August 23rd, 2009

MarsRover

Open Letter to the SFPA Membership

Recently, there’s been a heated discussion, on SFPANet, in LiveJournal blogs, and elsewhere, that started with the idea of possibly changing the name of the organization. As your president, I’ve felt my job was to stay officially neutral on this matter, and let the membership decide what we should be called.

However, it is not acceptable to introduce personal attacks into such a discussion. Attacks, both personal and generalized, are inexcusable and reflect poorly on the organization. It no longer matters what we are called, if everyone leaves the organization in anger, due to ill-advised comments of members with opposing points of view.

There is room within the SFPA for disagreement, but it is critical to the survival of the organization that such disagreements are carried out in a civil and respectful manner.

Although there are no rules in place to allow disciplining of members who have acted out of line, that isn’t to say that there shouldn’t be rules in discussion forums with consequences for unacceptable behavior in those forums. In particular, harassment (sexual or otherwise) and threats of violence cannot be tolerated in SFPA discussion forums. With that in mind, the officers of the SFPA are currently looking into how we might create safe, moderated discussion forums for the association and find a sufficient number of volunteers to staff such a space.

The questions at hand here are worth discussion, but I would prefer that everyone temporarily postpone further discussion of a name change until an area can be set up to discuss it in an appropriate manner. I’d also like to ask for a short term postponement of any ballot proposals or voting until certain other critical issues within the association can be addressed.

First, Malcolm Deeley, our secretary and Star*Line publisher, needs to step down from his position due to family and personal issues. (I want to note these reasons have nothing to do with the name change discussions). I appreciate all Mal has done over the past years and accepted his resignation with regret. Samantha and I are busy following leads to replace him in the interim before the next election ballot. Meanwhile, we will be producing the July/August and September/October issues locally here in California.

We are continuing to research the idea of making the SFPA a non-profit, with the help of Deborah Flores and Jules Runolfson, but we do not yet know whether this is the right time for the organization to attempt this transition. Before non-profit status would happen, a very detailed proposal would be made to the membership as to what we need to do to satisfy the IRS requirements. It’s a complex project, something I feel is well worth the effort, but I am beginning to see it more as a long term plan. And, it is definitely not something we’ll implement without notice or member feedback. If we decide to wait on this, the research will be well-documented for future officers to use.

Finally, I have enjoyed being your president and have dreams for the future of speculative poetry and the SFPA. More speculative poetry is being published in prominent mainstream places and we’ve made some significant headway in getting the word out. During the last year, Mike Allen gave a talk on speculative poetry in the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. and I presented a program on speculative haiku in the National Archives of Canada in Ottawa. Our membership is growing as a reflection of the heightened interest in our field. Please work with me in making those dreams a reality instead of destroying them by fighting with each other.

- Deborah P Kolodji
SFPA President