Ironically although this post discusses SFWA, I’m not tagging it for the SFWA Twitter feed

Because we’re not supposed to feed political posts and this is one.
First, the background. Last year the Science Fiction Writers of America went into meltdown mode after a)the cover for the 200th issue of the Bulletin featured a bikini-clad woman on an alien world; b)Mike Resnick and Barry Malzberg, in discussing famous editors, kept dwelling on one prominent woman editor being incredibly goodlooking; c)an article about rebranding seemed to hold up Barbie as a role model for women (because she always has quiet dignity and doesn’t complain about sexism); d)Malzberg and Resnick devoted another column to discussing how bad it would be to suppress them, invoking spectres of banning gay sex (?), Mao, Stalin and Hitler.
A lot of members objected to all this. The Bulletin suspended publication, but recently SFWA announced it was getting ready to start up the Bulletin again, with some sort of advisory board helping the editor review submissions and avoid anything offensive. Former member David Truesdale saw this as some form of PC censorship, questioned President Steven Gould about how it would work and predicted this was some tool for the forces of political correctness to censor everyone who disagreed. He got up a pension calling on SFWA to kill the review board and a number of heavy hitters, such as CJ Cherryh, Mercedes Lackey, David Brin and David Gerrold have signed. Gerrold makes his case here. CC Finlay weighs in on the other side, as does radishreview which includes a link to an earlier draft of the petition.
My take:
•I don’t doubt Gerrold that this sort of debate erupts regularly. As I observed in one FB discussion, there’s no group of any size that doesn’t have cliques, or get convulsed with internal conflict.
•It’s perfectly reasonable for members to raise questions about what the board will do, how it will be picked and what standards it uses. Asserting based on no data that it’s a form of censorship and that the “wrong” viewpoints will be excluded is baseless at this point.
•I can’t see the review board per se is the problem, but people are reacting as if it is. After all, if SFWA’s going to shut down people who want to see naked women on the cover, the editor can do it just as easily. As one friend of mine put it, they could just as easily recruit assistant editors for the same purpose.
And as Finlay points out, part of editing is deciding what goes in a magazine and what doesn’t. That’s not censorship and it’s not a suppression of the free press, it’s publishing. It’s fine to debate the standards but I find it unreasonable to suggest there should be none. If it’s a choice between “why sexual harassment rules at cons unfairly deny my freedom to hit on women” and “current trends in publishing,” I don’t think dropping option A is a sign we’re enslaved by the thought police.
According to my friend (who’s more involved in the group than me), a majority of members wanted change. Obviously the majority shouldn’t always rule, but dues-paying members of an industry group certainly have a right to have a say about the content of the organization’s house organ.
Case in point, the cover. The arguments defending it include that it’s a traditional image harking back to the pulps and hey, lots of book covers have scantily clad women. And women who object to men looking at scantily clad women are hypocrites, so there (I’ll get to this in Part Two).
At the risk of stating the obvious, the Bulletin isn’t a pulp magazine. It’s a trade journal for professional SF writers, many of whom are women. So yes, I think it’s perfectly reasonable to object to the presence of the cover image.
More in part two.

6 Comments

Filed under Politics, Undead sexist cliches, Writing

6 responses to “Ironically although this post discusses SFWA, I’m not tagging it for the SFWA Twitter feed

  1. Pingback: Now as to the merits of the SFWA arguments | Fraser Sherman's Blog

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