SFF Authors Release Open Letter Condemning China as Host of 2023 Worldcon

Publishers Weekly today drew attention to an Open Letter signed by over 80 authors calling for the revocation of the choice of Chengdu, China as 2023 Worldcon host: “Speculative Fiction Community Condemns China Hosting 2023 WorldCon Awards”. (The full text of the Open Letter appears at the end of the post.)

The Justice For All Canada site announced the letter on March 2 in its post “80+ Global Science-Fiction Fantasy Authors Condemn China Hosting the 2023 WorldCon Awards In An Open Letter”.

In the midst of the Ukraine invasion, threats to Taiwan, and Uyghur genocide, over 80 award-winning and bestselling writers from across the world as well as Uyghur human rights groups have condemned China’s right to host the 2023 WorldCon awards in an open letter.

The joint letter is addressed to the WorldCon committee and voters, bringing together a coalition of global science-fiction and fantasy writers to condemn the WorldCon committee for allowing Chengdu, China to bid for the 81st World Science Fiction Convention (WorldCon) – a bid that they won.

The letter calls on the literary community to appeal to the committee and community in charge of allocating the honour of hosting the world’s most prestigious science-fiction fantasy awards, requesting them to relocate the 2023 event out of China. The author signatories, many of whom are New York Times bestselling authors and Hugo award winners, include members of the WorldCon community. 

WorldCon community members vote on which country’s bid will win the right to host the Con. The vote was taken at DisCon III, the 2021 Worldcon in Washington DC on December 18, 2021. The four bidders were France, United States, Canada, and China. Despite the Chinese government’s ongoing genocide against Uyghur and Turkic Muslim minorities in the Uyghur region (Xinjiang), the bid was won by Chengdu. Prominent signatories include Hugo winners, nominees and bestsellers Angie Thomas, N.K. Jemisin, G. Willow Wilson, S.A. Chakraborty, Zoraida Córdova, Tochi Onyebuchi, Ausma Zehanat Khan, Jeannette Ng, Tracy Deonn, Roseanne Brown, Usman T. Malik, and famous Uyghur writers like Tahir Hamut Izgil.

The people who crafted the letter are Sarah Mughal Rana, a Muslim writer and social outreach member of Uyghur Rights Advocacy Project, and Dr. Ausma Khan, author of The Khorasan Archives quartet.

Rana told File 770 today, “It was our idea because we both are Muslim SFF writers but it was also done with Uyghurs who cannot be named for safety reasons. I lived in China, I also work for the Uyghur Rights Advocacy Project – so this letter was made also in collaboration with most of the listed Uyghur rights groups that signed the letter to put their perspective, fact-check, and prioritize their opinions.”

The Publishers Weekly article is the effective debut of letter. Rana says she circulated it to potential signers through email and DMs and kept it under wraps until she had enough support from published writers. “I did not publicize the letter until Publishers Weekly wrote their article. …Justice for All Canada offered to publish the news release so journalists would be aware of this letter.”

A copy of the Open Letter has not yet been emailed to the Chengdu committee. Rana indicates she did previously reach out to them to discuss the bid and raise issues about the guests of honor: “I emailed Chengdu my complaints about the guests of honour and did not hear back. I tried to facilitate a discussion and am hoping they reply.” In February the Chengdu committee acknowledged another person’s tweeted complaint about guest of honor Lukianenko, so the potential exists for them to reply.

The Open Letter is not the only step the organizers have in mind. Rana says:

To be frank, I am completely aware that the bids happen via democratic vote. But my objective with the letter is to condemn the bid [the selection of Chengdu] and to draw attention and awareness about the horrific on-going Uyghur genocide — the worst in modern times. Other steps have been taken. I met with Worldcon 2022 to ensure there are plans to avoid Islamophobic rhetoric and to create a safe space for Muslims and Turkic peoples. I also am working on a constitutional amendment. At the very least, I hope for a boycott and for people to be educated on these matters so they do not gaslight and shutdown Muslim voices again. The last discussion about Chengdu’s bid, Muslims were gaslit and accused of being racist, and Western-centric.

