Barkley: DisCon III Reporter’s Notebook and Observations

A gingerbread Frank Lloyd Wright Fallingwater house, originally posted by artist David Naiditch, December 8, 2020 on Facebook.

The 79th World Science Fiction Convention: My DisCon III Reporter’s Notebook and Observations

By Chris M. Barkley: Right now, a week and a few days after DisCon III began, seems like a distant dream. My partner Juli and I actually went there, participated and went home.

As dreams go, it was pretty good. At least for us. I have a few thoughts about that and other things…

Mary Robinette Kowal was right in that the World Science Fiction Convention, as an institution, was saved by the heroic efforts of the volunteers who worked tirelessly to pull it off with her as their unflagging and almost indefatigable leader. My two main takeaways are that: (A) Virtual participation in the Worldcon should become a standard operating procedure from now on, and (B) No disabled person should be subjected to any WSFS venue or facility that is not fully accessible to everyone. Juli and I saw far too many people struggling to get to panels and events. I know that DisCon III had to make do with the venue that had but I think that future Worldcon committees are on notice; THIS MUST NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES!

As I was writing this passage, Mary Robinette Kowal issued this statement through on the DisCon III website: “Kowal Apologizes for Raytheon Sponsorship of DisCon III”.  

Speaking of participation, I had a whole list of panels that I wanted to report on but things did not shake out as I had planned. For that I profusely apologize. Maybe next year. (Yeah, RIGHT!)

In looking over the longlist of Hugo nominations, I was somewhat surprised to see that Baen Editor-in-Chief Toni Weisskopf qualified to be a finalist in the Best Editor – Long Form category. Ms. Weisskopf declined the nomination. And after being uninvited as a DisCon III Guest of Honor earlier this year, and who can blame her. As I have stated elsewhere, while Ms. Weisskopf and I may not see eye to eye politically I was appalled that she was removed as DisCon III’s Guest of Honor; once upon a time, she was originally chosen by the convention committee solely for her sterling editorial work at Baen Books. This wasn’t the first time the Worldcon community has let her down, but I am quite sure it will be the last time.    

Speaking of voting results, I CAN’T BELIEVE TENET CAME IN LAST PLACE! What the HELL, man?

Also disappointing; that a Worldcon took place three and a half miles away from the headquarters of National Public Radio and they did not send a single reporter to cover DisCon III. I, on the other hand, was wearing a NPR baseball cap when I (briefly) attended the historic Site Selection Meeting Sunday morning. Because I cared, even if they did not…

 Late Saturday evening and early Sunday morning, there was the now annual round of bitching from incels, racist malcontents and overall nitwits that the Hugo Awards are dominated by women, minorities and marginalized people, and that it was pretty obvious (to them) that they write “superior” sf and fantasy. 

Well, first off, the dominance of white male writers as the sole influence in the fannish and professional writing is quite over. And here’s an additional pro tip: GET OVER YOURSELVES. Your day (and night for that matter) is DONE. A majority of the people who vote for and care about the Hugo Awards have soundly rejected, repeatedly, year after year, your mostly male, mostly white, hetero-normative, sexist, racially insensitive and non-inclusive narratives. Just keep marinating yourselves in hate and bullshit, we’re getting pretty good at ignoring you.  

One such person who will not be heeding this advice is one Jon Del Arroz, whom well known fantasy and sf writer Adam-Troy Castro critically eviscerated is a Sunday morning Facebook post

Enough Said on this subject. For now.

One of the odd things about the act of observing or reporting, is that once people know you are doing either, more often than not, people change their behavior. In one such instance, my partner, Juli, had vacated her room so the hotel attendant (I REFUSE to merely call them ‘maids”) could change the linen and towels. 

While she was seated in one of the many comfy chairs located around the elevators, a man and woman approached to wait. When the man glanced over and noticed the press ribbon on her badge, he became very animated and friendly. He explained that he was an author and had a book out that he was selling at the convention. When he whipped the book out of his bag, Juli took a photo of him. Here it is:  

This also happened right after the conclusion the Hugo Awards Ceremony; while I was busy snapping pictures of the winners as they took the stage, Juli was approached by the well-known Italian sf artist and Hugo nominee Maurizio Manzieri, who took the opportunity to introduce himself and tell her all about himself and how HAPPY he was to be there. She took a photo of him as well.

In both instances, she promised to include them in my reporting. And here they are. We were happy to include you. You’re Welcome.

I’d also like to take a moment to personally thank one of DisCon III’s Advisors, Randall Shepherd. Mr. Shepherd sent me a text early last Saturday morning, asking if I had a suit. At that time, I was hard at work finishing Day 3 of these chronicles and didn’t see it until about an hour and a half before the Hugo Award Ceremonies. 

Little did I know that had I promptly answered that text, I could have been a part of the Ceremony. Mr. Shepherd was responsible for a skit that took place at the beginning and the end of the Ceremony, wherein several people, impersonating Secret Service agents, took the stage and pretended to cordon off the area as a pretend motorcade interrupted the hosts with blaring sirens and flashing lights (just as residents of the District tolerate and loathe practically every day.)  

I don’t think being in the skit would have worked out for me because one of the things I forgot to bring to DisCon III were my clip-on sunglasses. But I THANK YOU, Mr. Shepherd, for thinking of me. Maybe next year…

I, for one, missed having Daniel Dern at DisCon III. That kid could cover some ground at a con. He was sorely missed.

For anyone who cares, I weighed the gigantic Krazy Kat collection of Sunday pages purchased from Mike Walsh on a digital scale upon our arrival at home. It was 13.8 pounds…OOOFFFF! 

The one thing I think future Worldcons should do on a mandatory basis is having open receptions for the convention goers to meet the people they nominated for the Hugo Awards. I think that was a brilliant idea that every committee should consider. Period. Full Stop. 

