Last week I mentioned SFWA without any explanation. The omission was intentional, as it really had nothing to do with that discussion of copyright. However, this seems like a good time to fill in the details.
SFWA is the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America; as they modestly describe themselves, “a professional organization for authors of science fiction, fantasy and related genres.” The organization acts as a trade group for its members. As such, it provides information and resources, mentorship, promotion, and a collective voice on matters of concern to the membership. Examples include ongoing negotiations with publishers to improve industry standards and a grievance committee that helps individual authors with contractual disputes; private, member-only forums and similar communication channels; and an educational outreach arm (“AboutSF”) that promotes the reading and study of science fiction to librarians and teachers.
The annual Nebula awards, arguably the most prestigious award in science fiction is run by SFWA. (The perhaps better-known Hugo is awarded by fan vote, whereas the Nebula is awarded by vote of SFWA’s membership. For purposes of comparison, consider the People’s Choice Awards in contrast to the Oscars, Emmys, or Grammys.) Keep in mind that I did say “arguably”; I suspect if it were possible to quantify prestige, the Hugo would score higher than the People’s Choice Award. But I digress.
Not every professional writer working in science fiction or related fields is a member of SFWA (as I write this, the membership directory shows approximately 1800 entries), but those who are, IMNSHO, the ones who have demonstrated a concern for the genre they work in. SFWA is very much devoted to the concept of “pay it back by paying it forward”; they note on the website that the farther along in your career path a writer becomes, the less SFWA has to offer, but writers still join and help raise the next generation.
And SFWA’s members are working professionals. To join, individuals must have sold a work to a publisher on a curated list of qualified professional markets – fan, self, or vanity publications are not sufficient. Full active membership requires either multiple short story publications or one novel publication. An associate membership requires at least one short story publication, and even an affiliate membership for non-writers requires demonstrated evidence of professional work in an allied field and references from active members.
So what’s the relevance here?
As those of you who have been following this blog from the beginning (was that really only two months ago? It seems much longer!) or who have taken the time to peruse the FAQ know, I’m out to become a writer. This blog is intended to give me an outlet for practicing my trade: as I said in an early post, I’m using it to force myself to produce something every weekday, to try a variety of things, and to find my voice. Given my long history as a reader of science fiction and fantasy, it was almost inevitable that I would want to write it. I respect and admire SFWA and its members for the work it has done in promoting science fiction and fantasy, and I lust after the resources they offer to the journeymen just getting started.
Today I’ve taken the next step in my own journey, and have submitted a short piece to a SFWA-qualified publisher. I’ll keep you all informed of any progress, but don’t expect to hear anything soon: quoted response times seem to run somewhere around 2-4 months. (One site specializing in tracking SF/F/H publishers notes that publisher’s stated response time is typically for rejections – acceptances take longer – and tend to be optimistic.) If it is accepted, I will be joining SFWA; if not, I’ll keep trying.
And, of course, the best way to improve my odds, and the only way to advance beyond “Associate” is to maintain a steady stream of new submissions. I’ll be working on that, starting tomorrow. Keep your fingers crossed!