Wright Quits SFWA, Torgersen To Follow

John C. Wright has publicly resigned from SFWA. Wright has a dozen published novels, one a past Nebula nominee (2006). His work has been discussed in flattering terms by John Clute in the Science Fiction Encyclopedia and is frequently praised on Vox Day’s blog.

Wright’s announcement begins, “It is with no regret whatsoever that I rescind and renounce my membership in SFWA. I wish nothing more to do with the organization and no more contact with it.”

His reasons for leaving included the following complaints:

Instead of enhancing the prestige of the genre, the leadership seems bent on holding us up to the jeers of all fair-minded men by behaving as gossips, whiners, and petty totalitarians, and by supporting a political agenda irrelevant to science fiction.

Instead of men who treat each other with professionalism and respect, I find a mob of perpetually outraged gray-haired juveniles.

Instead of receiving aid to my writing career, I find organized attempts to harass my readers and hurt my sales figures.

Instead of finding an organization for the mutual support of Science Fiction writers, I find an organization for the support of Political Correctness.

Instead of friends, I find ideologues bent on jihad against all who do not meekly conform to their Orwellian and hellish philosophy.

Wright’s resignation prompted Brad R. Torgersen, a Hugo nominee in 2012 and a double-nominee in 2014 with an assist from Larry Coreia’s “Sad Puppies” campaign, to declare that he will be leaving SFWA too:

I’ve seen a mentor slandered, attacked, and thrown out of the Bulletin, and I’ve seen my editor straw-manned and maligned by one of SFWA’s darlings and former top officers. This is supposedly “my” professional organization, but in four years “my” organization has done just about all it could to make it clear to me that my participation in “my” organization was neither desired, nor necessary.

So, I won’t be sending them a check this year. I will instead focus my time on growing my career and entertaining my readers.

Former SFWA President Michael Capobianco answered Wright’s post with a bizarre comment absolving SFWA and blaming fandom for his complaints —

I just want to note that the recent Hugo-related kerfluffles have nothing to do with SFWA. SFWA does not have anything to do with WSFS or Worldcon, aside from hosting a SFWA Suite at the Worldcon. There’s a tendency to conflate SFWA with the SF community and/or SF fandom, and it’s unfortunate, in my opinion.

Wright immediately answered that the Hugo controversy had nothing to do with the timing of his resignation. And Capobianco should know the “recent Hugo-related kerfluffles [sic]” are a reaction to something done by a pro writer — Larry Correia – who orchestrated a bloc vote to get himself and his slate on the Hugo ballot.

38 thoughts on “Wright Quits SFWA, Torgersen To Follow

  1. I find it interesting that Wright states SFWA should be filled with “men who treat each other with professionalism and respect” rather than “people who treat each other with professionalism and respect.”

    One of Wright’s objections is that SFWA is “supporting a political agenda irrelevant to science fiction.” But using language that excludes all but men itself supports a political agenda irrelevant to science fiction.

  2. One could equally well say that using gender-neutral language supports a political agenda irrelevant to science fiction, since the practice comes out of an explicitly political movement. In which case, it does not appear that there is any way to write which doesn’t support an agenda — a point on which the original proponents of gender-neutral language would probably have agreed, but which does tend to render the complaint irrelevant.

  3. Not at all irrelevant to me. I’d much prefer SFWA be populated by “people” rather than only “men.” If you think it political to use speech that implies an organization is for all rather than just for some, so be it. I’d prefer my speech made that statement rather than the reverse.

  4. Wright’s big on tradition and part of that tradition is the use of “men” or “man” as the universal moniker for humanity. So when he’s using the term “man” he means “people”.

  5. He’s certainly free to believe that. But language evolves, and an insistence on sticking to the usage of an earlier time sends the same sort of political message he wishes the field to eschew.

    According to etymologist Philip Durkin:

    “The word man is now rare in the meaning ‘human being in general’ … Already in the 1800s it was largely confined to literary or proverbial use in this meaning, other words such as person or people being more commonly used instead.”

    We all, whether consciously or unconsciously, send political messages with our speech, and therefore we must decide which political message we wish to send. To me, the political message sent by hewing to that usage speaks volumes.

    It may seem odd that out of all the content of Wright’s post THAT’S the thing that bothered me the most, but there you have it. Whatever other message he wished me to hear didn’t reach me, because the hope of a SFWA of “men” rather than “people” isn’t a hope I share.