Our cat, Nova, seemed to be glad to see us after being gone for nearly five full days. So far.

I would be remiss if I did not comment on the 2023 Worldcon being won by the Chengdu bid. For the record, I voted for the Winnipeg bid. Because Winnipeg is a lot closer than Chengdu, China.

A lot of fans were openly lamenting that the 81st World Science Fiction Convention was going to be held in what many, including myself, consider a totalitarian, one party police state. 

On the other side, the Chinese government has not only been encouraging people to read, they have been vociferously promoting the reading and writing of science fiction. Chinese fandom has grown exponentially in the past twenty years and the group that put together the Chengdu bid has been working towards this year’s Site Selection for the better part of a decade.

I would also remind people of two very salient and sobering issues; first, that a lot of fans, both here and abroad, were actively talking about boycotting DisCon III if the previous (and heinous) administration had been reelected. The other is that the United States of America came within mere minutes of becoming a one party dictatorship itself nearly a year ago. And just because that attempt failed, doesn’t mean we’re out of the woods yet.  

The fact of the matter is that Chengdu won the bid. The responsibility for holding the Worldcon is in their hands. And personally, I think they take this responsibility very seriously.

The biggest obstacle for everyone involved is whether or not the government of the People’s Republic of China will be involved with the Chengdu Worldcon. 

Because if the powers that be in Beijing decide to interfere with the programming, who may or may not attend or the administration of the Hugo Awards, I can pretty much guarantee that fandom will make sure that the first World Science Fiction Convention on Chinese soil will definitely be the last, at least in my lifetime. 

One last thing. 

While Juli and I were out and about the convention, several people stopped us and highly commended me on my frequent postings on the DisCon III Facebook page and my columns on File770.com. All of them mentioned that I should be nominated for a Fan Writing Hugo.

And I thanked them for thinking of me.

Which got me thinking when I got home. 

There was a time, when I began these columns several years ago, that I WAS doing it for the chance at a nomination. But as the years went by, I began to notice that my name has never been among the long list of nominations. And as time has passed, I became resigned to the fact that I may never be nominated, much less win a Hugo Award.

I happen to believe that File 770 is one of the largest fannish platforms on the internet. And I do believe that my writings and opinions have been heard, that people are reading me and that I have had some impact in fandom. 

But at this point in my life I am doing it for the love of writing and for the chance to be heard, not for my ego, the recognition or the glory. 

So, while I feel incredibly good that people are noticing my work, I cannot and will not either campaign for the honor or ask anyone to vote for me.

Thank you for spending some of your time with me. 

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and a Very Happy New Year to you ALL.

88 thoughts on “Barkley: DisCon III Reporter’s Notebook and Observations

  1. @George Phillies

    As written, that’s about the stories – “narratives” – not the writers.

  2. … which does not appear to me to be tactful.

    My impression is that Barkley is talking about the Hugo Awards reactions from “incels, racist malcontents and overall nitwits” on social media during and after the Hugo ceremony.

    While I was live-tweeting the winners I saw a lot of their comments and abusive behavior and his lack of tact is appropriate. Their corner of social media is a cesspool.

  3. @George Phillies:

    The ignoring appears to be mutual. I was surprised that Toni had three dozen supporters at WorldCon..

    Speaking for myself, I have no general problem with Ms. Weisskopf, or (in the general case) with anyone who says he/she admires Ms. Weisskopf. OTOH, in recent years I always vote only “No Award” in Best Editor Long Form, because I continue to think it’s a misconceived Hugo category, where insufficient data exist for voters to rationally judge and rank the year’s best book/similar-form editors. So, if she’d not withdrawn her nomination, that’s how I’d have voted, with or without her presence on the ballot.

    And if DisCon hadn’t cancelled Ms. Weisskopf’s GoH invitation, I’d have been glad to see her there, because I respect her as one of our field’s professionals. And, you know what I’m properly tired of? People picking fights and imposing symbolic tribalism, when there’s nothing accomplished by so doing, and it’s all just empty posturing.

    So, I dunno, George, is the subtext of your post to start some grievance-mongering about Worldcon fandom having been horrid to Ms. Weisskopf? What you posted could be read that way. As a member, I was certainly taken by surprise by her disinvitation. (I most certainly wasn’t consulted, nor asked.) I can guess/read/infer some portion of the applicable context, but, as a grunt member, even one who often (but not this year) is on staff and is active in WSFS, one never has the full context. We always hope and expect that our concoms, who do have all the context and private conversation details, are making reasonable decisions. Once those are made, personally I’m generally reluctant to go around after the fact, trying to Monday-morning quarterback them — for lots of reasons including shortage of data, and the utter futility of debating something that’s already over and done with.

    I think I agree with Chris Barkley, in being appalled at her disinvitation, but (laking insider knowledge) cannot be sure, so (unlike Chris) mostly keep my reservations to myself. At minimum, I was dismayed.

    Anyway, speaking of trying to pointlessly pick a fight and stupidly impose tribalism, your suggestion that you absent-mindedly picked the wrong Chris Barkley quotation white, male authors should be “insulted” over, and actually meant his bit about hate-mongering and bullshit involving “mostly male, mostly white, hetero-normative, sexist, racially insensitive and non-inclusive narratives”, rings hollow: For one thing, your implication notwithstanding, Chris did not attribute that skullduggery to “a group of authors”. I’d wager a spare $20 bill that the “incels, racist malcontents and overall nitwits” involved were the usual gang of idiots on social media.

    And, you know what? I’m not going to spill any beer over those people’s tender sensibilities. Because I like beer. (Beer abuse; a tragedy to avoid.)