The rules governing Worldcons and site selection presently only provide for replacing a seated Worldcon if it is “unable to perform its duties,” therefore the Open Letter’s call for “revoking the 2023 site allocation bid to Chengdu, China” sounds aspirational. File 770 asked Rana if they have advisors about Worldcon governance. She says:

Yes we do. We are aware of the process. We consulted a number of individuals who are part of Worldcon’s organizing teams or were chairs of the business meetings. We know that a bid cannot be revoked. But our purpose is more symbolic than that. We hope this shows the broken-nature of how bids are carried out with regards to human rights crises. Moreover, this emphasizes that 1. bids can be awarded during concentration camps and genocide, and 2. there is no way to undo this.

This is why we have plans to propose a constitutional amendment regardless of Chengdu happening. Any amendment that is passed takes two years through two host cities, so this does not affect Chengdu. We hope to introduce an amendment where bidding cities do not qualify if an on-going genocide is being carried out that is recognized by either an independent verified tribunal or international human rights organizations. Even though this would not affect Chengdu; Chengdu is an example of the broken nature of these bids and how they do not take into account marginalized, persecuted populations.

The full text of the “Open Letter to WorldCon Committee to revoke Chengdu Bid 2023” follows the jump.

Open Letter to WorldCon Committee to revoke Chengdu Bid 2023

To Members of the WorldCon Site Selection, WorldCon Community and Voters:

We the undersigned authors, human rights organizations, and members of the science fiction and fantasy community are asking you to revoke the 2023 WorldCon bid to Chengdu, China.

We do so in protest of serious and ongoing human rights violations taking place in the Uyghur region of China, formally labelled by the Chinese government as the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR). These human rights violations amount to atrocity crimes, as documented by Human Rights Watch, and numerous other human rights organizations, and as per the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. The parliaments of Japan, France, UK, Belgium, Czech Republic, Canada, Lithuania and the Netherlands, along with the United States State Department, consider these crimes to have met the threshold of genocide. We will elaborate on these crimes below.

To cite the April 19, 2021 Human Rights Watch report on the oppression of China’s Uyghur population, entitled “Break Their Lineage, Break Their Roots”:

“Crimes against humanity are considered among the gravest human rights abuses under international law. The specific crimes against humanity documented in this report include imprisonment or other deprivation of liberty in violation of international law; persecution of an identifiable ethnic or religious group; enforced disappearance; torture; murder; and alleged inhumane acts intentionally causing great suffering or serious injury to mental or physical health, notably forced labor and sexual violence.”

While the Chinese government’s crimes against Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples are not new, they have accelerated since 2014, when the Chinese government launched the “Strike Hard Campaign Against Violent Terrorism” in the Uyghur homeland. According to the United Nation and Human Rights Watch, “As many as a million people have been arbitrarily detained in 300 to 400 facilities, which include “political education” camps, pretrial detention centers, and prisons. Courts have handed down harsh prison sentences without due process…”. The Uyghur Tribunal (independent People’s Tribunal led by Sir Geoffrey Nice in London) concluded based on 18 months of assessment of evidence, that crimes of genocide and crimes against humanity were committed by the Chinese government against the Uyghurs and other Turkic people.

In its latest White Paper, the Government of China acknowledged that between 2014-2019, an average of 1.29 million people in the region per year have gone through “Vocational Training,” a term used to describe detention facilities. 

Reports have also documented that within the concentration camps, millions of Uyghurs are subjected to severe physical, sexual, and mental torture, as well as forced labour on a wide scale. Uyghur Muslims have been forced to denounce their religious practices; China’s government has criminalized Islamic practices, destroyed mosques, shrines, and graveyards, banned Uyghur language, separated families from their children, and created a digital Gulag to eradicate Uyghur identity.

