are also a lot of successful, talented writers out there who cannot qualify for membership despite putting out a product that is as good as, or better than the big houses. SFWA’s professional standard aides publishers, not writers.

  25. I joined SFWA for two years. When the VP opens her laptop and asks you to join, it’s hard to say no, and it had a sense of “I’m making my dreams come true” that was powerful and wonderful.

    That said, the experience itself was underwhelming. I had great difficulty getting onto the boards, and the whole thing felt as if it were fighting for authorship and publishing as an institution that I think is doing to disservice to its members in the face of massive disruptive shifts.

    I did like the legal and advice based services it offers, but overall it felt very 1980s to me. The fact that someone I respect a great deal has repeatedly come under attack precisely because of her commitment to the organization hasn’t made me more likely to go back.

    Yes, it’s joining that causes change, but joining also means you’ve chosen to be part of the organization, and I really don’t feel like they represent me at the moment.

  26. I’ve been a SFWA member for over 20 years. I’ve never held office but I’ve always felt it was important to be in the rank and file. When there was a period of even higher stupidity than what’s being reflected in some of the kerfuffle lately I stuck it out because if I left that would be letting the stupid win. Without SFWA we’d have worse standard contracts and lower pay, period. If there are no members the organization has no clout.

    For those who don’t qualify but who want an alternative organization that offers contracts assistance, health insurance, and many other writer advocacy benefits, look into the National Writers Union. I’m a mber there, too. But if you feel lost among SFWA be warned the NWU is much larger and encompasses all genres, journalism, and more. Otoh, they have some active local chapters. Still, not as focused or useful for networking within sf/f as SFWA but many powerful writer-advocacy tools. You self-identify as a writer, you can join. (NWU also more expensive than SFWA, sliding scale based on writing income starts at $95/yr and goes up.)

  27. Well, as for benefits, I got to go to a party and enjoyed some free booze last year, but I got that without the membership.

    Personally, I look forward to eventually joining so I can get in on the tribalism, novel-length think pieces on social issues and genre, and table-flipping.

  28. I do not qualify for membership in SFWA. But even if I could qualify, I could never find the benefit for me. I’m solely self-published. I’ve researched the question of joining off and on now for several years. My conclusion? As an idie, SFWA does not seem inclined to have people like me for membership.

    The authors who are members of SFWA are well-known and have outstanding work. I read SF extensively and think most are a great group of authors. You would be in good company. How important is prestige points for you?

    Finally, the writing organizations where I do have memberships tend to be local writings groups who are very active. They have helped me the most as an indie author. Much better than any of the National organizations have every helped me in my career.

    Good luck on your decision.

  29. I’m not currently a member of any association due to not qualifying… But I do feel like you generally get out of those kinds of organizations what you put into them. I’m sure they’re good for networking if you’re the type of person who is good at networking when you’re dropped into a crowd of the right sorts of people. I’m not so sure I’m one of those people.

    Of course, my only real experience was with the HWA, and I was a member at precisely the time when the Ed Kramer storm began to blow, so you know, maybe I just didn’t get to see the awesome parts! 😛

  30. I am going to join SFWA as soon as I meet the requirements. I’m new to the SFF community, having just realized this rich network of authors existed online. I’ve been writing away, alone, for years.

    I discovered the relevant blog posts and twitter feeds at the height of last week’s turmoil. As a newbie, and someone who has held public office a few times, I see this kind of struggle as a sign of potentially positive change. People with different perspectives are trying to shape the organization. I’d like to be a part of that. If I shrug it off and stay away, how can I ever lament that SFWA doesn’t reflect my views?

  31. Not addressing your question, but rather all the commenters, I have to say: SFWA has done itself a horrible disservice with the branding on Writer Beware. I imagine there’s historical reasons for that? I had no idea Writer Beware was supported by SFWA.

    Here’s how my non-researched impressions have gone:
    SFWA – qualification standards look outdated or elitist, doesn’t seem to do anything for newbie writers (they don’t qualify) and not much for pros, most benefits appear popularity driven at a cursory glance, has occasional tendency to throw flaming turds out on the internet’s lawn
    Writer Beware – Great! Useful for newbies and pros, well researched, obviously operated from a position of goodwill-towards-your-fellow-man

    Which only matters if SFWA as an org values good non-researched impressions. I’d assume so, but hey, might be wrong.

    Back to the question of what comes out of organizations, I did end up joining RWA. But the things I get out of RWA aren’t things you’re looking for or aren’t on the table at SFWA – in-person socialization, writing education options at a variety of levels, marketing education, actual marketing opps, “support group” style programs like writing sprints and motivation stuff, constant opportunities to meet with editors and agents, contests and crits (good for judging your own skills, which is hard for many). The things I wish they offered better of is basically Writer Beware – they can be a little “there there, everyone’s publishing deal should be celebrated” – and pros seem to get less and less benefit as time goes on.

