Science Fiction & Fantasy Creators Guild Launches Prematurely

The Science Fiction & Fantasy Creators Guild may someday be a group, however, it seems author Richard Paolinelli is the only man behind the curtain right now. The SF&FCG founder says the publicity came prematurely —

Camestros Felapton discovered the under-construction website and wrote about it in “The Scrappy Dappy Club?”. (There’s also an SF&FCG Facebook page.)

Since the revelation, Paolinelli has wasted no time trying to leverage attention for his efforts. SF&FCG tweeted N.K. Jemisin, who engaged briefly, then muted the conversation.

Nick Mamatas also jumped on this yesterday. People joining his Twitter conversation tried to research who was behind the Guild, incorrectly guessing various Puppies. A WHOIS search showed the website was registered by author Karen L. Myers. However, it was neither the named Puppies nor Myers, as Richard Paolinelli (@ScribeShade) tweeted –

Today the SF&FCG looked for new targets to goad and made the mistake of trolling Alex Acks —

— who responded with tweets like these:

Then Sarah Gailey emptied the magazine – her 6-tweet explosion starts here:

And Charlie Jane Anders responded ironically to SF&FCG’s self-described apolitical stance.

Up til now, Paolinelli has been trying to follow Jon Del Arroz’ stairway to heaven, seeking interactions that could afterwards be portrayed to his base as attacks. He’s enjoyed only moderate success.

His book was part of Jon Del Arroz’ Odyssey Con book bundle [Scroll item 12], an attempt to exploit Monica Valentinelli’s publicity for quitting as the convention GoH. Valentinelli had discovered shortly before last year’s con that the committee not only still included a harasser she’d encountered before (their Guest Liaison), but she was going to be scheduled together with him on a panel, and when she raised these issues the first response from someone on the committee was a defense of the man involved. In contrast to the people who commiserated with the ex-GoH and mourned Odyssey Con’s confused loyalties, JDA attacked Valentintelli for being “unprofessional,” and went to work turning it into a book marketing opportunity. He arranged for flyers to be handed to Odyssey Con attendees offering them works by himself, Nick Cole, Declan Finn, L. Jagi Lamplighter, John C. Wright, and others including Paolinelli.

Later, when the Dragon Awards nominations came out, Paolinelli complained to me for identifying him as one of the nominees from JDA’s bundle.

Paolinelli has also been on the radar here for advertising his book as a Nebula nominee (it wasn’t a finalist; he tried to justify himself in this tweet.)

However, he has probably never been more successful in gaining the social media attention he’s pursued than he has in the past 24 hours, Despite beginning with a sentiment no more provocative than this –

— he has been getting everything that a follower of JDA’s playbook could ask for.

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126 thoughts on “Science Fiction & Fantasy Creators Guild Launches Prematurely

  1. @StefanB: If by Tetris you mean the pure gameplay, I might agree that it has no social or political meaning (though I would argue there’s a meaning in the difference between games that can be won or finished vs. those that only end when you either lose or give up, such as Tetris.)

    But Tetris wasn’t just the game play — it was packaged and marketed specifically as a Russian game, at a time when there was a lot of debate going on about whether or not to trust Gorbachev’s move to open Soviet society and thaw US-Soviet relations.

    If you’re curious about this — and I mean really curious, because it’s a lot of reading — the whole story is here:

    Were any of those meanings intended by Alexey Pajitnov when he created the original Tetris? Almost certainly not — but all art is a group effort, and that group always includes the audience…

  2. Beethoven dedicated his third symphony to Napoleon, then later withdrew the dedication when Napoleon declared himself Emperor. And then there’s the 1812 Overture. (Blimey Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No 1 JUST came on as I typed that.) The Third Reich were very fond of Wagner.

  3. The Third Reich were very fond of Wagner.

    Most of his best-known works are operas, though, so don’t have the same degree of abstraction that purely musical works can be argued to have.

    (I’ve been watching a recording of the Ring Cycle recently. I’m sure it has messages, even though the main one seems to be “everyone who isn’t a Valkyrie is a jerk.”)

  4. By way of contrast, ideologically, there’s a recent Italian production of Carmen where she doesn’t die at the end as a protest against violence against women.

