Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America

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Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America
Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America logo.png
Logo of the SFWA
Formation 1965
Type Nonprofit association
Purpose Writers advocacy
Headquarters New York City
Region served
United States
Membership Approx. 1,800 members[1]
Steven Gould

Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, or SFWA (/ˈsɪfwə/ or /ˈsɛfwə/) is a nonprofit association of professional science fiction and fantasy writers in the United States. It was founded in 1965 by Damon Knight under the name Science Fiction Writers of America, Inc. The SFWA's mission is to "inform, support, defend and advocate for our members",[1] which comprise about 1,800 professionally published writers. The president of SFWA as of 2013 is Steven Gould.

SFWA members vote for the Nebula Awards, one of the principal English-language science fiction awards. The association publishes a quarterly magazine, the SFWA Bulletin, which was the subject of a controversy about sexism in 2013.[2]

Membership and eligibility[edit]

SFWA has approximately 1,800 members as of 2013.[1]

Most members live in the United States. Active membership is limited to professionally published authors in the genres of science fiction, fantasy, or horror; the minimum qualification is the sale of one novel or dramatic script, or three short stories, to venues with certain minimum circulations or pay rates. Associate membership is for professionally published authors who have not yet qualified for active membership. Affiliate memberships are available for science fiction and fantasy professionals who are not authors.[3]

Authors, regardless of nationality or residence, must be professionally published in a qualifying market as listed by SFWA in order to become SFWA members. At present, all listed qualifying markets publish only in the English language.


Main article: Nebula Award

Annually since 1965, SFWA members select by vote the Nebula Awards for best short story, novelette, novella, and novel published during the previous year, where the four categories are defined by numbers of words.

During the Nebula ceremony, SFWA also presents the annual Andre Norton Award since 2005 for best young adult novel. Not always annually there are also the Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award since 1975 for lifetime achievement in science fiction or fantasy,[4][5] the Bradbury Award since 1992 for best dramatic presentation, the Author Emeritus title since 1995 to a senior writer whose major impact was long ago or overlooked. Since 2009 the Solstice Award which may be posthumous recognizes lifetime contributions to the science fiction and fantasy field.[6]

SFWA Bulletin[edit]

The cover of the SFWA's official publication, SFWA Bulletin no. 203 (Winter 2014)

SFWA publishes a quarterly magazine, the Bulletin. SFWA Members received the Bulletin as part of their membership, but anyone can subscribe to it. The Bulletin carries nonfiction articles of general interest to writers, especially genre writers, and reprints one Nebula Award-winning story per issue. It accepts submissions, for which the pay is 7 cents a word.

The current editor of the Bulletin is John Klima (editor) whose first issue will be #204. #203, an interim issue published in March 2014, was edited by Tansy Rayner Roberts and "was specially created to be used as an outreach tool for conventions and other events."[7] The issue's contents and cover were welcomed by some as an antidote to the perceived sexism of past issues[8] though others felt it looked "suspiciously like a woman in a burka." [9]

The previous editor was Jean Rabe, who was the business manager of the Bulletin before she became the editor. She resigned in 2013 as a result of a controversy described below.


According to Todd McCaffrey, the organization immediately "acquired great status in its efforts to help J.R.R. Tolkien get fair recompense in America for pirated sales of The Lord of the Rings."[10]

SFWA sponsors the Writer Beware Blog, the public face of their Committee on Writing Scams, to expose problems and pitfalls that face aspiring writers. Writer Beware also receives sponsorship from the Mystery Writers of America. Its mission is to raise awareness of the prevalence of fraud and other questionable activities in and around the publishing industry.[11]

As part of this mission, SFWA members submitted an 'unpublishable' manuscript to independent publishing house PublishAmerica, to test their claimed editorial rigor. When PublishAmerica offered to send them a contract to publish Atlanta Nights, they revealed the hoax, and PublishAmerica withdrew the contract offer.[12] SFWA subsequently listed the book for sale through a Print on Demand service, with all profits to benefit their Emergency Medical Fund.[13]

In 2009, SFWA joined the Open Book Alliance to oppose the Google Book Settlement.[14]


In 1982, Lisa Tuttle withdrew her short story "The Bone Flute" from the final Nebula ballot, to protest what she saw as excessive campaigning for awards and that voters did not receive copies of nominated works. Her withdrawal was sent after voting had been completed. When informed she had won, she contacted SFWA and told them she refused to accept it. She was told that her reasons for doing so would be announced. Her publisher accepted the award in her place, apparently with no knowledge of her withdrawal, and there was no mention of her objection.[15]

The cover of no. 200 (Winter 2013), the issue that sparked the 2013 controversy.

