Friday, November 09, 2007

SFWA Forum and Bulletin

I just read the most current issues of the SFWA (Science Fiction Writers of America) Forum and Bulletin. There were some issues raised that I think are worth thinking about.

One is what to do about changes in technology and the resulting new kinds of publishing, especially desktop publishing and e-publishing.

It is never easy to set up a new publishing house or magazine, but changes in technology make it easier for small presses and little magazines to exist. Is a sale to a small press or an e-magazine a professional sale (a big issue for SFWA members, who are seriously into being professional)? Is it okay to put work on the Internet for free? What makes a professional these days?

Second issue is changes in the traditional publishing industry, due to media consolidation, which make being a midlist writer increasingly difficult.The old days of gentleman and lady publishers, who cared about Art, are long over. What matters now is profit, and writers who don't make enough money for the corporation are quickly dropped. Norman Spinrad calls publishing, especially SF publishing, dysfunctional; and he may well be right. (I think he means incompetent, as well as driven by greed.)

As writers find they can't sell to the traditional New York publishing houses or to the handful of surviving professional SF magazines, they turn to other outlets, which leads us back to issue one.

In fairness, I have to say the SF magazines are not owned by giant multi-national corporations, nor are they driven by greed. Their problem is the market place. It is simply very difficult for a magazine devoted to any kind of fiction to surive.

All my experiences with the SF magazines have been good. They are a labor of love by people who work very hard simply to keep their magazines (and my markets) going.

The third issue is the graying for the core readership. In spite of the importance of SF and fantasy ideas in popular culture, people aren't reading SF, it is argued. If this is so, what kind of future do SF writers have?

Finally, there is the fact that most SFWA members don't make a living by writing SF and probably never have. Tom Easton has a graceful essay on this topic in the Bulletin.

Given all this, what is a SF writer? And where are we going from here?


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