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SFWA Presidential Election Thoughts

Snoopy

Warning: SFWA business and potential drama ahead!

SFWA elections are coming up again soon, and after three terms, President John Scalzi has announced that he’s done trying to herd this particular clowder of cats. Knowing how difficult writers can be, I can’t imagine how he’s done it for this long, but he has my thanks for his work and service, and for helping to push through some important changes.

The first person to announce his candidacy for SFWA president was Theodore Beale, aka Vox Day. Steven Gould has also tossed his hat into the ring. I knew Gould as the author of Jumper, among other things, and we’re on at least one mailing list together. Beale’s name was vaguely familiar, but I couldn’t remember where I had heard it. So I went looking…

What I found raised some concerns. Beale is a prolific blogger, and has written such pieces as Women Ruin Everything, in which he he starts out talking about Title IX and moves onto politics. He writes, apparently in all seriousness:

Orwell put it beautifully.  All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.  And the Sports Guy put it even better: women ruin everything.

Do you really think it was an accident that women were never permitted any voice in the governance of the Roman Republic or the great historical democracies such as Athens, Thebes, Imperial Britain, and Revolutionary America?  Do you really believe it to be a mere coincidence that many modern democracies, including Germany, Italy, and the member states of the European Union, were not able to survive even 100 years of female suffrage?

He also writes columns for WND, such as this one titled Why women’s rights are wrong:

I very much like women and wish them well, which is precisely why I consider women’s rights to be a disease that should be eradicated.

Or this one, wherein he describes the real threat to science:

But this is not to say there is not a genuine threat to all three aspects of science today. Unsurprisingly, it comes from the same force that is the primary threat to the survival of Western civilization: female equalitarianism.

Beale also has a history of referring to current SFWA president John Scalzi as “McRapey.” In case that was too subtle, he also titled his first such post John Scalzi is a Rapist. (Beale also talks about how rapists are more likely to vote Democratic, because one third of all forcible rapists are black.)

I wonder if the SFWA will be concerned that their current president is an admitted rapist or if they’ll take the approach towards him that NOW and the other feminist groups did towards Bill Clinton.  Of course, unlike Scalzi, Clinton never admitted to being a rapist … Wait, he claims his confession is satire?  Well, that might fool anyone unfamiliar with the concept of blown cover as cover.

He was recently asked about the value of SFWA on his blog

VD, any value with the SFWA?

Considerable entertainment value, but other than that, not so much.

Which does tend to reinforce my gut feeling that he’s running for president for the laughs. He’s been toying with the idea of running for SFWA president for several years now. Back in 2010, after quoting a hateful rant about Wiscon, he joked (at least, I assume this is supposed to be a joke):

I feel inspired to run against John Scalzi for SFWA President next year. My platform is going to involve disenfranchising all of the female members and endorsing a Federal law banning women from writing any science fiction or fantasy that does not contain vampires or wereseals and comes with a warning label: WARNING: this is Vampire/Wereseal fiction, not actual science fiction or fantasy.

Now, Beale has argued that just because people think he’s an asshole and disagree with his personal beliefs doesn’t mean he’d be a bad leader. There’s some truth to this. But in this case, I believe his personal beliefs and proclamations would seriously interfere with his ability to lead the organization. The president of SFWA has to be able to work with others on the board and within the organization. I’ve seen nothing to suggest his ability to do this, particularly when others disagree with him. Nor do I trust him to treat members with respect, particularly if those members happen to have the “wrong” chromosomal pair.

As president, Beale would be the public face of the organization. He would have to work with a board made of up people who might not be white or male or straight, and who might not always agree with him. And my sense is that this is a disaster waiting to happen.

The first five points of his platform for SFWA presidency are here.

#

Steven Gould has posted his platform and qualifications as a SF/F author here.

I don’t actually have that much to say about his candidacy, save that he seems to have a realistic sense of the internal and external challenges facing the organization, has shared and supported ideas for moving SFWA forward, and certainly has a strong SF/F background.

For me though, one of Gould’s strongest qualifications is that he’s not Theodore Beale.

#

For those of you who are members of SFWA, please take some time to read through the discussion forums, review the Q&A with the candidates as well as their platforms, and vote.

