The unveiling of a Beijing in 2016 Worldcon bid webpage has sparked a great deal of discussion among conrunners, divided between those who wonder if it should be taken seriously and those who hope it can.
Imprinted with the cleverly designed logo of the “Future Affairs Administration,” the webpage is hosted on the www.guokr.com domain. Guokr.com is owned by Guoke Media, whose CEO Ji Shisan was profiled in China Pictorial this month. He told the interviewer —
“Our team will make an appearance at this year’s Worldcon [World Science Fiction Convention] in London, and we hope to win a bid to host the event in the near future,” Ji reveals. The 72nd Worldcon is scheduled for August 14 to 18.
Ji and his team are also big fans of science fiction, which they believe to be not only prophetic, but also a designer and engineer of humanity’s future. Guokr Media has already begun organizing the fifth Xingyun Awards, an international awards ceremony for Chinese-language science-fiction writers, to be held this summer in Beijing. In Ji’s opinion, the power of sci-fi inspiration is significant in terms of changing the fate of all humans.
Ji Shisan, who holds a Ph.D. in neurobiology, spent five years working as a science journalist and in 2008 founded an association for scientific writers that now has over 100 members worldwide. Shisan describes Guokr.com as an extension of his work to popularize science.
“Guokr.com creates a shortcut for scientific communication, making otherwise heavy, dense, dry scientific information much more accessible to ordinary people,” Ji explains. “From my understanding, science should be part of mainstream culture since scientific information plays a role in business, music, performance, sci-fi work and TV programs. At the end of the day, I want people to realize that science can be fun.”
Information about the bid on the Beijing in 2016 website is sparse. The bottom-line menu on the homepage links to several other pages but Google Translate shows these are all promotions of Guokr.com or its hosted content. The webpage discloses nothing about the proposed facilities or the members of the bid committee.
Bids for 2016 must be filed with Loncon 3 by February 15 to get on the ballot.
Those of us depending on English-language journalism cannot accurately estimate how many large sf events have been hosted in China over the years, the connections between them, and what it takes to run a large convention or conference there. But we know there have been such events. There was a 97 Beijing International Conference for Science Fiction. And in 2007, prior to the Worldcon in Nippon, thousands of fans attended the Chengdu International SF/F Conference to meet Neil Gaiman, Robert Sawyer and other international authors. After the Chengdu conference an associate of China’s Science Fiction World magazine wrote: “SFW learned more about how to hold an international SF/F conference and aspires at some stage to host the Worldcon in China.” Whether SFW is connected with the 2016 bid is not known at this time.
[Via Martin Easterbrook and Liz Batty.]
Who would attend? Publishers? Fans? Writers? Doesn’t look too promising.
And what I mean by that is the large American English European ,make up of most Worldcon attendence.
Another point to consider, is that with covert government involvement and 1.2 billion potential members, it would be easy for a Chinese bid to win every year one was eligible … and to change the constitution so that one was eligible every year. Not the most likely of scenarios, I grant you, since the Chinese government has larger fish to stir fry, but government involvement at some level is a certainty, and it may not be far below the surface.
Perhaps the WSFS convention should insert a few words about bids and “democracies?” Or are we in too ding-dong much of a lather to get “big” (like the Oscars and Olympics) to worry about trivial things like that?
Fantastic stuff Mike. As a fan I would love to attend.
Was actual Government support for Glasgow in 2005 challenged. Amazed at speculative negativity and await facts and actions before I rush to knock any bid.
Taral: I suggest that if China “steals” the Worldcon the way you (and others I’ve read) are frightened that they will do, the rest of us will just form a new Worldcon and ignore them. After all, given how little they respect anyone else’s intellectual property rights, why would they even own the service marks (which are only registered in the USA and a few other countries).
I believe this is a total non-issue, and that the Chinese government is not going to pour vast sums of money into a Worldcon to “buy the convention.” It’s not worth it.