    Also, seriously? You accidentally complained about the wrong Barcley quotation? Epically clumsy with the Clipboard, then? Or is it that you tried and failed to provoke dumb tribalism, and so wanted to come back and try again?

  4. I also want to thank Chris Barkley for the Discon III reports. I like reading conreports if I attend a con, since no two people ever attend exactly the same con, and I especially like reading them if I did not get to attend the con at all, which was the case this time.

    Re: Chengdu: I have several concerns that I have not seen mentioned here. One is the safety and security of congoers vis-a-vis the Chinese government. I suspect there will be minders there, listening to all the goings-on as much as they can, and probably figuring that some of us will be spies. Fans are not the most diplomatic people in the world, and are used to speaking their minds and getting into spirited arguments, sometimes just for the fun of it. And they are not used to internally monitoring every word before it leaves their mouth. What if someone says something imprudent, impolitic, mentions their displeasure with some aspect of their dealings with the Chinese personnel during their stay, or just mentions Tibet or Xinjiang or the Uighurs? (Or Taiwan?)

    What if a Western fan with access to our unfiltered search engines helps a Chinese fan find out information they don’t have access to in China? What if, Ghu forbid, someone wears a Winnie-the-Pooh T-shirt, either innocently or provocatively? Or tries to take a propaganda poster as a souvenir, as that poor guy did in North Korea, which he paid for with his life? (No, I don’t expect that, but frankly, I don’t know what to expect.) What if by the time of the con, China has cracked down even harder on protests in Hong Kong, or is preparing to attack (or has attacked) Taiwan? What if an attack on Taiwan happens during the Worldcon?

    I expect that, given the large amount of votes from China that came in at the last minute, that means that there will be a lot of Chinese interest in the con. Should we expect that most of the Hugo nominations that come in will be for Chinese writers and artists? That would not be unexpected, or inappropriate, given that Chinese fans probably read works that are in Chinese languages, but it might not be a representative selection from a worldwide perspective. And then, what if another Chinese city runs a bid for 2025? If the Chengdu Worldcon ends up being the size of, say, the San Diego Comic-Con and is 90% Chinese fans, will such a bid automatically win? Not the end of the world, but I suspect current fandom would not want a Worldcon in China every other year, and WSFS would have to change some rotation rules, if they could manage to do it.

    Personally, I would love to visit Chengdu (although I would not pick the very hot and very humid summer to do so). I have seen some lovely scenery on TV shows and read many recipes of dishes I would like to try in the restaurants. But given the political situation in China, I would not feel comfortable giving China my tourist dollars, or feel comfortable that I would be unimpeded in the fannish and tourist activities I would want to undertake at the con. So, reluctantly, I will sit this one out, unless things change radically in China in a good way.

  5. @Janice Morningstar, I have no relevant experience with the PRC (only of living next to it, in Hong Kong), but can tell you what it was like to be a tourist in Brezhnev’s Soviet Union during some of the tenser parts of the Cold War: We had guides (who were extremely good, by the way) accompanying us. We assumed that our hotel rooms were bugged and at least lackadaisically listened to, particularly the gargantuan and KGB-bespoke Hotel Rossiya in Moscow, but tourist-centric hotels in Leningrad (now, once again, St. Petersburg) and Kiev (now, once again, Kyiv. Though we were discreet and cautious about how we acted and spoke, I expect the KGB and police expected foreign guests to be a bit off-kilter. If I’d run out into Red Square and started yelling “Leonid Brezhnev wears discount army boots, and his mother dresses him funny”, I suspect all that would happen is a plainclothes officer would advise me to go back to Hotel Rossiya and have a nice cup of tea.

    August temperatures in Sichuan, this year, have wavered between 25° and 39°C (77° and 102° F), relative humidity about 73% — not really very hot or humid by, say, LoneStarCon (San Antonio, TX) standards. Definitely quite dry relative to August in any East Coast USA city (or my hometown of Hong Kong, which gets the South China Sea air for good and bad). Don’t forget, Sichuan is way, way inland. The AQI (air particulate pollution count) seems a bit dicey.

    As to everyone visiting Chengdu having minders all the time, and foreign guests getting punished for saying impolitic things about Taiwan / HK / Tibet / Xi / Xinjiang / etc., I’m dubious: Chengdu WorldCon 81st has sited everything in/around “Chengdu Century City New International Convention and Exhibition Center”. This appears to be a purpose-built neighbourhood about 9km south of Chengu’s CBD (central business district), just off the banks of the Fuhe River and a sizeable riverside park. I see three adjoining-or-almost hotels. Knowing the way authoritarian businesses think, I expect this area is what one might call a foreign-guest themepark, where substantial allowance gets made for foreign barbarians behaving like foreign barbarians.

    As an aside, I’ll want to get outside the foreign-businessmen-and-tourists Disneyland area and eat at some in-town regular-folks restaurants — just so I can see the Han locals’ reaction to me using chopsticks like a native except with the wrong hand. The Han ethnics in Hong Kong had a cultural tradition of curbing left-handedness among their young, so, although seeing a blond gweilo child using chopsticks expertly was common enough, doing It southpaw struck them as freaky.

    By the way, domestically, the Great Firewall of China has never aimed to perfectly prevent locals from seeing banned content, and ISTR that officials don’t generally freak out over minor and transient circumvention. What seems a lot more likely is self-censorship, e.g., that local fan not wanting to spend time looking at banned materials. Authoritarian regimes don’t need to corral people closely all the time; they corral themselves, mostly.

    Anyway, this also isn’t North Korea: I doubt anyone will get imprisoned for just peeling off a propaganda poster to take home as a souvenir. I doubt there will be government propaganda posters anywhere near New International Convention and Exhibition Center, either. The vicinity comprises a big convention centre near three big hotels, some ancillary facilities, and a park. The pictures reveal that it looks very like all the rest of those.

