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May 12, 2007

My Post-SFWA Election Results Post

(Nicked from My Elves Are Different's SFWA Election Special)

People are already discussing the SFWA election results elsewhere online, which suggests the SFWA business meeting at the Nebula Awards Weekend is done, or at least far enough in process that the results are out there for people to know about. For those of you who are not currently at the Nebula Awards Weekend, however, here's the scoop on the election results:

I didn't win.

Now. Before anyone complains that I was robbed and/or that this is another example of how SFWA is miring itself in apathy, please re-read my Expectations Management entry, in which I discuss all the reasons why, in fact, I might lose. In particular, remember that I was a write-in candidate and that I announced after ballots were already coming back to SFWA. In that respect, this was always going to be an uphill battle even if I were to have gotten a majority share of ballots after I announced.

I knew going in this was an uphill battle and decided it was worth my time and energy anyway, because beyond winning -- which was possible -- there were serious issues to raise about the relevance of SFWA to working writers, whether the candidates running had the current publishing experience to make good decisions for working writers, and how SFWA was perceived by an entire generation of speculative fiction writers who see little use being SFWA members, because they can't see what it does for them.

This was the main reason, in fact, that I made the decision to run my campaign for SFWA president out in the open rather than behind the walls of SFWA's private groups -- because I thought potential SFWA members needed to see what was going on in the organization and equally importantly I thought it was important that SFWA members -- particularly the ones who have been so long inside the SFWA private garden that a LiveJournal community was something new and suspect to them -- needed to see how SFWA was viewed by the people who should be SFWA members but are not. In short, a little shock treatment was in order.

I understand, of course, that there may be a number of SFWA members who felt this was unnecessary or possibly unseemly and that all we did with a public campaign was air a bunch of private dirty laundry out in public. The appropriate response to this, I think, is to note that all that dirty laundry had been festering in a pile for years and it didn't seem like anyone was going to throw it into washer without a little prompting. Without this campaign, for example, we would not have had a frank and public discussion of certain loans provided for certain ventures that certain SFWA members found deeply questionable, nor would we have had the public declaration by a party involved that he would repay that loan on an expedited basis -- returning that money to where it can be of the most use to SFWA, i.e., in SFWA's coffers. I applaud that party's choice to return that money to SFWA sooner than later, and hope he realizes that such promises are not to be lightly set aside, either for his own sake or the sake of the organization.

Likewise, this campaign also brought up other important issues: Whether SFWA is incorporated in such a way that makes sense for our mission and our members; Whether those members who use the Internet as a promotional tool are doing so to the disadvantage of others; Whether SFWA's current stance on copyright (both official and perceived) is sensible and useful to its members; Whether the organization's Web site fits the needs and wants of its members. And so on. A lot of this was not on the radar before I jumped into the race; now all of it is.

Let's be clear that this is not one of those "we achieved a moral victory" set-ups here. I hate when people lose and they say they achieved a "moral victory." Really, accept the fact that you lost, suck it up, and move on. What I can say happened was that I helped to change the SFWA landscape. We talked about what we wanted for SFWA now (which is different than how it is), and where we felt the organization should go in the future. These things mattered, and will matter -- so long as the people who jumped in with both feet during the campaign want them to. I'll get to that again in a minute.

First, let me speak a bit regarding Michael Capobianco, who is SFWA's incoming president. When I jumped into the race, one of the primary reasons was that I did not believe Mr. Capobianco was the right person to lead the organization -- he had been too long out of publishing and too cautious in his approach to what a SFWA president should be and should do. Over the course of the campaign, I saw that he was listening to the issues and complaints that folks brought up, and was trying to engage those issues positively -- i.e., he was making a good and honest effort.

Will his presidency be what my presidency would have been? Clearly not, which depending on your point of view is probably not an entirely bad thing. He's not me, and I don't suspect will have the same concerns or drive to do the things I felt needed to be accomplished. I think he'll continue to need to be prodded, and I think those of us who are actively working writers need to make sure the organization addresses our needs in current time. But the fact Mr. Capobianco was listening and was working with a changing situation was a good thing.

