SFWA Bulletin Task Force Announced

sfwa_square_logoDear SFWA Members:
The board is aware of a number of complaints by members regarding Bulletin issue #202, specifically the article by Mike Resnick and Barry Malzberg. We welcome this criticism and thank our members for making their voices heard. Further feedback is welcome on our online discussion boards, or else can be mailed to either Rachel Swirsky (vp@sfwa.org) or John Scalzi (president@sfwa.org).
In response to this and previous feedback from members about recent issues of the Bulletin, I have authorized the formation of a task force to look at the Bulletin and to determine how the publication needs to proceed from this point in order to be a valuable and useful part of the SFWA member experience. This task force consists of SFWA’s current vice president and incoming president, as well as related SFWA administrative staff, and experienced editorial consultants. The task force is:
Rachel Swirsky
Steven Gould
Jaym Gates
Kate Baker
James Patrick Kelly
Charles Coleman Finlay
Neil Clarke
The task force also expects to consult with several SFWA members who have editorial experience, both with the Bulletin and with other publications. Anyone who wishes to make themselves available for consultation should contact Rachel Swirsky at vp@sfwa.org.
The task force and the board also intends to solicit further, detailed opinions from the membership as a whole about the Bulletin as part of an upcoming stage of the project. More details on that will be made available soon. 
John Scalzi 

49 Responses

  1. Eugene Myers

    Thank you for responding quickly and decisively, and thanks to all members who have worked to bring their concerns forward. This is an encouraging step forward. I have every faith in this task force.

  2. Jonathan M

    I am not a member but I’m surprised by this response.

    The issue is that the Bulletin has been going to press with sexist covers and articles so sexist that they border on the outright misogynistic. The issue is obviously a problem of editorial judgement… why do you need a seven person strong task force to fix the way that content is chosen for the SFWA magazine?

  3. Ryan Meray

    Resnick and Malzberg playing the victim card and crying censorship after being told to have some respect for women speaks volumes about their (lack of) character. This is same thing is happening in the skeptic community when men have their sexism or misogyny pointed out in an attempt to be constructive. Instead, they immediately flip it around and act like they’re being harassed by the Thought Police.

    Being told “You’re being a sexist douche,” isn’t censorship or oppression, it’s stating a fact, a flaw in the way you’re expressing yourself that we’re hoping you might be able to think deeper about and perhaps grow beyond.

    It’s not easy to wake up and smell the privilege, but I’d like to believe that anyone can learn how given enough time and discussion. And if the offending party wants to act offended and has no interest in an actual discussion or learning from the teachable moments, then you throw them to the fucking curb.

    1. Mudz

      Yes, a suddenly formed seven-man task force to alter the principles of publication in response to their article is not like censorship at all.

      “We’re not trying to censor what you’re saying, we’re just trying to make sure that anyone who thinks like you (i.e. not like us) doesn’t get a voice.”

      Why do you guys get to determine the criteria? They’ve been here (there, wherever) longer than you, I should think they get priority. You can’t just bust into someone’s house and demand they change it to suit you.

      Can I call you an emasculated self-hating moron bent on societal destruction, if I think it’s ‘just a fact’? Can I have you expelled on those grounds?

      (Oh, and really? You threw down the privilege word? Is it like a magic password or something?)

      Unless you guys are going to allow them to continue to write as they choose, you are censoring them. That’s how it works. At least be honest about what you’re doing.

      Don’t pretend that they somehow did this to themselves because you showed up a generation later to find a couple of established contributors offensively normal in their male behaviour.

      1. M.A.

        “You can’t just bust into someone’s house and demand they change it to suit you.”

        Why exactly again is it their house? Someone said that Malzberg is not even a member of SFWA. The people that pay dues to the SFWA “own” the house. That’s the way these things called “organizations” work. The members elect officers, and the officers decide how things are going to work based upon feedback from the members. Nobody has some god-given entitlement to use the SFWA’s publishing platform for their own personal purposes in perpetuity.

        “Unless you guys are going to allow them to continue to write as they choose, you are censoring them”

        They can write whatever they want, and they can publish whatever they want (Resnick in fact republishes the columns at his own website), but the SFWA can exercise editorial control over what is published in their own company newsletter. You would think writers of all people would understand this.

        “Don’t pretend that they somehow did this to themselves because you showed up a generation later to find a couple of established contributors offensively normal in their male behaviour.”

        That’s like saying “I’ve been lynching n*ggers my entire life; these young squirts have no right to be offended by it.” I don’t think people “defending” these knuckleheads with your kind of arguments are really doing them much favors.

