When I heard that the SFWA blog editors were asking members to write about their experiences with SFWA, my first thought was that I wasn’t the right person to do such a post. After all, I’m not a big-name author, so nobody is going to seek out what I have to say just because I’m the one saying it. And if they want someone to talk about how advantageous SFWA membership is, well, what I view as the major benefits of SFWA membership are better expressed by people who have more experience with them. GriefCom? Never needed to use it, and have nothing but good things to say about the folks I’ve worked with in the publishing industry so far. Emergency Medical Fund? I’m one of the lucky writers whose husband’s job provides competent medical coverage. Promotional opportunities? I’m a short storyist, and therefore need to do very little self-marketing beyond getting my work in front of editors.
But then it hit me that what I get from SFWA is the same thing that I give to SFWA, and it’s something that I can talk about: Diversity.
That’s right. I am part of SFWA’s amazing diversity.
I know, I know. Diversity isn’t the first word that most people think of when they think SFWA. And I am, of course, not a one-person checkbox on some affirmative-action list. Rather I’m someone who is not quite like anyone else in SFWA. My background, my experiences, and even who I am give me a different perspective on the industry (and on life in general). SFWA throws me together with a huge number of other professional writers who are all just as unique as me. And we all interact — some directly, some indirectly — sharing our knowledge and ourselves.
So here I am, the long-haired, 40-something, gay navy brat who used to be a video producer for NASA and now teaches English at a community college. As I look around the organization, I think I’m the only one who can be described that way. And as I look around at the other members I interact with on a regular basis, each one of them is every bit as unique and interesting. When we all work together towards our common goals — oh, geez, I was just about to use the old “whole that’s greater than the sum of its parts” cliché… let me try again with the speculative fiction metaphor — we become a powerful collective organism that has self-aware tendrils extending into all corners of the English-speaking world. Those tendrils are there to help everybody. And I get to be one of those tendrils.
The more members we have from different backgrounds — writing in different parts of our expansive genre, all coming together as professionals — the more SFWA can be. We are not, of course, an organization with only one political view, made up of people of only one demographic group, all sharing the same ideas. Life inside SFWA is sometimes contentious, but that’s part of being an integral organ of that amorphous, kilo-brained creature which was born to inform, support, promote, defend, and advocate for all its members. Nobody does that quite like SFWA, and SFWA can only do it if lots of unique people like me are part of it. So even though I’m probably not somebody you’ve ever heard of, I’m still an irreplaceable part of this organization. I’m doing my part just by being here.
I’m part of SFWA and now, I’m afraid, SFWA is part of me.
Kyle Aisteach lives with his husband in Fresno, California. His first collection, Little Dystopias, is due out in October.