  6. So, Mr Edelman, you’ve demonstrated that Mr Wright is unfashionable in his use of language, nothing more than that. Anyone reading his work would have noticed other mild archaisms in his style.

    And yes, the word choice does, willy-nilly, send a “political message”, but assuming a writer’s message is “I don’t mean women” rather than “I won’t be dictated to by io9” is tendentious at least. I find it far more plausible that anyone claiming to read exclusion of women into Mr Wright’s text (again, rather than out-of-fashion word-choice) is being dishonest.

    (There were those on Twitter who claimed to read “offense [at] being asked to treat women and POC with respect” into Mr Wright’s statements. [Emphasis added.] This, of course, is a rather blatant use of #5 on Larry Correia’s Internet Arguing Checklist: “Make S——t Up”.)

  7. “who orchestrated a bloc vote to get himself and his slate on the Hugo ballot.”

    Unlike the other 90% of the authors and publishers out there….Oh wait…

  8. Correction: You write, “Wright immediately answered that the Hugo controversy had nothing to do with the timing of his resignation.” This is incorrect; Wright wrote, “The Worldcon kerfuffle merely defined the timing of my resignation, but were not the cause.”

  9. I can’t help but notice, Mr. Edelman, that rather than engage with anything that Wright said you’ve latched on to one word in his response like a dog to a mailman’s shin and refuse to let go no matter how hard you are shaken.

    Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that Wright said “people.” Would you then have any opinions to contribute on the actual topic under discussion? Or would you find some other excuse to deflect and distract?

  10. Perhaps. But … he didn’t. And to begin an essay on the bias of SFWA that way was a revealing tell, one which, in condensed form, telegraphed the inherent bias of all that followed.

    And here I thought I _was_ contributing to the topic under discussion, by pointing out that those “supporting a political agenda irrelevant to science fiction” … might not be the people Wright thinks.

  11. I think Mr. Edelman has contributed to the discussion. If anyone was wondering what the problem in SFWA was like, he has given us a fine example.

  12. I have to agree with the commenter who said that Wright was being vague and unclear about the actual incidents and behaviors that prompted his resignation, and then, when Wright said that he was under no obligation to explain anything, noted that if Wright had wanted to keep his specific reasons private, he could have made his resignation private as well.

  13. Wright has also said, “Heinlein writes like a man…. {Spider] Robinson writes like a highly emotional schoolgirl.”

  14. I wonder how many people have quit SFWA in a huff and then refused a Nebula nomination if one later came their way. Or quit in a huff and then accepted a Nebula nomination later (I’m pretty sure Harlan Ellison falls into that category).

  15. On the whole “man” vs. “people” thing, I think remembering the undiplomatic dinner scene in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country is relevant: Mr. Chekov starts talking about “human rights” with regard to the Klingon government’s attitude toward its citizens and is interrupted by one of the Chancellor’s staff members who points out that the phrase “Human rights” is inherently racist when speaking of non-human sapients.

  16. I’ve arrived here via the SF Signal blog.

    I’m an SF reader. I write professionally but not in the genre of fiction. When I pick up a book, I do so with a hope. Maybe I’ll learn something or perhaps I’ll be entertained. The best books leave me satisfied. Some terrible books leave me satisfied in other ways. Truly terrible books, like Fifty Shades, are learning experiences as well.

    As a reader, I don’t care about the politics of the writer nor the writer’s home life. I never want to meet them nor to experience their peculiarities. I just want to read what that person writes until I’m sick of their writing style (if ever) and move on to someone else. That’s the extent of my caring about writers.

    These sorts of battles, when they spill over onto the consciousness of readers like me, are quite disheartening. Perhaps if some of those involved learned to control their anger or other mental issues before writing down their thoughts, things might be handled in a more diplomatic way.

    I’ve never read a word of fiction that Larry Correia has written nor have anything but the vaguest notion (or care) about who “Vox Day” is. He seems to have some importance, notoriety and/or power if he’s as important enough to be the focal point of all this fighting. However, I’m not quite sure why.

    So here I am, the reader. The SF community is split up into camps and seems to want people like me to choose between the “good guys” and the “bad guys” whoever they may be. I just want to read books.