The way things are going, the Chinese may be the first to reach Mars and the outer solar system. It seems natural that they may be developing an interest in SF.
I’ve been talking with a couple of the folks involved with the bid; a public announcement with more information is due later this week.
I don’t think we should jump to Chinese government conspiracy theories so quickly – if you wanted to run a convention in China every year then I don’t see why you’d bother subverting Worldcon to do it, unless you were absolutely desperate for the official Worldcon name and I don’t see it having that high a profile that anyone would go to all that trouble. There are currently 6 Chinese members of Loncon 3, so the flood of supporting members is not in evidence yet. Personally I’m excited to see new countries bidding for the Worldcon.
I’ve been saying for years that when Asian fandom wakes up to Worldcon, it will be huge. And I think this is a good thing.
I don’t think “stealing” Worldcon is a concern. China wants international events to showcase themselves as a modern progressive country. Having a Worldcon that only ever happens in China dies not achieve that. Also, having a Worldcon that few international fans can attend also fails to achieve this goal. So I believe the Chinese well go to great lengths to have as many fans from all over the world as possible attend.
I think those who protest my suggestion that the Chinese government “steal” the worldcon are probably right. I myself said they have bigger fish to fry. But I do think that things just don’t happen in China without considerable government oversight, and by acknowledging a Chinese bid we acknowledge the right of a totalitarian government to be involved. Make of that as you will — hopeless naive or rigidly idealistic.
I think that by acknowledging a Chinese bid, all we’re doing is acknowledging a Chinese bid.
Now, if the bid states that all program items would have to be approved by government officials first, and then the Worldcon voters vote to award a Worldcon to that bid– that’s acknowledging the right of a totalitarian government to be involved.
If China succeeds in a Worldcon bid for 2016 I’ll be much more likely to attend Worldcon. Beijing is a world-class city. There’s all kinds of out-of-hotel activities and opportunities ranging from touring the five or six world historic sites that are in or near the city to some serious shopping.
The Chinese government has no interest in stealing Worldcon, I mean, come on. Liz Batty covered that item just fine above. Frankly it’d be good for fandom to start accepting that speculative fiction is a global endeavor. There’s some amazing stuff coming from Chinese authors both within SFF and without and respecting that genre extends beyond the narrow circle of Europe, the United States and Canada would be good for all of us.
Finally I’ll insert my generic chuckle at the idea that we in our titular “democracies” are any more free than China. The surveillance apparatus in the UK is much more complete and effective than it is over there. Hell, the much vaunted “great firewall” was deliberately designed to be permeable because it’s easier to give dissent a generally invisible outlet than to crack down constantly.
Honestly, excepting a handful of European countries most western democracies are effectively two-party states, both driven by global capitalist economic interests. China is (sort of) a one party state driven by global captialist economic interests. Its government really isn’t any better or worse than most of ours.
But Beijing is a real world-class city. And it’d make for an awesome convention.
Leaving out my natural inclination to laugh and point fun at conspiracy theories, doesn’t it take a minimum of a couple of years to ratify changes to the worldcon constitution? I really doubt that this is going to be possible given the inertia of the process – even if China got the bid for 2016 and put a proposal forward at that point, the next few business meetings would be in other countries, most likely the USA, and unless China sends a horde of members to pack the business meetings over several years it’s VERY unlikely to happen
There’s some awfully funny comments about this post on James Nicoll’s Livejournal.
One thing being overlooked in the haste to get to the punchline is my statement that comments from actual conrunners were only divided over the authenticity of the bid announced by this webpage — which, after all, contains no solid information about the site or committee. Nobody opposed the concept of a Worldcon in China, and some were enthusiastic about it.
The Chinese government’s internet shennanigans are a regular feature of the news. Obviously, individual fans are entitled to make up their own minds whether that’s a bar to them supporting a Worldcon in Beijing. Just as they already do about the Patriot Act, or Peter Watts’ border experience, or the Great Firewall of David Cameron, local treatment of people of various genders or anything else that’s important to them.