Note: There’s a good chance this post will attract trolls. I don’t plan on moderating the comments here, and I suggest not engaging with any trolls who do show up. I’m hopeful things will stay civilized, but if not, well, they say you can judge a man by the company he keeps…

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( 111 comments — Leave a comment )
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matthewsrotundo
Feb. 1st, 2013 03:23 pm (UTC)
As I've said elsewhere, Jim, Beale has no chance of winning, and I think he's smart enough to know this.

In fact, I think he's counting on it. After he loses, he'll point to the election results and say, "See? Evil libruls and women are ruining SFWA, just like they ruin everything else!"

Boringly predictable.
jimhines
Feb. 1st, 2013 03:28 pm (UTC)
Oh, I'm almost certain you're right, and I fully expect him to get trounced when the votes come in.

But it's the "almost" that makes me twitchy, and made me decide to go ahead and post this.
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joncwriter
Feb. 1st, 2013 03:28 pm (UTC)
I admit I have little sway on this, considering I'm nowhere near being able to joing SFWA yet, but I'd hate to see Mr. Day/Beale actually winning. Not so much because of his obviously aimed-at-shock-value misogynist views (more like misanthropic...a sample of his other blog entries makes me feel he just likes hating other people in general), but that he obviously wouldn't take the position seriously at all.

And as is obvious in countless examples in history, when a reasonably strong and steady foundation hires someone incompetent and ineffectual as its leader, things more often than not go downhill fast.

On a more serious note, I'd like to think that a lot of SFWA members are smart enough not to let that happen. ;)
jimhines
Feb. 1st, 2013 03:35 pm (UTC)
I suspect he's going to lose by a tremendous margin, but we'll see what happens.
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dickgloucester
Feb. 1st, 2013 03:45 pm (UTC)
Ratcheting my jaw back up off the floor here.
stillnotbored
Feb. 1st, 2013 03:51 pm (UTC)
If I've learned anything about politics in this country over the last 12 years, it's to never underestimate people like Mr. Beale and their ability to attract votes.

Which is why I shelled out the money and joined SFWA, just to vote against him. This female fantasy writer may not know a wereseal from a wereweasel posing with a flaming sword, but I do know how to vote.
jimhines
Feb. 1st, 2013 04:00 pm (UTC)
Now I want to see if I can work a wereweasel with a flaming sword into Codex Born...
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muizenstaartje
Feb. 1st, 2013 03:53 pm (UTC)
I haven't heard of Beale before. Is he a troll?
chris_gerrib
Feb. 1st, 2013 03:55 pm (UTC)
Well, yes he is a troll, but he's apparently gone professional.
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jakobdrud
Feb. 1st, 2013 04:03 pm (UTC)
Using a broad, essentially non-partisan organization for advancing personal political hobbyhorses (loathsome as these are or otherwise)... Do I hear 'ego'?

Give him a blog instead. (And may it be spammed!)
jimhines
Feb. 1st, 2013 04:08 pm (UTC)
He does have a blog, with a pretty good-sized readership, as I understand it. So I don't know that he's running for SFWA as a way to advance his personal hobbyhorses.

That said, I've been unable to figure out why he *is* running...
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lee_martindale
Feb. 1st, 2013 04:19 pm (UTC)
Ah, yes. Mr. Beale. When I decided to run for re-election as SFWA South-Central Regional Director, someone asked me what I would do if Mr. Beale won the Presidential election. I replied, "Ask my friends to start a bail fund."
cypherindigo
Feb. 1st, 2013 04:25 pm (UTC)
OK, I read Mr. Beale's things that you referenced and many of the comments; and now I feel like I need a shower.

Ick.
tully01
Feb. 2nd, 2013 09:41 pm (UTC)
It can take more than one shower to get the stench off.
barbarienne
Feb. 1st, 2013 04:28 pm (UTC)
What I am bothered by is that only one other person stepped up to run. I don't know if Gould's candidacy is truly in response to the bet he had with Scalzi, or if he was going to run anyway, but the possibility that Beale could have run unopposed makes me piss myself.
jimhines
Feb. 1st, 2013 04:31 pm (UTC)
My understanding -- and I could be wrong -- is that Gould was pretty much planning to run, and then decided to turn the official "I will run for SFWA office!" into a fundraising goal as part of the Jay Lake Acts of Whimsy fundraiser.

