JeddiCon Bidders Discuss Their Experience

The JeddiCon bid committee wants to bring the Worldcon to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia in 2022. When their bid went public in January, File 770 asked for more information about their conrunning experience. Here’s the background they shared.

(See all the official bid filing documents for the Jeddah and Chicago bids for 2022 at the CoNZealand website.)


Dear Mike,

Thank you for your interest in JeddiCon and its committee (The Jeddi High Council).

The Jeddi High Council members are all top professionals in their fields. Bellow you will find their summery bio that includes the event running experiences that they each have:

Master of The Order Yasser Bahjatt

Yasser has bachelor’s degree in Electronic Engineering specialized in Computer Engineering, he is also an alumni of Singularity University’s Graduate Study Program.

Yasser has been managing eSports events since 2003 with some events growing to several thousand players competing across 27 locations located around the kingdom. He was also the organized and co-organized several TEDx events in Jeddah.

He has been a driving force for cultivating and growing the SciFi culture in Saudi and across the Arabian world.

Lore Keeper Rami Hamzah

Rami Hamzah is a proactive knowledge seeker since he began to explore and make sense of written forms during his emerging literacy phase of his life. That’s when his journey began by a coincidence when he found the ancient “One Thousand and One Nights” book in his hand at the age of 7 years.

He was always fascinated by Fiction and historical novels.

Rami worked on managing logistical support of the opening and closing ceremony of Saudi Professional League 2015/2016. He had a multi-dimensional study/career path through the past 20 years in Information Technology, Logistics, Marketing, Sales and Customer Service.

Master Thamer Alturaif

Thamer M. Alturaif is a Chemical engineer from King Abdelaziz university with a master’s in business administration from university of Colorado. Throughout his career as an HR professional Thamer managed numerous events and activities scaling from small events like workshops/trainings/townhalls up to companywide initiatives like roadshows and annual seminars. Biggest project was overseeing the deployment and management of over 3000 temporary employees from different nationalities during Hajj operations in the 2019 season.

Master Mohammed Albakri

He studied medical technology and is currently working in Laboratory Information Sciences and is still waiting for the lab accident that will grant him superpowers…

He was part of the planning committee for the 2nd annual Laboratory week hosted by King Faisal Specialist Hospital Jeddah.

Master Ahmad Sabbagh

Ahmed has bachelor’s degree in Mechanical and Production Engineering, and he also has an MBA.

Ahmad was in charge of organizing Buyer & Seller Conference in Indonesia and Bangladesh. And was also managing logistics activities.

Master Tameem Qashqari

He is a member of Geekfest community and he has participated in organizing Geekfest Jeddah. He was responsible for developing the marketing pitch to corporations to secure sponsors for the event.

He hosted the Low Priority Queue podcast which is A geek-centric podcast of three fanboys with great intentions, but absurdly poor taste.

Residing for eternity where gamers go to die

Master Ashraf Fagih

He has a PhD in Computing from Queen’s University in Canada and served as an assistant Professor at King Fahd University of Petroleum & Minerals.

Between 2015 and 2017, Ashraf served as Vice Rector for University Relations & Community Outreach at King Fahd University of Petroleum & Minerals, Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. He was directly involved in the organization and crowd management of major university events including the graduation ceremony and all VIP reception affairs.

Since 2018, Ashraf has been appointed as the head of Communication-then Operations- of King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra); the flagship initiative of Saudi Aramco Company. Ashraf was directly involved in the programming, supervision and promotion of a wide set of cultural and scientific activities offered by Ithra, attended by more than 1.2 million visitors over the course of the past 18 months.

Master Raneen Bukhari

Raneen grew up in what she calls “a business/art environment”, Her mother is an artist and her father a businessman. She has worked on and led the planning and organization of many events over many different fields. In 2013, she was in charge of the launch campaign for NICE stores in AlKhobar. She is also the co-creator and curator of LOUD Art, a traveling platform for emerging experimental artists, organized annually from 2012 to 2016. Bukhari is a co-organizer of Huna Art, a casual art talk that has been happened bimonthly from 2013 to 2016. She has organized 28 art exhibitions in Saudi and around the world. Most recently, she just finished working on Desert X AlUla as logistics and shipping director.

If you have any more questions please do not hesitate to ask.

May the 4th we’ll be with you,

63 thoughts on “JeddiCon Bidders Discuss Their Experience

  1. Sounds like a great bunch of fans! Don’t see the bid going to them but glad to see the growth of fandom. Hope they can make it to the next Worldcon.

    Also interested to see how many of them are tech/engineering people.

  2. OlavRoknesays There’s one woman. She’s listed last.

    Well if I judge the recent Boskone by ithe photos that Porter took, it’s no different. And early SFF fandom and writing circles was certainly heavily male dominated as I can tell you from compiling the Birthdays.

    There’s valid reasons not to site a WorldCon in that country, but I’m not sure that this is a good reason in itself given how male dominated our early fandom was.

