Over the past several months, I’ve written a number of posts about professionalism in the speculative fiction field (here, here, and here). Today, at least one of those threads of controversy – the question of Theodore Beale/Vox Day’s continued membership of SFWA – has reached an inflection point.
Today, the SFWA Board communicated to Vox Day (privately, though its recipient proceeded to publish the relevant correspondence on his blog) that upon review of the initial investigation findings, and consideration of his response to those findings, that as a Board they had voted unanimously to expel him from SFWA’s membership. Per Twitter, they communicated that a member had been expelled (without naming that member) to SFWA members via e-mail. And finally, the Board released an official statement confirming the expulsion (here), still without naming the expelled member.
I have no doubt that this has been a long, difficult, and stressful process for everyone involved. Such a decision should never be made lightly, and SFWA’s official statement acknowledges that fact. Difficult or not, I believe that it was a wise decision by the SFWA Board. Many people both inside and outside of SFWA seem cheered by the fact of Day’s expulsion. I’m one of them: I find Day’s views reprehensible and his behavior ugly. But pleased as I am by news of the expulsion, that isn’t the most significant – or even the most important – facet of today’s news. Instead, consider this:
SFWA’s expulsion of Theodore Beale/Vox Day makes a powerful statement about standards of professional conduct in the field of speculative fiction.
SFWA’s Board has demonstrated that bigotry and the abuse of official professional platforms to promulgate the same are considered grossly unprofessional. In other words, SFWA and the professional SF/F world it represents have taken a big step forward to catch up to the standards of professionalism that apply outside of our genre.
That is good news. I’ve already seen some folks on Twitter muttering about how such news is overdue. I can understand – and in many instances share – their frustration. But our indignation today would be neither constructive nor helpful. Instead, I’d rather focus on the most positive and far-reaching consequence of today’s announcements:
SFWA has put unprofessional bigots on notice, and thus raised the professional caliber of the organization and the field it represents.
The organization, its membership, and the entire SF/F community still have work to do. Establishing, communicating, and maintaining standards of professionalism cannot be accomplished by a single stroke of the pen. But today’s announcements make the SFWA Board’s intentions – and the direction of their leadership – plain.
I support a leadership which consigns bigots to the dustbin of professional irrelevancy. I support SFWA’s decision to expel Theodore Beale/Vox Day. And as soon as I am qualified? I will support SFWA and the speculative fiction field with my membership dues.