Anna Smith Spark, a grimdark author from London, has organized an open “letter of concern” with several dozen co-signers, including Charles Stross, about the bid to bring the Worldcon to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia in 2022, which will be voted on this week. The competition is a bid for Chicago in 2022.
Anna Smith Spark sent File 770 the letter, and “Also (and I will be dead in the eyes of the WSFS for this) the email they sent me washing their hands of this and having a quick pop at those involved in the anti-Puppies work as well for good measure,” which is a reply received from WSFS webmaster Kevin Standlee.
An open letter to the World Science Fiction Society (WSFS) and to Norman Cates as the Chair of the 2020 WorldCon
Dear WSFS, and dear Norman,
As writers, publishers and readers of science fiction and fantasy, we are writing to express our concern that Saudi Arabia has been accepted as a potential host site for the 2022 World Science Fiction Convention (WorldCon).
SFF is the great genre of possibilities and pluralities. As readers, writers and publishers of SFF our task is to inspire wonder: we look up at the stars to seek out other ways of being, we look down at the earth around us to find enchantment, beauty, romance, horror, hope. We create new worlds because we believe that in doing so we can make this world a better and intellectually richer place. A Jeddah WorldCon would allow fandom a chance to visit a breathtakingly beautiful city, Jeddah. It would break new ground for SFF Fandom, open up a new world to fans who may otherwise never have an opportunity to travel there, and show solidarity with creative communities within Saudi Arabia and other Arab states. It’s therefore with great sadness that we must face reality for what it is, that the Saudi regime is antithetical to everything SFF stands for.
The most recent Amnesty International report on Saudi Arabia states that in 2019 the Saudi government ‘escalated repression of the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly. They harassed, arbitrarily detained and prosecuted dozens of government critics, human rights defenders, including women’s rights activists, members of the Shi’a minority and family members of activists. […] Some people, most of them members of the country’s Shi’a minority, were executed following grossly unfair trials.’ Saudi women face systematic legal discrimination, while identifying as LGBQT+ is illegal and can be punishable with corporal punishment and even execution. Saudi Arabia is a key player in the war in Yemen that has left 80% of the Yemeni population in need of humanitarian aid, and has been accused of war crimes in the region. The UN concluded last year that it was ‘credible’ that the Saudi Crown Prince personally ordered the brutal murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi for the crime of writing words. It cannot and must not be acceptable to stage an international event against this backdrop. Indeed, the murder of Jamal Khashoggi alone should be enough to render the concept of a literary convention in the country an absurdity.
On a personal level, we note that many of us would ourselves not be able to write or to live freely under Saudi law. We refuse to attend an event if those staffing it cannot have the same basic freedoms. We express deep concern that many members of the SFF community would be excluded from attending an event because of their sexuality, nationality or religious beliefs.
We stand in solidarity with those who seek change in the country. And we write in protest but also in hope – that by raising awareness of the political situation in Saudi Arabia a WorldCon SA will one day be possible.
Anna Smith Spark (organiser), Justin Lee Anderson, Andrew Angel, Helen Armfield, Allen Ashley, Graham Austin-King, Ali Baker Brooks, Andrew Bannister, RJ Barker, Alan Baxter, Donna Bond, James Brogden, Mike Brooks, Angela Cleland, Tom Clews, Adrian Collins, Lee Conley, Emily Cornell, Sarah Doyle, Margaret Eve, Mike Everest Evans, The Fantasy Hive, Fantasy Faction, Nick Ferguson, Karen Fishwick, Carol Goodwin, T. L. Greylock, Joanne Hall, Patricia Hawkes-Reed, Bethan May Hindmarsh, Stewart Hotson, Shellie Horst, Steve D. Howarth, Humber SFF, Barbara James, Cameron Johnston, Daniel Kelly, Simon Kewin, Alex Khlopenko, Shona Kinsella, Alex Knight, David Lascelles, Ulff Lehmann, Dale Lucas, Eloise Mac, Steve McHugh, Juliette McKenna, Peter McLean, Kevin McVeigh, Kareem Mahfouz, Masimba Musodza, Andy Marsden, GR Matthews, Simon Morden, Alistair Morley, T. O. Munro, Stan Nicholls, Chris Nuttall, Scott Oden, Graeme Penman, Peter Philpott, Steven Poore, Gareth L Powell, Robert V.S Redick, Ian Richardson, Courtney Schaffer, S. Naomi Scott, Ian Segal, Mike Shackle, Steve J Shaw, Sheffield Science Fiction and Fantasy Society, , Rita Sloan, Sammy HK Smith, Vaughan Stanger, Mark Stay, Charlie Stross, Allen Stroud, Amanda M Suver Justice, Clayton Synder, Sue Tingey, Three Crows Magazine, Tej Turner, Catriona Ward, Matthew Ward, David Watkins, RB Watkinson, Adam Weller, Graeme Williams, Phil Williams, Deborah A Wolf.
Copied to the Board of the SFWA, Locus Magazine, Tor.com, Starburst, the UK Guardian newspaper
WSFS Web Site Team Reply
There is no such entity as the “Board of the World Science Fiction Society (WSFS).” WSFS is an unincorporated literary society that has no Board of Directors, no ongoing chief executive, and no “Head Office.” I am copying the co-chairs of ConZealand on this reply.
The rules of WSFS, which are made by the members of WSFS (the attendees of the Worldcon), set very minimal technical requirements for any group to bid for a Worldcon. The selection is not made by a Board of Directors or Executive Committee, but by the entire membership of WSFS, who vote on the choice, just as they vote on the Hugo Awards. Indeed, the process is very similar in both cases, in that Worldcons are not supposed to make subjective value judgments about nominees for the Hugo Awards. This decision is reserved to the entire membership, exercising their right to vote.
If you are interested in more information about how WSFS works and how you can propose changes in its rules, I can explain things in further detail.
This is not intended as being dismissive, but to try and explain that Worldcons and WSFS as a whole does not give anyone the right to make subjective judgements about either Hugo Award nominees/finalists or prospective Worldcon sites other than the entire membership.
Kevin Standlee, WSFS Web Site Team