Future of The Bulletin
Halt! Help me fund Young Blood, my Mexican vampire novel.
It’s been an odd weekend. I got hate mail. Yes. But I’ve gotten a lot more support than hate, from people on Twitter, Facebook and folks who read my blog. So I say: Thank you. It’s nice to know there are people who care about the same issues I care about and who are passionate about them.
Now, I would like to draw attention to two very interesting posts which are connected to the discussion we’ve been having. One is Lavie Tidhar talking about the relevance of SFWA to an international audience (I was a member and I’m not from the United States) and the other about the success of The Bulletin as a trade publication, written by Mari Ness.
Mari Ness says:
So, to sum up, we can say that the Bulletin is barely meeting its own stated publication goals. And this, I think, is also a problem. And a problem that arguably led right to this situation: had the Bulletin focused on points one and two, it would not have had room for the article that has generated such controversy and unwelcome attention.
We can probably draw some overall life lesson from that, though with the caveat that sometimes goals and missions have to be changed. But I don’t see a problem with the Bulletin‘s stated mission, just the delivery.
What is, after all, the purpose of an organisation like this? Is it to host occasional parties or hand out awards? Is it to fund emergency medical help for American writers living under a system of no social healthcare? Is it to offer business advice? At the moment, it seems half or more of the organisation’s budget goes on publishing a rather odd print journal (and we can see how that has turned out).
When I was a member of SFWA, I joined because I thought it would be a good tool for me. However, I was disappointed with several of it services. The most prominent “perks” of the organization seem to be:
- Health coverage (does not apply to me, as I’m in Canada, but I can see the appeal for people in the USA)
- Social media forums (they were not very active and I found few interesting, welcoming discussions)
- The directory (kind of useless since finding contact info for people is easy online)
- The Bulletin (its articles seemed very basic)
- Grievance committee (can’t comment on it as I didn’t use it)
So here’s the thing: I found The Bulletin to be pretty much a waste of paper long before this controversy. It didn’t seem to contain the useful articles and items I find in the trade publications I purchase or get through my day job. A lot of the content was too fluffy or intended for a less experienced audience. The current issues of the publication added an extra layer of “no, thanks” to the whole thing, but as a whole the journal wasn’t doing that great. And I joined, in large part, for The Bulletin (the other reason was to meet other writers, though it didn’t pan out that way).
Which brings me to a question. A question that I think is central in this discussion: Who is The Bulletin serving and are they doing it properly? Because, when your publication carries lots of space about people baffled by these newfangled whippersnappers and their anonymous Tweet Thing I think that you can instead:
- Give some of these whippersnappers some space to talk about things such as tech and modern developments (Kickstarter? How do you run one successfully? Publishers against or for it?)
- Maybe have some stuff where you can explain to the Older Guard what these whippersnappers are talking about (Tumblr: What it is and how it can help you promote your books)
And we could also have some cool stuff, like Report from Abroad where we might learn What’s the Hot Book in Japan Right Now! and other stuff like that. And I wouldn’t mind seeing retrospective stuff like Pulp Covers: An Evolution from the 20s to the 50s or Cheesecake, Beefcake and their Impact on Speculative Fiction Covers or The 1960s Gothic Novel: Grandmother of Paranormal Romances? That would be fun.
There is of course, a bigger issue, the issue of sexism and creating welcome, diverse spaces for women and men in fandom. That is an issue that is harder to resolve as it goes beyond a better editorial calendar and scope, and into a different realm. However, I am heartened by yours responses. I think we will do better because many of you think this is important and want it to be better for all readers, fans and writers.