SFWA, sexism in SFF and missing the point

June 4, 2013

I really wanted to avoid posting about this. So many other people are addressing the issues very well and I don’t really have much to add. If you’re not sure what’s happening, suffice to say that two old guys who are members of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America wrote a piece in the official publication, the SFWA Bulletin, that is astounding in its prehistoric approach to gender and dealing with justifiable complaints. If you want a good breakdown of what happened, Foz Meadows does an excellent deconstruction here (and she includes many relevant links). And honestly, if you throw a virtual dart anywhere near the SFF community online at the moment, you’ll hit something to do with it.

I’m not a SFWA member, although I think I do qualify. I can’t actually be bothered to check. Suffice to say that I’m not really interested in being part of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, as I’m a British-Australian writer. I really wish they would change that A to stand for Association, as they are a global entity in most respects and it would be great to see that reflected in the name. But that’s not the issue here.

It’s also worth mentioning that on the whole SFWA does excellent things and is a great organisation. The current President is John Scalzi and he’s a stand-up guy who is definitely on point when it comes to pretty much any issues rife in the community today. As a result of the Resnick/Malzberg debacle, Scalzi immediately went into action and did two things:

1. “authorized a task force, headed up by SFWA Vice President Rachel Swirsky, to look at the role of the Bulletin within the organization moving forward”;


2. “as the person who by our bylaws is responsible for publications, I took responsibility for events and opened up a channel for people to comment and criticize”

Those quotes are from his official presidential statement here. He made them the other way around, but I want to concentrate on the responsibility issue, so I quoted that one second.

That response is an excellent start. And Scalzi goes on to reiterate and clarify how much he’s taking responsibility for the article. He talks about how he didn’t give it a thorough read for content (and as he’s not the editor, that’s no surprise). He says, regarding the lack of checking, “This did not happen. I as publisher gave the go-ahead – and once again, the responsibility for the event, and the offense it caused, falls on me.”

You can read the extensive explanations and apology in the presidential statement I linked above. But this is all missing one really fucking significant point. At no point has any mention been made about Resnick and Malzberg, the men who wrote the offensive article.

It’s all very well Scalzi taking responsibility and apologising, but he’s only really apologising for publishing it. Where’s the apology for writing it? Where’s the promise that Resnick and Malzberg are going to be counselled by the organisation for whom they wrote on just why they’ve upset so many people. If SFWA wants to be seen as responding well to things like this, it needs to try to change the archaic attitudes of the men who are being so offensive. And while it’s unlikely those people will change their perceptions, the attempt must be publicly made. An apology from those people for writing the offensive article would mean a lot more than the apology by the president for publishing it.

It’s quite possible those people have apologised and I’ve missed it. I couldn’t find such an apology. It’s possible the organisation has said it will hold them to task for their offensive article, but I can’t find that either, nor is it part of the official presidential response. Unless an apology is made for the content, SFWA are seriously missing the fucking point of all the outrage. I would really like to be proved wrong here, so please point me in the direction of that proof if you can. I’m quite prepared to accept that I might have missed something.


Site slightly bolloxed

May 25, 2013

Apologies all. This site is going through a theme upgrade and there’s going to be a few glitches along the way. Hopefully it’ll all be fixed up ASAP, but we’re only human. Well, barely human.

Everything should still work even if things look a bit wonky.


How to help an author

February 7, 2013

You all want to help out the authors whose work you love, right? Course you do. It’s really easy and anyone who’s listened to me crapping on for more than about thirty seconds will have heard this before, but here it is again anyway. Cos it’s important motherflipping stuff and really very simple. Try to make it a habit. In this modern realm of social media, it’s an easy habit to form. Plus, this time it’s presented in a nice graphic.

tumblr mhswu58H9a1rry0wno1 500 How to help an author

Pass it on.


Ellen Datlow and ChiZine horror anthology Kickstarter

January 7, 2013

People, pay attention! There are only three days left to get behind this amazing project and it’s already over 90% funded. Editor extraordinaire, Ellen Datlow, is teaming up with ChiZine Publications to put together an unthemed anthology of short horror fiction called Fearful Symmetries, and the whole thing is happening via Kickstarter.

