The first one, AboutSF.com, is a resource center currently under construction by Thomas Seay. The main page lays out a mission to provide "services related to speculative literature, science fiction, and education." On his blog, Seay says, "AboutSF is intended to serve as a sort of 'volunteer coordinator' for the speculative fiction field, so our focus will depend on which projects the many volunteers within the SF field consider the most useful or promising."
The most interesting thing he's set up from my perspective is a speaker's bureau. Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) did run its own SFWA Speakers' Bureau for many years, but recently it doesn't seem to have been too active. And SFWA is now pointing its writers toward the new resource.
So I figured I would sign up for it. I'm now listed at Speaker info: Michael Burstein. I've actually given talks before, at libraries and on college campuses, but those have often been catch as catch can. Now science fiction and fantasy writers who aren't as well known have a way to get our names out there. and I'm curious to see if I get any requests.
(I do notice that at the moment, there are only two writers in Massachusetts who have signed up -- me and Jane Yolen. Frankly, if I wanted a Massachusetts writer for a speaking engagement, I'd pick Jane Yolen. Then again, she is asking for more money than I am...)
Sponsor an SF Author
The second website, Sponsor an SF Author, is the brainchild of writer Don Sakers. It's a way to consolidate some interesting experiments that have been taking place on the Internet. Quite a few science fiction writers are playing around with nontraditional models of supporting their writing. For example, Bruce Holland Rogers (bruce_h_r) has been offering subscriptions to short-short stories for some time now. My understanding is that while he can't make a living off of it, he does have quite a few subscribers -- almost 700 people --happy to pay him directly for his stories.
What Sakers is doing is offering subscriptions to his next book, something he chose to do when see that Lawrence Watt-Evans made it work. People who subscribe to Sakers's new book will get emails of new sections of the book as he writes them. Furthermore, he's using a model similar to the pledge model used by PBS stations. The more money you donate, the more you get. For example, a donation of less than $20 gets you emails of the book, but a donation of $20-$99 gets you an autographed copy of the whole book once it's published. And everyone who donates gets their name in the book, listed as either a Subscriber, Sponsor, Patron, or Benefactor, depending on the amount of money donated.
Sakers offered to open up his webpage to other SF writers who were willing to be sponsored. Seeing as I had nothing to lose, I asked him to list a link to this blog and to my PayPal donations button (which I keep on my own site). I have mixed feelings about this, something I brought up on the Arisia panel "Blogging for Writers." On the one hand, I'm uncomfortable with asking people to consider donating to support my blogging, even though there are other, more well-established writers out there who do the same thing. On the other hand, I think I might miss out if I didn't offer people the opportunity to donate.
A few years ago, a fan who asked to remain anonymous actually sent me a $500 donation so I could attend LoneStarCon 2, the 1997 Worldcon (and the one that awarded me the Campbell). The fan knew from a mailing list that I didn't have the money to attend, and wanted to help out. In the end I returned the money because it wasn't the only factor that was preventing me from attending; I also couldn't afford to take the time off from work. But it does illustrate that there are people out there who are willing to make donations to writers, so I figure I might as well experiment with the concept myself.