Wednesday, 28 March 2012

An open Email to John Scalzi, SFWA President

Hi John,

First off, let me apologise for taking up your time with this email. I'll try and keep this short.

I write with regards to Writers of the Future, the SF/F fiction competition started by L. Ron Hubbard. Doubtless you've heard more than your share of complaints about the competition, as your Whatever post from 2008 demonstrates.

The many winners and professionals acting as judges for WOTF have defended it by arguing that the competition isn't a recruitment drive for Scientology (and I see no reason to question that. As you say in your blog, no entrant has ever subsequently joined) and that a rigorously kept 'firewall' exists between WOTF and the church itself, one that unambiguously distances the industry/community from Scientology's more questionable policies.

While I could never agree with the logic of the firewall argument I could at least respect it. However, recent revelations cast serious doubt on the sanctity of this division. Alarmingly so. This article in The Village Voice refers to a high ranking member of the Church, Barbara Ruiz, who, in the early-to-mid 2000s, was in charge of Author Services, the agency concerned with both Hubbard's literary estate and WOTF (she appears centre in photos taken at the 2000 award ceremony).

The article goes into much detail and I urge you to read it, but, in short, three witnesses allege to have seen Mz Ruiz conduct affairs at CMO. INT, known to its victims as 'The Hole'. The Hole was a pair of trailers on Scientology HQ's grounds where, according to at least six witnesses (one recently under oath), physical and mental torture was carried out on anything up to a hundred church members in order to extract confessions and punish 'wrongdoers'.

I recap: Half a dozen witnesses to these practices. Three witnesses (one a former inmate) to Mz Ruiz supervising confessions and reporting these to her superiors. Photos of Ruiz centre stage at Writers of the Future's award ceremony and uncontested confirmation she was in overall charge of Authors Services and therefore WOTF. Suddenly, all talk of a 'firewall' between church and competition appears for what it is- a comforting myth we've been feeding ourselves for decades.

As president, I'm sure you'll agree the SFWA cannot condone an institution tied to such inhuman brutality, no matter the reward, professional insight and encouragement it may give to beginning writers. Even if doubt should exist over these accusations, surely the SFWA must ask some probing questions here whilst, in my opinion at least, suspending any connections with WOTF until matters are clear. If, as a community, we fail to act, I believe science fiction and fantasy will be irrevocably tarnished.

It is gratifying to know that a few writers and past winners are beginning to sever their links.

I should add that this is an open email. Least ways, it shall appear on my blog for whatever that's worth.

Yours respectfully,

James Worrad

(An update HERE)

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