  3. Seeing as their government had a reporter murdered in Turkey who was working for an American newspaper, how safe would all of us and our dissident ideas be? The fannish inquisition on this one should be fun. I want to sell popcorn.

  4. There’s valid reasons not to site a WorldCon in that country, but I’m not sure that this is a good reason in itself given how male dominated our early fandom was.

    Early fandom was a long time ago. (Even 42 years ago, when we were starting OryCon here in Portland, the organizing was roughly 50/50 male/female.)

    In the modern world, this is a very good reason to not want the Worldcon to go to that country.

  5. I see one thing listed that looks like it could possibly be similar to non-profit fan-run conventions. They’re way too impressed with their professional experience.

    @Cat Eldridge–

    OlavRoknesays There’s one woman. She’s listed last.

    Well if I judge the recent Boskone by ithe photos that Porter took, it’s no different. And early SFF fandom and writing circles was certainly heavily male dominated as I can tell you from compiling the Birthdays.

    Andrew Porter’s pictures aren’t a NESFA or Boskone production to promote our con or our con-running experience. That’s just Andrew Porter’s pictures. It’s who he interacted with, and asked for permission to take pictures, and who agreed to his request. And those very likely filtered by what he thought were the best pictures he got in sometimes-challenging conditions.

    This year’s Boskone chair was Erin Underwood. She wasn’t the first, by a long shot. The first Boskone con chair I can with reasonable certainty identify as female is Doris Currier, Boskone V, 1945, in the first series of Boskones.

    The second series of Boskones, i.e., the current series, had its first female chair in Leslie Turek, Boskone VI, in 1969. Since then, we’ve had a female chair or co-chair roughly 30 times.

    That’s one convention. It’s only counting chairs and co-chairs. We’re not necessarily a trendsetter in this regard. (I haven’t checked.) Why should I or any western fan be comfortable with a Worldcon in a country where women only recently got the right to drive and to vote, and where some of the activists that worked for those goals are still in jail?

    There’s valid reasons not to site a WorldCon in that country, but I’m not sure that this is a good reason in itself given how male dominated our early fandom was.

    It’s not the 1930s. Or 1940s. Or 1950s. Heck, let’s cut to the chase and note that it’s not the 20th century anymore. And they’re from a country where women just got the right to drive two years ago, and only got the right to vote and stand for office in 2015

    Note that this article, which says women got the right to drive one year ago, is from 2019
    Saudi Arabia Granted Women the Right to Drive. A Year on, It’s Still Complicated.

    Yes, they really do have to demonstrate that a Worldcon in Saudi Arabia won’t be a trip back to the 19-aughts, where women fans, and Jewish fans, and fans in general, will feel comfortable and safe. And one woman tacked onto the end of the list of their bid committee doesn’t do it for me.

  6. Erin Underwood is next year’s chair; this year’s chair was Rick Kovalcik. But Lis’s overall point about Andy’s photos is correct; one might as well conclude from Andy’s photos that the convention was overrun with oldpharts, which is equally untrue. Consider for comparison the Boskone committee list.

    Like @Lis, I was also struck by the breadth of citations for professional convention management, which is a very different kettle of fish from a fannish convention — even one the extent of a Worldcon.

  7. @Chip Hitchcock–

    Erin Underwood is next year’s chair; this year’s chair was Rick Kovalcik. But Lis’s overall point about Andy’s photos is correct; one might as well conclude from Andy’s photos that the convention was overrun with oldpharts, which is equally untrue. Consider for comparison the Boskone committee list.

    Thank you for the correction, and my apologies to both Rick and Erin. I’m obviously a bit fuzzier even than I thought.

  8. There are many valid reasons why Saudi Arabia is not a viable site to hold a WorldCon at the present time. However, those reasons are out of the control of the bid com.

    Nonetheless,. I applaud the enthusiasm of the Saudi fans behind this bid. And I think we can point out the obvious issues with the location without harping on the fans who put the bid together. After all, the fans are not responsible for their government.

    As for why the bid com has only one female member, in Saudi Arabia and other very strict muslim countries, there are laws governing how and where unrelated men and women can be together. I don’t know specifics, but it’s very possible that a mixed gender committee meeting violates Saudi law.

    The people behind the bid clearly have experience organising professional events. That’s a positive sign. However, as Lis and Chip pointed out, fan-run conventions are a different beast and require different experience.

    I think the best way forward for the folks behind JeddiCon would be to establish a regular fandom con in Saudi Arabia and possibly other countries in the Arab world (i.e. the Arab equivalent of EuroCon or NASFIC) and then try for a WorldCon again in a few years and perhaps in a more liberal country.

  9. @Miles Carter

    Also interested to see how many of them are tech/engineering people.

    Master of the Order Yasser Bahjatt, Master Ahmad Sabbagh & Master Thamer Alturaif are Engineers (Computer, Mechanical & Chemical respectively), Master Ashraf Fagih has a PhD in Computing, Master Mohammed Albakri has a Master of Health Informatics & Lore Keeper Rami Hamzah has a Graduate Diploma in Information Systems and Technology.