  5. Arifel, I remember a story (at first I thought it was “Goldfish Bowl” by Heinlein, but that’s not it, although the premise is similar) about a guy who is (apparently) kidnapped by (apparently) aliens and is typing his story on a typewriter (no paper) in a blank room; no human interaction at all, so arguably not a lot of politics in this story <grin>. (Now I’m thinking it was perhaps an Ellison story; at least, I think I read it in the period when I was reading a lot of Ellison. (The thing that struck me at the time about the story was, he can’t see what he’s typing; shouldn’t there be a lot more typos….?) Since I don’t remember details, it’s possible that the story the protagonist recounts about his kidnapping does have political ramifications; I read this probably 35 years ago.

  6. @Cassy B: Just having a male protagonist has social and political implications, as does having a protagonist who is not specified as not being the “default” in terms of race, sexual identity, sexual orientation, disability, etc.

    Which is not to say there’s anything wrong with having such a protagonist, but choosing the “default” does have social and political implications. No work of art exists in a vacuum, even if it’s set in one.

  7. One of the issues concerning things like classical music is that its politics are often opaque because the politics of the time they were created in are opaque to most people now.

    To use a non-musical example, a lot of people might say that the Impressionists were non-political, because the subject matter of their paintings was often pastoral scenes, but that misses the fact that Impressionism itself was a political statement rejecting the status quo of the day. Just by painting in that style artists were saying something political.

    In many cases, classical music is political in that it was intended to glorify the dominant religious ideology – think of how many pieces of classical music were actually penned for religious reasons. Or it was intended to buttress the legitimacy of one ruling group or another – look at something like Handel’s Water Music for example, which was created at the behest of King George I so he could put on a concert on the Thames. Or it was created to support a nationalist idea – when a composer like Mozart wrote his operas in German, he was making a political statement.

    The point here is that classical music is replete with politics, but this can be missed because the context of their politics is unfamiliar to a lot of modern listeners.

  8. In reading this discussion, I’m reminded of a discussion from a few years ago about visual art. (i.e. sculpture, painting, etc.)

    The artist was suggesting that representational art that was more aspirational was, within the context of the “art world”, not considered to be “great art”. Art that deconstructed modern society and/or was done in one of several non-representational modes was the only sort of art considered to be worthy of critical attention.

    A similar complaint might be made within the world of literature, IMHO.


  9. @Dann, I’m not sure I understand what you mean by “aspirational”.

    It’s true that a lot of the art community has largely rejected representational art since the mid-20th century. It’s also true that a lot of artists from marginalized communities have chosen to work in representational art to address their erasure from the artistic canon (which is at the very least not improved, and is arguably perpetuated, by the dominance of non-representational art.)

    None of this necessarily has any relationship with the quality of the art. I personally think that, in general, there’s a ceiling to how good a work of art (in any medium) can be if the creator hasn’t put any thought into its broader context — and that paying too much attention to it can hurt a work — but I’ll also concede that there are exceptions to that rule.

  10. @Matthew Johnson

    “Aspirational” may be a poor term. It might be more productive to discuss the art in terms of what it does not contain.

    What was discussed at the time was positive art that does not include some element criticizing modern culture. As a hypothetic example, a statue of two lovers might be considered less worthy if it did not contain elements critical of perceived male dominance, or some other aspect of human connection/sexuality/etc. Essentially, a work of art that positively supports the aspiration for an intimate human connection is considered lesser art if it does not include a caution against such a connection based on perceived politics of the time.



  11. @Dann–
    Art is going to reflect the concerns of people making it. Reactions, including praise, criticism, enthusiasm, or lack of enthusiasm, will reflect the concerns of those reacting.

    In the last few decades, more than in by far most of history, women, people of color, and other minorities, have been able to express their concerns and be heard, relatively freely and visibly.

    And the Puppies, Gamergate, and this new SFFCG, are all in part responses to that. They don’t want to have to see or hear anything that makes them question what they often feel are very limited privileges.

    They think hearing different voices means they’re getting trampled all over. That’s what they are saying, that they are being threatened and displaced. They thought they had their advantages purely on merit, and they can’t accept seeing recognition, awards, and commercial success going to people they think must be less worthy than they are.

    They can’t accept that N.K. Jemisen might just be telling the stories that she has to tell, and she’s selling well and winning awards because people just like them.

    They can’t accept that John Scalzi just doesn’t share all their political and social views.

    And no, one or two movies with female and/or non-white or gay protagonists isn’t the complete devaluing of white males.