        1. Mudz

          Oh, really, calling a woman beautiful is the equivalent of lynching black people and calling them n______?* That’s ludicrously stupid. Show me the dead bodies before you start regurgitating the most ridiculous viral concepts you have swirling around in your rhetoric box. If anything, I find the sheer stupidity of that comment offensive in itself, and you don’t do the black community any favours by trivialising ‘n____*-lynching’ by equating it with ‘these guys are old and I don’t like their opinions’.

          Fortunately for you, I don’t have the ability or desire to have your IP address rejected from the internetz.

          If SFWA ‘exercise control’ over what is published, then obviously they cannot ‘publish whatever they want’. That’s like saying I’m uncensored because they allowed me to say whatever I want, they just bleeped out the outgoing signal.

          You guys are having a hard time reconciling ‘censorship is evil’ and ‘these guys need to change what they’re saying’ aren’t you?

          It’s their house because they were the writers of the articles, they’ve been established in the field for years, they’ve been a part of the organisation for years. Before you.

          If you don’t give a shit about their rather typical opinions (you realise not everyone’s a feminist, right?), why should anyone give a shit about yours? And why should they change for you?

          What if the majority of the SFWA commnuity finds the initials ‘M.A’ offensive? What if they find your attempts to slander these two guys as the equivalent of n____*-hating lynchers, to be offensive? Because I guarantee you that’s a hundred times worse than their crime of commenting on the beauty of an editor, and their article showing up between covers you find overly enamoured of female bodies.

          I don’t think SFWA is done any favours by you guys chasing out their most passionate proselytisers.

          [*Editor’s note: Racial epithet redacted. Context retained.]

        2. Mudz

          I will also amend that, you are correct in the sense that SWFA gets priority over the article writers in their own newsletter, obviously, so that was a mistake on my part. Being writers of the article doesn’t make it their house, but being established writers in the community makes it more theirs than yours.

          But, the main issue I have here, is that besides you guys throwing pitchforks for ridiculous and banal reasons, is the fact that you are trying to deny that you’re advocating censorship.

          Now, SWFA can legally censor them all they like. Just admit it’s censorship, so it’s reconciled to the principles set forth in the ogranisation. Admit that not all views, even entirely common ones, are tolerated.

          And behaving as if these two jokers just showed up out of the blue, even though you quite blatantly admit that this is an attitude you expect precisely of the generation they belong to, and one they’ve always had, is disingenuous at best.

          Personally, I think you guys are foolish for trying to chase them out, but it’s your funeral. Own up to it.

    2. John Johnston

      They are in fact being attacked by the Thought Police, people whose response to opinions they don’t like is not to engage in discussion or reply but who jump straight to suppression. I disagree with Mike and Barry myself but censorship and suppression is never the right answer. Diversity means acceptance of viewpoints that you don’t agree with and which may even make you angry, but people with opposing values and viewpoints have every right to have them and to express them as long as they are not espousing something illegal.

      It saddens me to see SFWA members, writers, deliberately advocating the suppression of someone else’s voice for the sake of politics. All of you have to know how wrong that is on some level.

      Discuss. Disagree. Argue. But never, ever censor or suppress. And remember that one day that “dinosaur” might be you.

      And also always remember Nietzsche’s advice: “The surest way to corrupt a youth is to instruct him to hold in higher esteem those who think alike than those who think differently.”

      1. Maddog

        ” Diversity means acceptance of viewpoints that you don’t agree with and which may even make you angry, but people with opposing values and viewpoints have every right to have them and to express them as long as they are not espousing something illegal”

        Well said and exactly true.

        Anyone that would deny it hasn’t been reading the SF+ Movement Party Line. Like Scalzi(the president) he freely admits to loving censorship.

        This is what Bradbury warned about and thank God he isn’t alive to see this Disgrace.

        People should be ashamed thinking they are so high and mighty(Mighty High indeed)

        1. Teenygozer

          In the early 90s, Ray Bradbury got all hot under the collar on the talk show “Politically Incorrect” when his fellow guests and Bill Maher cracked wise about then-Senator Bob Packwood’s serial sexual harassment of female staffers, including the fact that all the female teenaged pages had told one another not to go on an elevator with Packwood alone because he would immediately start running his hands all over them. I distinctly remember watching, with a sinking heart, Bradbury’s red face as he blustered that Packwood as a good friend of his and a great man, and the others shouldn’t be talking about him this way as it was an assault on the great man’s dignity. He was absolutely certain that Packwood was completely innocent despite the fact that more than 10 women had spoken up at that point. He didn’t like the angry way they expressed themselves about his good friend.