  17. I can accept that Mr Wright used “men” as an all encompassing word for all genders. And I suspect he knew very well that it would irritate a certain number of people.

  18. SF Fan: What blogs do you recommend to those who just want to read books and avoid politics?

  19. I have to be my own filter when it comes to reading blogs. For example, I like a lot of what Hugh Howey writes regarding self-publishing. I also think he’s a bit abrasive. So, I scan over the abrasive parts and read the relevant parts.

    It all depends on why I’m reading a blog. If it’s for book reviews then I read the reviews and don’t bother with the personal stuff. If a reviewer is not to my liking because that person is injecting their own skewed opinions into the reviews, I stop reading.

    Whether I read an author’s books or blog, or visit a review site, I owe them nothing; certainly not my loyalty. The point I’m making is that I’m the one who has to think, be tolerant or not.

  20. SF Fan – I think we all would love to just read books and judge authors solely on their merits as writers. The key question is what to do when unpleasant information about a writer’s opinions or behavior does, as you say, spill over into one’s consciousness inadvertently. If the behavior or opinions are truly toxic, I think it’s difficult for many people to truly divorce that from a pure opinion of the writer’s works or the desire to read them.

  21. Mr. Wright has chosen to make his resignation public, giving his reasons but not supporting them with facts. From this vague vantage point, he asks (implicitly) that we support his choice and condemn SFWA. To ask that without any reference to the events he claims occurred is unfair and passive-aggressive.

    If he simply wanted to leave SFWA, he could have done so quietly and without involving anyone else. By choosing do so publicly on the Internet, he has involved everyone else. If he wants us to believe in his reasons, he owes us an explanation.

  22. I still like the Ring Cycle.

    As for Howey, you’re missing the point. He can be as political as he wants to be, I just go because I like the fries.

  23. “It may seem odd that out of all the content of Wright’s post THAT’S the thing that bothered me the most, but there you have it.”

    I would use a harsher word than ‘odd’.

    Indeed, I would say it is like the scene at the end of the remake of INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS where Donald Sutherland turns and opens his mouth and issues and inhuman screaming noise when someone not part of his space pod group mind appears.

    As a published journalist and professional author, I use the Oxford English Dictionary and the Chicago Manual of Style for definitional and usage questions, and for grammar, Strunk and White. They all agree with me on this point.

    I speak English.

    You, on the other hand, speak a particular jargon or lingo adopted for political reasons by a faction known as Political Correctness.

    You speak Newspeak.

    Were I to adopt your strange argot, this would be deception on my part, for you would believe I also was a member of the cult, the space-pod people, and I most decidedly am not.

    It is the Newspeak trick to take an inoffensive word or phrase, redefine it to be offensive, and then pretend to be offended by the norm: The pretense is that it is ‘ungrammatical’ to speak other than as Big Brother directs.

    In responding to a letter where a man says he is quitting a group because the group uses this dishonest Newspeak trick, it is perhaps ironic to use of this self same dishonest Newspeak trick, and have that be you sole response.

    You have put yourself in a situation where no one not of your little group can talk to you. You are making a deliberate attempt to misunderstand words spoken to you, to seek offenses were none are intended, in order make yourself deaf to your fellow human beings, and to condemn the innocent.

    “I can accept that Mr Wright used “men” as an all encompassing word for all genders. And I suspect he knew very well that it would irritate a certain number of people.”

    No, not at all. I am not a member of your cult, I do not speak in the weird and peculiar way you speak, I am not motivated by any urge to irritate anyone. Such people as would be, or pretend to be, irritated by the normal practices of normal English do not come into my thoughts at all.

    Of that, I solemnly assure you.

  24. “I have to agree with the commenter who said that Wright was being vague and unclear about the actual incidents and behaviors that prompted his resignation, and then, when Wright said that he was under no obligation to explain anything, noted that if Wright had wanted to keep his specific reasons private, he could have made his resignation private as well.”

    To be entirely silent on this matter would be dishonorable; to tattle and tell tales would be gossip. Is professional and dignified behavior of a gentleman actually so alien to the modern day? If so, the loss is yours, not mine.

  25. “If he simply wanted to leave SFWA, he could have done so quietly and without involving anyone else. By choosing do so publicly on the Internet, he has involved everyone else. If he wants us to believe in his reasons, he owes us an explanation.”