    And all this is more valued by critics right now, to the extent that it really is, which is itself a kind of dubious proposition, because it’s not just more of the same old same old. It’s a little bit different.

    It’s not all that encouraging to see sf writers and readers objecting to different stories and different viewpoints because they’re different.

    To have this discussion still going on in 6623 seems especially weird. 😉

  12. @Lis Carey

    It’s not all that encouraging to see sf writers and readers objecting to different stories and different viewpoints because they’re different.

    Nor is it encouraging to see sf writers and readers promoting different stories and different viewpoints primarily because they’re different. Because from time to time that is the way that advocacy comes across.

    Now before someone reflexively reaches for that reply button, please keep in mind that I have offered praise for NK Jemisin, Charlie Jane Anders, Emma Newman, and other authors that have managed to successfully scratch my reading itch.

    I’m not opposed to different stories from different viewpoints. I’m opposed to poorly written stories.


  13. Dann:

    I will absolutely push for some items for the prime reason that they are different. Have you ever read the book “Save the cat”? It is a standardized formula for how a movie should be written to be succesful. There are a lot of movies that follow that schema.

    After a while you get used to some ways of making movies and TV series. So you look for what is different. After swedish and hollywood movies, I’ve had periods for french movies, russian movies, japanese movies and so on. Beause things are done differently. The viewpoint is different, there are cultural difference in the editing, the acting, the scripts.

    So yes, I will absolutely promote different viewpoints. Because it is refreshing to change template sometimes.

  14. @Dann–

    Nor is it encouraging to see sf writers and readers promoting different stories and different viewpoints primarily because they’re different. Because from time to time that is the way that advocacy comes across.

    That’s not what’s happening. That’s the gloss being put on it by people closer to your political views, but who are literally telling us we’re destroying science fiction by not producing or favoring what they think is “real” science fiction. People who are literally telling us we are lying about what we like, and only claiming to like it because it checks off the right demographic boxes.

    Telling us we are lying, and don’t really like what we like.

    Seriously. Literally. Repeatedly. And making up insulting names for anyone who doesn’t agree with their tastes and preferences.

    Meanwhile, we call them by the names they chose for themselves, tell them, “Great!” when they start their own award, and don’t presume that they’re telling us anything other than the truth about what they like and why, even if it makes no seense to us. Because you know what? It doesn’t have to makes sense to us. They can like what they like.

    They just aren’t going to get anywhere telling us we don’t like what we like.

    And no, we’re not the ones imposing an ideological litmus test for what other people are allowed to like.

  15. The SFWA, like the National Writers Union and the Author’s Guild, and on the film side, the Screenwriters Guild, is a legal advocacy and business trade group for its self-employed professional author members. Its main job is to deal with and keep abreast of legal issues and business regulations, economic issues and professional business practices of concern to its author members and their writing businesses, and to provide resources, information, advice and improvement assistance for members in their business dealings as working authors.

    Politics is about the law, and so SFWA is dealing with the political legal-economic business issues — business regulations in the publishing industry that may help or harm authors’ business interests, the credibility of publishing opportunities in the market, the behavior of publishers, booksellers, and production service providers towards authors, the financial and legal terms of contracts, Google pirating everybody’s texts, etc. By the authors being together in one group, that forms a union-like block that can have more leverage in getting companies to change practices, live up to contracts and improve contractual terms than one author can alone, not only for their own members but for writers in general. That advocacy work includes whether their author members are facing legal and economic discrimination such as racism in the industry that puts their self-employed writing business at a disadvantage and hampers their careers, which of necessity involves political-legal issues supporting those author members.

    While the SFWA does use its members to provide craft advice or discussion to help each other in their writing business and sponsors the Nebulas and some other writing-related stuff, questions of “what is art” and what should or should not be in their members’ stories is not the primary, or even second or third, purpose of the SFWA. It’s not its purpose at all and why author members pay their dues to it. And while promotional and marketing issues come within the business purview of the SFWA sometimes as a resource, it’s not a marketing organization for authors. Whether their members have health insurance, what are the royalty rates on e-books, and what happens to their members who have licensing contracts with a publisher that goes bankrupt are the sort of things that are the main reasons for its existence. It’s a professional trade business group that has to respect all its author members as professionals, not just the old white men authors. It is impossible for it to be apolitical because it is politically advocating for SFF authors out in the marketplace.