          Of course, fast-forward a few years; we all found out that Packwood was keeping a “Don Juan” diary about his serial sexual harassment, and the rest is history. If he hadn’t been outed by his own words, he’d have kept his Senate seat until the day he died instead of resigning in disgrace, because nobody listened to women’s complaints in those days, so long ago (1995!) Women were expected to shut up in order to preserve great men’s dignity.

          While I still quite like Bradbury’s stories and books, I’m not sure he wouldn’t have been part of the problem in this particular matter, unless of course the Packwood incident somehow helped him to grow up and gain a more adult perspective.

      2. Homa Sapiens

        Mike and Barry’s voices will not be suppressed. The government is not going to lock them up for their words.

        They can go on talking about bathing suits to each other, for the rest of their lives, bless their hearts. They might no longer be paid to do so, but why should that stop them? And you– you are welcome to listen to them for as long as you wish. It’s a free country like that.

  4. mike

    Well, this is something, but does not address the current issue, and honestly?

    It feels like a typical corporate response to an issue: Let’s form a committee!!

    So, yeah, not holding my breath and disappointed nothing is apparently being done about the immediate problem.

  5. Juliette Wade

    Thank you very much. I think this is an excellent response. I hope the general membership (and ideally the public as well) will be kept abreast of the task force’s work.

  6. tanyap

    This is much ado about nothing. I’d rather see new stories from these individuals than have them waste time making a handful of offended feminists feel better.

  7. Michael A. Armstrong

    Has the board contacted former Bulletin editor Mark McGarry? He’s a professional journalist and SFWA member who understands the broader issues. Although there may be serious concerns about how the Bulletin is edited and its content, I’d caution the board not to micromanage the Bulletin. Establish broad policy, set a budget, yes, but an editor needs a certain amount of independence to do her or his job. If you can’t trust your editors, fire them. If you trust your editors, let them do their job.

  8. Steven Saus

    I am glad to see a task force – and of these people in particular.

    Here’s the reasons:
    1. It’s not just one person, thus avoiding later allegations of decisions-by-individual-fiat.
    2. It means that it is addressing more than just a single instance.

    Structural discrimination is often invisible to the people who strengthen it. Addressing the culture *around* the controversy is more important than just an apology for a single instance.

    And to address “tanyap” – apologizing is remarkably time-efficient. In fact, had they just apologized and taken some time to reflect on and consider *why* others were upset, it would have consumed a lot less time and energy from both themselves and from all of us.

  9. MadGastronomer

    You’ve formed a committee. I suppose that’s good.

    But I can’t help but notice that it’s still majority male. 4:3, so close, but really. Did it occur to anyone that when the issue is sexism, it might possibly be a good plan to weight things so that people affected by sexism most have the most say in how to handle it? I have no objection to the men selected, certainly, but women, by definition, know the effects of misogyny more immediately and intimately than men can. Women are the experts. Why not get as many experts as you can?

    1. Trisha Lynn

      It seems to me that the task force may be doing more than just dealing with how to respond to this particular issue. Rather, they may be attempting to find solutions to the problem of how this became an issues in the first place, like putting some more oversight eyes on iffy articles before they go to press and how to more quickly become responsive to membership concerns.

      I mean if people were complaining starting with issue #199, that’s when the first apology and move towards reconciliation should have taken place, don’t you think?

    2. Will Shetterly

      Would a task force composed of women like Christina Hoff Sommers please you? I have to note that women, like men, are a varied group, and equity feminists strongly disagree with gender feminists about issues like censorship in the name of feminism.

      You might want to see Felicity Savage’s comments on Chris Gerwel’s “The SFWA Bulletin, Censorship, Anonymity, and Representation”.

    3. Halloween Jack

      Asking women to be primarily responsible for fixing a problem caused by men is problematic, to put it mildly. Men are responsible for policing their own behavior and learning what they need to learn about misogyny in order to address it within themselves.

  10. Mel

    Even considering the sources of the article, it’s still completely ridiculous. This is a good first step.
    To the fossils crying about censorship or uppity women, get over it.

    1. I Am Irony, Man

      Mel : To the fossils…get over it.

      Just as soon as you get over your ageism.

    2. John Johnston

      That use of “fossils,” along with the demand that the opinions of those whom you disagree with be suppressed, makes it quite clear that this issue is about intolerance, and not tolerance. And your side is the intolerant one.