A recent report detailed a systematic campaign of forced sterilization and forced abortion of Uyghur women, alongside appalling measures deployed to prevent the birth of the Uyghur population. Forced sterilization and the transfer of children from their communities constitute acts of genocide under Article II of the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

Numerous genocide and atrocity prevention organizations have also expressed their grave concerns at crimes against humanity and genocidal measures taken against Uyghur and other Turkic Muslim populations.

Recently leaked internal Chinese government documents document the inner workings and extent of detention facilities (concentration camps) and forced labor schemes. These leaks include Operating Manuals for the Mass Internment and Surveillance systems, a comprehensive logbook and more than 400 pages of other internal papers, including speeches from senior officials, providing an inside look at the implementation of genocidal measures against the Uyghur population.

In addition, enforced separation of Uyghur children from their parents has reached an unprecedented level. The Government of China has not disclosed the whereabouts of these children and has blocked access to their families. The number of disappeared Uyghur children is estimated at 880,000 from 2019. Furthermore, according to witness accounts and testimonies, frequent deaths, physical and mental torture, enforced disappearances, mass rape, and enforced marriage of Uyghur girls to Han Chinese, have become widespread in the region.

As science fiction and fantasy authors, we imagine brave new worlds in our fiction. We challenge power, authority and the status quo, where grave injustices may be perpetrated without accountability or reparation. We write underdogs and outsiders who disrupt power structures and overthrow cruel overlords. So often, our characters make unthinkable sacrifices, and undertake impossible quests to bring down tyrants and oppressive regimes. They do so for a chance at a just and more inclusive future, where their people no longer suffer violence and discrimination.

The human rights atrocities committed by the government of China against the Uyghur and other Turkic Muslim populations are in total opposition to everything we as a community stand for. We cannot, in good conscience, celebrate the achievements of the best and brightest in our field, against a backdrop of catastrophic human suffering. To participate in WorldCon in Chengdu, China, would be equivalent to giving WorldCon’s imprimatur to genocide and to crimes against humanity.

Therefore, we ask, that in solidarity with the Uyghur and Turkic peoples suffering ongoing atrocity crimes, that the site allocation bid for WorldCon 2023 be changed to any other reasonable contender. We hope that as a community that strongly advocates for human rights, you will take the appropriate action now that you are aware of the government of China’s actions. Given the egregious human rights violations that are ongoing in the Uyghur region, we are urgently asking the organizers of WorldCon 2023 to join us in condemning these violations by revoking the 2023 site allocation bid to Chengdu, China. This is not a protest against the citizens of China, with whom we stand in solidarity, but rather against a government that is committing crimes against humanity, as documented above.

Please note, also, that many members of our community had to prioritize the safety of their families in China, and thus could not publicly add their names. This is one of many reasons our petition is urgent.

We look forward to a positive response.

Sincerely,

The Undersigned Authors and Organizations

The undersigned authors, civil society and human rights groups:

Authors:

    • N. K. Jemisin, author of THE BROKEN EARTH TRILOGY
    • Angie Thomas, author of THE HATE U GIVE and ON THE COME UP
    • G. Willow Wilson, author of ALIF THE UNSEEN and MS. MARVEL
    • S. A Chakraborty, author of CITY OF BRASS
    • Jeannette Ng, author UNDER THE PENDULUM SUN
    • Xiran Jay Zhao, author of IRON WIDOW
    • Tochi Onyebuchi, author of RIOT BABY and GOLIATH
    • Zoraida Córdova, author of THE INHERITANCE OF ORQUIDEA DIVINA and STAR WARS: THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK
    • L. D. Lewis, author, editor, Publisher at FIRESIDE MAGAZINE, Project Manager FIYAH Literary Magazine, Director FIYAHCON
    • Tahir Hamut Izgil, Uyghur poet of DISTANCE AND OTHER POEMS and author of article ONE BY ONE, MY FRIENDS WERE SENT TO THE CAMPS
    • Tahir Imin, writer, translator and founder of UYGHUR TIMES
    • Uighur Abdulla, author of Uyghur works
    • K. Tempest Bradford, author, educator, and activist
    • Tracy Deonn, author of LEGENDBORN
    • Sona Charaipotra, author of SYMPTOMS OF A HEARTBREAK
    • Roseanne Brown, author of A SONG OF WRAITHS AND RUIN & A BLACK PANTHER GRAPHIC NOVEL
    • Bethany C. Morrow, author of A SONG BELOW WATER and SO MANY BEGINNINGS
    • J Elle, author of WINGS OF EBONY
    • Ausma Zehanat Khan, author of BLOODPRINT
    • Usman T. Malik, author of MIDNIGHT DOORWAYS
    • Uzma Jalaluddin, author of AYESHA AT LAST
    • N. H. Senzai, author of SHOOTING KABUL
    • Tasha Suri, author of THE JASMINE THRONE
    • Anna Smith Spark, author of THE COURT OF BROKEN KNIVES
    • Lauren Blackwood, author of WITHIN THESE WICKED WALLS
    • Hannah Whitten, author of FOR THE WOLF
    • Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow, author of YOUR NAME IS A SONG and ONCE UPON AN EID
    • Intisar Khanani, author of THORN
    • June Hur, author of THE SILENCE OF BONES
    • Susannah Aziz, author of HALAL HOT DOG
    • Ava Reid, author of THE WOLF AND THE WOODSMAN
    • Aamna Qureshi, author of THE LADY OR THE LION
    • Jessica & Jacinta, authors of LUNAR BOY
    • Ciannon Smart, author of WITCHES STEEPED IN GOLD
    • Mike Brooks, author of THE BLACK COAST
    • Vaishnavi Patel, author of KAIKEYI
    • N.E. Davenport, author of THE BLOOD TRIALS
    • S.B. Divya, author of MACHINEHOOD
    • Alechia Dow, author of THE SOUND OF STARS
    • Saara El-Arifi, author of THE FINAL STRIFE
    • EK Johnston, author of AHSOKA
    • Claire Holroyde, author of THE EFFORT
    • Farah Naz Rishi, author of HOPE YOU GET THIS MESSAGE
    • M.O. Yuksel, author of IN MY MOSQUE
    • Linden A. Lewis, author of THE FIRST SISTER
    • Deborah Falaye, author of BLOOD SCION
    • Kat Howard, author of AN UNKINDNESS OF MAGICIANS
    • Greta Kelly, author of THE FROZEN CROWN
    • George Jreije, author of SHAD HADID AND THE ALCHEMISTS OF ALEXANDRIA
    • M.T. Khan, author of NURA AND THE IMMORTAL PALACE
    • Josh Monken, host of CONTRIBUTE A VERSE podcast
    • J. Austin Yoshino, FRESH PULP MAGAZINE
    • Liselle Sambury, author of BLOOD LIKE MAGIC
    • London Shah, author of THE LIGHT AT THE BOTTOM OF THE WORLD
    • Nafiza Azad, author of THE CANDLE AND THE FLAME
    • Natasha Khan Kazi, author of MOON’S RAMADAN
    • Rowenna Miller, author of THE UNRAVELED KINGDOM series
    • Tracy Banghart, author of GRACE AND FURY
    • Kat Dunn, author of DANGEROUS REMEDY
    • Victor Manibo, author of THE SLEEPLESS
    • Chelsea Abdullah, author of THE STARDUST THIEF
    • Tej Turner, author of BLOODSWORN and THE JANUS CYCLE
    • Tanvi Berwah, author of MONSTERS BORN AND MADE
    • Shirin Shamsi, author of THE GIRL WHO DARED
    • Joanne Hall, author of THE ART OF FORGETTING
    • SHENG Xue, Chinese-Canadian author, poet, and human rights activist