    Also? I kept being peeved by how many North American fans kept complaining that Hensinki was too scarily foreign, and I can’t help speculating that all of this “But what if the CCP interferes?” stuff is a proxy for the same tiresome, reflexive fear of the unfamiliar. I mean, if fen had such a hard time getting past “I’m afraid Finland might possibly be foreign” or even (before that) “I’m afraid someone in Montréal might speak to me in French”, I should not be surprised at a slow freak-out at an even less-familiar country that doesn’t (in the general case) use an alphabet.

    But we have 1.5 years to get reconciled with some foreign-ness. Start with chopsticks. ;->

  6. @Rick: Believe me, I am not one who freaks out at foreign cultures. I live in the Bay Area (specifically, Silicon Valley), and everyone I know (including me, and excepting an adult son who refuses to learn) is quite competent at using chopsticks, and does so routinely. We live in a very multicultural area, and absolutely relish that, and take advantage of it.

    I had planned to go to the Worldcon in Japan, and actually took two quarters of Japanese at the local community college to prepare, and then couldn’t afford to go. I hated not being able to attend Anticipation, because I’ve never been to a Francophone locale to try out my high-school French. Ditto Helsinki; I would have definitely gone over to St. Petersburg to see the Hermitage and try out my college Russian.

    If I were to go to Chengdu, I would probably take a class or two in Mandarin and learn some basic characters, and I would definitely want to get out of the convention-center area to see the sights and eat some authentic Sichuan cuisine; I suspect most fans would have the same attitude, and thus the Chinese minders would be interested. As far as climate, to me the heat and humidity you cite would be problematic; at Lonestarcon, I actually got a case of heat exhaustion while doing the Riverwalk, and I had brought plenty of water. (Turns out I needed electrolytes.) I lived in Michigan for nine years, and was miserable every summer. (I grew up in Seattle.)

    Even so, my major misgiving is indeed the Chinese political situation. Xi Jinping is definitely more of a hard-liner than his predecessors, is taking away special rights in Hong Kong and limiting their press (they took down a statue commemorating Tiananmen just the other day), is making expansionist moves in the South China Sea, and is making increased noises about how Taiwan is part of China. Just taking current trends and extrapolating, I expect political crackdowns to continue, and relations with the West to worsen. I don’t want to make any plans to step into that, and I certainly do not want to subsidize such a regime with my tourist dollars.

  7. @Janice Morningstar: Howdy, neighbour. My family and I live in my original family house in West Menlo Park. (And yes, I’m American, English orthography notwithstanding.).

    I’m sorry you missed Anticipation. My own French went over quite well in both Montréal and Québec City. Apparently I succeeded in sounding “français métropolitain”, or perhaps they were just giving me credit for trying. (Just English will get you by perfectly, though. To be polite and suggest a preference for English, greet people with “Bonjour-Hi”.)

    I hear you, about the (somewhat elevated) heat and humidity. The most recent LonestarCon was hit by hot weather; the previous was really quite pleasant out.

    Certainly, Xi’s regime is far more hardcore than any since the Mao Dynasty. At the same time, unlike Maoism, it’s all about prosperity, and that definitely includes making high-profile world-facing events, and their foreign participants, welcome and comfortable. And of course I have absolutely no problem with your moral standards about where to spend tourist dollars, but I figure mine and my wife’s are a tiny drop in a mammoth Renminbi ocean, just as in the 1970s when my family of origin lavished some modest money on Intourist to visit Moscow, Leningrad, and Kiev.

    Anyway, nothing wrong (naturally) with your view of the matter, and perhaps we’ll meet at the probable NASFiC.

  8. Janice Morningstar:

    “What if, Ghu forbid, someone wears a Winnie-the-Pooh T-shirt, either innocently or provocatively?”

    What nonsense is this? You can buy Winnie-The-Pooh stuff at the Disney stores in China. Enough with all these idiotic rumours. I have been to both China and North-Korea. They are nothing alike. If you want a propaganda poster in China, you buy one at the market.

    You will have no problems getting around the rest of the city and you won’t need any minders.

  9. @ Hempus: https://knowyourmeme.com/memes/xi-jinping-winnie-the-pooh-comparisons (Or just Google “Winnie the Pooh Xi Jinping” and read up.)

    @ Rick: I think I know who you are, but I didn’t realize you were local. We lived in a rental house in Palo Alto for 31 years, and when we finally got kicked out 2.5 years ago so they could scrape the house, we were by then able to buy our own house, in Santa Clara. Lucky you to have inherited a house in such a nice area. I think I’ve seen you at Baycons and/or Westercons. We have been members of the local club, PenSFA, since our arrival in the Bay Area in 1983, where we hang out at club parties with all the other techies.

    I would have taken a trip to the Soviet Union via Intourist in a hot New York minute, if I coud have afforded it, when I was younger (and less fussy about accommodations), and would not have had many qualms about my personal safety, mostly because they would have wanted my hard currency so badly. (I would have wanted to see what interesting souvenirs I could score with it at the beriozki as well.) China does not have the same need for my tourist business, and as things are getting worse by the day in China, I feel no need to add to their money supply, nor to take unnecessary chances with my personal safety. Now, who knows, maybe things will improve dramatically by 2023-Worldcon-time, but I’d bet against it.

    Don’t know if we’ll make NASFiC if it’s in Orlando; I broke my foot at a Disney theme park after Magicon, and I have no desire to revisit the theme parks there, or the weather. (I remember when the A/C broke down one night in my in-laws’ house, where we were staying after the con, at 11:30 pm; they called the 24-hour repair place, and it wasn’t cool enough to sleep until 3:30 am.) The only draw, besides the con, would be a stepsister my husband has not seen since Magicon.

