My Petition to an Organization I Don’t Actually Belong To
Warning: parody and snark ahead, in response to this silliness, a petition to prevent something that doesn’t and won’t actually exist.
Originally, I had intended to gather signatures for my parody, but a wise friend pointed out how that could be counterproductive, adding to the sense of an Us vs. Them schism within SFWA. Which would have been ironic, considering how I was grumbling about such attitudes earlier in the week.
I like SFWA. They do a lot of really good work. It annoys me when someone who isn’t even a member stirs up this kind of silliness, creating conflict and bad press over nonexistent “hypothetical” boogeymen or issues that were dealt with — including the solicitation of input from the entire membership — a year ago.
I like RWA too, for that matter. I love hanging out with romance writers, and I’ve learned a lot from talking to them. I have zero patience for people who, despite never having read the genre, go around dissing romance as nothing but mantitty and bodice-ripping and simplistic formulaic fiction. (Also, I wish my genre sold that well!)
My response is not meant to belittle anyone or anything except for the original, ridiculous petition and the individual who put it forth.
RWA President Secretly Censoring Romance Writers Report?
By Jim C. Hines
Terry McLaughlin, President of the Romance Writers of America, has obviously been part of an ongoing policy of P*litically C*rrect censorship in the organization’s organization’s professional publication, a professional magazine for professionally writing professionals, the Romance Writer’s Report., the Romance Writers Report.
As a professional author who once read a romance novel, I was shocked when I investigated this organization I don’t actually belong to and found covers such as this gracing their magazine:
Yes, they’re wonderfully clean and professional-looking covers. But I visited the page on the RWA website where the Romance Writers Report is described as, “a trade publication that mails monthly and covers all aspects of the romance writer’s career. Free with your membership.” (Emphasis added.)
This mission statement is, on the surface, seemingly harmless. Unless, that is, you are aware of the ongoing history of cover art selected for the Romance Writers Report and my selective oversimplification and misrepresentation of that history! Because the alleged meaning of “all aspects” here doesn’t mean what it’s commonly taken to mean, which becomes clear when you look at these covers and see the meaning that’s missing.
The problem can be summed up in one word: mantitty.
It’s the lack of mantitty that made me sit up and rub my eyes to make sure I wasn’t seeing what I thought I wasn’t seeing. These covers represent “all aspects” of a romance writer’s career? Say whaaaaaa…? As an amateur cover model, I’m quite familiar with the manly pecs and flowing man-locks that are such an essential part of my selective interpretation of the romance genre’s history and roots.
[SELF-CENSORED EDITED TO REMOVE SECTION ABOUT HOW GAY MEN LIKE MANTITTY TOO SO THIS IS TOTALLY DISCRIMINATORY AGAINST THEM]
There is a tradition in this country of people misunderstanding the First Amendment and crying “Freedom of speech!” when a professional organization chooses not to publish content it deems unprofessional. As a Writers’ Organization, RWA should be at the front line in the deep, wet trenches of this battle, fighting in their torn uniforms, with sweat glistening on their firm muscles, their piercing blue eyes fixed upon the Enemies of Freedom. Enemies who had once been allies on that winter night so long ago, when firm hands slipped beneath the tight waistband of our jeans to grasp our tight buttocks and pull us close—
…sorry. Where was I? Oh, right. Freedom! The heart of the matter is that RWA has been committing an ongoing offense against freedom of the press – its own press! – through this blatant self-censorship of mantitty!
So I clasped my pen firmly in my strong, eager fingers and spilled my ink onto the page.
[Email to RWA President Terry McLaughlin, February 11, 2014]
“Hi Terry 🙂
Why have you chosen to TRAMPLE THE FREE SPEECH AND FREEDOM OF THE PRESS by not putting rock-hard abs and chiseled man-chests on the cover of RWR?
Why do you hate freedom? And mantitty?
Jim C. Hines”
I received no response. I blame censorship. (Or the fact that I didn’t actually email her.)
In the light of the preceding unsubstantiated fearmongering and hot-button buzzwords that don’t actually exist in RWA’s policies or procedures, I strongly object to the RWA’s ongoing mantitty-censorship. Specifically, I have the following objections:
- “Romance writer’s career” is so vague it leaves many questions unanswered. What is romance? Who is a writer? Why are you so determined to portray these “writers” as professionals instead of the boa-wearing, bon-bon munching stereotypes of old?
- What about the advertisers? Will you be auditing them to make sure the purity of your publication isn’t soiled by mantitty-tainted dollars?
- If you continue this Politically Correct censorship of mantitties, aren’t you creating a slippery slope that leads to DEATH PANELS?
In view of these considerations, I ask that the President and Board of the RWA (1) put out an open call for mantitty and (2) begin a conversation about romance cover art, because this topic has never before been discussed in a venue where I was able to satisfactorily explain to everyone else why they were wrong.