> James Bacon “Was actual Government support for Glasgow in 2005 challenged?”
With respect, the British government’s relationship with the arts is ever so slightly different to that of the Chinese government’s.
In Europe we know all too well what happens with totalitarian states. For example on the SF front, it looks like the 1985 Eurocon scheduled for Riga was cancelled due to nervousness as to state approval. (We are still trying to piece together exactly what happened, but it seems that early plans to hold a WSF meeting in Moscow that year were scuppered due to state disapproval of such an event being held in the capital, and so there was an attempt to distance it linking it to the then Riga Eurocon bid (Latvia). Riga won the bid at the ESFS AGM but the locals got nervous (or were warned off?) and the event – though scheduled – never took place.)
Conversely, the 1994 Eurocon in Timisoara, Romania, had really massive state support (given that country’s size and economics) but there were no state-control problems and to our knowledge the state did not interfere with the programming (and though a govt Minister was on the committee he was also a fan). Fans were given the city bye-laws informing them that no more than three people could gather publicly, but that was a joke: in the upheaval following the 1990 revolution they had yet to repeal the bye-laws. That Eurocon saw a programme item with around 100,000 attending: the laser/firework display in the city centre – surely a World record for an SF convention programme item? The convention demonstrated positives of holding an event in a markedly different (in this case formerly isolated) culture. Who knows what SF community with China might bring.
> Kevin Standlee “the Chinese government is not going to pour vast sums of money into a Worldcon to “buy the convention.” It’s not worth it.”
Well the ‘vast sums’ to you and us are trivial to the Chinese state, and besides Beijing wants to use all the hotel space and allied facilities it created for its Olympics. But true, it would not be worth it for them to ‘steal’ the Worldcon, as Taral says they have other fish to fry.
At the moment China does seem to be trying to attract cultural and scientific events to Beijing and last summer saw it win the bid for the next INTECOL (the ecological science equivalent of the Olympics).
>Petréa Mitchell “Now, if the bid states that all program items would have to be approved by government officials first, and then the Worldcon voters vote to award a Worldcon to that bid– that’s acknowledging the right of a totalitarian government to be involved.”
If this really is a genuine concern then control or approval of programme items will not be so crude as formal approval of each item. The convention committee would quietly self-censor any politically sensitive items so as not to offend their political and sponsor masters if that was deemed necessary.
Assuming that this bid is serious then they have two major problems. First, the state of the Chinese SF community that is not exactly a cohesive body. This means that either there will be major governmental involvement, or that of an influential entrepreneur (with comparatively minor governmental support in the form of a grant and permission to do things with a stamp of approval). Having said that China’s SF market is substantive, especially among school kids and teenagers (some of whom are now getting older). China’s 2007 International SF & Fantasy Conference saw some 5,000 Chinese ‘fans’ attend:
But has the Chinese SF community got over the Science Fiction World debacle of 2010?
The second is that if they want to bid for 2016 then they have to launch and win their bid from a standing start at the same Worldcon: this year’s event in 7 months time. When did this last happen? Not for decades surely?
> Marcus “fans are entitled to make up their own minds whether that’s a bar to them supporting a Worldcon in Beijing. Just as they already do about the Patriot Act, or Peter Watts’ border experience, or the Great Firewall of David Cameron, local treatment of people of various genders or anything else that’s important to them.”
While this bid is so far too embryonic to currently engender serious attention, if it does firm up it could be a gateway. The 1990 fall of the Iron Curtain led to a fair bit of fanac between eastern and western Europe with fans visiting fans and cons in the west and vice-versa, and when the 1999 eclipse was best seen in Eastern Europe guess what the fans did. A China-venued Worldcon could equally provide opportunities if not more.
Perhaps we should wait and see how serious the Chinese bid is especially as there is quite a bit of SF in China and don’t forget it has the world’s largest selling SF periodical Science Fiction World.