  11. brent

    To the fossils crying about censorship ….

    Nice – let’s replace sexism with ageism. Bigot.

  12. Karl

    From what I’ve read, the solution to this issue is simple: The task force needs to invent a time machine with which to transport Malzberg, Resnick, Rabe, and some others into the 21st century (or failing that, any time after about 1975 will probably do).

  13. Virginia

    Several thoughts:

    I don’t think committees ever solved anything.

    The idea the committee must be all women is sexist.

    The fact the articles that expressed sexist attitudes is neither here nor there. It’s that there were several and the covers have been objectionable AND it’s been addressed before without any resolution.

    But I do think the apology was better than nothing. It read a little too much like a legal document (complainants vs defendants) but the end seemed heartfelt.

    Finally, I’m so frickin’ thankful I don’t write SF. Writing for a living is hard enough without having to battle my own genre group over whether my gender is acceptable.

  14. Jayson C.

    Boring, reality based, special interest groups, go make your FANTASY industry magazine and put your select images on the cover and see how it goes. I would love see the number of subscribers and sales you would have. Also, no one is stopping you.
    P.S. To you sudo-male feminists. Your funny.

    1. M. A.

      Actually, the premier “industry magazine” is Locus. Most of the covers are pictures of writers.

  15. Chad Lynch

    Dear God, what a bunch of wilting ninnies. Truly, this smacks of 1st world white people problems. The genre of dangerous ideas indeed. It turns out that in the field that is supposed to be about the boundless exploration of the question “what if”, everything is admissible… so long as it doesn’t hurt someone’s delicate sensibilities or wound their inner child. Comparing use of the phrase ‘lady editor’ to lynching? You spit on the graves of all of those murdered.

    If the ideas these evil old white men hold are so awful, surely a well made counter argument would be enough to topple them? Or do you all fear they might not cower and slink away, but instead stand up for themselves and make a reasonable counter-argument? Perhaps it frightens you to no end that someone might have an unapproved thought, a though deemed forbidden by your immediate peer group, and so they must be driven out. Perhaps we should call in a shaman, do the appropriate ritual before driving them out of the village just to make sure the spirits of political correctness recognize the two oldsters as the proper scapegoats for our sins. Instead of intellectual rigor and open minded debate you have engaged in the oldest form of tribalism; my group good, your group evil.

    If someone doesn’t occasionally outrage you, instill in you the desire to rise up and debate them, then they’re probably pretty dull people and you’re not apt to learn that much from them. In a strange way I’m almost glad this has all happened when it did. As someone who is hoping to break into the field this has saved me from making the mistake of joining this organization. Why waste the time and money joining a group of people that are only allowed to mouth approved thoughts?

    As I sign off for my first and probably only time I think I’ll leave you all with a little advice passed on to me by my old, white, racist, redneck grandfather. “Don’t get you’re knickers in a twist Nancy” he’d say. And “You want to play with the big boys, you’re gonna take some lumps. Or did you think it was gonna be bubble gum and hop scotch all the time?”

    1. Aaron

      Well done. You’ve responded to complaints of sexism with sexism.

      I suppose while the women aren’t getting their knickers in a twist they’re also in the kitchen fixing you a sandwich?

  16. Rob

    This is all very confusing. I find myself being swayed back and forth between all these different point of views. I think maybe you’re all right and wrong, and there is no proper solution to this mess.

  17. David Krupp

    To the folks at SFWA: I find it a heartening first step that you move towards resolution via a committee of peoples, I am sure not just for this purpose but for the purpose of righting other inequalities perpetrated by the malignant, the uninformed, or the accidental use of racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. However, talking is not doing; I can expect nothing of you, not being a paying member. However, from the cry over this (and honestly, if I was a member, I would be yelling with the rest of them), it is obvious that this committee needs to make progress.

    To those folks in support of this action: I applaud folks that can come forward and support the continued attempts to reign in sexist remarks, and any other problems that arise in our community of “geeks” and “nerds” which more and more houses families. I would count myself lucky just to stand with you, on such a subject, if not with you in the group known as the SFWA.

