First of all, I want to state that I am in favor of regularly reviewing admission requirements as modes and methods of writing change. I created this separated from the Requirements discussion to avoid derailing the focus on actual by-law changes.
However, admission requirements are in place so as to limit membership. Why limit membership? Membership is limited so as to not stress the organization’s membership services. If an organization does not actually offer membership services, then it is a private club catering purely to a sense of exclusivity. Opinions of the Guild with long term, veteran writers who did not travel the press publication route still hold the Guild as trading in exclusionary elitism. In the past, I have defended the Guild as it existed in the present. I realize now that in doing so I was ignoring the fact that the Guild maintains a “membership” with limited to no benefit. Coyotl participation could be modeled after Leo’s requirements and not linked to a membership to the Guild. The only regularly visible service is the member’s only forum section which is essentially social media. We keep coming back to “What is the Guild for?” and continuing to expand membership without offering services to members is continuing to be an exclusionary elitist group. If that is what we are then it should not be a question of expanding membership so much as eliminating FWG Membership.
I have only ever felt proud to be a FWG member, but what substance was I proud of? In the last five years, how many socially active members have come and gone, existing as members only in that master list of names? I have to consider whether or not I published my first story in Fang 6 because I wanted to be published for myself, or because I wanted that elite designation of FWG member (which is ultimately a meaningless marker of belonging).
The Guild has shown substantial improvement of late. It is a big deal that the Oxfurred Comma succeeded. There is a lot of momentum, but another issue was (re)raised as a result. Who is the Guild for? What is the raison d’etre? Groups like SFWA are professional organizations that represent the interests of the members (writers of speculative fiction) such as issues of fair pay and contract disputes. There was an incident that a few here might remember that occurred back on the Slack, which raised the question of the potentially uncomfortable situation of the close relationship between writers and publishers within the structure of the Guild. While the observation was made in anger and (in my opinion) without cause, it is an observation that deserves some consideration in calmer spaces.
It was the Guild’s decision, and not a bad one, to showcase publishers for #FurryBookMonth on Twitter. However, to what extent has social media engagement with writers who are promoting ours and our colleagues’ work this month been included? This has included writers’ tweets getting retweeted by a publisher, and the publisher’s retweet getting retweeted, rather than retweeting the original message from a member. Additionally, members have raised concerns over Oxfurred Comma providing a platform to panels that potentially harm members and the Guild as a writer centric organization.
The Guild could persist as a networking forum. I think most of us would agree that FWG offers above else the space for all of us involved in some level of furry writing a place to meet. However, this does not require nor should require one to be a FWG member. If that is the direction that makes the most sense, then the FWG membership should be dismantled. Thus, discussing admission requirements would not be necessary as the Guild would persist as a networking and promotional tool, without claim to the representation of furry writers.