  10. Janice Morningstar:

    Read up on China by American memes!? That’s just stupidity. Especially when the memes are created on baseless rumours and ridiculous US propaganda. You can buy Winne-The-Pooh stuff in China. In Shanghai, there’s even a Winne-The-Pooh ride in their Disney-land.

    https://www.shanghaidisneyresort.com/en/attractions/adventures-winnie-pooh/

    Better you read up on stuff before you believe all nonsense you hear on the internet.

  11. @ Hempus: When the kerfuffle about Xi Jinping’s resemblance to Winnie the Pooh was commented on by some Chinese person, and Xi took offense and banned representations of Pooh, the story made the national TV news in the United States. (It was usually played up for its ridiculousness; Americans found it funny. I suspect fans who know about it find it funny as well, and some fans are perverse enough to act on it.)

    It was a semi-major news story at the time, and not just a “meme” that I “found on the Internet”. I simply referred you to that website and Google page so you would see that there was some basis for the comment I made earlier and that you would perhaps apologize for gratuitously insulting me. I guess I lost that bet.

  12. I’m not named “Hempus”. Please use the correct spelling.

    You are speaking nonsense again. Winnie-The-Pooh has never been banned in China. That US spreads the most ridiculous rumours for a Yellow Peril narrative is nothing to tale seriously.

    During this whole time that China has had this supposed “ban” T-shirts, bags and books of Winnie-The-Pooh has been sold in China. You have been able to borrow the books in libraries. Disney Land has had special attentions. Disney stores has sold bears and pirate copies have been sold at markets.

    There has never existed a ban of Winnie-The-Pooh in China. Do your research better. I see no reason to apologize for calling you out for spreading nonsense.

  13. The truth of it appears to be that the PRC never banned pictures of Winnie-the-Pooh, only attempted to block from WeChat, at least for a time, particular uses of images ridiculing President Xi. This was not just a fanciful American meme; it was reliably reported by Auntie Beeb and other serious outlets in 2017 — because it was amusing.

    So, @Janice wasn’t hallucinating, though she might have over-imputed political sensitivity to merely (say) wearing a Winnie-the-Pooh t-shirt — and didn’t remember that it was just a somewhat wacky domestic-Chinese example of automated image-blocking on social media. But, by the way, Janice, @Hampus is a serious person, and I look forward with eagerness to hearing reminiscences from his trips to North Korea and China.

  14. Exactly so. The bans have not been about Winnie-The-Pooh, but about usage for the specific reason to attack President Xi. Which is something entirely else than people getting into trouble for just wearing a T-shirt.

    If we are going to discuss the implications of a Chinese Worldcon, no one is helped by exaggerations and myths. Or directly imply that the Chinese will try to steal Worldcon. Or that they suddenly would start a war against Taiwan.

    I would be happy if the conversations were at least somewhat connected to reality. There are enough serious issues without resorting to US media scaremongering.

  15. @Hampus, I’ll only observe that @Janice misremembering the odd 2017 story as having reflected a broader suppression of WInnie-the-Pooh imagery (than actually existed) would have been an easy mistake to make after the passage of four years. You have the advantage of recent travel to China, to help sanity-check such factual claims — and in that sense (as in others), we’re lucky to have you here.

    OTOH, I join you in suggesting better fact-checking. I merely saw this particular example as probably innocently inaccurate recall, at work.

    The clarification might help Janice and others see modern China under Xi in sharper and more accurate focus, e.g., that the story was just a regime putting a lid on domestic-Internet lèse-majesté. Also, people doing international travel who’re inclined to make incautiously acid comments in public, while abroad, about other countries’ top politicians, heads of state, or royalty should skim-read that Wikipedia article before visiting, say, Spain, Netherlands, Italy, Denmark, Germany, Iceland, or Thailand.

  16. There is absolutely serious issues, US gives a special travelling warning:

    “Foreigners in the PRC, including but not limited to businesspeople, former foreign government personnel, and journalists from Western countries, have been arbitrarily interrogated and detained by PRC officials for alleged violations of PRC national security laws. The PRC has also threatened, interrogated, detained, and expelled U.S. citizens living and working in the PRC.

    Security personnel may detain and/or deport U.S. citizens for sending private electronic messages critical of the PRC government.

    The PRC government does not recognize dual nationality. U.S.-PRC citizens and U.S. citizens of Chinese heritage may be subject to additional scrutiny and harassment, and the PRC government may prevent the U.S. Embassy from providing consular services.”

    So it’s absolutely not somewhere I would go if I was an activist for Human Rights with regards to Hong Kong. I would even be wary if I had a close relative who was an activist.

    But we should also recognise that China has an enormous tourism, with close to 70 million people working in the tourism industry (pre-covid levels) with more than 2.5 million Americans visiting each year.

    China is not North-Korea, who is still technically at war with China. There you have to follow set routes decided by the state, always having minders with you with the itinerary sometimes changed in the middle of the visit for unknown reasons. You can only send emails from one computer at your hotel and can’t receive replies. You will have to leave technical equipment by the border.

    In China, you can travel by yourself cross-country where I myself have gone by train from Harbin to Shanghai, myself choosing exactly where I wanted to get off or on, walking freely around in the cities. You can bring your own phone or computer.

    They are very different countries.

  17. @ Hampus: My apologies on the name error. I genuinely thought I saw an “e”; I am desperately in need of the new glasses that are awaiting my pickup at the optometrist. (Plus, I have always found File 770’s thin font difficult to read.)