  10. What a fascinating gathering of fans with some very interesting experience. Thanks for that Mike.

  11. I’m a bit concerned about the criticism of the fans in this thread, I think it’s great that more people of colour are coming up with bids in their native countries, and while these countries are not necessarily up to western standards this is likely because of centuries of European looting and pillaging of these places so I think they should be given a bit more leeway.
    Fans are usually not responsible for the state of their governments, and this is particularly the case in Saudi Arabia which is a monarchy established by the British in the late 1920s.
    The current Saudi government has wide-ranging support from the US, UK, France Germany and most other European countries.

  12. Fans aren’t responsible for the state of their government, but the state of their government is absolutely relevant to their bid and its viability. It’s a serious concern that many fans would find their very identities illegal in Saudi Arabia. It’s a serious concern that women lack basic rights in Saudi Arabia.

    It’s a serious concern that, not that long ago, an American journalist was literally butchered with a bone saw in a Saudi embassy in Turkey.

    People are starting to feel concern about Worldcons in the USA due to the changes wrought by Trump, and though I’d like to, I can’t disagree with them. It is worrying.

    Western governments “support” the Saudi government because of oil and because it’s been stable for decades, not because they’re a government we should actually trust.

    It’s also a concern, a real concern for anyone who wants a successful Worldcon, that this bid committee appears to have absolutely zero experience running fannish-style conventions. All that professional experience? Not nearly as interesting as they seem to think it is. Yes, that could be a real enhancement–if they had fannish experience too. As a substitute for fannish experience, sorry, that’s a big down check for me.

    And their bid committee with one, lonely woman tacked on at the end. Sure, Saudi culture, Arab culture, Saudi laws.

    Which is exactly the problem. Fannish culture is far more egalitarian. Would this be a Worldcon women would feel included in? Or feel excluded from?

    So far, I see nothing to indicate that they even see this as a point they need to address.

    The suggestion that they’re getting questions and pushback because they’re “people of colour” is pathetic, at best.

  13. I’d say it’s worse than pathetic; it’s patronizing — “these poor oppressed people don’t know any better.” Salafism may (as Wikipedia claims) be a response to “Western Imperialism” — but that doesn’t make it any less deplorable than the excesses of Brexiteers claiming Continental domination, or the viciousness of MAGAheads who think the US shouldn’t be judged by world standards.

    @Cora Buhlert: there are laws governing how and where unrelated men and women can be together. That’s another reason to wonder about constraints, not just on groups that could be considered minorities but on all visiting fans.

    @MIles Carter: a high proportion of tech people is hardly surprising. We’re no longer in the 1970’s, when it was a standing joke in my club that we had to get one member who didn’t work at DEC for each one who did, but the Boskone committee still has a much higher fraction of tech people than the US as a whole, and probably even than greater Boston people with college degrees. The issue is whether Jeddicon’s other interests and experience are conducive to running a Worldcon. (Personal example: my degree is in chemistry and I spent most of my career in computers — but most of what I bring to Boskone is experience in the nuts and bolts of theater. I was asked if I were interested in some of the coding the con needs, but it’s too far outside and up-to-date from what I know.)

  14. Even in terms of “here are our professional resumes,” this feels a bit odd: how much of this experience is either relevant or recent?

    Some of that may be grammar, given that I doubt any of these people is a native speaker of English. For example, “Bukhari is a co-organizer of Huna Art, a casual art talk that has been happened bimonthly from 2013 to 2016.” Both “is a co-organizer” and “has happened” suggest the event is going on now, and then the dates show that it happened for about three years, ending at least three years ago, maybe four.

    I would expect an interviewer to be asking things like “what does ‘proactive knowledge seeker’ actually mean you do?” and “how do you expect to use your mechanical engineering degree in organizing and running a convention?” Most of the concom titles are similarly unhelpful. I knew someone whose business card title, self-selected, was “chief wirehead,” but even if he put that on a resume (doubtful) I assume he would have then explained what he had actually been doing for his employer, and what department he was in, and such.

  15. The larger question is should Worldcon boldly go where no conrunner has gone before? This time, or the next, or the next? The majority of Terra’s populace live where there is a dearth of local cons for one to cut one’s teeth on.

  16. No one paid me to take photos at Boskone. I have a new camera, brought it along.

    I’ve been going to Boskone on and off since 1967. I go to see my friends; I don’t have a news magazine any more. I took photos of friends and people I’ve known sometimes for decades at Boskone. Nothing should be inferred about the number of women or anything else from what I shot.

    I also took a bunch of cityscapes in day and night visible from my hotel window, but I didn’t send those to Mike.

  17. @Chip Hitchcock

    That’s another reason to wonder about constraints, not just on groups that could be considered minorities but on all visiting fans.

    Indeed, there is a long list of questions that need to be asked regarding possible constraints on visiting fans.

    @Annie
    The problem with the Jeddah bid is not that the facilities are not up to western standards. Saudi Arabia is one of the wealthiest countries in the world. I’m certain that their convention facilities can compete with anything in the West. Ditto for Chengdu BTW.

    The main problems with the Chengdu and Jeddah bids is the human rights situation in those countries and how legal restrictions there will impact WorldCon visitors and programming. Those are questions that need to be answered, though I agree that this should be done without putting down the fans, who are not responsible for their government after all. After all, when we criticise US bids, we don’t hold American fans responsible for Donald Trump either. Nor do we hold the organisers of the Glasgow 2024 bid responsible for Brexit and Boris Johnson.

  18. I’m part of the LGBT community. It’s one thing to have a convention in a country lacking full LGBTQ rights, quite another where we’re regularly imprisoned and sometimes executed. So that’s a big no from here. We’d actually fear for our lives if we attend.

  19. Hey, people with fannish con running experience: would it be possible for one/some of you spin it out a little more about why fannish experience specifically is necessary? I’m halfway sure that the Jeddi High Council will also be wondering why it makes such a difference (I cam hazard a guess, but it would be a guess), and the information would probably be helpful to them when it comes to developing their fannish community.

    ———

    I want to be very clear that I 100% support this bid and these fans in their fannish development and enthusiasm, and that they’re not at all responsible for or able to meaningfully change the laws of the country they’re in, but also while things like this (Saudi rapper faces arrest for Mecca Girl video) are still happening I wouldn’t be comfortable with travelling to Saudi Arabia or voting for a Worldcon to be there, regardless of the personal charms and efforts of the aspiring con runners. But I wish them the best of luck with further developing a local and regional fan culture and network, and I hope many of them manage to attend Worldcons elsewhere as well.

  20. c4c…mostly. perhaps something later, but most of y’all have the high points covered.

    Regards,
    Dann
    “Only those who attempt the absurd will achieve the impossible. I think it’s in my basement… let me go upstairs and check.” – M. C. Escher

  21. Meredith: Hey, people with fannish con running experience: would it be possible for one/some of you spin it out a little more about why fannish experience specifically is necessary?

    I’ll start the ball rolling. There are a lot of small activities that a Worldcon is expected to support — not necessarily staff or run, but to support whether with space, publicity, or by facilitating communications between participants, etc. Conrunners with fannish experience are less frustrating for those involved with these activities — don’t immediately respond with “never heard of that,” or “not my job,” — they’re ready to meet people halfway to do what’s important to them, if less so to the con itself.

  22. @JeddiCon I phrased that sentence poorly. I read the bios with interest. What I should have written was: “I was interested to see that so many of the fans have tech/engineering backgrounds.” I have a similar background and I love seeing my scientific peers in fandom.

    JeddiCon, are you the bid committee?

  23. @Mike Glyer

    they’re ready to meet people halfway to do what’s important to them, if less so to the con itself

    Our team fully understand that and are planning to go over and above any and all expectations to make sure that we host the best Worldcon possible and making sure that the community has all the resources they need to make it so.
    We do understand what fans want and expect as most of us are hard code fans and geeks, and we are looking forward to showing the world the famous Arabian hospitality put into hyper drive.

  24. Fandom is a gift economy, and managing people who are doing it for fun is very different from managing paid staff or “volunteers” who reasonably expect their performance to be observed by professional colleagues and employers.

    I want to hear some specifics about fannish experience, not just vague assurances that they’re “hard core fans.” Specifics matter, and every bid committee is expected to talk about those specifics. And unlike some bids over the years, “famous Arabian hospitality” or not, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia,* has some drawbacks for many western fans as a potential tourist destination.

    Details, please. What’s the experience on which we should take the JeddiCon bid seriously.

    *No, I’m not blaming them for their government. I’m taking the fact of their government into account, just as I take China’s government into account in assessing the Chengdu bid, and non-US fans take the current issues with the US government into account–and on the flip side, the UK, Finland, Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan benefit from the fact that few people worry about their governments engaging in major human rights violations and being dangerous to fans for that reason. I mean, the Nice bid doesn’t seem to have a lot of experience, little enough to be worrisome, but if they won the bid and the con were a a failure, what’s the worst that happens? You spend a week or so in a lovely part of France.

    Also note, Nice is not expected to win, despite being in a lovely place, because no, they haven’t demonstrated enough experience for people to have any real confidence the convention would be a success. Because some specifics about fannish experience, and specifically fannish conrunning experience, do matter.

    Do you know how to manage volunteers, real volunteers who are giving up many hours for many months to quite hard work, so that the community can have its elaborate annual celebration?

    What level of familiarity do you have with the odd bits and pieces that are part of Worldcon without being officially part of it?

    It’s just occurred to me know to wonder what a Worldcon art show in Jeddah would look like. I’m not sure I have a coherent, sensible question here, but I’d love to hear your answers to people who do know what to ask.