    So if this new proposed group is not going to be a political legal-business advocacy group for authors, a trade organization, like the SFWA, what exactly is it for? What is it going to do for authors that they should be interested in joining it and, if that’s the plan, paying dues to it? So far, it seems to be mainly for whining about types of SFF and various authors, bothering authors who were previously targets of the Puppies online, and promising future discussions of craft that require no discussion of political socio-economic culture whatsoever. (So you can’t talk about your setting, themes, main characters or major plot points.) So is it to be a writers workshop? A discussion forum only for writers about their hobbies and favorite action comedies? A group blog? Is it to help authors with publicity in some way?

    None of those things are related to the SFWA. And it doesn’t seem to be a convention like WorldCon either, which is run by a group, the World Science Fiction Society, that exists as a non-profit fan group to put on WorldCon and a few other conventions. At least, not initially from the sound of it. So exactly how does it come for either of those organizations if it doesn’t have anything to do with what those two distinctly different organizations each do? How are they going to help authors in their careers or craft?

    All I can figure out is that the few people trying to put this thing together supposedly think all these different organizations are just like after-school clubs, and they are offering an alternative to Conversational French or astronomy club.

  16. The SFWA, like the National Writers Union and the Author’s Guild, and on the film side, the Screenwriters Guild, is a legal advocacy and business trade group for its self-employed professional author members.

    Like the Author’s Guild, I think. But the National Writer’s Union is a part of the UAW, and the Screenwriters Guild became the Writers Guild of America decades ago, and both of them are unions. SFWA isn’t a union.

    A lot of what they do is what you’re describing, but they do collective bargaining, as well.

  17. @StefanB, @James Moar
    Classical music and opera were extremely political, even if the politics have long evaporated.

    Let’s take Mozart: These days, “La Nozze di Figaro” seems like a harmless musical comedy about the various romantic entanglements of an aristocratic couple and their servants, but back in the 18th century it was a scathing and very daring satire of the aristocracy and its foibles. “La Clemenza de Tito” makes a point about governance and how a good ruler will rule with mercy. “The Magic Flute”, which seems like a harmless fairy tale story today, explains the principles of Freemasonry in opera form. “The Abduction from the Seraglio” is a tale of cultural contact between the Christian and the Muslim world, in which Bassa Selim, the Muslim ruler, is portayed as a noble figure who grants mercy to two Christian men who have infiltrated his palace to steal back their respective girlfriends. What is more, one of those two men is the son of Bassa Selim’s archenemy. Earlier, Bassa Selim explicitly refuses to rape his Christian prisoner/slave. This was highly political stuff.

    Ludwig van Beethoven’s only opera, “Fidelio”, tells the story of a woman who disguises herself as a man and goes undercover as a prison guard to rescue her husband, a political prisoner, from execution. Definitely political

    Franz Schubert’s song “The trout” with lyrics by his not quite namesake Christian Friedrich Daniel Schubart seems like a cheery song about going trout fishing these days. However, back when it was written, it was a warning to the revolutionary inclined that there were spies and agents provocateurs about just looking to bait them and reel them in like a trout.

    “The Ring Cycle” by Richard Wagner is widely considered a commentary on industralisation and how it threatens the old way of life (coincidentally something it has in common with Lord of the Rings). “Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg” is about the conflict between bourgeois society and the common man, as exemplified by the honest craftsmen of Nuremberg, and the fading aristocracy. It’s an opera about an impoverished knight who wants to marry the daughter of a master craftsman, i.e. a commoner, and has to prove his worth to her, her father and society to win her. Now that is highly political.

    As for Wagner himself, he was viciously antisemitic, for which he is remembered due to his number 1 fan, Adolf Hitler. Less remembered is that Wagner was active in the revolution of 1848 and got driven out of Dresden for his revolutionary activities and because he supposedly burned down the Dresden opera house (Wagner has a touch of arsonist about him), which his friend and fellow revolutionary Gottfried Semper later rebuilt.

    Coincidentally, Wagner also invented the “Leitmotif” principle for his operas, which continues to dominate film and TV scores to this day (the Imperial Marsh or the Bond theme are classic examples of Leitmotive). And ironically the person who bought Wagner’s leitmotif principle to Hollywood was Erich Wolfgang Korngold, an Austrian Jewish composer. So the most lasting contribution of Wagner, the vicious antisemite, to music only came about due to a Jewish composer.