[SELF-CENSORED EDITED TO REMOVE SECTION ABOUT HOW HOLDING A PROFESSIONAL MAGAZINE TO PROFESSIONAL STANDARDS IS JUST LIKE SLAVERY!]
It cannot be emphasized too strongly here that the issue is not one of Left vs. Right, SF/F vs. Romance, Peanut Butter vs. Jelly, Kirk vs. Picard, or Fabio vs. Hugh Jackman. The only issue here is a First Amendment one that lovers of both Fabio and Jackman should be able to agree on. When our forefathers signed the Constitution of the United States of America, it was with the understanding that Thomas Jefferson was going to get to see some chiseled, powder-wig-wearing man-chest.
“Take your stinking paws off me, you damn dirty ape!”
—Charlton Heston (actor, and apparently the kind of guy you quote in petitions)
It is my hope that RWA President Terry McLaughlin will immediately kill any “professional” guidelines or oversight in the organization’s publications that might censor or infringe upon any RWA member’s Freedom to Enjoy Mantitty (and throw out any and all respect they’ve fought so hard to earn) in the pages of the Romance Writers Report.
Tina Smith Gower
February 11, 2014 @ 8:03 pm
I met Terry at my last RWA meeting. She’s a member of our chapter, too. But sarcasm aside, I DO think that SFWA could learn something by looking to RWA on how to structure and run things. Especially where the newsletter is concerned (even though it lacks MANTITTY as you’ve pointed out).
Jim C. Hines
February 11, 2014 @ 8:05 pm
I have no doubt of that. I know SFWA has had some back-and-forth with other writer groups, and it seems like more of that would only be a good thing for everyone.
February 11, 2014 @ 8:08 pm
This mantitty censorship must not stand!
February 11, 2014 @ 8:10 pm
When our forefathers signed the Constitution of the United States of America, it was with the understanding that Thomas Jefferson was going to get to see some chiseled, powder-wig-wearing man-chest.
Sentence. For. The. Win.
Thanks for the brain bleach. I made the mistake of reading the original petition, which was like a dozen some-odd pages of pure verbal flatulence.
February 11, 2014 @ 8:10 pm
I think there is a critical lack of mantitty across all genres–don’t forget HWA and MWA! Mantitty is our CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT.
Chadwick H. Saxelid
February 11, 2014 @ 8:13 pm
I find the exclusion of the softer, more voluptuous manboob reprehensible. This might compel me to start a petition to have your petition for supposed inclusion made to be more inclusive.
Jim C. Hines
February 11, 2014 @ 8:23 pm
The partitioning of my petition leads to re-petition… Or something.
Tina Smith Gower
February 11, 2014 @ 8:24 pm
YES! I’d love to see SFWA pull themselves back up–looking to other organizations who’ve done this sort of thing and come out on top is one place to start. RWA went though this years ago when they went from “only proven pros” to “anyone can join” — then again recently to include self-published and trad published authors together in their PAN (Published Authors Network) membership. If you’ve not published you have the option to be in PRO (which focus on getting authors to the point where they can publish, so info on agents, editors, craft). These kinds of changes leave people unhappy, but in a few years it recovers. Also RWA manages to stay out of political bashings–although I’m sure they exist–but as a general member they’ve not come to light to me yet or blown up my Twitter and Facebook like SFWA does. And I’m friends with a lot of authors from both.
Anyway, I could gush all day, but then I’d be defending our lack of MANTITTY and I’m trying to be openminded.
Can We Please Not Rewrite History, Folks? (More on the SFWA Petition, and Links.) | SL Huang
February 11, 2014 @ 8:26 pm
February 11, 2014 @ 8:30 pm
I read your… ah… very interesting post, and kept glancing at the February picture in my Year of the Poser calendar. I have to be honest here, I thought, “Wow. Jim is right. Those covers need MANTITTY! And February’s pictures are perfect!” (Particularly the one where you’re looking fetchingly and suggestively over your shoulder at, er, Bear.)
No more Mantitty censorship!
Deirdre Saoirse Moen
February 11, 2014 @ 8:35 pm
I hate to inform you that mantitty is definitely underwhelming even on erotic romance book covers. Even on M/M (male/male) erotic romance book covers.
February 11, 2014 @ 8:49 pm
I signed the original, more offensive version of the petition, not because I support the offensive parts, but because I support the other parts. I then helped disguis… edit… the petition that you now see.
His name was Robert Paulson.
(I think I just sprained my sarcasm bone.)
February 11, 2014 @ 8:55 pm
Yes, this is a petition I can sign eagerly, with trembling fingers and heaving…
Jim C. Hines
February 11, 2014 @ 8:57 pm
I actually think SFWA has come a long way in recent years, both with the reincorporation process and in trying to pull its gaze into the current century. There are a lot of really good people doing some great work. Which is one of the reason the original petition annoyed me so much.
Tina Smith Gower
February 11, 2014 @ 9:10 pm
I’m not in SFWA, although I qualify. The efforts of a lot of good people is something that is hard to see from the outside. I’ll try to keep that in mind.
