Thursday, August 15, 2013

Groucho And Me

I have read that in Groucho Marx’s letter of resignation to the Friars’ Club he said, “I don’t want to belong to any club that would accept me as one of its members.”

I have from time to time contemplated an organization to which I do not belong, the SFWA. Since I have been known to write Science Fiction (as seen here) and I do reside in America (as seen here), the thought of joining has occurred.

Like pipefitters or electricians, it makes sense that scribblers should band together to advance their common interest. I am a software engineer and maintain my membership in the I.E.E.E. for this reason. In fact, in my youth I served on the local chapter's board to advance my profession.

Yet, writing is less like a profession or even a skilled trade and more like something else. ...something that meets in a 12-step program.

Writers as many will tell you are commonly objects of abuse and exploitation at the hands of Publishers. Having some kind of collective bargaining unit might make sense. Or even some kind of warning system telling you who to stay away from, or what to avoid in contract negotiations.

I managed to maintain a healthy disinterest in the SFWA because I got the impression it does none of those things. Yet, they made themselves odious a while back by mau-mauing some of their own for thought-crime. I condemned their cultural Stalinism then went back to giving them the benign neglect of which I thought them worthy.

Then I heard about someone named Vox Day being drummed out of the SFWA. I've never met the fellow nor had any occasion to interact with him either positively nor negatively. Then I read this. And upon expending just a few milliseconds' more effort discovered that Stanislaw Lem had also been evicted.

OK, now I understand what's going on.

This is like academia. The politics is so vicious because nothing important is at stake.

Actually, that's not exactly true. There are people involved. People with feelings. The cool-kids-clique is bullying the unpopular kid to keep everyone else in line. This is inhuman. Come to think of it. It's a good thing that Harrison Ford never ran his anti-Turing-test on some kids I knew in High School.


  1. After reading everything Vox Day said, you really believe that he's being bullied by the cool kids? 0.o Sorry there's not much else to say.

    1. I did not read everything Vox Day has said. After reading what I did, my thinking has become more nuanced. I now think Vox Day made the same rhetorical mistakes that Ann Coulter makes.

      His most damning words came in response to an attack on his character by another writer in a speech which fits the schoolyard squabble paradigm. She called you-know-who a poopy-head in her speech. He called her a double-poopy-head on his blog and put a hashtag on it so SFWA members got a link to his polemic.

      His words can be interpreted in a way that's racist, and one can also read his words in a non-racist way. Instead of expelling this induhvidual he should have been closely questioned in public what his red-meat rhetoric meant so that there'd be no doubt.

      The real shame here is that some damning words of his attacker will be ignored. I do not think that Texan and Floridan legislators are conspiring to open a hunting season on black people.


Those more worthy than I: