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SFWA President's Message
What Crazy Position is SFWA Taking This Time?
by Robert J. Sawyer
Copyright © 1998 by
Robert J. Sawyer
All Rights Reserved.
Originally published in
Bulletin of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America,
SFWA is a democracy, and it practices and promotes free speech.
But statements made by SFWA members are not SFWA policy
statements. Since taking office as SFWA President, I've managed
to woo some ex-members back into the fold, but it's amazing to me
how many of them, and even how many current members, have
completely false ideas about SFWA's position on various issues.
In point of fact, on most issues SFWA has no official opinion
whatsoever and we never take a policy stand on artistic
So, let's say this loudly and clearly: SFWA has never, ever made
any policy statement against work-made-for-hire or media tie-ins.
Honest to God, the organization never has. And yet the belief is
pervasive that SFWA has articulated a position against such works
and/or the writers who produce them. No such statement exists:
not as a passed motion by the Board of Directors, not as a passed
motion at a business meeting of the corporation, not as a
President's Statement in either the Forum (our private
newsletter) or the Bulletin, not in a SFWA press release.
We've never had a motion made to condemn work-for-hire writers,
or to decry their work. Yes, Norman Spinrad did make a motion at
the Worldcon in Scotland three years ago proposing that
work that was not entirely the author's own creation (such as
most work-made-for-hire and all media tie-ins) should not
be accepted as a credential for joining SFWA (that was all
never once has any motion been made to bar those who do work for
hire from being SFWA members, or to condemn those who do such work;
everything you've heard to the contrary
is a corruption of Norman's much-narrower motion).
Norman put a lot of thought into his proposal, and he was
perfectly within his rights to put it in front of the membership.
But a proposal is not a policy; lots of motions are made in SFWA,
and this one was withdrawn with good grace by Norman himself
after hearing persuasive arguments about why it was not a good
idea it never even went as far as being put to a vote since
there was clearly no support whatsoever for it.
And yet leading up to that meeting, and now, still, three years
later, we hear how SFWA was against work for hire. No: we
simply encourage our members to talk freely and to propose ideas
at our business meetings, in the Forum, online, and
elsewhere. But it should always be remembered that none of these
statements, unless adopted by the membership or the Board of
Directors through a formal process, are SFWA policy.
The damage done to this corporation's credibility by the constant
hand-wringing, the constant cries of "who is SFWA trying to kick
out this time?" and "SFWA is against media tie-ins" has been
incalculable. Next time you hear that SFWA is doing something
outrageous, don't believe it. In thirty-three years of effective
writers' advocacy, we've never yet taken an outrageous position,
and we aren't about to start. As for what positions SFWA is
taking, you will hear about them here: in our official public
organ, the Bulletin of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers
Nebula Award-winning author Robert J. Sawyer is President of the
Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America; he also founded SFWA's
Canadian Region. His latest novel is
Factoring Humanity from Tor.
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