An Open Letter to the SFWA

Dear SFWA, 

I'm a professional science fiction writer, but I'm not an SFWA member. I don't meet your membership criteria. That makes me very sad. 

My projects are games -- specifically alternate reality games. Even traditional video games, however, are not an SFWA qualifying market. I've gone to the SFWA website and stared at the application form more than once, trying to find a way to massage my body of work into something that fits, but I stop dead at fields like "Length (words)" and "Date of Sale." They just don't apply to me.

The SFWA is purportedly considering admitting game writers into their ranks. Please, please do. Game writers may be working in another medium from your norm, but we have common interests all the same, and would benefit from co-mingling our communities. Game writers, like print writers, wrestle with questions of characterization and theme, pacing, tension, plot. Many of us also work on a freelance or per-project basis, and are concerned with copyright and contracts. There is strength in numbers, so our strength would add to yours.

Like many other game writers, I've earned a place in the SFWA. Many of us earn a respectable living and reach more than respectable audiences -- we are professionals. And games are indisputably a realm where science fiction reigns. Game writers have created worlds with crazed AIs, biotechnology gone horribly wrong, or terrible demons. I've written extensively in an alternate universe with a society structured to reward intelligence.

But am I a published writer? Ah, there's the rub. By SFWA standards, I'm not. My work amounts to hundreds of thousands of words of text, to be sure. But to make an alternate reality game, those words are turned into video or Tweets or websites. While screenwriters with professionally produced scripts are welcome in the SFWA, there simply is no way to account for somebody like me, or my fellow game writers.

It wouldn't be an easy job for the SFWA, defining what games qualify and what don't. It's easy to know what counts as a professionally produced script. It's easy to know who's published with a qualifying print market. You can make clear-cut lists of criteria for these things. But how do you qualify a game, or worse, a transmedia project? Almost any definition will exclude someone deserving. Size of the production company, project budget, dollars earned by the writer? So many words of dialog, so many minutes of cut scenes? 

Even aside from that, in the games industry, credit is often murky. The byline of a short story, a novel, a film, tells you who was the principal contributor. But in a game, sometimes a writer doesn't get credited at all. Sometimes the writer is credited for another role they also played as a designer or producer. And sometimes, especially in my circles, there are so many writers working on a project that it's hard to know whose hand was guiding the wheel. But these are solveable problems, and solving them would benefit us all.

I know it wouldn't be easy for you to admit game writers; and harder still to admit writers like me, who are even more removed from clear-cut criteria. I have no publisher, as such; just clients and contracts. Who is the 'publisher' of a Tweet, or an email, after all? My work lives on the internet. But I'm still a professional science fiction writer, and I long to participate in the broader community of my peers. I urge you to find a way to admit, if not transmedia writers like me, at least mainstream game writers. We are all the same. And games are growing fast, so fast; look to the future. Isn't that what science fiction is all about?



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