Mary Robinette Kowal, self-described professional puppeteer and part time writer, is very upset with some of the drama going on in SFWA at present.  I sympathize with the aggravation.  I spent years in SFWA, and stopped renewing, because of the endless drama and little accomplishment. 

She's very unhappy with several members over their politics, which is an inevitability of an organization.

Now, I understand she's unhappy with Vox Day.  I readily understand that.  His online persona is deliberately antagonistic in ways I don't particularly care for.  But, he IS an SF writer, and meets the criteria for SFWA membership.  He likes to brag about his IQ a lot, but then, MRK likes to brag about her Hugo award.  He and I had a brief go round online, and he even dedicated a couple of blog posts to something or other about me.  It was largely antagonistic, I made my reply, and I stopped arguing, because once you've said what you need to, more ranting doesn't help.  I agreed with him on a couple of other issues, but he's really not of interest to me.  I summarized it in a blog post.  Some of his cheerleaders came over, and with a terrible grasp of statistics told me I should be "humbled" to know someone as brilliant as he.  I explained why they were wrong and ignored the thread.  Done.  And that is how you handle idiots.  I've also done the same with John Scalzi, at least as far as race issues, because if I really want a summary on how race works, Steven Barnes is much better educated, more polite, and actually a minority.  Go figure.

She complains she got hate mail.  Welcome to being management.  Welcome to being a public figure.  If it is in fact the same people constantly, block them.  If you can't, because they belong to the organization you volunteered to represent, you'll have to either deal with them, or find a way within the rules to censure or dismiss them.

But, the internal workings of an organization should be kept internal.  That was always a SFWA policy.  Now we see the petty fights bleeding over into public blogs.  If this is going to happen, then they need to pull the veil off entirely, or else go back to keeping it private.

And she really should, because her own rants are emotional and chaotic, and in good "liberal" fashion, she's delightfully banning from her blog people who disagree with her.  This includes people who've had the temerity to suggest that 1:  there are better ways to address drama than more drama, and B) that SFWA should stick to writing issues, not personal politics.  Some of these suggestions were made politely and diplomatically by authors who've been in the business decades longer than she.  Her response:  Ban them.

I'm really puzzled, because the one time I met her and we were on panels at a convention together, she was a charming lady.  Her internet persona most certainly is not.

I actually contributed little to this debate.  I did try to support Will Shetterly on Twitter, and to make the point that the drama is part of the problem:

Will Shetterly ‏@WillShetterly 4 Jul

@schanoes @sinboy @MaryRobinette The rest of us believe diversity should be more than skin deep.

Michael Z Williamson ‏@mzmadmike 4 Jul
@WillShetterly @schanoes @sinboy @MaryRobinette And once again, SFWA demonstrates why I let my membership lapse.

Mary Robinette Kowal ‏@MaryRobinette 4 Jul
@mzmadmike @schanoes @sinboy What? Because of someone like @WillShetterly, who isn't even a member?

Michael Z Williamson ‏@mzmadmike 4 Jul
@MaryRobinette @schanoes @sinboy @WillShetterly No, because of those who are members. Didn't you just say as much?

Mary Robinette Kowal ‏@MaryRobinette 4 Jul
@mzmadmike @schanoes @sinboy Oh... so you're agreeing with @WillShetterly. That's all right then. I'm glad you're not a member.

Michael Z Williamson ‏@mzmadmike 4 Jul
@MaryRobinette @schanoes @sinboy @WillShetterly Yup. It would be terrible to have dissenting members. Even if they agree with you.

Michael Z Williamson ‏@mzmadmike 4 Jul
@MaryRobinette @schanoes @sinboy @WillShetterly What exactly has SFWA accomplished in the last decade? Other than internet bitch fights?

She's glad I'm not a member.  And that Will is not.  And here's the problem.

SFWA is an organization for American SF writers, or SF writers who publish in America.  She is such, but so am I.  In point of fact, I qualified for membership, and joined a couple of years before she did, with my first novel sold in 2002.  This doesn't even count my prior, non-SF sales.  And, I've published about five times as many books as she.  Will Shetterly qualified a couple of decades ago.  He's published a lot more books than she, too.  Other notable non-SFWA members include Sarah Hoyt, Larry Correia, John Ringo.  And that's just people I know.  There are a lot of well-published authors who never have belonged or no longer belong to SFWA. Brad Torgersen qualifies, and just contracted his first novel.  He's not joining SFWA, either.

So it's pretty damned conceited for a part time writer to look at senior full timers and say, "You shouldn't belong."  (Cue her tired boast of having a Hugo award.  Yippee skip.  That will impress a bank when you need to make a mortgage payment.  Yes, it absolutely is a legitimate award.  It confers no additional credibility on the business end. Someone who is paid professional rates for their writing is a paid professional.  After that, it's all good.)