Three things that make this awesome:

1. Ellen Datlow

2. ChiZine Publications


Seriously, an anthology of unthemed horror put together by Ellen Datlow will be amazing, no question.

As it’s being Kickstartered, there are loads of rewards for various levels of contribution, and some of those rewards are simply fantastic.

Go here now: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/191888411/fearful-symmetries-an-anthology-of-horror

Get on board, even the smallest donations help. Let’s make sure this thing happens.


Awesome friends are awesome

November 12, 2012

A unexpected parcel arrived in the post today and it turned out to be a generous gift from a caring friend. When something has helped a talented friend and that friend shares it in the hope it helps you, that’s some damned touching stuff right there.

I won’t embarrass my friend by naming them, but you know who you are. Thanks!

Give books, because it makes you awesome. This is what I got:

20121112 231304 Awesome friends are awesome

Stephen King with a truthy truth

August 12, 2012

20120812 002632 Stephen King with a truthy truth

Goodreads Best Horror Novellas list

July 29, 2012

You’re a member of Goodreads, right? www.goodreads.com You really should be. It’s a brilliant site, excellent for cataloging your reading. It’s one of the best places to do just about the best thing you can do for authors – rate and review their work.

I’ve said this many times, but it bears repeating because it really does make a difference. If you enjoy a book, spend a few minutes at places like Goodreads and Amazon and rate and review that book. It doesn’t have to be much. Even single lines like:

Great horror novel, highly recommended.


A fast-paced, exciting read.

Anything like that. Along with a star rating, it really helps an author’s work get noticed. And if you like an author’s work, you really want them to get noticed, because that means they’ll build a career and make more work. Everybody wins!

And at the moment over at Goodreads there’s a list of the best horror novellas of 2012. My novella, The Darkest Shade Of Grey, is on the list. If you’ve read it and you liked it, I’d love your vote.

And while you’re there, a line or two in review and a star rating would be extra awesome. The same goes for my other books if you’ve enjoyed them too. I’ll love you extra special hard if you do rate and review my work – all authors love their readers more when they do that.

The Best Horror Novella list is here: http://www.goodreads.com/list/show/22066.Best_Horror_Novellas_of_2012


My kind of lounge room

May 11, 2012

I want this so badly…

20120511 225023 My kind of lounge room

A bit of holy word abuse

May 11, 2012

It’s been a while since I had a nonsensical church sign here, but this one amused me today. In fact, it really confused me – it doesn’t make any sense at all. It doesn’t even rhyme.

Is it an oblique reference to accidental pregnancy? Because, let’s be honest, any of life’s blunders are rarely wonderful.

I don’t even…

20120511 101744 A bit of holy word abuse

Paul Richard Haines 8 June 1970 – 5 March 2012

March 5, 2012

Paul Richard Haines 8 June 1970 – 5 March 2012

I’m writing this with tears running down my cheeks, and they’re tears of impotent fucking rage as much as sadness. I may make very little sense over the next few paragraphs, but I can’t do anything else, so I’m writing this down. Excuse me if I rant and ramble, feel free to ignore this. Today my friend and writing inspiration, Paul Haines, died of cancer, after a battle of incredible determination and will. I can’t express enough my sympathy and condolences to his wife, Jules, and their little girl, Isla, as well as to the rest of their family.

Seriously, FUCK CANCER. Paul was a brilliant writer, as his plethora of awards testifies. He was a fearless and powerful writer, who addressed every aspect of humanity in his stories. Nothing was out of bounds for Paul, and his work got under the skin of everyone who read it. And it will stay there. He wrote one of the single best stories I have ever read, or probably ever will, Wives – originally published in X6 and reprinted in his latest collection.

And Paul was one of the nicest people you could ever meet. Generous, friendly and funny as fuck, we laughed a lot in the times we spent together. Foul, crass, hilarious and sharply clever. He shared of himself and his time so generously. I am a better writer now than I might ever have been thanks to Paul’s help. The story being serialised right now is one he helped me with. He tore that sucker to shreds and helped me turn an okay story into what I think is one of the best things I’ve ever written. Because of Paul.

When he offered to crit that story for me, I expected a read-through and an email or phone call with a handful of suggestions and areas to look at. He sent me an email with dozens of bullet points, a full breakdown of issues he had and things I could improve on, with this 18,000 word novelette.

