David Klaus was inspired by the passage of Arizona’s new immigration law to ask, “Does this mean it’s time for another Phoenix worldcon bid? Innocently yours…”
Opponents of the new law are already at work organizing boycotts of Arizona businesses, beginning with Major League Baseball’s Arizona Diamondbacks. And these news stories are obviously reminding David — in all innocence — of the time a Phoenix Worldcon appeared in the crosshairs of an earlier Arizona boycott.
In 1978 Worldcon GoH Harlan Ellison refused to stay in the con hotel, parking a rented RV at the curb, and spent no money while in the state because Arizona legislators hadn’t voted to approve the Equal Rights Amendment.
Ellison’s historic gesture is remembered in Helen Merrick and Tess Williams Women of Other Worlds: Excursions Through Science Fiction and Feminism:
Debate about the issue surfaced in [the fanzine] Janus with the publication of ‘A Statement of Ethical Position by the Worldcon Guest of Honour’, Harlan Ellison (1977). Ellison was torn between his position as GoH (accepted before the NOW campaigns began) and support for the ERA, which he felt meant he should boycott the con. Boycotts were not new to fandom; Ellison, along with others such as Marion Zimmer Bradley had boycotted the Miami Worldcon to protest against the activities of Anita Bryant. After consulting with writers and fans such as Le Guin, Russ, McIntyre, Bradley and Susan Wood, Ellison decided to attend the con, but ‘in the spirit of making the convention a platform for heightening the awareness of fans’, and promised to coordinate with NOW and other pro-ERA elements to publicize the situation….
The only fan I ever heard say out loud that Harlan’s activities changed his mind about ERA was…me. Of course, the fans who already agreed with him didn’t need their minds changed, so it’s hard to say how many fish there were in that pond for him to catch.
Update 05/01/2010: Changed to “rented RV” based on the comments of fans whose memories I trust.