Organizations:

    • World Uyghur Congress
    • Uyghur Human Rights Project
    • Uyghur Revival Association
    • The Uyghur Rights Advocacy Project
    • Uyghur Times
    • Justice for All Canada
    • Stop Uyghur Genocide Canada
    • International Coalition to End Transplant Abuse in China
    • Boston Uyghur Association
    • Canadian In Support of Refugees In Dire Need
    • NG Medical PC
    • Uyghur Hjelp Project
    • Canadians in Support of Refugees in Dire Need

87 thoughts on “SFF Authors Release Open Letter Condemning China as Host of 2023 Worldcon

  1. @ Hampus

    What are you even talking about now? Are you still discussing site selection or something else?

    Very simple. This is my translation of what you said: “Since it was wrong to hold a US Worldcon because of Iraq, it’s ok to have Chengdu take place in 2023 even though it’s wrong.” Perfect sense, am I right?

  2. @laura said

    Here’s a crazy idea: make more people aware that they can participate in site selection and make it less of a pain in the ass to do so.

    Note that a very large number of Chinese fans figured out how to participate in site selection and did so. It was way more difficult for them than for Western fans (and pros) who have been aware of the system for years and don’t bother to vote. So don’t assume that the result of making it easier to participate will be the bids you favor winning.

  3. To me there are more problems with China than the Uyghur issue which is problematic enough on its own. Worldcon is essentially a celebration of literature and the Chinese government is censoring literature and any other works that may not follow its party line. They also do not respect the sovereignty of other countries. A fan who was born in Hong Kong and now is an American citizen, said he could not travel to China because they would treat him like any other Chinese citizen if he ran afoul of their laws. This is egregious. Just add it to the reasons that a convention that celebrates ideas, freedom of thought and in many ways dissent should not be held there.

  4. @Tammy Coxen

    Note that a very large number of Chinese fans figured out how to participate in site selection and did so. It was way more difficult for them than for Western fans (and pros) who have been aware of the system for years and don’t bother to vote. So don’t assume that the result of making it easier to participate will be the bids you favor winning.

    Of course not. But more people being aware of the issue when it was actually possible to do something and making it less convoluted to vote could have done more than this letter does now.

  5. But then their last tweet was February 22.

    Yup: Within a day from the first complaint tweeted at them about Lukyanenko (mind you, this was before the war started, and he jumped on the tank transporter), they replied “we received your message. We will discuss the suggestion you mentioned. we’ll reply for you as soon as we can.” Since then, silence (but then, apparently the Worldcon fandom cares much less about this issue then it did last year, so Chengdu needs not hurry). Their Facebook has been silent since mid-January (and the website leaves a lot to be desired). Writing this up as

    so the potential exists for them to reply.

    seems… I don’t know, tautologically overoptimistic?

  6. @Mike Glyer: “Because you plainly don’t care about “grotesque human rights abuses” unless somebody annoys you by mentioning them.“

    Ok, 1) you don’t know me. I do back room, no glory, volunteer work against human rights abuses on a daily basis. Mainly civil judicial forfeiture reform but some no-knock warrant reform as well. I do care about human rights abuses whether they are mentioned or not.

    2) whether or not I lower the IQ of a room by walking into it depends on the room.

    3) seems like “SMOF” has a more restrictive definition than I thought. I thought it meant core, long term fans who are heavily involved in fandom in general and Worldcon in particular. That’s my bad.

    4) if Worldcon wants to be a “World”con then it needs to engage the world as it actually is, warts and all. Excluding the greatest, most populous, richest, most rising country despite their manifest human rights abuses is absurd and makes a mockery of any claims that Worldcon is for all fandom – or that portion that cares to join. Which a lot of Chinese fans do and did and voted accordingly.

    All I did was proffer a hypothesis. Seems like it touched a nerve.