    I was not implying that China would be “stealing” the Worldcon by a vote at Chengdu for another Chinese Worldcon, only that if a massive number of Chinese fans show up at Chengdu, it would be natural for them to vote for another Worldcon that would be easier for them to get to, especially since I expect Chinese fans are less likely to have the funds to travel to an overseas (for them) Worldcon that North American or European fen. Just as Europeans have for years complained about how many Worldcons were held in the US, a situation that has certainly been changing over the years, so we would not want half the Worldcons to be in China.

  18. “…that if a massive number of Chinese fans show up at Chengdu, it would be natural for them to vote for another Worldcon that would be easier for them to get to…”

    Why would that be natural? They would have to afford to pay for site selection yet again and they also would have to vote for a place at least 500 miles away. In addition to that, they would make sure to get a lot of badwill.

    Why would Chinese fans be more likely to act like that than Japanese, Finnish or Irish? This again feels like an extremely prejudiced comment about the evil Chinese stealing American things.

  19. @Hampus Eckerman

    In addition to that, they would make sure to get a lot of badwill.

    Are their any Chinese institutions which give a rat’s ass whether Western society thinks bad of them?

  20. @Janice Morningstar, Hampus reminded you of the WSFS Constitution’s 500-mile exclusion requirement, enacted specifically to dissuade capture for consecutive Worldcons by any successful bid’s city or region. Additionally, that capture would require creditable bids for consecutive years: Experience suggests fans in any given area get exhausted by Worldcon duties, such that you aren’t going to hear enthusiasm for back-to-back cons. Of course, China’s a big enough country that a Chengdu con could in theory be followed immediately by, say, a Shanghai bid (kick me, beat me, make me visit Shanghai), but bids don’t grow out of nothing. Also, I’m not sure Chinese fen’s travel and lodging costs clear across their country to faraway cities are that much less than, say, to major US and Canadian cities.

    And, don’t forget, Site Selection’s electorate consists not just of a voting year’s attending membership but also supporting members. Last, not to put too fine a point on it, but no country’s fans have been arguably guilty, over decades of Site Selection voting, of voting as if to keep the Worldcon within their borders, with exactly one exception. I trust you can cast your eyes east towards those purple mountain majesties above the fruited plain, and guess which country I’m talking about.

  21. Has anyone yet produced an announcement, proposal, on-line pipe dream, seance recording or tea-leaf scrying to indicate that there is a bid committee for a post-Chengdu Chinese Worldcon? And if there isn’t, what is being argued about here?

  22. @Nancy Sauer, not a whisper, as far as I’m aware.

    But, you know, suppose out of nowhere arrived a bid for 2025 in Shanghai, then one for 2026 in Zhengzhou, and all of those won and occurred — three out of four successive Worldcons in China. I’m betting that would wear out all the likely volunteer SFF gencon conrunners in that country for a decade, but in the meantime it would be deeply cool, IMO. No offence to these worthy past venues, but I’d consider that sequence way cooler than Reno (2011) being followed by Chicago (2012), and then Chicago by San Antonio (2013).

  23. @ Hampus: Why would Chinese be more likely to vote for close-succession Worldcons in their country “any more than Japanese, Finnish, or Irish”? Because they’re from one of the few countries physically large enough to manage feats of in-one-country Worldcons that are nonetheless far enough apart. Plus, China has a decent rail network, and young Chinese who have gone to big cities for work are accustomed to using it to go back to their home villages to visit their parents (and maybe their children, due to the hukou system) during Golden Week. Another Chinese Worldcon would be more accessible, more familiar (no other languages needed), and cheaper than going to any other country. Why wouldn’t they want that?

    @ Rick: Hey, I plead guilty to wanting Worldcons where I can attend them. My first Worldcon was Iguanacon in 1978, and since that time I have only been able to attend ONE Worldcon outside of the US (and missed many in North America to boot) due to some combination of time, money, and nobody to watch kids. (That one con was LonCon, which is in fact the only time I’ve ever been off the North American continent, and not for lack of wanting to travel!!) That doesn’t mean I have always voted for the closest bid; I try to follow the SMOFish scuttlebutt about the quality of bids, and have often voted aspirationally for foreign Worldcons that I eventually couldn’t make it to. I think I’m like most people in wanting Worldcons to be where I can get to them, and rather resent implications that because I’m American, I must want all the Worldcons to be in my own country.

    China, for me, is a special case in terms of my non-support of a foreign bid. ISTR that Chinese fandom came to life after The Three-Body Problem won the Hugo, and they realized that their SF, and maybe SF fans, could be players on the world scene. So much the better, except for the political situation in China. I wouldn’t vote for a Worldcon in Belarus or Myanmar or any number of other countries, either, even if they could mount credible bids. I really do feel sorry for their fans and the constraints they have to operate under in their everyday lives, but I cannot support those bids under the current political circumstances.

    Plus, non-US fans have complained so much over the years about the Worldcon being so often in the US. Given that it started here, and for many years was nowhere else, and that I have never known any US fans active in Worldcon who opposed bids just because they were out of the US, I think the pace at which Worldcons have gone international in recent years is quite admirable. US fan groups are the ones with long histories of running competent and quality bids, and of working on other Worldcons before they bid, so it’s no surprise that they’ve been the most successful until recent years have made worldwide travel more accessible to more people.

    Plus, I think if non-Americans think that we’ve “hogged” the Worldcons, well, consider that we’re a big country with a big population and a big fandom with respect to almost anywhere else in the world. If China were to develop a fandom proportionate to its population, and/or the government were to seriously subsidize cons and their bids, then I could well see them becoming a 900-pound gorilla on the Worldcon scene to rival or exceed anything the US has done. Sure, each voter has to buy a supporting membership as well as a voting fee, but if a Chinese Worldcon turns out a local membership akin in size to the San Diego Comic-Con or even DragonCon, their voters could easily swamp the rest of the vote worldwide to set up a series of Worldcons in China. If you object to a succession of them in the US, then why not in any other specific country?