Now, SFWA is supposed to deal with writers' issues—contracts, the business of writing, the art of writing, appearances.  There are other issues it might address, but most of those are secondary.

During my membership, SFWA made a lot of noise, but accomplished very little.  For example, members spent literally years fighting e-publication, arguing over free promotional content, with some demanding DRM to prevent "piracy," and other such stuff that in recent retrospect was obviously a waste of time, and detrimental to the business of making money.

There were several proposals to revise membership requirements—as it stands, anyone with a novel or three short sales qualifies as a member, even if those sales were 30 years ago.  The market has changed, and what mattered then doesn't matter now.  One proposal was to require one of the sales be within the last 5 years.  It makes sense, and means writers will be more current in the business.  That proposal got voted down vigorously by the part-timers and usedtobes, because that membership is the only shred of credibility some authors have.  And some of them are still arguing over whether or not online publishing is "legitimate."

There was a discussion over a convention having a Guest of Honor who was only "published" by PublishAmerica, a notorious vanity publisher.  A very senior author and officer went on a tearing, frothing rant about how that convention was no longer "credible."  He did this within the privacy of SFWA's forum, well enough.  He did not, however, propose a solution.  I suggested perhaps SFWA should draft a guideline for what constitutes a professional author for such purposes. A guideline only.  His response to me was, "SFWA is not in the business of running conventions."

No?  Then shut the fuck up.  Seriously. 

I presume the same crap is happening now over the debate about sexual harassment at cons (I only hear the SFWA part second hand).  Yes, this is a problem at some cons and with some people.  Is it relevant to the business of writing?  No.  And, if SFWA is not in the business of running conventions, it's rather pointless for them to waste time on it.  Either address the issue productively, or stay out.

There's an issue over "sexist" cover art that presents women in awkward, unrealistic, and often submissive poses. This is a legitimate issue.  The complications are that this requires input from commercial artists—they don't tell us how to write, we shouldn't tell them how to illustrate for the market until we understand that market from the POV of those working in the field.  There's also the fact that such portrayals sell very well in the Romance genre, which is almost exclusively read by women, and in various paranormal romances, same market.  Some members of SFWA have addressed this with blog posts or reposed photos of the cover models.  Okay, so everyone can see how ridiculous they look.  Great.  Now, as a writer's organization, perhaps there's something concrete to be done, such as, oh, I don't know, ADJUSTING THE MODEL CONTRACT TO GIVE AUTHORS MORE INPUT ON THE COVER.  Of course, this will fly in the face of both the artists and marketing, but it would at least get those groups to the table for a discussion, rather than being yet another internet dramafest.

I'd like to see them address the growing crap trend of conventions expecting writers to pay to attend, thus paying for the privilege of educating and entertaining the attendees.  Some conventions insist they can't "afford" a free badge, when the reality is, there is no "cost" involved.  There's a slight reduction in income, immediately recouped if at least one attendee shows up to see said author.  If a dozen show up, the convention is hundreds of dollars ahead.  But this trend continues, and authors should refuse.  Is SFWA addressing it?  Not that I'm aware of.

And that's what SFWA used to do—contract policies, appearance guidelines, criteria.  During the years I was a member, there was a lot of ranting, hand-wringing, and little actual productivity.

And seriously (and I'll name names, since the guilty party is now deceased), when Harry Harrison refers to Daffyd ab Hugh as "Daffy ab Duck" in internal correspondence, it shows neither professionalism nor maturity.  This fine tradition carries on today with various members attacking the politics and thoughts of others on various issues irrelevant to the business writing.

I watched dozens of proposals regarding membership, awards, and other issues fail for lack of quorum.  Everyone agreed that Something Should Be Done, but frequently didn't care enough to vote.  The Nebula Awards, for example—there are dozens of categories (at least it feels that way) with more added all the time.  A novel is defined as 40K words.  This definition was relevant in the 1950s, but no longer. These days, you pretty much have "short work" and "novel."  But they want Novel, Novella, Novelette, Short Story, etc.  Because if there are more categories, there are more potential awards one might win to get that shiny star on the page. So it hasn't changed.  I believe they've even added a couple of categories.  (I may be wrong, but I honestly don't care.)  And then, of course, there were complaints that members WERE NOT READING THE CANDIDATES FOR AWARDS!  Dozens of novels, hundreds of shorter pieces, as well as TV and movie presentations.  I'm not a critic, and I don't have time to read recreationally—I'm busy earning a living WRITING.

