I used to be a member of HWA (Horror Writers Association). The same anagram, ironically, for the reason for the title of this blog: Hemlock wooly adelgid (the invasive insect that's driving our native hemlock trees to extinction). I found HWA (the one in all caps), at the time, to be a very helpful writers association and I enjoyed my initial membership. These days, I can't recall when I first joined or for how long I was a member. But I was there for a number of years.
One thing that HWA does is sponsor an award. It's called the Bram Stoker Award. I never paid a lot of attention to it, except that every year I would get a ballot to cast votes for the various works placed on those ballots. Best novel. Best short story. Best first novel. Best screenplay. You know how it goes.
Eventually, it seemed that the sole reason for the organization became the issuing of these awards. I began to lose interest in the group and let my membership lapse. It's been a long, long time since I was a member.
One of my friends actually won one of these awards. I won't name him, since I don't know how he'd feel about that. But he began to call the annual prizes doled out by HWA the "Stroker Awards". It was, he felt, a huge circle jerk. In fact, I'd have to agree with him. For what I saw happening was that every year I'd witness writers campaigning for their works. First they'd pepper the Internet chat rooms with propaganda for their stories and novels--generally after getting close friends who were also members to cast a few nominations of their works (and for whom they'd also cast votes--quid pro quo aka circle jerk). From there, it would get worse. After the most popular writers had their works solidly nominated and on the ballots, I would begin to get slammed with notes and letters asking me to cast my ballot for their novel, short story, article, what-have-you.
This seemed exceptionally venal to me. It reeked of a kind of narcissism that frankly sickens me. One year, a particularly untalented fellow peppered me almost constantly with pleas to vote for his stuff. He was, apparently, well-liked at writers gatherings and conventions where he'd attend (despite the fact that he couldn't write worth a good goddamn). I assume he had an outgoing personality and what was once called the "gift for gab". But he couldn't write worth shit, and I always felt sorry for him. Of course he won at least one of these things. At that point, the awards, and the group administering them, really became, at best, disputable for me.
This is why I finally dropped my membership in HWA and never even considered joining SFWA or MWA or any of the other WAs that might be out there. I just don't like seeing the egotistical bullshit falling like stench-rain over my life.
Are there positive aspects to these organizations? I'm sure there are. I think some of them have arms that work hard to protect writers' rights. It might be the closest thing to a union that we are likely to see for fiction writers. And that aspect of it is a good thing. But these seem to be, overall, subdued to a secondary status to the politics of issuing these stupid awards.
And the little cliques of butt-buddies and ass-kissers who tend to dominate these groups? Well, they can stick it. Unless that aspect of these organizations is wiped out or reined in, they're not going to do much of anyone any good.
The super-cool Bram Stoker Award. A little haunted house created by, I think, Tim Kirk. Has a tiny (blatantly vaginal) door (complete with clitoris) that you can open up to reveal a brass plaque inside engraved with the award-winner's name and for what he/she won the award (sniff-sniff). This is what my pal (who won one) called "The Stroker Award". Referring, of course, to the incestuous cabal to which one must generally be a part to nab one of these meaningless bits of propaganda. (Saving, of course, that Tim Kirk's design kicks High Holy ass.)