That email exchange ended up being over twenty messages back and forth to get that story where it is today. That’s how generous a friend Paul was.

My latest novel, not published yet, was something else Paul helped me with. Even struggling with cancer, hardly able to do anything with his own writing, he offered to read my latest manuscript and crit it for me. He asked me to print it out and post it down, so he could read it while lying on the couch resting, as he wasn’t able to spend long periods in front of his computer. He sent it back a few weeks later, covered in scribbled notes and accompanied by a thirteen page typed up critique. This is the kind of friend Paul was – someone who would do something like that while he was fucking dying and could, even should, have saved his energy. But he wanted to do it, because that’s the kind of friend and writer he was.

Throughout Paul’s fight against his cancer he was his open, candid self. He posted every stage of his illness on his blog, posted all about the highs and lows and the effect it was having on him, with no punches pulled or gruesome details gently couched in euphemism. Just like his writing. I’ve experienced way too much terminal illness in my life and whether you have or haven’t in yours (and I hope you haven’t) go and read Paul’s blog posts to get an idea of what terminal illness is really like. It’s not like the movies, where some beautiful actor gets to have a life like normal right up to the end and then gently whisper from their death bed before slipping away.

It’s real, visceral horror. It’s suffering and pain and rage and it does its best to strip away a person’s dignity. It reduces great people to husks, mere shadows of their former selves. It rips apart the sufferer and their family from the inside and tears the guts out of life for everyone concerned. But if you want any idea of how to cope with the evil, fucked up shit that terminal illness is, read Paul’s account. Anyone who shows a fraction of Paul’s strength and dignity, and that of his family, is doing pretty well for themselves in a situation with no redeeming aspects whatsoever.

I’m not surprised by Paul’s death, we knew it was coming. If anything, what’s surprising is that he lasted this long. Another testament to his strength and determination. His doctors were worried he wouldn’t make Christmas and Paul made it his primary mission to survive that long, to spend one more Christmas with his beautiful wife and child. He did that and more.

When things got that bad, I dropped everything and drove down to visit him, before it was too late, in early December. That was the last time I saw Paul. I regret not being geographically closer, so I might have spent more time with him, but I’m so glad I got to spend that afternoon with him. He was at peace with his situation. Of course he didn’t want to go, of course he was angry and upset and terrified of how his wife and child would cope when he went, but he seemed to have reached an acceptance and only wanted to hang on as long as possible and get as much time with them as he could. And he did a good job of that. He hadn’t given up, would never give up, but his dignity and bravery were inspiring.

And my rage burns on. Incandescent fucking rage that there’s nothing any of us can do against the pervasive evil that is cancer. Rage that someone so kind, generous, loving, clever and talented should be taken so early, so far before his time. Paul’s career was just beginning to really hit its pro stride and it mystifies me to think what he might have achieved. He told me about his new novel idea, and it would have been amazing. But he had no strength or time to write it. Seriously, fuck cancer. Fuck it fuck it fuck it!

There will never be another one like Paul Haines. It hurts so much already, I miss him terribly. I can’t imagine the pain his family are going through now. But at least we’ll always have the amazing things he wrote to remember him by. His influence and contribution to writing, Australian and internationally, is undeniable. His influence on me will never be wasted, I won’t squander that gift.

Vale, Paul. Always loved, always treasured, never forgotten.

Fuck cancer.



EDIT 9th March 2012:

I’ve closed the comments on this post, and deleted all the comments that were posted. Initially I left the comments open – it didn’t occur to me to do anything different – and several comments came in that were very positive and supportive. Then one person posted something offensive and the comment thread quickly degenerated. I won’t remove the post – this was something heartfelt, written for and about Paul on the day he died. But I won’t let this post or his memory be sullied by petty bickering. So all the comments are gone.

“Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rage at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

Dylan Thomas



The website of author Alan Baxter

Alan Baxter, Author

Author of horror, dark fantasy & sci-fi. Kung Fu instructor. Personal Trainer. Motorcyclist. Dog lover. Gamer. Heavy metal fan. Britstralian. Misanthrope. Learn more about me and my work by clicking About Alan just below the header.

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