  24. bill:

    “Are their any Chinese institutions which give a rat’s ass whether Western society thinks bad of them?”

    No idea what “Chinese Institution” you are babbling about.

  25. Janice Morningstar:

    All your arguments for why the evil Chinese would naturally want to kidnap Worldcon as the new main organizer, with absolutely no reason whatsoever to show that they would want that, are as true for Japan.

    Japan has a population about 200 times as large as Finlands. They have without doubt larger resources among the fans than China. So how many texts did you write about the yellow peril when they were organizers?

    Some Chinese travel across the country for holidays, that is true. But most don’t and can’t afford it. Or have never left their home region. China is still a poor country. The young population who can both afford to travel, speaks good enough English, are SF nerds and have even heard of Worldcon is a quite small group.

    So the argument is still: Why would Chinese fans be more likely to act like that than Japanese, Finnish or Irish? Dublin are bidding for a new Worldcon ten years after the last. Is there anything sign whatsoever existing that China would bid for a new one earlier than that?

    Any hint about bid parties? Any discussion on forums? Have you got anything, but insinuations and rumourmongering?

  26. For those who wonder, I checked it up. The number of English speakers in mainland China, who are fluent enough to hold a conversation, s about 1% of the population. That is around 14 million people.

  27. @Janice Morningstar, there’s nothing the least bit wrong with favouring bids for Worldcon venues you could imagine travelling to (or that you would want to). Speaking for myself, the far-inland province of Sichuan just hadn’t been on my list of places in that country I longed to visit. I’ve yearned to travel the rivers that were definitional to Chinese history, perhaps to take a houseboat up the historic Grand Canal that cross-connected those valleys and was key to China’s development starting in the 500s, and visit the historic cities on the coastal heartland. But Sichuan? Wasn’t on my list.

    I became a little vexed at fandom during bidding for the 2015 Helsinki bid (which lost to Spokane) and the follow-on, successful 2017 bid, because I kept hearing North Americans saying “But it’s too expensive” who had not, in fact bothered to cost out airfare + lodging + food in 2015 for Helsinki vs. Orlando vs. Spokane. Even after tedious work estimating those for a fan’s residence, the reaction was often “It can’t be affordable to go to Europe. I don’t believe it.”

    But I’m very much not calling anyone in present company provincial (let alone casting aspersions on your good self), and everyone is fully entitled to individual preferences in venues.

    (Speaking of that, could the rhetoric be de-escalated a notch, please? Tack så mycket, Hampus.)

    I’m glad you were able to join us in LonCon. At the time, as an ex-Londoner (Trinity Church Square, off Borough High Street, Southwark), I cautions fans I knew, excited about “visiting London”, that being in the Docklands is practically being stuck out in the wilds of Essex. I mean, for heaven’s sake, we at ExCeL London and adjoining hotels were opposite (and a bit beyond) Greenwich, and getting to Piccadily Circus required using two different public transit systems (DLR, then the Tube), taking if memory serves the better part of an hour. In local-to-us terms, that’s like staying in Santa Clara as a means of visiting San Francisco.

    I hope you do get to spend time in (actual) London. It’s worth the trouble. Don’t miss the Science Museum, which among other things has one of the meticulously modern-built Babbage Analytic Engines.

    By the way, I concur with your point that China lacks anything like “a fandom proportionate to its population”, but that makes the troubling idea of Worldcon capture for many years within China that much more unlikely (even ignoring other things cited such as the 500-mile exclusion), doesn’t it? The notion of the Beijing or regional/local Chinese governments substantially subsidising cons and their bids strikes me as likewise unlikely, just because they have better things to do with money. And I note that no government anywhere has done so in 82 years. About all I’ve seen are things like the Spokane Regional Convention & Visitors Bureau being exceptionally inviting and helpful to the bid and the (2015) convention.

  28. (Suffice to say, Greater London is “actual London”, tyvm, and neither Piccadilly Circus nor the Science Museum nor Southwark are in the ceremonial City of London, which is very, very, very, very small. I think the term Rick was looking for was “central London”.)

  29. Meredith: It’s amazing how little I understand of London geography despite reading over 20 Aubrey/Maturin novels and watching countless episodes of Doctor Who.

  30. @Mike Glyer

    Well, there’s a lot of it to get your head around. It’s a very big and very twisty place.

  31. @ Hampus: It feels like you didn’t even read my last posting before attacking me again with the same points. First of all, I didn’t call the Chinese “evil”, though I despise their authoritarian government. Go back and reference what I said about the fans themselves. Likewise, I answered why not almost any other country, the answer being “geography” (key word in my posting above? “Big”. And there are more than enough big cities in China far enough apart for many Worldcons.) Also, I don’t know where this “yellow peril” nonsense is coming from, and I feel vaguely insulted. (For your reference, I live quite happily in an area that has more Asian than Caucasian residents; Rich can verify this. The preponderance of people in my immediate area are actually Indian, but a neighboring city is majority-Chinese.) My sense is that you are predisposed to think the worst of any American you don’t know; please convince me that this is wrong.

    From everything I’ve read, the vast majority of Chinese do travel by train during Golden Week. That is because, if they are born in a rural area, they can travel to a big city to work, but essentially can’t bring other family members to live with them, so they all visit their home village once a year (the hukou system I alluded to above). Rick, please fact-check me on this if you feel I am misrepresenting it.

    Sure, maybe 1% of Chinese speak English, and that’s a lot in raw numbers, but is there any reason to think that that percentage is significantly higher in fandom? Say it’s five times higher; that’s still only 5%. Plus, my husband, who has worked for Japanese (and Korean) companies and dealt with them a lot for business, quips that a high number of Japanese “think they speak English”. That is, they studied it for years in school, and yet cannot really speak it at all. I suspect the same is true of Chinese in China, and I suspect that most of them know it, and would certainly prefer to function in Chinese.