In 2013, a controversy about sexism in the Bulletin led to the resignation of editor Jean Rabe on June 5, 2013.[16] More than 50 authors[17] wrote blog posts in objection to comments by longtime contributors Mike Resnick and Barry N. Malzberg that included references to "lady editors" and "lady writers" who were "beauty pageant beautiful" or a "knock out", an article by C. J. Henderson praising Barbie for maintaining "quiet dignity the way a woman should",[16] and the "exploitative"[17] cover image of no. 200 of the Bulletin, depicting a woman in a scalemail bikini (shown to the right). Several authors used the occasion to speak out against sexism in science fiction genre circles more broadly.[2] The controversy continued through Bulletin #202, which contained another column by Resnick and Malzberg, discussing the response to their earlier column.[18] Their column framed that response as censorship, referring to their critics as "liberal fascists".[19]

As a result of the controversy, SFWA president John Scalzi apologized to members,[20] and the Bulletin was put on hiatus for up to six months to conduct a membership survey, a relaunch and a redesign.[21]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "History and Statistics". March 26, 2009. Retrieved 2011-07-26. 
  2. ^ a b Flood, Alison (June 12, 2013). "Science fiction authors attack sexism amid row over SFWA magazine". The Guardian. Retrieved June 17, 2013. 
  3. ^ "Who is Eligible?". Retrieved 2011-07-26. 
  4. ^ "The Locus Index to SF Awards: About the SFWA Grand Master Award". Retrieved 2011-07-26. 
  5. ^ "The Locus Index to SF Awards: SFWA Grand Master Award Winners By Year". Retrieved 2011-07-26. 
  6. ^ "The Locus Index to SF Awards: About the Other SFWA Awards". Retrieved 2011-07-26. 
  7. ^ Gates, Jaym (February 27, 2014). "SFWA Bulletin Returns". Retrieved March 29, 2014. 
  8. ^ Sanford, Jason. "The New SFWA Bulletin is Blowing My Mind". 
  9. ^ Granquist, Sue. "Comment on The Return of the SFWA Bulletin". 
  10. ^ Todd McCaffrey (1999), Dragonholder: The Life and Dreams (so far) of Anne McCaffrey, New York: Ballantine, p57. (Anne McCaffrey was the SFWA Secretary-Treasurer 1968–1970, responsible for production and distribution of the monthly SFWA Bulletin and SFWA Forum.)
  11. ^ "Writer Beware ®". Retrieved 2011-07-26. 
  12. ^ John C. Snider (2005). "Ah, Schadenfreud!". 
  13. ^ "Author of Atlanta Nights". Travis Tea. Retrieved 2011-07-26. 
  14. ^ "Open Book Alliance". Open Book Alliance. Retrieved 2011-07-26. 
  15. ^ "Nebula Awards". Ansible 26. June 1982. Retrieved 2009-08-07. 
  16. ^ a b Anders, Charlie Jane (June 6, 2013). "The editor of SFWA's bulletin resigns over sexist articles". io9. Retrieved June 7, 2013. 
  17. ^ a b Griner, David (June 4, 2013). "Will the Fantasy Genre Ever Grow Up and Ditch the Chainmail Bikini? Industry bulletin's cover sets off firestorm". Adweek. Retrieved June 7, 2013. 
  18. ^ Romano, Aja. "SFWA sexism rocks the science-fiction blogosphere". The Daily Dot. 
  19. ^ "Talk Radio Redux by Mike Resnick and Barry N. Malzberg". Retrieved 2013-07-17. 
  20. ^ Scalzi, John (June 2, 2013). "Presidential Statement on the SFWA Bulletin". Retrieved June 17, 2013. 
  21. ^ "Plan for Moving Ahead with the Bulletin". SFWA. June 13, 2013. Retrieved June 17, 2013. 

External links[edit]