I’m a little worried about a development at Mad Genius Club yesterday.
It brought to mind when I was a little writer, knee high to a grasshopper — all of 14 or so — and started a fantasy short story. I was about a bunch of kids who find a magical key that takes them to a parallel world where they can start a colony and do things their way.
One of my more… ah… indoctrinated friends (look, it was a socialist regime. We were all indoctrinated, but she drank the koolaid.) told me that the story should end after chapter three, because the young people should realize they should come back to the real world and try to change it.
I didn’t say anything and felt vaguely guilty. Some of the indoctrination must have taken. I abandoned the novel unfinished.
If I were answer it now, my answer would be “These are my middle fingers, Grace, baby. You’re just p*ssed off you can’t write any fiction. That change the world b*llsh*t? F*ck off. It’s what your side does to encourage the poor prols to fall in line.”
Because here’s the thing: EVERY communist I knew in the seventies told me that about everything, from the school association, to the communist party itself. “If you don’t like it, you should join and change it from within.”
There is a reason they do that. As the current administration is finding out (they probably thought the press was the nation, so they thought it would be easier) it’s almost impossible to change an organization “from within.” The only way to do it is over a long time (as they’ve been trying to do to this country — 100 years and counting) gradually. Hence “the long march through the institutions.”
One person going in and trying to change it will meet one of three fates: get expelled and then told they have no status to complain (in countries this can mean being dead, of course); get co-opted and given all sorts of busy work so they can do nothing; get disgusted and quit again.
Now, this might be worth it when the institution is the by G-d United States of America. But … SFWA? SFWA???????
SFWA’s trouble started with being an organization in search of a mission. It was supposed to advocate for writers, but the only way to do that is to have the organization run by lawyers, not writers. In an Oligopoly system, writers didn’t dare oppose their employers who could effectively blacklist them for life. Yes, some of the early, idealistic ones tried. And yep, when science fiction was a cash cow they had SOME standing. Now that it’s the rump end of most publishers who are owned by international concerns? What are you gonna do, strike? Before or after they blacklist you?
Other missions have been proposed, including getting us some form of health insurance, succor in times of need, etc.
Some wonderful people still believe in what SFWA was meant to be — a haven and protection for SF/F writers — and I’m thinking specifically of Jerry Pournelle, Esther Friesner, Dave Truesdale, all of whom very nicely said, “but we need you in SFWA” but didn’t add “you can change it from within,” because they’re not smarmy, and certainly didn’t add “you should join and pay them money so you can change them.”
As much as I like some of the wonderful people still in SFWA I think they’re not just in a leaky boat. No, they’re trying to drain the ocean with a thimble. Idealistic, yes, and they’re better men and women than I. But reasonable… no.
Part of the problem is that people of liberty (to coin a phrase) don’t join up well. SFWA and other organizations eventually collapse under the weight of “people who really like to fill forms and hector others about how to be.”
Which I guess is what the commentor at MGC is, of course, consciously or not.
Thank heavens I’m not fourteen and I’m VERY well past being told “you have to become part of the system to change it.”
I mean, I understand them right? If the Founding Fathers hadn’t become courtiers of George III and changed the British monarchy, we woul…. Oh, wait. THEY DIDN’T.
They changed it from outside which is much easier than changing it from the inside. Also, more effective. For the results of the other theory all you have to see are all the upstanding citizens who are sent to DC and who become … whatever people become in DC.
Meanwhile, for us, the non-joiners, I think the only benefit of SFWA is to be able to say “I really am a pro, look.”
So I propose the Liberty Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. You join. We send you a certificate, a hat and a pin. For $40 a year, we’ll endeavor to also provide some sort of suite at major cons.
This leaves no room for what associations usually devolve into: a vehicle for the social justice crowd.
Hat, pin, certificate, party. That’s all we can promise.
What else do you need that is realistically obtainable?
Take the pin. Go write a book. I don’t know if everybody wants to change the world (I only really care about MY world) but I do know that there are better things to do with your time.