I am happy for Mr. Capobianco, I offer him congratulations and an open door when he wishes to have my perspective on SFWA issues, which I hope he will not come to regret when I am occasionally less than perfectly politic, as i suspect I will be. I'll be the first to applaud him when SFWA's board does things I feel is necessary for the organization, and the first to point out when it doesn't. Yes, I'm fun to have around. I do believe Mr. Capobianco wants the best for SFWA; I hope he can achieve that and will help him when I can. I do suspect he faces a number of real challenges in his tenure; I hope he always considers what is right for SFWA in his decisions and choices.

Now, whether any of the stuff brought to light and discussed in the campaign stays in the light depends on the SFWA membership itself, and particularly those of you who voted for me as an agent of change. You don't get to have me as president, so change, to that extent, becomes that much harder to achieve. However, it would be a shame if all the groundwork laid down over the last couple of months went to waste. I think you need to feel free to demand certain things of SFWA's incoming board: That it is responsive, that it is useful, that it is ethical and that it is transparent in process and motivation. In my opinion, the board is obliged to be all of these things. It answers to the SFWA members. But if SFWA's members don't demand these things of the board, there's no assurance they will get them.

That's all I'm going to say about that. All y'all are grownups; you don't need me to lecture you on what you should or should not do, as regards SFWA or anything else. If you want a better SFWA, you'll ask for it (increasingly stridently if need be). If you don't, that's fine, too. It's really all up to you.

I'm sure people will want to know if I plan to run for SFWA president next year. Well, remember that in my candidacy and platform statement this year, I was pretty explicit that I didn't really want the gig this time around, but felt obliged to run for various reasons. What I'm hoping is that next year (preferably in time to be on the ballot) more than one person runs for each office, and that they have enough differences in their platforms and experience that SFWA members have some real choices. And of course I hope at least one of those people has ideas somewhat like mine. I've noted before that my platform is "open source": I encourage anything thinking of running next year to willfully scoop up the parts that make sense to them and run with them. Please, be my guest.

Which is to say that actually, I'd prefer not to run next year if I can at all avoid it. I fell short of the mark this year; I'd like to see someone else pick up the flag and see if they can carry it home. If no one steps forward (or, alternately, if I think precisely the wrong person steps forward), I may offer myself up again. A lot will depend on where I am and where SFWA is next year. But, basically, I wouldn't put money on it. Once is enough in any 12-month span, I think.

I've saved the most important thing for last, which is that in many ways running for SFWA was an overwhelming experience; it's a hard wall to bang your head against. But in the end I'm glad I did it, not only because I think the campaign in itself was a wake-up call for SFWA, but because so many SFWA members stepped forward and cheered me on, offering not only their vote but their creativity, their support and offers to pitch in. I was upfront and said that I would need help; people promised they would give it.

Most of all I am stunned and humbled by the faith people had in me, even when they thought I was simply crazy to have run. I had more than one person tell me that they honestly agonized about whether to vote for me, because, essentially, they didn't know why they would want to punish someone they liked by making him SFWA's president. But in the end they wrote me in and trusted that I could make it work.

I like to think I could have made it work, and perhaps will, at some point in the future. For now, all of you who voted for me, and who cheered me on inside and outside of SFWA, should know that I did not take that support lightly. It sustained me, actually, during the times where I was wondering just what sort of insanity I had decided to put myself into. Your votes and your support made a real, honest and true difference to me, and I thank you for them, and for the trust implicit in them. Every vote I received was one where the voter had a choice. I am honored to have been that choice.

Posted by john at May 12, 2007 04:00 PM

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Dr. Phil | May 12, 2007 03:58 PM

Let me be one of the first to... uh... congratulate you on not winning? I mean, hey, you get to stay out of the direct operations and concentrate on entertaining your wife, child and loyal readers -- in any order you prefer. So it's not a total lose-lose proposition. Sort of a lose-win situation.

These newfangled 21st century meta-elections are gonna drive me nuts.

Dr. Phil

Adam Israel | May 12, 2007 04:36 PM

Congrats on the successful campaign. You may not have been elected but the effect of the attempt has been positive and that is what I think is the most important thing here.

As a potentially-future member of SFWA, I have been watching this election process with great interest. I prefer to see business conducted in an open forum. There is a common phrase within the open-source community that would apply; Many eyes make all bugs shallow. The more people that can participate in the process, even if it's only from the standpoint of an observer, the better.

