Author Follies

When a writers’ organization forgets that its primary goal should be to assist and support writers and starts trying to look more politically correct and then to force that image on all members or else they be publicly shamed, it has outlived its time.
(From a comment by Amanda, at the discussion thread here.) For an explanation of glittery hoo-haa, go here – and remember, you have been warned.

Now, aren’t you all glad that I have taken to writing historical fiction? Those organizations which I am interested in joining, or semi-qualified to join based upon scribbling moderately competent, interesting, and OK-selling genre fiction (Women Writing the West, or the Historical Fiction Society) are not having these nuclear-melt-down-sink-through-to-the-core-of-the-earth perturbations. Or at least, none that I know of – mostly because I am interested in writing, not organizational politics, because – what was the reason for the writers’ organization again? Oh, yeah – the care and feeding of writers, and their economic interests, not some kind of neo-Stalinist clique imposing a kind of savage Mean Girls political correctness upon the membership and exiling all those who don’t or won’t go along with it.

Inter alia, the starting point for this particular brouhaha was a cover of the SFWA bulletin featuring a woman in a chain mail bikini, a la Red Sonya, and some reminiscences by some of the old science-fiction scribblers – of the Mad Men-era vintage, apparently – who referred admiringly to one early editor of the female persuasion for her beauty and poise as well as talent … and cue the Shrieking Harpies of the Perennially Arse-Chapped. Silly Shrieking Harpies, any woman who held her own in a mostly male field could have told them (and possibly did for all the good that it did) that the best way to respond to that kind of objectifying of women would be to quietly see to it that the following issue had a cover featuring a studly, bare-chested himbo with a loincloth barely concealing a male attribute that could be seen in the next county … but no. Honestly, there are days … ever more increasing of late where I am embarrassed to be considered a feminist. Mainstream feminists seem to have become nasty, joyless, judgmental man-haters – every bit a parody of themselves. So much for equal education and opportunities without regard to sex.

Political correctness and indeed anything political is a blight upon writer’s groups, as I soon discovered upon moderating a now-mostly-moribund discussion group of independent authors creating genre historical fiction. (Moribund because just about all the original authors got what they wanted to get from the group and had not much interest in going over and over and over old ground. Look, most of the original members had other interests – like in writing more books?) I wish I had a sale of a book for every time I had to descend on a discussion with my sledge-hammer of loving correction (a phrase which I stole from another author’s blog, which is only ironic because s/he turned out to be … oh, never mind.) Anyway, among the perpetrators of historical fiction there are as many flavors of political orientation as there are among those who write genre science fiction; and to paraphrase of one of the bloggers who has posted about the SFWA imbroglio, ranges across the scale, from those who are so far right that they are laying on their right side, to those so far left that they lay on their left side… OK, then. The thing that I kept pounding on and on again in the IAG was that regardless, we were there for our books and our writing. Everything else was secondary, or even tertiary.

What was unsaid was that any kind of political correctness litmus test applied to membership in the group would have pretty well reduced the membership by a third to a half … and thereby reduced the useful advice available to everyone – and some of those whose political views I knew from private communications to be pretty far out there – were also the most experienced when it came to writing, the technical aspects of publishing and marketing. This is what I fear is going to happen to the SFWA; the organization will diminish and go into the West as a tight little club of conformists who agree on an established dogma … and writers who do not toe the line will be cast into the outer darkness.
Which, when it comes to indy-writing and publishing your books yourself, is not all that bad place to be.