Whether it's a wise idea to start your candidacy as an "Act of Whimsy" could definitely be debated, but my sense is that he was intending to run anyway. Though the other candidate may have solidified that intention.
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beccastareyes
Feb. 1st, 2013 04:54 pm (UTC)
Is Beale even a member of the SFWA? I've mostly heard of him as a Well Known Internet Pain in the Butt, but has he written any (intentional) science fiction or fantasy?
jimhines
Feb. 1st, 2013 04:58 pm (UTC)
He is, yes. A lifetime member, I believe.

I haven't looked into what his qualifying sales were.
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delkytlar
Feb. 1st, 2013 05:35 pm (UTC)
Thanks for posting this, Jim. I heard Beale was running, but nothing about opposition. I think Steven is a very good candidate. He's a pro who is respected by his peers, and he happens to be a great guy in general. I optimistic that he'll manage the win, and do good things for SFWA.
burger_eater
Feb. 1st, 2013 05:57 pm (UTC)
At this point, Gould's platform could include funneling ten percent of members' dues into a salary for the president and making the Nebula a jury award with himself as sole juror and he'd still get my vote.
naomikritzer
Feb. 1st, 2013 06:10 pm (UTC)
WORD.
nojojojo
Feb. 1st, 2013 06:18 pm (UTC)
For all the people pooh-poohing the possibility that someone like Beale could win -- seriously, ya'll, please remember this is SFWA we're talking about. Until very recently it was an organization whose most prominent and vocal members were very much in the omg girl & gay cooties and diversity? whassat? camps. These are the people who toxified the old Asimov's forum and a whole lot of other SFF watering holes, and generally made my early years as an SFF fan and writer who was a woman of color, hell. These people are not dead. They've learned to STFU (sometimes) because the blogosphere/social mediaverse is less tolerant of their bigotry and willful, harmful cluelessness than the old newsgroup and early internet culture was, but they're still members with voting rights and a lot of them still believe the same ignorant shit -- moreso, really, because now they feel beleaguered for having to consider other people, gasp, before they talk. I have no idea what percentage of the org's membership they constitute, but I doubt their numbers are insignificant.

SFWA, and SFFdom in general, has made great strides away from this past over the last few years -- but it hasn't been that long since those bad old days, and it could easily backslide. If it does, I'll simply do what I did back then, and not be a member. I didn't join for years after I qualified -- 'til Scalzi decided to run, really, because his platform convinced me there was a slim hope for reform. But backsliding is still very, very possible, and if it does, then I see no reason not to just let it burn. Not like those of us who got tired of waiting for SFWA to grow up haven't gone off to do our own thing anyway.
swan_tower
Feb. 1st, 2013 06:25 pm (UTC)
I have a shred of hope that (most of) the people who are fine with his bigotry will be put off by his contempt for SFWA itself -- after all, that's an insult that hits them where they live. If he could bring himself to pretend he cares about the org, he'd probably get a lot more votes.

Unfortunately.
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deborahjross
Feb. 1st, 2013 06:24 pm (UTC)
Wow, I had no idea. I will consider this carefully.
tbonejenkins
Feb. 1st, 2013 06:39 pm (UTC)
I'm only a pro sale away from becoming eligible to join, but I'm doing my part to drum up support for Steve Gould, who was my instructor at VP and is an all around great guy. Hopefully, the right person will be elected. I'm watching this whole with a very close eye.
temporus
Feb. 1st, 2013 06:40 pm (UTC)
I wish I qualified for SFWA membership, but I don't yet. I would gladly vote for Steven Gould. He's exceptionally level-headed, kind, and seems to have a clear vision (having read his platform) for what he'd like to see accomplished with the organization. I didn't know until recently that VD was running, and frankly, that clown wouldn't affect my decision. I would vote for Steven Gould because I think he'd do a good job, and is a good candidate.
aliettedb
Feb. 1st, 2013 07:29 pm (UTC)
I will *so* be voting in this election.
badgermirlacca
Feb. 1st, 2013 07:46 pm (UTC)
O. M. G.

