Tristina Wright has written a series of tweets about her request for aid from the SFWA Emergency Medical Fund. Several months after applying, she got an email saying she’d been granted $4,000, then received a follow-up email saying that the notification was a mistake, the message had been intended for another applicant. A friend of Wright’s reached out to SFWA Director At Large Justina Ireland. Wright says Ireland went to bat for her unsuccessfully, and Ireland has now resigned her SFWA directorship.
Several Twitter users have pilloried SFWA for the mistake. Others have decided to help Wright by making direct contributions to Wright through Patreon, and a crowdsourced fund appeal has been set up.
SFWA, meantime, has effusively apologized for the mistake. The full text of “SFWA Apology to Tristina Wright” is at the SFWA Blog.
President Cat Rambo’s statement says in part —
I have been in correspondence with Tristina Wright and I am deeply apologetic about what happened, as I have told Ms. Wright in e-mail. This should not have happened. I and the rest of the SFWA Board apologize again to Ms. Wright again for this egregious blunder. Normally, correspondence as it pertains to the Emergency Medical Fund is held in the strictest confidence to protect the privacy of those involved, but because Ms. Wright has made the details public and people are asking for future elaboration, here is what I know of how this occurred….
I wrote earlier to Ms. Wright to apologize for the lack of response and erroneous letter sent in December. As expressed in the e-mail, I would like to have the committee re-examine her application when they have the non-SFWA member guidelines in place, but I wanted to acknowledge the fact that, given how much we’d bungled things at that point, she might not want that. I hope she will be willing to give us another shot.
In the meantime, I’m still trying to find out how and where the process failed. It is, to the best of my knowledge, the first time we’ve had such an incident. My plan is to make it the last as well
-Cat Rambo President, SFWA
Ninety-four people contributed nearly half the target amount ($4,500) of Wright’s GoFundMe in the first two hours of fundraising.
Update 12/07/2016: It took only nine hours for the GoFundMe to be fully funded.
The EMF Trustees considered Ms.Wright’s request in the usual way, and did not approve it. For obvious reasons the request, the discussions, and the decision were not and will not be public. I am sorry she mistakenly received an administrative communication indicating that it had been accepted, but that was not an act of the EMF. Not all Emf supplications are approved, and EMF considerations are private and confidential for obvious reasons; indeed, we do not make public the existence of a request or any appeals.
SFWA is a larger organization than it was when Damon Knight — Founder of the National Fantasy Fan Federation — invited a number of his friends and colleagues to form the Science Fiction Writers of America, which he described as those who write and publish science fiction in America; it was later amended to include fantasy writers (largely at the urging of Anne McCaffrey, who was already a member).
It has grown by a factor of ten or more, although its administrative structure has not similarly grown, and much of SFWA’s work is done by volunteers as it always has been. The EMF was founded in the 1970’s by donations of two successful writers, and has grown to its present size through donations from both pro’s and fans; its administrative costs are essentially nil, as it is governed by uncompensated volunteers appointed by the President. It is remarkable how few administrative errors have been made in the more than thirty years of its existence.
I’m sorry to hear that Tristina Wright had such an upsetting experience – having hope dangled and then pulled away must be terrible. It’s great to see her friends rally round.
Something’s confusing me though – as I read the various accounts it seems to say that she received no rejection until the actual mistaken emails, and Cat Rambo’s statement seems to fit with that “we have been postponing opening applications to non-SFWA members so that we have a process that is fair….Our plan is to have such guidelines in place by January 1, 2017.” She also apologises for a lack of response. However, Jerry Pournelle says “The EMF Trustees considered Ms.Wright’s request in the usual way, and did not approve it.”
It’s quite possible there’s a misreading or simple explanation here, but I’m currently a bit confused about whether her application was (or should have been) postponed rather than being rejected.