    And I remain concerned about how western fans and Saudi laws will mesh. That’s not blaming you for your government. That’s asking how this is going to work in practice. We really do need to know.

  25. It is really awesome to have a group of Saudis who want to invite international fandom to visit their country. I have had the pleasure of meeting some of these folks and was impressed. I have no doubt that the con com will be welcoming and will work to make a great con.

    I would like to better understand what prep work has been done with the local and national officials, as to the wide variety of traditions, non-traditional lifestyles, heretics, and sceptics.

    FYI – I am in support of Chicago in 2022, but that does not mean that I will never support a Saudi convention.

  26. JeddiCon: We do understand what fans want and expect as most of us are hard code fans and geeks

    That may be true of fans in general, however, it’s not true of Worldcon. Worldcon has a lot of traditions and features that are not standard to other conventions, things which can’t be “guessed” by someone simply because they are a hardcore geek.

    For example, the Hugo Awards are a vitally-important part of Worldcon, but the dates you’ve chosen are absolutely unworkable in terms of being able to successfully administer Hugo nominating and voting. There’s not anywhere close to enough time between January 1 and May 4 to do what needs to be done. How can Worldcon members have confidence in a bid which does not even understand that very basic and important fact?

    And as Lis has pointed out, Worldcon is completely run and staffed by volunteers, most of whom are not doing it for their professional credentials and can not be pressured to perform based on a threat that they will be fired if they don’t. How is any of your team’s professional event-running experience going to help in dealing with people who don’t have to perform their jobs properly if they don’t feel like doing so?

    Finally, there’s the elephant in the room: only a small minority of Worldcon members (heterosexual Islamic males) will have basic human rights in Saudi Arabia. What provisions are you making so that women will be able to interact with men without restrictions, and wear whatever clothes they wish to wear, without harassment or punishment by your government? What provisions are you making so that LGBTQ members will not be arrested or imprisoned by your government? What provisions are you making so that Jewish members will allowed by your government to openly practice their religion while they are in Saudi Arabia, without risk of arrest and imprisonment?

    These are all things which needed to be addressed before you ever filed the paperwork for your bid. There is a massive amount of preparatory work which needs to be done before a Worldcon bid is filed, almost none of which has been done by your committee — because your concom does not have the knowledge and experience to know that these things needed to be done.

    You can continue to ignore these questions, but it is blindingly obvious to the Worldcon members you are asking to support your bid that you are deliberately ignoring these questions.

    I give your concom a lot of credit for their enthusiasm. I encourage all of you to not just attend, but work as volunteers for Worldcon, so that you can acquire the knowledge that’s necessary in order to run one.

  27. I’ve never been a WorldCon attendee or supporting member, so my opinion counts for nothing, but something occurred to me: never mind conrunning experience, how many of the bid committee have attended a WorldCon before? Maybe I’m being naive, but wouldn’t that be at least as big a handicap as not having conrunning experience?

    I dug out the progress reports for the 3 most recent WorldCons, and the breakdown of members by nationality was:

    Helsinki (PR6): 3 attending Saudi members, 1 of whom was a “first WC” member

    San Jose: No nationality details in either of the PRs I found online, which IIRC were the latest ones/highest numbered ones on the San Jose website

    Dublin (PR5): 1 attending Saudi member. (NB: not sure when exactly this PR was published; it looks to be shortly before the con, so maybe the counts are incomplete?)

    Both Helsinki and Dublin have a fair number of members listed with a country of “-” or “Did Not State”, so maybe there are some Saudis amongst them, or perhaps some who were resident outside of KSA at the time of those cons, and stated that country instead?

  28. @Lis Carey

    the UK, Finland, Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan benefit from the fact that few people worry about their governments engaging in major human rights violations and being dangerous to fans for that reason.

    I don’t expect major human rights violations from the current UK government at the moment, but a proposed new immigration law which requires writers, artists, musicians, etc… from the EU and elsewhere to have a visa requiring sponsorship, etc… could cause major issues for the Glasgow 2024 bid. WorldCon appearances are normally unpaid, so that might be a loophole. But we already had cases of several African members of Dublin 2019 (Nigerians mainly, but also at least one Egyptian) being unable to attend due to not having their visa approved in time. And there are plenty of other examples involving artists, musicians, etc… being denied visa, even though they have been invited to perform or exhibit at festivals, art shows, etc…

    @John S.

    never mind conrunning experience, how many of the bid committee have attended a WorldCon before? Maybe I’m being naive, but wouldn’t that be at least as big a handicap as not having conrunning experience?

    At least one member of the JeddiCon bid com attended WorldCon 77 in Dublin. Hampus, Siobhan above, Daniel Dern and I all met him and talked to him.

