The SFWA Decoder Ring

Apropos of nothing, I just want the world to know that I own a SFWA decoder ring, and I love it.

Mine is first-generation. I got one of the last ones before they sold out. SFWA produced another run after that, and I saw quite a few in use at the last Nebula Awards Conference (there were secret messages scattered around the conference space). I don’t know the financials, but as far as fundraisers go, it was a ton of fun, and I have a hard time believing it was revenue-losing.

So, yes, I’m a fan of SFWA. I’m the guy who produced the “I Love SFWA, Dammit!” badge ribbon, in fact. I joined as soon as I was eligible. I did not do so for bragging rights (I’m not sure I even made a public announcement about it, and most of my friends really don’t care which professional organizations I am and am not a member of). I did so because a then-member of the SFWA board dropped by my LiveJournal (yes, LiveJournal) post wondering if membership was worthwhile and outlined the many benefits of joining. For me, access to a community of professional writers is worth the annual membership dues.

You see, everything that gets published is, whether we intend it to be or not, in conversation with everything else that gets published. Knowing what is currently on people’s minds, what the trends are in the industry, the general zeitgeist, is invaluable to any writer. We are stronger writers when we are plugged in. SFWA does that for me.

And, of course, SFWA does many other great things for other writers. I support the Emergency Medical Fund as much as I can, though I’ve never needed it and hopefully never will (having insurance through my husband’s job). Griefcom has helped a good many of my friends, though I’ve never needed them myself. Writer Beware is an invaluable aid to the industry, and that one I have used. And this is only a few of SFWA’s services.

SFWA’s role in the industry is mysterious to many – including some great writers whose craft is beyond reproach. SFWA is not, for example, a union. It’s illegal in the United States for a professional organization to operate as one. Do I sometimes wish that SFWA could function more in that capacity? Yes. But that’s a matter for Congress.

And many people want it to do things that it currently does not. And here’s where we run into the problem of all-volunteer organizations. It can only do what it has someone willing to volunteer their time to do. The sheer volume of work that SFWA does, all done by people with at least one other career, staggers my mind. These volunteers are heroes. And if SFWA is ever not doing things I think SFWA should be doing… well, that’s my cue to step up and offer my services.

Also apropos of nothing, yes, there have been resignations from SFWA’s board. These have occurred in the past with a greater frequency than some other organizations experience. They have also occurred with less frequency than other organizations experience. It would be disingenuous of me to attribute motive to any of those who have resigned beyond what they themselves have stated publicly.

But what I don’t think they have anything to do with is the decision to allow indie writers to join SFWA. Our most recent resignation was, in fact, from a writer who indie publishes himself. To be honest, the industry has changed to the point where the midlist is vanishing in traditional houses and indie writers are replacing them as the folks who count their book sales in the thousands (and, incidentally, are making more money doing it than the midlisters used to). These indies are very much working pros. If SFWA were ever to go back to requiring people to prove they’re still actively publishing to remain active members, I suspect that it would be indies who would dominate the organization’s active roles.

But that’s a meaningless digression. It has nothing at all to do with the decoder ring.

I love my decoder ring.

I just wanted you all to know that.

#SFWAPro

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