As a member of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (a famously contentious organization that once took six months of vicious internal debate and a nonbinding poll of the membership to decide how to abbreviate its own name†), I’m watching the current explosions over at Romance Writers of America with a connoisseur’s eye.
The thing that boggles me is that the so-called “ethics complaint” that their ethics committee (or maybe — it’s confusing — not the official ethics committee, but some sort of double-secret private ethics committee) brought against Courtney Milan boiled down to “Courtney Milan made mean comments in public about another member’s book.” To which all I can say is, if that were an ethics-complainable offense in SFWA, there wouldn’t be more that three or four of us who weren’t thrown out of the club for it.
Back in the pre-Web days, when the romance writers and the sf/fantasy writers were first meeting up with each other on GEnie and other online fora, there were some real first-contact cultural clashes that went on, a lot of them over the way that the sf/fantasy people were “rude and mean” and the romance people were “too sweet to be real.” Things calmed down after a while, and everyone got used to the idea that “fuck you” in one forum could be the equivalent of a friendly punch on the shoulder, and “bless your heart” in another forum could be the equivalent of a shiv between the ribs, and everybody got together behind the idea that writers deserved royalties and certain publishing houses were scum.
But I think now we’re seeing, among other things, the failure mode of the Culture of Nice: The ride may be smoother than you get with the Culture of Contention, but when the wheels come off they fly in all directions.
†SFWA. Per eventual official decree, the actual acronym is SFFWA — with the second F superimposed upon the first. It also says a lot about SFWA that the membership accepted this as a perfectly logical compromise.