  7. Hyman Rosen on March 8, 2022 at 1:48 am said:
    Should a “human rights” exclusion make its way into the Worldcon site selection rules, I expect the usual suspects would immediately jump on the opportunity to exclude Israel.

    Has there ever been a bid for a Worldcon to be held in Israel?

    More seriously though, I think that basing things on a respected and relatively robust set of criteria would be for the best. I’d either suggest basing it on the Freedom In The World index or the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index.

    Now the Freedom In The World Index is probably the better of the two for our purposes; and as you can see countries can both improve significantly (Hello Seychelles!), or can decline in the rankings (too many examples).

    So such a metric wouldn’t bar any given country in perpetuity, but would rather base things on the situation as it exists at any given moment.

  8. JVjr: I could hardly predict that the Chengdu committee will ignore all social media complaints when they have acknowledged seeing one. Constructively engaging with complaints would be a higher level than acknowledging that someone tweeted at them.

    Besides, they already won. There is nothing more they can gain at this point by being highly responsive to a social media that wants to inflict pain on them.

  9. @Miles Carter

    Given the grotesque human rights abuses of the US (and Canada, and the UK, and every other country I can think of) why are people moaning about the Chengdu Worldcon in particular?

    Because right now, what China is doing to its citizens and neighbors is far more egregious than anything that the US, Canada, and the UK are doing to their citizens and neighbors.

  10. Olav Rokne: When you urge that Worldcon host countries be restricted on the basis of some organization’s evaluation of their human rights status, who are you trying to please? If it’s the writers, artists and editors who sign these open letters then cut out the middleman — appoint a committee of the leading signers who will be in charge of certifying that they don’t object to proposed host countries.

    Just be sure the committee doesn’t include the other writers, like past presidents of SFWA and SF Canada who were given trips to China and came back to tell us how wonderfully fans there treated them. Because if we’re going to be taking orders from writers it will get confusing if they don’t all prioritize the same concerns.

  11. Has there been any response from Chengdu Worldcon

    Looking at the international politics and the views of my friends in China, it appears that China has adopted a neutral position, supporting Russia’s view of NATO expansion being a casus belli for the conflict but also abstaining (rather than vetoing) from security council resolutions condemning Russia and being very alarmed over the mounting civilian casualties in Ukraine. China has also reiterated its support for the territorial integrity of internationally-recognised borders (and China has noted that Russia recognised Ukraine in 1991) and its own economic interests in Ukraine, from where it buys wheat, minerals and, occasionally, aircraft carriers (of course, Chinese-Russian economic ties are much stronger still).

    Based on that, I suspect you’re not going to see any Chinese organisation, event or committee making what could be construed as a political decision until they actually know what their government’s position is. The Chinese president today issued a joint call for peace and mediation alongside the head of state for both Germany and France, which might be taken as a slightly sharper rebuke of Russia but still not outright condemnation. I’d look to China start referring to the activities as an invasion, or making a more serious call for peace before a Worldcon committee felt able to disinvite a prominent Russian guest. I’d advocate replacing him with Dmitry Glukhovsky, who is Russian but critical of the situation.

  12. Mike: Well, you might have mentioned that they have managed to stonewall so far, and are not exactly communicative as a general rule (in the usual understanding of the word, not “we acknowledge receipt of yours in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Leopard.’ Oh, and the website might have some information in a year or so).

    Still, I must admit with sadness that the Lukyanenko complaints haven’t at all reached the level of “social media that wants to inflict pain on them”, compared to last year (I usually find the frequency of an issue in the Pixel Scrolls a reliable indicator; to double-check, I did a Twitter search and it really didn’t look like much, although some wave may be rising now) and while a concom even in China might be willing to deinvite a GoH to get some community goodwill, you are right that now that their whole existence has been cast in doubt, they have little to gain by any response.

  13. Adam Whitehead: I’d advocate replacing him with Dmitry Glukhovsky, who is Russian but critical of the situation. (Which is a terrible euphemism, by the way; he made a clear anti-war stantement.)