    To those complaining: Here’s the thing, folks. It was “put to the members” by the duo of Resnick and Malzberg, if they wanted such things to pass, if the content needed to be further scrutinized. The answer was yes, people. That’s the reason there is a committee of folks now dedicated to making sure you (whoever you happen to be) aren’t making an ass of yourself, as well as this organization. To those trying to frame this as free speech, you are free to say whatever you wish, but people are also free to shut you out, scream just as loud, or in the case of businesses, not publish what you have to say. You do not have some “right” to be published, and you do not have a right to not be called an asshole for your views. Not all views are equal, not all views are valid, and no, not all views need to be respected. Sexism, racism, ageism, and more are not ways to respect, and those views are not what this community of science fiction enthusiasts should be espousing. The reason to NOT respect Mr. Resnick and Mr. Malzberg’s contributions is because they are being sexist, yes, but also because as writers they should know better than to back that up by using every possible logical fallacy in the book. I had to go hunting for the #202 article, but I found it, rife as it was with logical leaps and strange turns of the mind. They took an issue that was specifically aimed at asking for more respect for women (i.e. do we really need yet one more cheesecake female and why is it important what she looked like) and turned it into a game of possible censorship and blame. They may have known this would provoke the eventual RESPONSE of censorship of such ideas (at which they can then espouse that the overlords have come to take over), or just stumbled upon it by accident. Either way, they set up a perfect victim/self-fulfilling prophesy here, and it carried through.

    That doesn’t mean it SHOULDN’T carry through.

    For the record, I like breasts. I like cheesecake depictions of women. I would not ask the original artist to apologize for his or her artwork. I did ask aloud why, when also mentioning her amazing work skills, Obama was castigated for also mentioning a woman’s looks. So yes, I understand how they could start out looking at this. BUT, the problem is that the cheesecake is an endemic epidemic; it’s always been that way so that’s the way it always should be. And the problem with that is that if we always as a community have all we’ve ever had, we’ll never experience anything new, for starters. Also, and more importantly, it shows us to be more juvenile than our possibly high-minded prose that we prefer to read would otherwise indicate. Lastly, it objectifies in the worst possible way, which is of course the problem with mentioning beauty; we have mentioned it and only it so often in reference to women in the workplace and out that it is a sore spot. If every woman was in fact respected for her brains and looks, then everything would be fine. But it’s not. Women are more often portrayed as something to obtain, or devour or ravish, where men are most commonly objectified as true-to-life Adonis made to be worshipped. That is the truest measure of our inequality; if a man has looks he is respected, if he has brains he is respected, but rare is the occasion when a woman is mentioned without mentioning her looks, regardless of if her ability is mentioned. If this were to change, then we would be less angered by cheesecake and descriptions of beauty. If women were more/mainly recognized for their accomplishments, never mentioning their gender or looks (e.g. Marie Curie was a brilliant scientist, Serena Williams is an amazing tennis player, etc), then the occasional remark about a woman’s beauty would stand out no more than remarking on a man’s looks.

    But right now it DOES stand out because it IS so unequal, and that is a problem, not just with those of a science fiction persuasion, but all over the world. And here, at least, people were speaking with a voice that said “enough is enough” and this organization answered. They answered loud and clear.

    To Mr. Mike Resnick and Mr. Barry Malzberg: In your most recent co-op op-ed, you claim that the reason that you have been targeted, that you are Old White Men (Mike’s words) and that you cannot write what you do not know. To you I say this: I have no problem with Old White Men. I have met wonderful “Old White Men” as well as young white, black, red, beige men and women, and many colors and ages and points in between. I have met open-minded, interesting, engaging individuals of all ages, colors and sexual orientations. You, sirs, are not so far in any category of them. You do not well represent your age group, nor your color, nor even the seemingly conservative bent you take in your views. You are, as it currently stands, holding views that insult what humankind can be: understanding, open, kind. You play the victim as many close-minded folks do, crying censorship and hurling names such as liberal and moron. Your views do not advance the dialogue, they do not promote the kind of unified and hopeful future that many science fiction and fantasy stories project for mankind. I cannot speak to your person, but what you say is both insulting and underwhelming. It would be heartening if by some chance you were to stop and listen, actually listen to what folks are saying, but I’m not sure you will. However, like science fiction does, I hold out hope for humanity, and I hold out hope for you.

  18. Steve Stanley

    Political correctness uber alles. It’s all the rage today. Any opinion, preference, quirk, or perversion can (and must) be tolerated, even embraced, so long as it does not stink of whiteness, maleness, Christianity, personal responsibility, or other things currently held in high disfavour by THOSE WHO TRULY COUNT. Everyone is equal, but some are more equal than others.

    SFWA has the right to do what they blinking well please with regards to their Bulletin. That’s a thing of no consequence. But how they do it and the reasons they give for doing it are things people will remember and react to. If enough react negatively, there is certainly room for more than one professional organization in the field. After all, diversity is the highest possible good, right?