The following does not necessarily reflect the opinions, stance, or beliefs of the Scares That Care charity, the Project iRadio Network, or any other group or organization with which I am involved.
The HWA (Horror Writers Association) is a non-profit organization founded in 1985, for the purpose of promoting the interests of Horror and Dark fantasy writers, publishers, and other professionals in the field.
In its thirty-plus year history, here are some of the ways it has promoted the interests of Horror and Dark fantasy writers, publishers, and other professionals in the field:
*Allegations of a former President embezzling membership funds.
*Allegations of a former President and Vice-President delaying publication of the newsletter until a story regarding possible malfeasance within their administration was dropped.
*Multiple, multi-year allegations of inaccuracies and inconsistencies in the Bram Stoker Award nominating and voting process.
*The organization’s failure to act or protect their members when the editor of an HWA anthology spent the advance on home repairs rather than paying it to the writers in the anthology.
*Former officers, including multiple Presidents, who used their position in the organization and official organization communications to lobby their own works for the Bram Stoker Award.
*The organization’s negligence in allowing known stalker Nickolaus Pacione access to the membership directory, which he then used to obtain the home addresses and phone numbers of a number of members, whom he then threatened and harassed, and the organization’s slow response to this despite increasing reports from members that it was occurring.
*Forgetting to hold elections for officers in 2016.
*Elections inconsistent with the organization’s bylaws.
*The organization’s refusal to respond to the Dorchester Publishing debacle, or to act on behalf of its members who were impacted by said debacle, until public pressure from their members forced them to.
*Ditto their Samhain response.
*Asking members to vote twice (and reportedly three times in some cases) in the most recent Bram Stoker Awards voting process. (NOTE: See update)
*The public relations disaster in which several prominent HWA members (including the then-President) cyber-bullied the innocent daughter of serial killer Dennis Rader, aka BTK, including body shaming and comments about her mental health, which was then picked up by national press.
*The public relations disaster of the current President’s exclusionary and dismissive essay on what constitutes a professional author, which earned the ire and recriminations of prominent members of the field including Neil Gaiman, John Scalzi, and Chuck Wendig.
*The organization’s refusal to let valued and prominent members of the community such as bestselling writer Carlton Mellick III join because he was self-published.
*And most recently (as of today) allowing an avowed white supremacist and fascist who has previously demonstrated a bias against others based on their race, religion, etc. to participate as a Bram Stoker Award Jury member — an award which will include candidates of various races and religions.
Those are some of the ways the HWA has promoted the interests of Horror and Dark fantasy writers, publishers, and other professionals in the field. These are the tip of the iceberg.
Who is responsible for letting these things happen? The HWA membership, and the fact that new members don’t know their genre’s — or organization’s — history and are therefore doomed to repeat it.
But that excuse stops today. Today, the HWA released the following statement regarding their decision to allow an avowed white supremacist and fascist serve as a Bram Stoker Award Juror. Quote: “The HWA does not support discrimination of any kind, including discrimination based on political views. Not only is this form of discrimination specifically illegal in a number of U.S. states, HWA’s Board of Trustees also does not believe it’s in keeping with our principle of supporting and practicing freedom of expression. In specific regard to HWA’s Bram Stoker Award juries, the HWA will certainly act if/when a juror’s personal views have a provable impact/bias against a writer or his/her works.” End quote.
So, I’m speaking now to all current members of the HWA. If, after today, after learning that the HWA will allow this to continue– if, after today, after learning that the HWA will allow a person who has previously demonstrated a bias against others based on their race, religion, etc. to participate as a Bram Stoker Award Jury member — an award which will include candidates of various races and religions — IF AFTER TODAY, you intend on renewing your membership and paying membership fees when they come due again on January 1, 2017, or if you are paying to attend any of the organization’s Stoker Cons or awards banquet events in future years, then you are part of the problem.
Effective immediately, I will no longer work with the HWA or any of its regional chapters in any capacity, official or unofficial.
Effective immediately I will not participate in any HWA-sponsored event, including Stoker Con, Stoker Award banquets, or any future World Horror Conventions in which HWA acts as an official partner or underwriter.
Effective immediately I will refuse any future award I may be given by the organization, including any potential Lifetime Achievement Award. (“What about the two Bram Stoker Awards you already own?” several of you are asking. In truth, I’ll keep them, because it is my hope that when I die my sons can flip them and all my other awards on eBay and make some money off of them.)