  32. If you are into Hypocrites who make a living at writing but are so (Boy that cried Wolf) PC minded that they are only 2 steps away from making Bradbury’s Censorship Nightmare come true. I would say Join up.

    I just read a big name writer(also a member) who stated that Enders Game was the one SF book he would recommend to people to get them into SF. But he would encourage them not to buy it(only borrow it from friends or libraries)

    This because of Card’s Wacko Religious believes and how he apparently actually believes in it and doesn’t have a problem saying so.(which is actually admirable in this dishonest day and age)

    I don’t mind people calling him out on that stuff(I have always done such things) But for another writer to tell people that they will love the experience of a writers book, but not to pay the author because he doesn’t agree with his asinine beliefs actually says more about the person pointing the finger then it does the one he/she is condemning.

    This type of mentality permeates much of the new guard who basically think that “their shit don’t stink”
    And define themselves by condemning people they don’t know and would of had to Read Their Minds in many instances.

    Give me a Honest Bigot any day of the week over a Big Mouthed Hypocrite.(except maybe Thursdays)

  33. As a postscript to my earlier comment I have since discovered that SFWA is planning to have a suite at the London Worldcon in August, so I’ve volunteered and may actually get to meet people from the organisation in person. Hopefully it will help to make British and European members feel less isolated. Anyhow, I reserve all further judgement until post Worldcon.

  34. I don’t qualify, but I would join in a heartbeat just to be able to stand next to some of the people in it. I mean, really, what could it hurt? Is there a downside to joining?

  35. Late to the party. I’d join in a nanosecond if I qualified. I qualify for other professional writing orgs, but not SFWA. Not yet. There’s power in numbers, and protection in numbers, and the fight right now to shift that power from the past to the future is a worthy one. Chuck, with all respect, someone with your platform wouldn’t have to get involved in the nuts and bolts of the organization to make a difference. Simply being a member and continuing your fight the way you already fight it, from your blog, would make a huge statement of belief in fight, its worth, and be an enormous boost for the future of writers who write SFF.

  36. I joined in 2005, as soon as I qualified. I’ve done some volunteer work for the organization, but I’ve gotten a lot out of it. Benefits have included networking, the SFWA suite at cons, being able to go to the Baltimore Book Festival, and being part of a long and venerable history. I’m running for office this year because I think SFWA offers a lot and can offer even more. Come on in, Chuck. I’d love to have you participating in the discussion forums.

  37. I understand the imperfections, but I still paid my SFWA dues today and was happy to do so. It’s going to remain an important part of our professional universe for a long time to come, and I’ve no doubt of that.

  38. This comment is totally selfish, because I’ve been thinking about it since this post came out. I said I would join the day I was eligible. Today I became eligible. Today I joined. Very happy and can’t wait to participate.

    • Congratulations on qualifying, Ian. Well done. It’s a milestone. I admit I didn’t join for years after I qualified, but I just renewed my membership for another year, and this year, since Worldcon is in the UK, I get to go to a SFWA reception and actually stick my head above the parapet for the first time. I guess what I see when I peep over will tell me once and for all whether I should stay in, or whether I’m wasting my money, since I’m largely on the wrong side of the Atlantic to take advantage of most things.

  39. I realize this is an old thread – but people still read the comments. I joined SFWA as a self-published author as soon as such authors were allowed entry. At the time, I was proud to have finally been able to say “I’m a member of SFWA”. Yesterday, I did a presentation at the local chapter of the Romance Writers of America (I write science fiction and fantasy by the way). What I learned about that organization has changed how I feel about SFWA membership. You can read my blog post here: http://bit.ly/1Ql4vMv

    The RWA has local chapters that meet once a month. These meetings provide a forum for education from presenters and the chance to interact with fellow writers in your genre. I joined SFWA to be a part of the SF community but I quickly discovered that the community exists mostly on the web. The only other time I’ve interacted with other SFWA members was when I attended WorldCon last year. While I had a great time, I would love to interact with fellow SF authors and SFWA members without having to travel to another city or another country.

    I will probably keep my SFWA membership for another year. But unless I feel I’m part of a professional community, I will most likely not be extending it again. I spend enough time on the computer writing and working. I don’t want to spend even more time on it in order to interact with other SFWA members.

    • I joined SFWA about four or five years ago having qualified on short story sales about a decade earlier. I’m in the UK, so I figured membership was not going to be a huge amount of use to me, but still… I was (then) looking for a new agent and figured there might be some useful contacts. Then I got my book deal… and my agent…

      Finally in 2014 I got invited to the SFWA party at London Worldcon. At last, something I could take part in! I’d been there about ten minutes when my editor arrived and swept me away to dinner. Hey, you win some and you lose some. That was a win. Dinner was much better than the few nibbles at SFWA. But I realised then that SFWA is really not much use to me as a British writer, even though I have an American book deal (DAW), so last year I let it lapse.

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