The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America voted this week to allow graphic novelists and comic writers membership in their ranks. An overwhelming majority of current members voted to approve the decision. A stunning 95% of current members voted yes. SFWA will now consider membership for graphic novelists and comic writers. These writers must work primarily in the realms of science-fiction and fantasy. The wording of the decision also allows for application from comic writers of ‘horror and related genres.’
A Brief History of SFWA
Author Damon Knight founded SFWA in 1965. And the organization has evolved over time. Originally it was just the Science Fiction Writers of America. However, in 1991 the organization added Fantasy to the title. This helped legitimize the genre as its own category. Now the inclusion of comic books and graphic novels may help legitimize the medium in the world of genre fiction as well.
The mission statement for SFWA says “The purpose of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America is to promote, advance, and support science fiction and fantasy writing in the United States and elsewhere, by educating and informing the general public and supporting and empowering science fiction and fantasy writers.”
Comic Book Writers Need All The Support They Can Get Right Now
Graphic novelists and comic writers can apply now for membership online at the SFWA website. If approved, authors will be granted full membership status. Membership to the SFWA also grants valuable resources to authors. Members gain access to grants; promotional assistance, emergency medical funds, in addition to legal tools for contract negotiation. With the ongoing global pandemic, struggling authors need this type of support more than ever.
The recent shutdown has hit comic creators and graphic novelists hard. Comic Book Day was indefinitely postponed this year. Many comic book shops have been forced to close their doors. And major companies have halted their publication cycles. With some states now moving towards reopening, publishers are beginning to ship comics again. But the writers (and illustrators) will need time to recover from such huge losses. Hopefully a membership with the SFWA will help them to navigate these turbulent waters in the months to come.
What Does This Mean For The Nebula Awards?
SFWA is the organization behind the Nebula Awards, one of the genre’s most prestigious accolades. The inclusion of comics and graphic novels into SFWA means that there will likely be a new award created for this category. The Nebulas already give out awards for game writing and dramatic presentation (movies and television). It is actually a little surprising that they did not already include comic books and graphic novels. The comic book industry has long been a mainstay of the genre. For instance, many Marvel movies have won the Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation in previous years. Now there is a chance for the original writers of those stories to gain the recognition they deserve.
Image via SFWA
What is interesting is how many popular sci-fi and fantasy writers already work in the comic book medium. For instance, author NK Jemisin has been nominated for many Nebula awards over the past decade. Now she has an opportunity to be recognized for her work writing Green Lantern. The same goes for other authors like Nnedi Okorafor as well, who penned a series of Black Panther comics about Shuri. However there is definitely a long list of authors who work solely in the graphic novel/comic book medium that will now have a chance to shine at the Nebulas in the future. As much as we love these established authors however, we hope that the new membership rules will allow independent comic writers to shine.
Emily O'Donnell is a writer and photographer with roots in some of the earliest online fandoms. She cut her genre teeth on the Wizard of Oz books at the tender age of 6 years old, and was reading epic adult fantasy novels by the age of 10. Decades later, she still consumes genre fiction like there is no tomorrow. She is delighted to be living through the golden age of sci-fi and fantasy popularity. She is unashamed of the amount of fanfiction that still lingers online under her name.