    No, I owe you nothing, sir. Unless you are a customer of mine, in which case I owe you a good story, well told, and honest value for your book buying dollar. That I can deliver and ably.

  26. Mr Wright: You say “to be entirely silent on this matter would be dishonorable; to tattle and tell tales would be gossip.” I find it curious that you categorize being silent about claims against an organization that they perpetrated “organized attempts to harass my readers and hurt my sales figures” as dishonorable but categorize being silent about providing support for such claims as honorably refusing to tattle and gossip.

  27. I hate to say it, John, but as I read your defense, the first thing that came to mind was that it sounded like what someone might have written decades ago after he had he been told, friend to friend — maybe you should stop using the word Negro, because though it might have been standard usage at one time, it’s dated now, and has picked up connotations you might not believe and might not wish to have people think you’re communicating.

    Same with saying that you wished SFWA be filled with “men who treat each other with professionalism and respect.” If you truly think it’s only what you choose to call political correctness that would have people like me recoiling and thinking, “So SFWA’s supposed to be made up only of guys now?,” you need to remember —

    Language is liquid. It’s fluid. It does not calcify. The meanings of words change. The signals we send with our word choices change along with them.

    Would it have been so painful to have instead written “people” or “men and women” there? It shouldn’t have been. Doing so wouldn’t have been a surrender to your false idea of “political correctness.” It’d just be a way of saying — all are welcome here.

    I’ve met you at cons. You’ve seemed like a smart guy. So maybe this is the kind of thing we should be talking about at Balticon rather than through the comments section of a blog. Because I really don’t believe you can be blind to that.

  28. Yesterday SFWA President Steven Gould wrote on his personal blog a response to John C. Wright’s resignation — though, in that highly peculiar fashion lately adopted by SFWA officers, never actually names the person he’s talking about, despite directly quoting Wright’s statement about “organized attempts to harass my readers and hurt my sales figures.”

    Gould says his response contains both opinion and official SFWA positions, the latter set off in boldface. His post says in part (and not in boldface) —

    The writer in question is a successful author of over a dozen SF & Fantasy novels and has previously been nominated for the Nebula Award. The fact that I’d never heard of them before receiving their resignation email says far more about me and the scope of my reading in the field than it does about them. There are 1800 members of the organization after all, but I would like to point out that this also means that neither I nor any other officer or director of this organization has been slandering, libeling, or organizing against that person–I would certainly have heard about it. When asked for specifics, the author replied that it would be unprofessional to name those who had.

  29. Social media in the sf field, as everywhere else, generally insists on enmity between people with divergent political views. So it is very interesting to see John C. Wright’s blog post clarifying that his SFWA resignation should not be interpreted as a knock on John Scalzi:

    My discontent was the lack of professionalism from the guild: it had become a house of gossips. Naturally, so as to avoid the paradox of indulging in the vice to which I objected, I chose not to gossip about the specific persons who were behaving unprofessionally.

    The drawback of my policy of reticence is that some may believe I condemn persons whom I do not condemn. Let me therefore, as publicly as before, salute John Scalzi.

    During his term, he never behaved toward me with other than professional courtesy and genial goodwill. I like his writing and do not care about his politics. If he cares about my politics, by no sign has he shown it. We have always been on a friendly footing.

    I also note that during the recent hyperventilation of accusations and counter-accusations surrounding the Hugo nominations (which had nothing to do with my resignation, but which is noteworthy nonetheless as a sign of the times) Mr. Scalzi was one of the few voices calling for all stories to be judged on their merits, and to scotch rumors of ballot-stuffing. This is as SFWA leader, past or present, should speak.

  30. I do not know Mr. Wright and so this should not be construed as a comment on his resignation. Brad Torgersen is an online friend of mine. However, I wonder how many people talking blithely about “political correctness” have actually seen the many vile comments by “Vox Day” that impelled this mess in the first place. I am a committed supporter of the First Amendment, so I would never challenge anyone’s right to express their opinion, but if it were my organization I would have immediately thrown Beale’s ass out simply for being disgustingly non-collegial — no PC filter required. Calling another professional by most of the names he used would get you thrown out of a whole lot of professional organizations that would be startled to hear themselves represented as “politically correct.”

  31. I’m glad I quit SFWA a decade ago. Didn’t get much out of it toward the end. But these other guys, I’ve never even heard of them.

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