    Dimitri Shostakovic’s opera “Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk” was considered so shocking and vulgar by Joseph Stalin himself that it almost landed Shostakovic in the gulag. Shostakovic changed the opera due to political pressure and it is rarely performed even today. Shostakovic’s original version only reappeared on stage in 2017. Apparently, what was so shocking and vulgar about it was that its protagonist was a woman with agency who wanted sex.

  18. Fascinating comments here, as usual, and eye-rolling garbage from the new “guild.”

    The whole “leave out politics” and apolitical claims just sounded like lies to me; they didn’t read like good-faith claims to me at all. (shrug)

  19. @Cassy B that certainly reaches the point where I understand how people who don’t think gender (ETA: sorry, to be more specific “the identity of the protagonist””) is political think that’s an apolitical story (even if I also firmly believe those people are wrong). It also sounds like a highly specific concept…! Not sure there’s a full subgenre in “featureless room abductions” out there.

  20. @Cora(and a few others):
    I should have excluded Opera, because it is different what I meaned. I should have wrote “Clasical Music that is melody without text can be apolitical”. Just to clarify that I am not a complete moron. There were many examples were it was not. They were interesting, thanks to all.

    @Matthew Johnson:
    That was also interesting. The rusian connection was something I did know, but I was to young to make the conection to the cold war.

    @Kurt Busiek (I am not going to resist the temptation to reply to Kurt Busiek):
    That was an important correction. I still stand by my opinion that there is no reasion for anyone to join because it is unclear what they are joining. Reason to stay away from it, exist plenty.

  21. StefanB, I should have wrote “Clasical Music that is melody without text can be apolitical”.

    CAN be, but isn’t always. As I understand it, Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring very nearly caused a riot at its premier….

  22. @Cassy B:

    CAN be, but isn’t always. As I understand it, Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring very nearly caused a riot at its premier….

    The Rite of Spring was written as a ballet, and I have seen claims that there was a near-riot over the music; there was a near-riot over the costuming of the dancers; and that there was no near-riot at all. Is there a ballet historian in the house?

    Unrelated to the Rite of Spring:
    While I agree from a theoretical standpoint that ‘all art is political’, I feel compelled to point out that as a reader this is totally useless to me. Bujold’s Shards of Honor and Toni Morrison’s Beloved are very different books and I love them both. But if you are recommending a new book to me I don’t want to be told “all books are political”, I want to know where this new book falls on that spectrum.

  23. @Nancy —

    Google is your friend.

    “On the evening of 29 May the theatre was packed. Gustav Linor reported, “Never … has the hall been so full, or so resplendent; the stairways and the corridors were crowded with spectators eager to see and to hear”.[57] The evening began with Les Sylphides, in which Nijinsky and Karsavina danced the main roles.[53] The Rite followed. Some eyewitnesses and commentators said that the disturbances in the audience began during the Introduction, and grew in a crescendo when the curtain rose on the stamping dancers in “Augurs of Spring”. But music historian Richard Taruskin asserts, “it was not Stravinsky’s music that did the shocking. It was the ugly earthbound lurching and stomping devised by Vaslav Nijinsky.”[58] Marie Rambert, who was working as an assistant to Nijinsky, recalled later that it was soon impossible to hear the music on the stage.[59] In his autobiography, Stravinsky writes that the derisive laughter that greeted the first bars of the Introduction disgusted him, and that he left the auditorium to watch the rest of the performance from the stage wings. The demonstrations, he says, grew into “a terrific uproar” which, along with the on-stage noises, drowned out the voice of Nijinsky who was shouting the step numbers to the dancers.[55] The journalist and photographer Carl Van Vechten recorded that the person behind him got carried away with excitement, and “began to beat rhythmically on top of my head”, though Van Vechten failed to notice this at first, his own emotion being so great.[60]” (and more)

  24. I’m mildly amused by this Twitter thread in which a prospective SFFCG member gradually realizes all of the things the org would have to do to compete with SFWA.

    (The word “realizes” may be ascribing a bit too much knowledge to him, self- and otherwise, as his list is mostly made up of things he doesn’t realize SFWA already offers, like the Legal Fund, and items which are basically “what SFWA does but without girl cooties.”)

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