SFWA Statement Regarding the Fireside Fiction Company Special Report

by Cat Rambo

SFWAcolorPeople have been asking that SFWA give an official response to the Fireside Report on the scarcity of black authors in science fiction and fantasy as well as say what it is that we’re doing in response.

We’re aware of the report; SFWA board member Justina Ireland was one of the contributors. Here’s her essay. Other SFWA members contributed, including Tobias Buckell and N.K. Jemisin. We have been discussing the report at the board level since the week it appeared and trying to figure out tangible ways SFWA can assist, rather than simply issuing a statement decrying racism.

What we’re doing as a result is to keep offering a lot of the things that we already are while making sure they are reaching black authors, along with stressing some new things.:

  • I’ve been looking at past efforts to make sure that they’ve included black authors. The SFWA Star Project recently supported Blacktastic: A Podcast of Black Scifi and Fantasy Stories and is making an effort to support a wide range of projects. Black writers are appearing on our recommended reading list, award ballots, and grandmaster picks. I’m also reviewing projects like the New Release Newsletter and NetGalley to see if there’re things we can do there.
  • Recent Nebula programming included panels like a celebration of Octavia Butler and panelists across all topics were for the most part diverse, with the slip-ups being noted for future Nebulas. We’re making sure that the folks organizing next year’s Nebula programming keep the needs of black writers in mind. If you have ideas for panels or sessions, please send them to events@sfwa.org.
  • I have been reaching out to some organizations of black writers to make them aware of the SFWA Grants Program and will continue to do so as I run across them.
  • I am working on a piece on how to recruit and train slush readers that will include suggestions about making the slush reader pool diverse as well as aware of non-mainstream voices.
  • The events team is looking to expand SFWA’s presence at events like the State of Black Science Fiction Conference. If you know of events that we should have a presence at, please let us know. We are especially interested in places that members will already be at, so we can use them to represent SFWA.
  • The SFWA booth at Baltimore Book Festival has our handouts, put together last year by the Diversity Outreach Committee, with lists of writers of color. They’ll be available at other SFWA book festival presences. I’d like to do more projects like this; if you’re interested in helping, drop me a line. Director Sarah Pinsker has been working hard to make sure that the SFWA presence in Baltimore has some black writers there as well as other writers of color, QUILTBAG authors, etc.
  • Terra LeMay suggested a partnership with Carl Brandon or Con or Bust to provide Nebula conference memberships to some black writers. This seems like a great idea to me and we are pushing forward on it.
Some stuff I’d like to see SFWA do within the next year:
  • Better analysis of the breakdown of the SFWA Recommended reading list and award ballots that allows us to figure out how to make sure representation is more accurate than elsewhere in the field.
  • The SFWA Chat Hour, our video cast, featuring black science fiction writers talking about the state of science fiction. There it’s something that depends either on someone else taking the coordination over or waiting for me to have the bandwidth for it.
  • Outreach to publishing houses specializing in black writers in order to make sure SFWA members have a chance to read their offerings when nominating for the reading list and the awards.

We welcome other suggestions of tangible, helpful things that SFWA can accomplish. Since the 2016-2017 budget has already been approved, we are limited in our ability to financially support projects at the moment, but we will be factoring this into the 2017-18 budget. I will point out as well that SFWA has limited resources and depends of volunteers; if you want to see SFWA undertake a project, your best bet may well be to join the organization and start pushing it yourself.

–Cat Rambo, SFWA President