Effective 1/1/17 (when the new year’s memberships become active) I will no longer work with anyone who is a then-Current member of the HWA, including writers, publishers, editors, etc on anything sponsored by, presented by, or affiliated with HWA. I will not give cover blurbs, introductions, or anything else. I will not promote events. If I am asked to be in an HWA-affiliated anthology, I will decline. If I am asked to submit a novel, and the publisher is a then-current HWA member and their line is being endorsed/underwritten/sponsored by HWA, I will decline.
So… if you’d like to work with me on anything in 2017, or you’d like my help with something going forward, I’m very happy to — provided it’s not something connected to, affiliated with, or supported/underwritten by the HWA as of January 1, 2017. Consider this an eight-month notice, which I think is more than fair.
I realize that this decision will put me at odds with both dear friends and fellow mutually-respected peers. That’s okay. It won’t be the first time that has happened. But this is my decision. I am not a Conservative or a Progressive, and I hold the extremists in both camps with contempt. But I am a human being, and a father, and I know what is right and what is wrong. Discrimination of someone based on their race, religion, gender, etc. is wrong.
We endorse things by our participation in them. This current debacle — and previous debacles — are not things I endorse, and I will not, in good conscience, contribute my name, my money, my talent, my draw, or my platform to them. I’m not asking anyone else to follow suit. But I have championed this genre for over twenty years, and I’d like to think I’ve done my part in promoting the interests of Horror and Dark fantasy writers, publishers, and other professionals in the field. It is my belief that the HWA has not, and that their actions impact not just their members — but all of us who make up this community. Therefore, I can no longer be involved in any aspect with anything connected to the HWA.
UPDATE #1: Nearly twenty years of posts like these have taught me one thing — wait a few hours, and invariably, the bits that people are misreading will become clear. This is especially true for Facebook skimmers. So, to clarify a few things.
*It was not implied above that all of these are recent grievances. Indeed, some of these stretch back to the late-Nineties/early 00s. The list is to demonstrate that somewhere along the line, the train came off the tracks and it has remained there, regardless of which administration is in power. I stand by my assertion that it is important to list these, as it demonstrates a pattern. And as Jeff VanderMeer said on my public Facebook page, ” I’ve had nothing to do with HWA for more than 15 years because of the pattern.” The pattern is the entire point.
*In some cases (self-publishing for example) the HWA eventually changed its stance. But it is a demonstrable record of being slow to act and respond to things that impact the interests of Horror and Dark fantasy writers, publishers, and other professionals in the field.
*HWA member Patrick Freivald writes “The extra voting this year was due to a technical glitch in the database–a regrettable thing but nothing even kind of seedy, painted as something rather seedy.” I agree it wasn’t seedy. But there were MANY HWA members who expressed frustration and confusion over how it was communicated and handled. Again, demonstrating a pattern.
*Things that are allegations are reported above as just that.
*Some of these things are old news to those of us who have been around a while. For younger writers and newcomers, this is their first time hearing about some of it. That’s why it’s important to have the conversation.
UPDATE #2: I have amended and clarified paragraph 12, which begins “Effective 1/1/17…” after a suggestion from Stephen Dorato in the comments below, because the way it was phrased was causing confusion with some (my fault — I should have communicated more clearly).
UPDATE #3: HWA have just released the following statement. Quote: “In regards to the situation involving David Riley, who announced on his blog that he would be serving on the Anthology jury: We’ve reached out to Mr. Riley, and both Mr. Riley and the HWA have agreed that it’s in the best interest of all for him to step down. Mr. Riley will be replaced on the jury immediately by Nicole Cushing. The HWA thanks Nicole for stepping up, and we would also like to thank everyone who has shared their opinion on this matter.”
My dear friend (and HWA member) John Skipp asked me if I will continue to personally boycott anything affiliated with, sponsored by, or underwritten by the HWA were this outcome to occur. Now that it has, in fact, occurred, my answer is yes. Yes, I will.
I used to be one of those HWA members who sought and battled to change the organization. As former President David Niall Wilson says in the comments below, there used to be a lot of us who sought to do that. We discovered that it was impossible for us to do so.
I believe there are a number of fine next-generation individuals currently inside the HWA who wish to change the organization (some of whom have also sounded off in the comments below), and while I respect and applaud their efforts, that is not something that will happen overnight or next week or next month or next year. There is a systemic pattern of incompetence (as demonstrated in the initial post) that goes back decades. Every time HWA steps forward to fix a scandal, things are forgiven, and everyone returns to normal, and then another scandal occurs. This is damaging to our industry and community. It is my personal belief that the HWA does more harm than good to our field and its practitioners, and my decision to no longer interact with it, endorse it, or lend my name, talent, or platform to anything officially associated with it stands.
I’d be happy to change that stance, but first you’ll have to prove me wrong…
As always, this is one person’s opinion. Your mileage may indeed vary.