(Organizational) Death and Taxes 2: Dyspeptic Boogaloo
A perusal of SFWA's 2021 tax returns, featuring guest star Patrick S. Tomlinson
If you’ve read my body of work here at Upstream over the past year or so, you know I’m not a big fan of the SFWA. From their long and sordid history of hagiographic treatment of serial child molesters to cancelling their own honorees to getting vast amounts of member data leaked, it’s safe to say that SFWA as an organization has entered the “skinsuiting” phase of their existence; a once-valuable entity that had meaning, now merely doing whatever it can to rake in cash on little more than its former notoriety.
Download SFWA’s 2021 Tax Filings
If that sounds too harsh, allow me to present what came to mind after I had a chance to pore over their recently released tax returns for 2021. That year’s filings have been of particular interest, given that 2021 saw a highly profiled but spectacularly failed lawsuit.
The “LOLsuit”, as it became known in certain corners of the internet, was the effort of member author Patrick Tomlinson to subpoena Cloudflare into revealing the identities of the users on an Opie and Anthony fan forum that had taken to trolling him. It’s since been highly speculated that Tomlinson received help from SFWA’s Legal Fund for the effort. Many who had taken a look at our previous article on SFWA’s filings from prior years were anxious to see if the barely-an-author’s escapades would be reflected in 2021’s long-awaited filings.
Welp, wouldn’t you know it, their legal expenses nearly quintupled compared to 2020 (that year’s filings can be found here):
Bear in mind that as legal cases go, this was about as big a loser as it gets. The legal precedent determining the constitutional protection of anonymous speech was perhaps most famously settled in the1995 Supreme Court case McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission, and the legal raft upon which the judgement rests has only gotten wider and sturdier since. Tomlinson’s case was really over before it had even begun, and his own words on the infamous Josiah Tapes seemed to very much indicate that it was indeed SFWA funding this proverbial Charge of the Light Brigade. When asked by Josiah Munoz if “the individual(s) funding your suit be willing to be interviewed?”, Tomlinson responded saying, “It’s not individuals per se, but a professional organization of which I am a member.” Unless that suit was being bankrolled by the Hooligan’s Happy Hour gang, my money’s on SFWA.
The fact that the org was entangled in litigatory follies to the tune of the better part of a hundred grand stings, especially if it’s eventually found that much of it went towards a single dead-in-the-water lawsuit.
Who knows how many complaints by lesser known writers were refused help while the grievance committee continued to shovel more cash into the ongoing melodrama of Tomlinson v. The World?
One last point I’ll add to SFWA’s (possible) involvement into the comitragic nature of Mr. Tomlinson’s legal squealings is this—if this was funded with money loaned by their fund, it doesn’t seem to meet their own guidelines for use. But hey, maybe I’m missing something, enlighten me in the comments.
Overall, the group found themselves ending the year with roughly $100k in added expenses, leaving them over $50k further in the red than last year, and tripled liabilities. . .
While doling out a whopping not-quite $7,000 in member grants domestically. . .
And not-quite $11,000 internationally to . . . two places.
So there it is, folks. Granted, I’m no accountant, but I can read gains and losses, and I can read the news. SFWA had a disastrous public relations year last year, having to weather at least three moderate to major scandals.
Given the amount of money they’ve hemorrhaged in 2021, it’s no surprise they’re taking just about anyone whose check clears. Sadly, it seems the organization is suffering from maladies that money can’t fix - we’ve seen them squander windfalls in previous years. This is a crisis of the mindset of the leadership.
Their refusal to acknowledge past failings, the quickness with which their leadership was ready to throw Mercedes Lackey under the bus last year, their inability to keep member data safe, and the rapid erosion of entrance requirements which at one time marked a member as a true professional - I have to wonder how any author would look at how this organization operates and still be interested.
I’ll take this opportunity to once again warn anyone out there considering such a move to proceed with great caution, ask questions from other writers or members, and maybe while you’re looking, give the IASFA a try - they’re free, growing and won’t need anything beyond an email address. Stay safe out there.
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It’s difficult to feel bad when bad things happen to bad people.
Yeah. The Patrick Tomilson case was really pathetic. Even worse is the Perez isn't even a scifi writer but a romantic writer....with a questionable page from one of the social media platform I forgot which one.