The organization became a complete waste of time quite some years back.  It has no power over publishers, does little for the writers, and expends most of its effort in internet bitch sessions.  I have one answer to that: Facebook.  Blogs.  Fora.  It's just not necessary to pay money to join a group to complain, when most of the members are publicly available, and there's no demands elsewhere to fit particular politics to interact.

Just for the record:  Two of my favorite authors to talk with are Eric Flint, who's a Trotskyite, and Tom Kratman, who regards Genghis Khan as a bleeding heart.  Both are educated, literate, fun to debate with, and not assholes.  So please don't whine that this is about my "right wing" politics (since I lean libertarian myself).

Something SFWA should be concerned about and address better is how to assess self-publication for membership, since there are self-pubs these days selling 5000, 10,000 or more copies of their work—well into professional sales levels. That trend is not going away.  The longer SFWA ignores it, the less relevant they'll be, especially if they keep trying to have a political test for entry.  They'll turn into a bunch of bickering, self-righteous elitists, accomplishing nothing and looking quaint and outdated, that working writers don't care about.

Oh, wait. That's what they are now.

I have better uses for fifty bucks a year, thanks. (Apparently, it's eighty bucks a year now.  I can get two good bottles of Scotch for that.)  So be comforted, MRK, I won't be damaging the virgin purity of your organization, which was mine before you came on the scene.

But let's look at what some others say, just for diversity of opinion:


Larry Correia says:

"I don't really have anything to contribute since I've avoided SFWA. I'm not a member because everything I see from them is fairly useless, they've got nothing to offer me, but when they asked me to join it was so that I could "support new writers," but I help new writers now without giving John Scalzi's politicized nonsense any more credibility. I'd join a professional organization to benefit my professional endeavors. If I wanted to join a group that existed to lobby for various bits of bullshit and protest chain mail bikinis, I'd do that instead. Personally, I like selling books in order to pay my bills.

If they are doing good works, I wouldn't know, because I never see any of it past their stupid crap like attacking Mike Resnick for saying a woman was attractive."

Sarah Hoyt says:

"I was a member of SFWA for several years.  In that time I saw it protest unfair contracts (always with small publishers) and I read other people saying how useful preditors and editors list of bad publishers was. However, in the same time, I saw the standard contracts in the industry become worse for writers, including (I signed a couple of these under duress, fortunately they’re now moot) contracts that gave publishers control over what you wrote for other people.  I watched agents going from being writers’ advocates to being more or less outsourced reading departments for the publishers.  I watched the already miniscule standard beginning advance shrink.  ALL of this without a peep from SFWA.  However, once indie was possible and while a lot of us were making money through Amazon, SFWA bestirred itself to take a small distributor’s side against Amazon in a dispute that was by no means clear cut.  That was when I left SFWA.  I’m now very sorry I did.  As the committee to lynch Resnick and Malzberg became the task force to shriek about any sexism past, present and future, I am deprived of a good opportunity to mail back my torn-up membership card with a note about how they’re proving Heinlein’s dictum about a committee being a group with two or more stomachs and no brain."

Brad Torgersen says:

"Well, truth is, I joined in 2011. But after three years, I am going to quietly let my SFWA membership lapse.

"If I had to hang quotes around a reason why, my quotes would hang around this:

“During the three years I've been a member of SFWA, I've seen the organization erupt in several significant ‘turf war’ conflicts that have each seemed (to my sensibilities) to have everything to do with ideology, and almost nothing to do with helping me as a novelist and a short fiction writer protect or advance my career.  I thought SFWA would be my ‘union’ capable of enhancing or protecting my interests.  It's not really been so.  At least in my very limited experience.

“Especially not when I stumbled across an e-mail exchange between several SFWA members who were essentially discussing ways to turf my chances on the Nebula, Hugo, and Campbell ballots in 2012.

“Why should I pay money to remain a member of an organization that seems (too often?) to be infested with personalities who explicitly want to hurt my career?  Or at least want to blunt my opportunities?

“I’m not really upset about losing any of those awards.  I was honored to be among the finalists for each, and I hope nothing but the best for the winners.  I am unhappy with the fact that people in my ‘union’ wanted to hold me back or damage me.  That’s not something I can overlook.  I say this with reservation, because I have friends and acquaintances who have each worked hard (in various ways) to make SFWA a valuable organization.  I laud their efforts.  I just think the efforts of good people are being overwhelmed by the distractions and drama caused by authors who seem more in love with commotion and picking fights, than they do with being writers.”


Many professional and full time SF authors don’t want to belong to SFWA, because they don't see it being relevant or useful to their interests.  SFWA needs to fix that before they try to address other issues.