February 11, 2014 @ 9:33 pm
Diana Pharaoh Francis
February 11, 2014 @ 10:18 pm
The only thing missing is an analogy to Hitler and concentration camps. How could you overlook that??? It’s soooooo Obvious!
February 11, 2014 @ 10:18 pm
I finally went to look up the original that you are parodying here.
In recent years, readings of THE EYE OF ARGON have basically stopped at conventions, because people realized that making fun of a sixteen-year-old kid’s writing was kind of not cool.
So I’m actually quite happy to see that David Truesdale has given us a piece of writing of that quality, something that we can now pass around at cons to attempt the “Read as far as you can without cracking up” contest, but which was written by someone old enough to know better, so it’s totally fair to make fun of them.
February 11, 2014 @ 10:35 pm
Stop insulting 16-year-olds, Ian Osmond.
If you look at the comments from prominent paranormal romance writers that were roughly contemporaneous with Bulletin #200 and the following contretemps, you’ll find a lot of comments along the lines of Tina Smith Gower’s first line above. Generally followed by “and am I ever happy about that!”
David Gerrold is now pushing that the editor of the Bulletin should be an elected position. If Jim Hines volunteers to run, I volunteer to have my wife rejoin SFWA just to vote for him.
February 11, 2014 @ 10:37 pm
Even Dave hasn’t violated Gresham’s Law yet. (The closest was Mike Resnick calling everyone who thought talking about how an editor looked in a swimsuit instead of how much better she made your stories was a “liberal fascist.” And, really, when you’re borrowing from Jonah Goldberg, you’ve long before given up ratiocination.)
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February 11, 2014 @ 10:40 pm
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[…] Silvia Moreno-Garcia points out that whatever one thinks of Red Sonja covers and Resnick and Malzberg reminiscing about the good old days, this sort of content does not belong in the official magazine of a professional writers’ organisation and also offers the membership magazines of other writing organisations for comparison. Meanwhile, Jim C. Hines has taken it upon himself to launch a (not entirely serious) petition to Terry McLaughl…. […]
February 12, 2014 @ 12:29 am
I agree that genre magazines should bear a resemblance to their genre. If RWA stood for Romance Writers of Antarctica, those bland covers would be okay. But this is America. That means guns, horses, and mantitty. Oh, wait. That’s Vladimir Putin. CORRECTION: Guns, BACON, and mantitty.
February 12, 2014 @ 12:55 am
There are a lot of books have been pushed on me that would have been a hundred times more amusing with some eye-candy doing something silly.
February 12, 2014 @ 7:12 am
I’m just watching from the sidelines (not a member of either organization, mostly because I don’t qualify for SFWA and I don’t write romance) but I’ve started thinking of joining RWA if only to get RWR. From everything I’ve read and heard romance writers are some truly business savvy people in the world of publishing which makes me think I should try to learn from them.
The complete lack of mantitty aside of course, which is clearly a very unprofessional move on their part.
February 12, 2014 @ 8:10 am
My subtle muscles stretch and pound against the hardwood table and my mantitties move as I lean towards the keyboard while reading this article.
I may well find myself moving on the floor. Air rapidly escaping my mouth in spasms. My taunt curved behind moving on its own accord.
February 12, 2014 @ 9:49 am
yes Yes YES!
Michi Trota (@GeekMelange)
February 12, 2014 @ 9:57 am
And now my coworkers are wondering why I’m sitting at my desk and cracking the hell up. Thanks a lot, Jim.
(No, seriously, thank you for this, it’s been a shitty couple of days and the laugh provided by PROPERLY done satire and your rapier snark was very much needed and appreciated.)
February 12, 2014 @ 10:09 am
Happy to sign your petition, Jim! We have to stand up for The Old Ways.
February 12, 2014 @ 10:43 am
“Oh, Jim, you’re my hero!” said our heroine breathlessly…
Thank you for this.
Tina Smith Gower
February 12, 2014 @ 11:16 am
Nina–our names totally rhyme which makes me instantly like you 😉 They also have the best conferences in the entire business. Where else can you pitch to just about every major publishers and agent in one place? Only at a RWA conference. They’re 100% business.
I’ve not published anything romance either. All my publications are mostly science fiction–but I have a science fiction novel about to go out on submission to publishers that has romantic elements. I think there is an associate membership that allows you to get the RWR, all the other info, plus the members rates on workshops/conferences (they do have some free online classes for members that you’d be welcomed to as well) and not be able to vote, but it’s not cheaper. And you do have to deal with the lack of Mantitty, which is a major bummer. It’s an option.
If you want to connect and chat more you can send me an email through tinagower dot com
February 12, 2014 @ 2:05 pm
Even Dave hasn’t violated Gresham’s Law yet.
Surely you mean Godwin’s Law? Although I expect Gresham’s Law applies to at least some parts of this whole contretemps.
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