I looked up some of your links, and then found this discussion. Normally I take wikis with a large chunk of salt, but the list of sources provided speaks for itself.

This is why I left SFWA and joined NINC.
joenotcharles
Feb. 1st, 2013 08:51 pm (UTC)
Sorry, not following. What about this made you leave the SFWA?
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calico_reaction
Feb. 1st, 2013 08:35 pm (UTC)
Have you ever thought about running yourself?
jimhines
Feb. 1st, 2013 08:38 pm (UTC)
It has been suggested more than once, but there's no way I'd have the time or mental/emotional energy to do the job well right now.
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sylvia_rachel
Feb. 1st, 2013 08:37 pm (UTC)
WOW that is a horrifying dude. (At least, his online persona is horrifying.) Although I'm not sure the people commenting on his blog aren't even more horrifying.

I note that at WND, he is describes himself as a "Christian libertarian". I've seen that a few times before, and I don't understand it. IANA Christian, but isn't Jesus supposed to have been a big fan of helping other people, taking care of one another, and giving away your stuff to those worse off than you? You'd think the cognitive dissonance of trying to worship Jesus and Ayn Rand simultaneously would make his head explode.

If I qualified for SFWA membership yet, which unfortunately I don't, I would join for the sole purpose of voting for the other guy.
jimhines
Feb. 2nd, 2013 01:39 am (UTC)
A lot of people seem to have gotten a very different idea about Christianity than I did growing up...
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lenora_rose
Feb. 1st, 2013 10:53 pm (UTC)
Of course he doesn't meantion the " My platform is going to involve disenfranchising all of the female members and endorsing a Federal law banning women from writing any science fiction or fantasy that does not contain vampires or wereseals and comes with a warning label: WARNING: this is Vampire/Wereseal fiction, not actual science fiction or fantasy." tidbit anywhere in his post on his platform (someone does in the comments and is, as far as I dared read, ignored). I think if someone were to read his platform alone, and know nothing else, he might look like he means it seriously.

The thing about that particular tidbit is that it shows he doesn't actually know what powers the SFWA president has. Because any attempt to convince SF editors to reject stories by women (Except under those caveats) would result in immense laughter in the office. Even if EVERY single member of SFWA and not just its president, claimed to endorse it. It would go out the window at the first brilliant or highly salable MS from a female writer crossed someone's desk. Or even the thought that one might. As for the people responsible for enacting federal law...

And then there's the ultimate judge. The readers.

What amused me was that I could still get at least one novel published as is under that caveat, and it's one that one of my beta readers told me needed to be sold, because it was different and deep and important. :)
lenora_rose
Feb. 1st, 2013 10:56 pm (UTC)
Oh, and I should have said. Another VP Alumnus who can speak to Gould's awesome as a person (and I like his books!). I know awesome as a person doesn't necessarily translate to qualified for presidency of an organization, but his contributions to SF include more than writing books, he's genuinely interested in supporting other writers.
corinneduyvis
Feb. 2nd, 2013 12:04 am (UTC)
I should not have clicked those links. And I should definitely not have read those comments. That was incredibly, incredibly depressing.

Thanks for sharing this, and I hope it spurs people on to vote.

I saw up-thread that you don't have the time and mental energy to run for SFWA president right now, which I 100% understand and respect, but FWIW, I think you'd be fantastic. (Meant as a compliment, not a nudge.)
jimhines
Feb. 2nd, 2013 01:36 am (UTC)
Taken as a compliment, and thank you.
azarsuerte
Feb. 2nd, 2013 12:09 am (UTC)
...you know, if I remember right, Jumper was one of the books I was thinking of picking up at Borders the day I decided to buy The Stepsister Scheme instead because, while I'd never heard of this Jim Hines fellow, it looked like fun.

Clearly I made the right call. :-o
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peachtales
Feb. 3rd, 2013 05:34 pm (UTC)
Another idiot for the grumpy old bastard camp. Icky.
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