Blake Powers has a new book out. I wrote the intro. It's worth having. Here's what Blake has to say about it:


I am pleased to announce that my latest book, A Different View: Travels to Al Qa'im and Beyond, is now out as a trade paperback via Amazon's CreateSpace and on Kindle. This new volume in the A Different View series showcases day-to-day life of Marines at Al Qa'im on the Syrian border while I was with them on the last part of my first embed. It then transitions to Germany and Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, where I introduce readers to a very special ceremony for arriving wounded.

Trade Paperback Kindle

To borrow from my preface: "This is not a book about combat, or combat photography. While every combat reporter wants that one-in-a-million shot or video snippet, such images can only show a few seconds out of what can seem an eternity. Blood sells, and the 99 percent of time that is routine or even boring is not news. It is, however, real." This volume is part of my continuing effort to share the "real" with the public at large.

Author and veteran Michael Z. Williamson provides the introduction, and MaryAnn Phillips of Soldiers' Angels Germany provides a very special foreword to the book. Here is a taste of what others are saying:

"A Different View is a personal and vivid narrative of the author's experience in a combat zone, showing not combat but the mundanity, humor, and boredom that make up ninety-nine percent of life 'inside the wire.' The author's photos and narrative illustrate how service members cope and adapt to the surreal conditions, and how injury and death are still close by. This is a valuable book, and anyone who cares about America's troops and the fight in the Middle East will find it worthwhile."

Larry Bond, bestselling author of Shattered Trident

"My first thought as I looked at the pictures was"I've been there," "I think I know that guy" and the fine details of multiple deployments come rushing back like they were yesterday. I can smell the pictures. Blake captures a reality through a very narrow opportunity that many will never understand. Those that have been there will look at the pictures, remember their experiences, and if they are viewing with another warrior, they will simply glance at one another as they both will remember the events they lived through and will do so with a smirk on their face. They will do it for those that were there with them, that didn't come home."

Maj Pain (USMC),

"Lest we forget - Blake Powers helps all of us who were not there witness the everyday lives and achievements of our armed forces in Iraq with gorgeous pictures and thoughtful commentary."

Toni Weisskopf, publisher of Baen Books

"None of us really know what it's like to be 'on the front lines' unless we've served. Which means most Americans really have 'no clue'. Blake shows these guys and gals in their environment. Sure, there are fun times, how could there not, you'd go bonkers otherwise. But the real deal is just being 'in country'. Living it, breathing it, seeing it, being enveloped by it every waking moment (and sleeping too) then getting through it as best one can. He has really put this out there for all of us, those lucky individuals who have been lavished with the most amazing country in the world, to feel safe, made so by the sacrifices of these brave men and women."

David Mecey, former Staff Photographer, Playboy magazine

"A Different View is well-titled; it gives the reader an alternative perspective of the fruit yielded by the American effort in Iraq. Most of it is good fruit. The book is well worth your time...and your money."

Juliette Ochieng, author of Tale of the Tigers

Given feedback from readers, the Kindle version of this new book was created specifically for Kindle in an effort to deal with format and photo issues that were reported with the previous volume. While the print and Kindle covers will be slightly different, it is hoped that the presentation of the photos will give readers the best possible experience.

This book builds on A Different View: Travels with Team Easy, Iraq, 2007 (Kindle, and trade paperback). The trade paperback will be available on Amazon shortly.

Full copies of the reviews provided by David Mecey and Juliette Ochieng can be found at

Based on research I'm doing for a story.  I have no idea if this ever existed, and I don't think anyone else does.  It works with materials that would have been easily available, however.

This is flexible, so it's easy to do wherever you are.

Slice your chicken into thin strips.  This also works for goat.

Hot pan, hot rock, hot oven stone.

Sprinkle with rock or sea salt.  Add some chopped scallion/wild onion/chive.  Add rosemary or similar evergreen herb.  The greens will likely pop and jump on the hot surface.

Lay the chicken down on the bed of salt and herbs. Once the edges are white, flip over.  Cook until lightly brown.

In a pan, you can also pour in some brine in small drops, to sizzle under the meat.

For cooking on a grill, dredge in the salt mix before laying over the grill.

you can add vegetables if you wish.

My kids insist I cook this regularly.

So, the lesson here, as they should have known, is never to let the director do the marketing.  No, people in 2012 don't instinctively know who John Carter is, and they've seen special effects before.

Here, then, is one example of an ad that would have doubled attendance and made it successful:


"Before Avatar"


"Before Star Wars"


"There was John Carter"


"From the creator of Tarzan"


"And the director of Wall-E"



"A century old epic, in a universe not quite our own."


"John Carter of Mars."


There y'go, Andrew Stanton.  I polluted your pure vision of JC, but sold the fucking movie.  You're welcome.