  29. @Cora Buhlert–

    I don’t expect major human rights violations from the current UK government at the moment, but a proposed new immigration law which requires writers, artists, musicians, etc… from the EU and elsewhere to have a visa requiring sponsorship, etc… could cause major issues for the Glasgow 2024 bid. WorldCon appearances are normally unpaid, so that might be a loophole. But we already had cases of several African members of Dublin 2019 (Nigerians mainly, but also at least one Egyptian) being unable to attend due to not having their visa approved in time. And there are plenty of other examples involving artists, musicians, etc… being denied visa, even though they have been invited to perform or exhibit at festivals, art shows, etc

    Yes. And you note those problems, and your willingness to support Worldcons in the UK or Ireland will grow less if these problems continue to happen, or worse to increase, and I suspect will drop considerably if either country starts jailing people for whom they love or what they wear or for engaging in peaceful protest. I suspect it will come to an abrupt end if they butcher a a journalist with a bone saw.

    No matter how much you like the fans involved in the bid. Because when the government is a real danger, it’s not about how much you like the fans, precisely because it’s beyond their control.

  30. @Meredith: I started a long answer and a !@#$%^&*()!!! runaway process ate it. Short version, applicable for Worldcons and other general interest conventions: the first thing I think of is that most fans pay their own way, and don’t expect the perks that come when a convention costs $200 or more (sometimes much more) per day. Fannish conventions are, indirectly, about making do with little: interesting program items from freewheeling interchanges of ideas rather than buying speakers, spaces where people can run into each other and where they can sit and talk, interesting ideas for oddball (SF music at LSC3) or local (paleontology/mineralogy club at Spokane) exhibits, and so on.

    Also, fannish cons require knowledge of a huge variety of interests, and familiarity with a lot of them. The idea of a concom organized as some sort of Jedi lodge, regardless of any other issues, worries me the same way that I’d worry about a concom organized like a Star Trek ship’s TO. Yes, I know that a lot of NYC fandom began with Trek cons — cf the comments following Elyse’s obit — but they expanded their interests and adapted to fannish cons rather than imposing the structure of their specific fandom. And as someone who’s been heavily entangled with three Worldconcoms and involved in a few others, the idea of any pre-fab structure also makes me nervous; I’d like to see more “We’re all part of this and we’ll sort out structure to fit the convention.”

  31. @Cora Buhlert:

    At least one member of the JeddiCon bid com attended WorldCon 77 in Dublin. Hampus, Siobhan above, Daniel Dern and I all met him and talked to him.

    Similarly, I can also personally vouch that at least one member of the Jeddah bidcom was at Worldcon 76 in San Jose.

    Which is not to say that I don’t share the concerns raised by others in this thread, and would add that the sheer last-minute nature of the bid means that I won’t have nearly the same amount of information as I do regarding the Chicago bid (via, e.g., bid parties and Fannish Inquisitions) when it comes time to vote.

  32. I believe that holding Worldcons in widely varying locations is good for fandom. It means more people will be able to attend, it means more perspectives are included in the community.

    I believe that Worldcons should be held in locations that are as safe as possible for all fans, regardless of creed, ethnicity, gender identity, cultural background, ability or disability.

    These two priorities are not always in alignment. In balancing these two competing objectives, I think the latter has to be the top priority. It’s useful to refer to the Freedom Of The World index, to reports of the OHCHR, and to the work of Human Rights Watch.

    We shouldn’t make decisions based on a “gut feeling” about a country, but should examine the evidence.

  33. Since the JeddiCon representative (?) posting here has not been immediately forthcoming, I checked out some LGBT tourism websites to see what they advised. It was interesting to see that the gay scene in Saudi Arabia is apparently really quite rocking, if underground, with also a reported local lesbian scene (even) less out in the open. The issue that people were most concerned with (I read, while checking out the LGBT tourism websites) was the danger of men appearing in public with women: both might get in trouble, and the police routinely check. Translating that to a Worldcon, I speculate – I have never been to Saudi Arabia, but I read the reports about their 2017 ComiCon – that the convention center they’ve booked probably has male and female “spaces” in addition to common spaces – make of that what one will…? I stress I’ve never been there so I’d appreciate those with firsthand information speaking up.

    I do like the idea of Worldcon being a bit like a Federation of Planets, roving throughout the known universe while remaining true to its core principles. Still, I’m not sure about the Saudi bid. The Chengdu bid (LGBT capital of China!) would still be a great first giant leap for fankind, in my opinion.

  34. @Brian Z–None of that is at all reassuring to people who want to be in the public space of a Worldcon, rather than in s ed creative underground “clubs” while they’re in Jeddah for the Worldcon.

    And underground or not, if they get caught, it’s illegal and they can be prosecuted.

  35. More to the point, how can you have panels or talks or kaffeeklatches or costume shows or award ceremonies when you can’t have unrelated men and women together in the same room? Have I missed something important here?

  36. Public places are probably fine – after all, there are shopping malls, restaurants, etc… in Saudi Arabia. But private meetings, parties, etc.. could be a problem.

    I imagine it’s a bit like a Regency romance. Women need a chaperone to go anywhere where men are.