    I’ve seen this idea before but it seems kinda… disrespectful, even tasteless; like giving awards to people for dying just before the voting deadline. “Let’s have another token Russian we never considered before on merits, but now noticed him in the news with a commendable opinion!” Why not go all the way, then, and rather demand an Ukrainian GoH (many of whom are translated, and some bloody brilliant)?

    Oh, and has the Chinese GoH, Liu Cixin been mentioned in this, with his support of the Uyghur genocide? I see about one tweet. (He is also somewhat bizarrely anti-American/Western… but hey, this is the free world. Still, his “Angel Era” deserves wider readership.)

  14. Rob Thornton:.

    “Perfect sense, am I right?”

    No. Making up fake quotes to push up a strawman does not make sense. Please don’t.

  15. Hampus Eckerman on March 7, 2022 at 5:16 pm said:

    I think if we go by any working metric for site selection, it wouldn’t be about war and oppression performed by the country. It would instead be about the freedom of expression without repercussions for the visiting Worldcon members. And possibly if there are UN sanctions against the country.

    This is a very good point. There are in principle two ways Worldcon can object to a given country hosting the convention.
    1. The members vote for a different location at the time of site selection.
    2. A new set of rules excluding some countries based on clear criteria.

    is obviously the most flexible and one capable of nuance and evaluating circumstances and going beyond the letter of the law. However, that process did not exclude China.
    Would require rules that had both a clear rationale as to why some countries should be avoided but also rules that can be reasonably implemented i.e. have fairly clear cut tests that would make the rules easy to implement.

    I don’t know if 2 is possible and I’m certain that whatever rules were generated will have troublesome edge-cases. The only functional way for Worldcon to make clear moral stands on an issue of the day is via option 1 and the time lag on bids also makes that difficult.

    (By moral stand, I mean the capacity for Worldcon to object to the actions of the government of a specific country on principle alone. That has to be an expression of the membership due to the direct-democracy aspect of Worldcon.)

    In terms of rules, I think Hampus has identified the clearest path but even there I don’t know if a functional set of rules can be developed. By clear path, I mean basing the rules on the safety, integrity and potential complicity of Worldcon being hosted in a given country. Can the broad membership attend safely and in a way that allows free expression within the convention’s own rules and without members finding themselves directly complicit in human rights abuses up to and including the capacity to condemn the government of the hosting country publicly during the convention without fear of repercussions to either visitors or the people operating the convention. I would add, although this maybe a harder rule to implement practically, is it safe to OBJECT to the bid without fear of legal repercussions.

  16. @Rob Thornton

    So you are saying that it’s ok to do wrong now because we did wrong before. Is that correct?

    No, I am not. I am saying look at your own (or my own, in this case) motes before thinking the US is the be-all, end-all of the universe.

    Yes, we’re not currently concentration camping purportedly a million people, but we do have some really serious human rights issues. (Guantanamo, while small, being one of them.)

  17. If we should use a “neutral” index regarding the freedom of speech for visiting Worldcon members, allowing them to criticize the host country if necessary, then I would look mostly at The World Press Freedom Index.

  18. Hampus Eckerman: I’m replying to yours as the latest comment in a series, not to you exclusively, however, this has kind of wandered off to being a problem-solving thought experiment. If there was a perfect index to use, it would still have to be incorporated in a rule that will pass two Worldcon business meetings.

    At the same time I see a parallel discussion in social media where people equate the U.S. with the worst human rights abusers, making it clear there are numerous writers and fans who not only want this rules weapon to be forged, but to make its first target not countries that will already be off the table by the time it passes, but the U.S. I wonder if the people who show up to the Chengdu business meeting would have a sufficiently mordant sense of humor to give such a amendment its first passage.

  19. Chengdu cannot be stopped now, people should have been acting earlier, they did not because most people assume that lobbying is much more effective than voting. I suspect if they’d been told “there’s a vote between Chengdu and Winnipeg” they’d have trusted that the people in charge would do the right thing, and would not believe that they are the people in charge and they have the same one vote as everyone else.

