My Number One Wish For The SF&F Community

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To varying degrees, I feel what’s happening today in the science fiction and fantasy genre is the same thing that has happened before. Veterans, who have been around in the industry in multiple capacities, understand the machinations of both publishing and fandom. New people, whether they have a vested interest in business or not, bring in fresh perspectives and speculate on how the industry can change. Lines are drawn in the sand and both sides hunker down. It’s “You haven’t been around long enough to understand how changes are implemented.” versus “You’ve been around so long you aren’t willing to change.”

That was a gross generality, mind you, presented for my next point. I see a lot of calls to modernize the industry and make it more welcoming to new folk. A few recent topics of discussion have been diversity in science fiction and fantasy, proposed changes to WorldCon, and addressing personal safety issues at cons. Internet discussions are both exacerbating these topics and highlighting their varying aspects for all the world to see — but this industry is not unique. These same discussions are happening (and have been) in comics, games, music, etc. for some time.

I care, very deeply, about the future of the entertainment industry as a whole and how I will be able to fare long-term in my career. These discussions aren’t going to go away, nor should they. Due to the volume of chatter and emotional tension, though, it’s hard from my perspective to sort out what the proposed solutions are. I feel the way forward is to a) recognize there’s a problem b) come up with satisfactory solutions and then c) work towards them.

So, I’d like to start with one of my own. If there was a “single” change I’d like to see happen now, this would be it.

Mentorship Program

There are many flavor of folk in this industry from fans to support staff to full-time writers, editors, etc. Some of us are in this particular industry part-time; others make a living here. Our experiences vary widely and it is my personal belief that we could benefit from each other’s knowledge.

How? By kicking off a mentorship program. I think this can happen in a few different ways by either building off of what’s already out there or through new efforts. For example, here’s three possibilities that come to mind:

One-on-One

Mentorship could occur on a one-on-one basis where a barter system is deployed for an exchange of services. An example of this would be one party teaches the other how to format an e-book; the other individual provides guidance for incorporating more diversity in their particular story. The barter system can work really well provided it takes on some business-related aspects or involve a certain amount of accountability.

If these relationships are too casual, I can see how this won’t be as effective, but that’s also partly due to my own bias. I prefer to build relationships by starting small and finding common ground.

Coordinated Panel Programming

An easy enough “fix” would be for an introductory-level series of panels designed to help individuals go from their current status to the next level. These panels, with their descriptions, instructions, and materials could be hosted on an organization like SFWA’s website, or on an individual writer’s blog, for folk to use and employ across multiple conventions.

Now, to give credit where credit is due this is not a new concept and some of this already exists. Just recently, I moderated a panel John Klima suggested based off of Nick Mamatas‘s idea.

I’m proposing that we take that concept a step further (if it’s not being done already) because it’s extraordinarily useful for new writers to have access to veterans in a format like that. What I’m suggesting here, is that to build more bridges, we leverage existing convention programming through better coordination. For example, there could be materials for anyone ready and willing to use them housed in a particular location, guidance on how to run these panels, etc.

Spotlight on Resources

As I alluded to earlier, there are a lot of resources out there already that were designed address specific grievances or help new-to-industry folk get acclimated. Many are happening on the author level, but there are conventions, organizations, publishers, website, etc. that are also doing good works.

It’s impossible to find those without serious research right now because the links often get lost on social media or in the midst of a rant. (I will spare you my rant about semantic and social search.) It’d be great if we could get a neutral party (e.g. not a particular writer or editor) or industry-facing organization to collate those. That way, it becomes a destination. “Oh, you’re new to the industry? Hey, here’s a website or web page where you can go to find out the basics.”

Propose Your Own

None of what I’ve said here may be “the” solution, but each one is “a” solution based on my perspective. When I first came to the genre, it was because I loved every bit of it, not because I hated its flaws and couldn’t stand them any longer. I am excited about what the future holds and I hope to read, hear, and see more reasons to be incredibly happy about the industry as the years progress.

What about you? What solutions do you propose to help the industry flourish? How will you bring about positive change? What bridges can we build to bring the community back together?

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One Response to My Number One Wish For The SF&F Community
  1. Cambias

    This is more of a marketing move, but I think it has immense potential: SFWA needs to hold the Nebula Awards at one of the mega-cons like SDCC or DragonCon or whatever.

    Yes, it’s nice and very pleasant to have an intimate members-only event to give out the awards. But it would actually help members sell more books if it was pumped up into the propellorhead equivalent of Oscar Night.

    It would also break up the quasi-incestuous relationship between SFWA and the old-line fan community who put on the Hugos. I love the Hugos, but Worldcons just aren’t in the same league as the mega-conventions any more.



Monica Valentinelli is a writer, editor, and game developer. Her portfolio includes stories, games, comics, essays, and pop culture books.

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