Thursday, June 6, 2013

Why John Scalzi deserves even-more-than full blame for the SFWA Bulletin fiasco, and should have done more to support Jean Rabe

It's not Scalzi's fault that his Presidential Statement on the SFWA Bulletin fails to make clear something that's been missed by the people who are pleased by Jean Rabe's resignation—insiders often forget how little outsiders know. Medievalist stresses an essential point about Rabe's limited power as editor in The Latest SFWA Controversy:
If you look closely, you'll see she did not have editorial control; hence the content was passed on to the Publisher i.e. the President of SFWA, i.e John Scalzi who did not read the articles.

I note however that the Bylaws don't really indicate much about the Bulletin other than it's a membership benefit and it should list new members.

Which is why I've said that they need to stop treating the Bulletin like a fanzine that no one reads. It needs to be taken seriously. The Editor needs to have the ability to accept or reject, and there needs to be some sort of approval mechanism so that the Board can support the editor and be aware of issues before they become public..

A modicum of oversight would have prevented the idiocies of the last three bulletins from ever appearing in print.
The Bulletin has never made writers conform to a speech code. Instead, it's encouraged dialogue. Rabe was clearly continuing that tradition when she ran Jim C. Hines's piece about women and cover art. When Scalzi announced a task force, he should have stressed that it was in response to the uproar and not in response to Rabe's handling of her duties.

Given the circumstances Rabe was working under, she fully deserves the praise Scalzi gave her when announcing her resignation. And probably deserves more.

Recommended: Sheila's LiveJournal - THE SFWA BULLETIN KERFUFFLE.

ETA: From a comment I made at I09, where someone asked whether a publisher would be closely involved in what was published:
Some publishers are effectively editor-in-chief-of-the-editor-in-chief. Others don't care what's in their publications so long as they're making a profit.
But this was a controversial matter already. Rabe ran it by Scalzi. Here are the relevant bits from Scalzi, with emphasis from Medievalist:
" By our organization’s current bylaws, the president of SFWA has unilateral control of, and therefore is ultimately responsible for, the organization’s publications. This includes the Bulletin. This means that when all is said and done, I personally am responsible for the Bulletin and what is published between its covers."
"As publisher, I was aware that there would be two articles in Bulletin #202 about the cover of issue #200, one by Jim C. Hines and one by Mike Resnick and Barry Malzberg. I did not read Mr. Hines’ piece and glanced cursorily at the Resnick/Malzberg piece but did not give it a significant read; I do not as a matter of course closely read the Bulletin before it is published. It’s possible if I had more closely read the article I might have alerted Ms. Rabe to portions that might be an issue. She might then have had the opportunity to take those concerns back to Mr. Resnick and Mr. Malzberg, who I have no reason to believe would not have taken editorial direction.

"This did not happen. I as publisher gave the go-ahead – and once again, the responsibility for the event, and the offense it caused, falls on me."