    I can empathize; I took French for six years in secondary school, scored almost perfect scores in my classes and on the national achievement test, and yet I did not really learn to SPEAK French until I lived in the French section of a foreign-language dorm in college and was actually forced to use it to communicate. (I’ve forgotten much of it through disuse in the half-century since, tant pis pour moi.) As a European, you are in a sense lucky that you were in an environment with a lot of linguistic diversity in a small geographical area, which encouraged (or even necessitated) you to learn other languages. In addition to the fact that a priority is not made in American public schools of teaching foreign languages at a young age when we could master them more easily, we Americans are usually monolingual because most of us can get away with it in our everyday lives. I suspect the same is true of Chinese (although they all do learn Mandarin if that’s not their native tongue). They don’t need to know English unless they go to an Anglophone country or are in certain academic or scientific disciplines. A few of us in essentially-monolingual countries are actively interested in learning and practicing foreign languages and experiencing foreign cultures; most of us, not so much. I doubt if the Chinese are any different in this regard, unless they want to work overseas.

    @ Rick: I quite happily voted for Spokane for 2015, for several reasons. One is that, for us, it became part of a longer driving vacation to visit a part of the state I had not been in since childhood and that Chip had never seen, and we anticipated nice scenery (the smoke sort of ruined that). We even tacked on a relaxacon in Seattle the weekend before. The main reason for me was more idiosyncratic; I wanted to revisit the location (fancy suite in the Davenport Hotel) where three-year-old me threw up after eating garlic in a room whose next occupant was Vice-President Richard Nixon. (Yes, therein lies a tale, and I’ve always hoped they couldn’t quite get the smell out before he stayed there.)

    Oh, and you betcha, we did touristing in London when we visited for LonCon. We spent a week in the Docklands for the con and another week in a more centrally-located hotel (nearest Tube station was Hammersmith). We managed many of the Greatest Hits, though spent more time in Greenwich than anywhere else, because it was interesting and close by. My favorite tourist destination was the British Library, though the most impactful thing was seeing all the red poppies pouring out of the Tower of London. Made me think of my grandfather, who was gassed in WWI (but obviously survived, because I’m here). I didn’t make it to the Science Museum, though. I actually preferred the Docklands train to the Tube, because almost all the stops had elevators, and even then my bad knees were a significant limitation on how much I could walk. (Now, I can barely walk at all and qualify as actually handicapped, and will be until my other knee is replaced, whenever it becomes safe to get that done, and the pain in the first one, whose surgery did not go so well, is to some degree remediated.)

    I mention the possibility of the Chinese government subsidizing Worldcons because there is a sort-of precedent. I remember the repeating Zagreb bids ca. the 1980’s; talking to the Zagreb fans, we found out that they didn’t really expect for their bid to win, but the Yugoslav (at the time) government subsidized them to attend Worldcons to promote it! China has much deeper pockets, and a similar desire for prestige.

  32. Janice Morningstar:

    Oh, I do read your long screeds where you try to hide your lack of arguments by a massive wall of text.

    Yes, there are a lot of big cities in China. That is not an argument for there being a large amount of fans wanting to host a mainly English speaking con in them or that people from other cities are willing to go by train for days and weeks to visit a con in them. These are 15 million people spread out over a massive country. Most people will prefer going to a local convention based on their own language.

    As someone who has travelled around in both China, Japan and South-Korea, I can say that there is an enormous difference in learning. The Japanese, however lacking, have a much larger number of English speakers and that makes quite a difference when travelling around. South-Korea is also much easier to get around in. In China, you can’t even bet on the visitors centers or tourism offices having someone who knows English, outside of the absolute largest tourist attractions.

    China have much fewer English speakers than Japan or South-Korea and on a much worse level. So there really is a large difference, regardless of your doubts.

  33. For that matter, China is a place where there’s still a novelty to see a European in many places . It’s a special experience to have everyone in a restaurant turn their chairs to stare at you when you are ordering food, pointing at you, laughing and making comments. And that is in cities of more than ten million inhabitants, but outside the tourism track.

    That will not happen in Japan or South-Korea.

  34. I don’t expect China to bogart Worldcons. The United Kingdom has a better reason to want that than China, given that English is the predominant language of the event and there are strong SFF ties between the UK and US. Yet the UK has only gotten seven out of 81 and is going for eight in Glasgow in 2024. That’s nine years after Loncon 3 and around the time UK gets the itch again.

  35. @ Hampus: “Most people will prefer going to a local convention based on their own language.” Exactly so. The assumption I see in your post is that Chinese Worldcons would be held primarily in English. What is your reason for believing this? I would expect tracks of programming in both Chinese and English, with the Chinese fans attending the Chinese-language programming. This is precisely why they would want more Chinese cons. You make my point by mentioning how few English speakers there are in the hinterlands of China.

    Re: my “screeds”: You engage in ad hominem attacks without speaking to the points I actually make. That’s why I wonder whether you actually read what I wrote.

    @ rcade: You mention how few UK Worldcons there have been over the years. Out of curiosity, how many times have they actually bid for Worldcons? Which/what percentage of UK bids have lost? This is a genuine question; I do not know. I do know that if you do not bid for a Worldcon, you will not be holding one.

  36. @Janice Morningstar
    I probably shouldn’t butt in at this point, however…as someone who’s not engaging in this drawn-out discussion, just what on earth do you expect to gain from repeating your points over and over and over and over….?

    Honestly, the more you respond, the more it does make you appear…exactly what you claim you aren’t trying to be, and that bias is driving your argument.

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