I am often asked the same basic question about SFWA that I am asked about Worldcon: “If you can’t go to the con, why are you buying a supporting membership, just to vote for the Hugos?”
Considering that this question is rarely, if ever preceded by an assumption that I might be doing so in support, or out of a sense of community, or even enlightened altruism (someday I’ll cash in my chips), does not speak well for the background or the environment that the questioner hails from.
But the world today is the world today and thus, an explanation that will sound hollow – perhaps even conspiratorial – to those of a suspicious nature.
I love Worldcon. I love WSFS. I love the Hugo Awards. I love the institution and the community behind it – not as individuals or personal experiences. I love the concept. So much so that even before the Hugo Voters Book Packet, I regularly purchased supporting memberships to Worldcons I could not attend.
This was not a waste of money. If I’d attended the convention, I’d have wasted even more money buying stuff from my friends in the dealers room, buying drinks or meals where appropriate, perhaps even giving some free space on my hotel room floor for indigent, deserving fans.
I also regularly promote Worldcon on the website, in both ads and copy (and sometimes even research), all of which is provided pro bono.
I have an affiliate membership in SFWA. (Why waste that money, you’re not even buying stories, let alone writing your own?!?). I’m going on my third year. (In fact, I give more cash annually to SFWA than I do Worldcon.)
Why? Because I love the institution. I love the idea of the institution. And maybe a little bit because it was SFWA and its President, Bob Silverberg, who selected the stories for the Science Fiction Hall of Fame, one of the original causes of my infatuation.
Many of us who were able to hear John Kennedy’s exhortation to ask “…what you can do for your country” took it to represent a global query: how can you make the world, or your small corner of it, a better place?
By contributing. By asking, first “how can I help?”, rather than “what’s in it for me?”
I remain convinced that which question a fan asks first largely determines – and distinguishes – Trufans from other fans. (Like the recent Dave Truesdale got kicked out of Worldcon happening: when Dave stood up to take advantage of his position as panel moderator to deliver an anti-SJW screed, Dave was acting from the “what’s in it for me?” side of the equation, not the “how can I help?” side. His ‘speech’ did not illuminate the audience, it did not set an interesting tone for discussion, it did not add energy from Dave to the convention, it attempted to suck energy from the con, to benefit Dave and or some other, outside group.)
Or like the recent Dragon Awards. I don’t know what the motivations of the Dragoncon people are, but the puppies who have publicly supported it mostly seem to do so from a ‘take away’ from a Fannish institution view, for the benefit of some other, external group. In the past, when others have felt that the Hugo awards were lacking in some regard, first they participated in Worldcon by lobbying and proposing change to WSFS and then – if frustrated – went on to ADD a new award to the pantheon. They didn’t say “vote for this new award instead of the Hugos”, they said “if you are interested in this aspect of SF that is not covered by the Hugos, here’s your chance”.
The above is one reason why I enjoy watching the WSFS business meeting – true democracy in action – and why I thoroughly enjoyed reading the Twice Annual report on the proceedings and activities of the professional arm of Fandom – SFWA.
I refer to The Binary report.
It contains notes from each of the serving officers, listing their accomplishments, their intentions, their failings(!!!) and corrective plans.
We bleat about wanting “transparency” from our elected officials. Let me tell you – until you’ve read the officer’s reports in The Binary, you won’t realize how opaque the so-called transparency you’ve been getting all of these years has been.
There are reports from the standing committees (including reports that there’s nothing to report – when was the last time you saw something like that from a public official?).
There’s reports on the various SFWA programs, both existent and new, not just on how well they are doing, but how members can take advantage of them.
There’s calls and opportunities for participation and volunteerism.
And an over-riding sense that it’s readers – the members of SFWA – are the sole and only purpose to which all of the recounted efforts are devoted.
Hmmmm. Maybe WSFS should steal a trick from SFWA and offer a similar kind of write up for its membership after a Worldcon. I know, the minutes of the Business Meeting are available in a shockingly short time frame after the convention, and there is always the video to go through, but that’s the raw data. Maybe a little more pedestrian exposition and explanation in summary form from those who were there would help the community, particularly those suspicious of the community, get a batter handle on just how badly they have misjudged things.