  37. Hm, May 4th. A bit tight for the Hugos, innit? Nominations can’t really start before January, and it’s good form to allow 6-8 weeks for the nomination period. It then takes a while to collate the nominations and contact the finalists. Looking back a very short time (2019 so far), that seems to be on the order of 2-3 weeks, taking us solidly into April.

    It is then probably required to have “on the order of two weeks” for post-ballots-closed work. This gives us ~2 weeks to look at the finalists and do our due diligence as voters, which I think is “not enough”. Seeing how the HUgo Awards is one of the very few requirements of a WorldCon, getting that right is important.

    Here’s some dates from the last few years:
    Dublin 2019: Finalists announced April 2nd, voting closed July 31st
    San Jose 2018: Finalists announced March 31st, voting closed July 31st
    Helsinki 2017: Finalists announced April 4th, voting closed July 15th
    Kansas City 2016: Finalists announced April 26, voting closed July 31st
    Spokane 2015: Finalists announced April 4th, voting closed July 31st

  38. @ JJ: Thank you!

    Looks like my virtual back-of-envelope estimates for “time between things” is either correct or conservative and I completely forgot about the time from “announced” to “voting open” (which, for online voting, could at least in theory be nearly simultaneous, but anything short of ~4 weeks is probably an issue for paper ballots).

  39. @Brian Z

    Like Lis I don’t find it reassuring.

    I don’t think western fans will want to go back in the closet in public and be happy with underground clubs where they take a huge risk. Those who are trans obviously will have loads of problems.

    I can see a number of programme items being seen as promotion of unnatural lifes by the Saudi authorities.

    I cannot see how the free mingling of men and women that we are used to will happen. How the masquerade would happen, how the various discos and dances would happen.

    As Olav mentioned there are better places in the Arab world which are less restrictive, where being gay isn’t illegal etc. But even in those I imagine it will feel more repressive, and the authorities might still pressure the con not to have LGBT items on the programme.

  40. My main issues with the bid is about the country and the regime, not with the bidders. I am very happy to see the bid com working for the SF community and I hope they make some great local cons or even help in international ones. The day Saudiarabia abolishes their gender apartheid and stop murdering reporters (among other human right violations), I will be an enthusiastic endorser of a Worldcon in Saudiarabia and I hope the bid com will still be involved.

    But before that happens, I have one recommendation for the bid com. Looking at the experience of the participants, I see no experience in running a local SF-convention. A convention is not only about organizational experience of the board. It is about engaged local fans that will particpate in everything from registration, to information, from making sure technology works, etc.

    For that, there needs to be a local experience of organizing fan conventions and there needs to exist a large enough fandom to help support the bid com. A fandom in which the participants are grounded.

    I would like to see the bid com first organize local conventions and see how that would work. It is not the same to organize a fan convention based on volunteers as to organize a professional event with a well-funded budget for hiring people.

    It might be that this experience exists with explicit regards to the SF Fandom, but I can’t really see it in the brief summaries. I’d like to see what local SF conventions of, say a size of at least around 500-1000 persons, the Bid Com have helped organize. So I know there is at least some baseline of local fans ready to help.

  41. And I agree that I do not find the date of May the 4:th to be realistic with regards to the Hugos. There needs to be voting, from the voting there is all the administrative time to check what works are eligible, it there are duplicats worded differently, get a hold of the nominees to inform them and so on.

    This takes time.

    And when the nominees are public, there’s need for additional time for nominees, friends and family to look at their economy, check travel options and so on and think it over to decide if they can afford to travel. This also takes time. And then people will need the time to read all things to be able to vote…

    Having the convention in May would not give people time enough for all administration AND for the nominees to have time to decide how they will act after being informed AND for the voters to read what is nominated. So I think that simple thing is enough to make the bid fail, regardless of other issues.

    But I will be happy to say hi to all bidders when I meet them at Worldcons.

  42. @Cora – near the beginning of that article there’s this quote ‘The Home Office, who declined to comment on the record before publication, later got in touch to explain that unpaid performers from EU countries wanting to come for up to six months and those staying less than a month would still be able to come “without the need for formal sponsorship or a work visa.”’ So the proposed legislation would have no effect on Europeans at a UK worldcon. The same legislation is already in place for non-Europeans, so again, no change. Not sure why you mention African members struggling to get visas for Dublin. Africa is not part of Europe, and Eire is not part of the UK.

  43. @Cliff
    No, but artists, writers and musicians from Africa, Latin America and Asia being denied visa, even if they have official invitations from festival, cons and the like is a really common problem throughout the EU. There are dozens of cases involving cultural events ranging from the Venice art biennale via the Wacken metal festival to Dublin 2019. And considering how xenophobic the current British government is, it’s quite possible that writers, artists and other pros visiting cons in the UK will face harrassment at the border, even if the law is theoretically in their favour.

  44. Sorry JeddiCon, but even my British SWM bluster through everything approach to getting by would feel strained by Saudi. I don’t mean to suggest that you’re not good people, but I wouldn’t feel at all comfortable in your country.
    Have you thought about getting together with other places in the peninsular? Places like Dubai seem to attract more international travellers, though I understand it’s still not LBGT friendly.