M.K. Hobson | May 12, 2007 04:49 PM

Thanks for the news! Now I can print up those "Don't blame me, I voted for Scalzi" t-shirts in time for Wiscon. ;-)

John Scalzi | May 12, 2007 04:51 PM

Ooooh. Send me one.

Kate | May 12, 2007 05:06 PM

Oh, I want one too.

I hope you didn't lose by like one vote. I'm going to be mightily angry with myself for not finishing my novel in time to become a member. :)

Bitter | May 12, 2007 05:08 PM

My immediate reaction to seeing that you weren’t elected President of SFWA was disappointment. As a hopeful future member of SFWA, I looked forward to the changes that you planned to implement during your tenure.

As I read the rest of your post I realized that the incumbent had begun to address many of the issues you raised, and it appears that some will be addressed in the coming years.

Here’s hoping SFWA will rise to the occasion and help us succeed in the changing landscape of 21st century publishing. I hope the organization will push for forward-thinking policies and practices that will help us market our work broadly and effectively.

Congrats and best wishes,

TCO | May 12, 2007 05:44 PM

1. The loan to the VP candidate (let's not be coy) was outrageous. We should not talk about holding him to pay it back. It should ALREADY be back! He's a millionaire right?

2. What work will you do know? You said you would find something lower level to contribute on.

3. I think you're still a bit wet behind the ears, so it's just as well that you didn't get it. That said, you are quite likeable in a boyish way, so maybe you would have had people's support. That means a lot also.

4. I knew it! I knew it! Ha!

A.R.Yngve | May 12, 2007 05:46 PM

If nobody ever tried to change things, they'd never change. (Can I make a t-shirt "Don't Blame Me, I Endorsed Scalzi"? ;-))

TCO | May 12, 2007 05:47 PM

What was the score?

Amy Sterling Casil | May 12, 2007 05:58 PM

Hi John - very well-said and super-classy. Thanks for putting your best effort forth and showing a great example for everyone. Congrats on the book tour, too!! I never said, "Why are you doing this?" but - hey, a lot of great artwork came out of the campaign.

I hope you won't disappear by the wayside because the organization will need people of your caliber to help in the year to come. A lot of progress was made just as you say. But if people throw up their hands and give up, no more progress will happen.

chang, who is not chang | May 12, 2007 07:04 PM

So how many votes did the Beauteous Ghlaghghee get?

The two of you could have been unbeatable, but no, you had to go it alone.

Next time you'll know better and run as Her vice presidential candidate.

The Official Ghlaghghee Fan Club

SarahP | May 12, 2007 07:04 PM

Well, in electing Andrew Burt as VP, SFWA has now jumped the shark.

Bet you're breathing a big sigh of relief...

Mary Robinette Kowal | May 12, 2007 07:11 PM

Thank heavens my smear campaign worked, that's all I've got to say.

Jordan | May 12, 2007 07:49 PM

This news means there's no need to join right away. Bummer and congrats.

Jonquil | May 12, 2007 08:27 PM

Thank you for trying. You turned over a lot of rocks.

(And thank you for coming to speak at Google. You were wonderful, and a couple of people commented in the halls on how lively and well-informed you were.)

Sheila Finch | May 12, 2007 08:43 PM

Thank you for running, John. I am personally sorry you didn't win. Even though I've never met you, I felt I could have worked with you as the president of the board.

John Scalzi | May 12, 2007 08:46 PM

Thank you, Sheila. Likewise.

Chang, for rizzle. | May 12, 2007 10:21 PM

The sticker's funny.

You should have another version that says:

"Don't Blame Me I Wasn't Eligible to Vote for Sclazi!"

deCadmus | May 12, 2007 10:55 PM

Put me down for one of the "Don't Blame Me..." shirts, too.

Meanwhile, I'm pleased that you were able to open the ponderous and rusted doors of the SFWA to a little bit of sunshine, even as some members found the light an irritant and were left stumbling like so many moles out of the shadows.

I'm about as pleased that you didn't win, not because I wish you second place in any popularity contests, but because 1) I really don't want to have to preface my remarks here with "el Presidente" and 2) I'd think it'll leave you more time to write. Even given your current prolific rate I can still read words faster than you're able to string them together.

That said, I hope the SFWA takes this episode for what it is; a sincere desire by some growing portion of its membership to lead, follow, or get the hell out of the way, so that when I'm ready to join -- you know, after I've written books and stuff -- it'll be a group I'm proud to be a part of.

