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Writing about the future with a crow quill pen

I am ashamed to admit, though once I was proud (or proud-ish), to say that I was a member of Science Fiction Writers of America.

This is the crew who’s been discussed recently for takedown notices that rival those of Big Media in counterproductive silliness. Cory Doctorow was told to take down his own work. What is it about these people not doing their homework before plastering the planet with takedown notices? It seems to be a function of reduced grey matter to think it’s a good idea to plaster the planet with takedown notices.

This is the crew who sends mailings to members about the evils of creative commons. If you look at the bottom of my blog, you can imagine where I stand on that. But okay. It’s possible to have honest differences of opinion.

However, this is just downright paleolithic. A then-current veep of SFWA wrote that “I’m also opposed to the increasing presence in our organization of webscabs, who post their creations on the net for free.” Explaining why he didn’t want to run for president of the organization, he said he didn’t want to be a party to promoting the “downward spiral that is converting the noble calling of Writer into the life of Pixel-stained Technopeasant Wretch.”

I have to admit, he has a way with words. That last trenchant phrase has become the motto of thousands and a global holiday. You can even buy the t-shirt or mug.

What was SFWA’s official reaction? Did they distance themselves? Did they realize it was high time for the futurists to catch up with the present? The official reaction was nothing. Search their web site, and I, at least, can’t find anything at all.

And then there’s something that was not remotely funny. At the 2006 WorldCon in Los Angeles, Connie Willis was a speaker. Harlan Ellison was next to her. They are both giants in the world of science fiction. He decided it would be humorous to reach over and grab her breast. The initial reaction from him and from too many within the SFWA community was, “Why don’t people have a sense of humor any more?”

There was a firestorm. I gather his later reaction was to apologize for offensive behavior.

How can there be so much pathetic cluelessness in such a great writer? Patrick Nielsen Hayden said it best: “the basic message of Ellison’s tit-grab is this: Remember, you may think you have standing, status, and normal, everyday adult dignity, but we can take it back at any time. If you are female, you’ll never be safe. You can be the political leader of the most powerful country in Europe. You can be the most honored female writer in modern science fiction. We can still demean you, if we feel like it, and at random intervals, just to keep you in line, we will.”

What was SFWA’s official reaction to a huge issue of principle involving two of its members? Embarrassed silence, as far as I can tell. Mealy-mouthed mumbling. No censure. No statement denouncing appalling behavior. Nothing. Nothing front and center, where it belongs.

These are supposed to be the people envisioning new worlds. Boldly going where no one has gone before.

I don’t think so. There’s much I don’t know about the future, but, taking the longest view of humanity’s cultural evolution, one thing is obvious.

The future belongs to the free.

Technorati tags: SFWA, creative commons, futurist, pixel-stained technopeasant