  45. I just had a read through of the bid charter document, and I’m curious about this line on the second page:

    All Council members must be legal residence (sic) of Saudi Arabia.

    This appears to have been specifically inserted, as the Glasgow 2024 bid charter doesn’t have anything like this, but the preceding and subsequent text is identical, other than dates, names, and “Board” vs “Council” terminology. (I’m guessing there’s a standard template that these are all based on?)

    Maybe there are KSA legal reasons for this addition, but this item would seem to make it much harder for the possibility of people with prior WC conrunning experience to be be brought in at a high level to help out? (A quick skim-read of the Helsinki and Dublin sites indicates they had non-Finnish and Irish senior staff members on their committees, FWIW.)

  46. We are excited about your interest to know more about JeddiCon and our Jeddi High Council, we apologize for taking a bit longer than we like to get back to you with answers on the subjects that you raised (we will do our best to respond faster in the future).

    Master of The Order Yasser Bahjatt has been organizing eSports events across the GCC (Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain & Qatar), Egypt & Lebanon since 2003. These events were run almost fully by gaming fans. The largest was organized across 42 locations in 14 cities for 3 months straight where more than 10,000 players came through the qualifications tournaments.
    Master Tamim Kashgari was co-chair of organizing Geekfest Gama (a local serial fan run event).

    Master Raneen Bukhari was part of the executive team of several fan organized art events.

    Some have pointed out that they thought we did not know the difference between Star Wars fandom and SciFi/Fantasy fandom. And we understand where that confusion comes from.
    However, we would like to assure you that not only do we know it by heart, but actually most of the Jeddi High Council are not Star Wars fans, and I guess this might make you even more confused.

    Please allow us to explain, as hard code SciFi fans, we geeked out on the prospect of hosting the first Worldcon on the region in Jeddah, and we geeked out more on its resemblance to Jedha from Star Wars. We also looked through all the past 77 Worldcon names and really liked how the 59th Worldcon in 2001 did with its name, it was genius, as Philadelphia was hosting the first Worldcon of the millennium, The Millennium Philcon and by doing so paying homage to one of the most influential SciFi movies in history. And we wanted to do the same with our event. And since JeddiCon was the logical way to do that, we decided to get in character and role play the Jeddi part of it through the structure of our event (after all isn’t this what any self-respecting hardcore fan would do?)

    Now it might seem that our choice for the date was an extension to our hardcore geeking out (And trust us we are glad that it looks that way), but we assure you there were much more important factors that we had to take into account to select the date.
    First of all, Aug/Sep will be a bit too hot for most visitors to Jeddah, and although we would prefer to host the event here in winter when the weather is just amazing, but we knew that would be too early or too late for hosting a proper Worldcon.
    Secondly, the best venue we have to host the Worldcon in Jeddah was in King Abdulaziz University, so we needed to chose a time where they were not using their classrooms so that w can have all the lecture rooms we need to be able to have an amazing diverse list of talks and panels. And also needed to have a time where the students can attend this amazing global event that is hosted at their campus.
    Thirdly, the calendar here in Jeddah between May and Aug is a bit full of activities and events that would directly affect the quality of our Worldcon (Final exams where most students cant come, Hajj season that will bring in millions of pilgrims into Jeddah making it near impossible to find enough rooms for the Worldcon attendees, etc.)
    Fourth, as the 4th of May is on the 2nd or 3rd day of Eid Al-Fitr (one of the two Islamic holidays), not only will that mean that everyone in Saudi is officially on vacation so they can easily attend, but also visitors from outside Saudi will have the chance to experience our festivities.
    And lastly, it is Star Wars day, and what a nice coincidence that is that JeddiCon would be on Star Wars day.
    Now we know that such date would have some effect over the Hugo process and schedule, and that is why we have Master Mohammed Albakri who will be the one leading the Hugo and site selection comity, as he has extensive experience in Data analysis and reporting. The tentative schedule we have for the Hugo process is as follows:
    – Nomination opens on 1st Jan 2022 00:00 GMT+3 and closes on 14th Feb 2022 23:59 GMT+3

    – Voting opens on 14th Mar 2022 00:00 GMT+3 with last accepted paper submission on 28th Apr 2022 17:00 GMT+3 and last digital submission on 4th May 2022 23:59

    As for the fear of mixing men and women, some of you must have heard about some of the major events in Saudi seasons such as MDL beast that was part of Riyadh’s Season (https://mdlbeast.com/).

    So we do not expect any issues of mixing men and women during JeddiCon.

    We are afraid that we do not have any answers for the questions posted regarding the culture of identity spectrum, as we are but simple excited fans who want to host the Worldcon and expose its community to our fascinating culture. However, we do know that there is a Saudi public decency code (https://visa.visitsaudi.com/Home/PublicDecorum) that everyone in Saudi must follow.

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