Kathryn Allen | May 12, 2007 11:48 PM

I'm sad that you lost, but many thanks for having made the challenge.

Rachel Brown | May 13, 2007 12:37 AM

Well, that's certainly disappointing.

mensley | May 13, 2007 03:34 AM

Yay, you didn't win!

Let's get working on some new novels and entertaining rants!

Thank you for running. I hope that SWFA becomes a more useful and helpful organization as a result of your campaign.

I honestly think that you are more useful to the body of SF through being an interesting novelist who is writing SF into new directions, and as a blogging gadfly.

And, I think this would be way more fun for you.

mensley | May 13, 2007 03:38 AM

There was a tag in the above post which was meant to denote that my demands were humorous! The first two sentences were in jest!

David Moles | May 13, 2007 07:05 AM

T-shirts here: Don't Blame Me! I Voted For SCALZI and Don't Blame Me! I Would've Voted For SCALZI If Only I'd Been Eligible!. (John, if you want any of these -- including, say, the "if onlies" for Athena or Krissy -- just send me the sizes and your address. I figure it's the least I can do for all the trouble you took on.)

TCO | May 13, 2007 10:15 AM


Tempest | May 13, 2007 11:16 AM

David, I want the second shirt!!

Sorry you didn't win, JS :( next year, dude. Next year. Don't make me pull an ObamaMama and start draftscalzi.com.

John Scalzi | May 13, 2007 11:30 AM


Don't know the official results yet.

Steve Buchheit | May 13, 2007 12:39 PM

John, I agree that your candidacy at least brought from light and fresh air to places that needed it. I hope the leadership of SFWA continue that policy of keeping and working in the open. IT can be a bitch to do so, but we run at least our local government that way. It can be done. And it creates great PR for the organization.

Stephen Granade | May 13, 2007 01:51 PM

James Nicoll has the numbers.

And my condolences on your loss, even though it may be better for you than had you won.

Lars | May 13, 2007 06:31 PM

I ran for Features Editor of my university paper this year, and lost that.

Jeri | May 13, 2007 07:19 PM

Thanks, John, for giving SFWA a much-needed shakeup. I hope they don't interpret the results as our desire to keep the status quo. Anyway, enjoy your freedom for another year, because you will be drafted.

TCO, I think more than the # of votes he got, John wants to know how many people are buying the "I Voted for Scalzi" thong.

John Scalzi | May 13, 2007 07:28 PM

There's a thong? Oh, my.

Sheila Finch | May 13, 2007 10:12 PM

A thong? Oh Lord. I can see it around the pool at the NASFIC--

Not a pretty sight.

JC | May 14, 2007 09:34 AM

Wow, for a write in campaign, you got a lot of votes. (I would have voted for you if I were eligible to vote. Still working on the first sale.)

I think this shows that a substantial chunk of SFWA is not happy with the current state of things. I hope that just realizing this will make SFWA become a better and strong organization. (Of course, maybe it might have happened faster if they had elected you, but oh well. One step at a time.)

Go you!

Steve Buchheit | May 14, 2007 09:54 AM

It would be interesting to see how many of those t-shirts, bumper-stickers, thongs actually would sell, you know, compared to actual vote results.

Laurie Mann | May 14, 2007 11:43 AM

I often say "Congratulations and Condolences" when someone wins an election. I really meant it when I said it to Michael on Sunday.

SFWA president is one of the major thankless jobs out there. SFWA needs to change some, and I hope there will be vocal people around to help prod the board into doing the right things.

Karl | May 15, 2007 02:31 AM

Speaking selfishly here, I'm glad that you have more time to write books.

Jim Van Pelt | May 15, 2007 01:10 PM

Congrats, John, on a well-reasoned campaign.

Jed | May 18, 2007 11:22 PM

Belatedly: good post.

One thing I would add, though (which various people said at various times during the campaign, but I figure it's worth reiterating one more time here at the end): there is a lot of potential for SFWA members to involve themselves in changing the organization even without being elected officers.

So: Those of y'all who are dissatisfied SFWA members, look around at the organization. Are there things you don't like about it that you think could be changed by someone other than the Board? If so, start a-changin'!

I'm certainly not saying everything can be changed without the Board's involvement. But there are a lot of things that could be.

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