    They are wrong in respect of Worldcon, but generally right outside of it. I think it’s increasingly clear that we can’t convince people that it really works the way it does, which means that the democratic forms are empty forms; WSFS meetings represent a tiny fraction of Worldcon attendees, very few people vote in site selection, Hugo voting and nominations only really took off in defence against the Rabid Puppies. A representative democracy would be something that many more members would feel a connection to.

    I’m not yet fully convinced of the idea of a permanent Worldcon organisation, elected by the membership, responsible for maintaining the reputation of Worldcon, but maybe?

    The seated concom would have authority over their worldcon, but a permanent organisation could run the Hugos and site selection, maintain an online voting system with persistent accounts from one con to the next, be responsible for supervising the seated worldcon, override decisions that reflect badly on the Worldcon name or the Hugo name.

    But I’d still be very dubious about them cancelling a seated Worldcon; the most would be that they could call a vote of WSFS members to cancel Worldcon (replacing with another bid if there is a valid one).

  20. “Yes, we’re not currently concentration camping purportedly a million people, but we do have some really serious human rights issues. (Guantanamo, while small, being one of them.)”

    Not to gloss the horrors of Guantanamo, of U.S. aggression, of U.S. war crimes, of U.S. penal horrors, of the lack of justice for most in the U.S. “justice system” or any of the thousand and one violations of human rights historically engaged in by the United States or currently going on, but since the subject is “currently,” the current number of prisoners in Guantanamo is 38, with one being released yesterday, March 7th, 2022.

    The complete number of prisoners who were ever held there, from day one through today, is in the high three figures. Most were eventually released without charge.

    Not exactly comparable to all of Tibet, Xinjiang, Hong Kong, Taiwan, the limitations on free speech in the entirety of China, the one-Party state, etc., etc.

    Terrible, wrong, human rights violations, tortured: much wrong has been done by the U.S.

    But the scales aren’t terribly comparable.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Guantanamo_Bay_detainees

    https://www.defense.gov/News/Releases/Release/Article/2957801/guantanamo-bay-detainee-transfer-announced/

    https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-22278037

  21. Gary Farber:

    I think two million dead Iraqis by war and sanctions are worse than Guantanamo. Not to say 400 000 dead in Yemen in the US proxy war. So the scales are absolutely comparable.

  22. But the scales aren’t terribly comparable.

    And one of the main problems here is — how in the world could you construct a rubric to decide where on the scale a nation’s bad behavior falls? How far back do we go? What counts as a human rights violation? How do you weigh issues like restrictions on political freedom of expression versus ethnic cleansing versus drone attacks that kill civilians?

    I can’t even BEGIN to imagine the fights that would ensue if people started trying to create such a rubric to decide whether a nation was allowed to host a WorldCon or not. Japan has still not fully acknowledged the Rape of Nanking (never MIND Unit 731) and still does official honor to war criminals — where does that fall on the measure of national unsuitability for Worldcon?

    Also, I question whether withdrawing Worldcon from Chengdu — if that were even possible — would hurt the Chinese government’s feelings at all. The only people it would hurt would be the Chinese fen. What good would that do?

  23. @Steve Davidson: Science fiction writers never predicted the future, and most if not all of them know that.

    Loosely paraphrasing Le Guin from memory, since I don’t know where my copy of the relevant book is: “Prediction is the business of prophets, clairvoyants (paid, and therefore treated with more respect), and futurologists (salaried). A novelist’s business is lying.” The context was a (brief) discussion of her novel The Left Hand of Darkness, whose narrator says in the first couple of pages that he was taught as a child on his homeworld that truth is a matter of the imagination.

  24. @JJ

    There are dedicated anti-Israel activists who insinuate themselves into every left-wing organization that they can and try to drive the agenda of the organization to attack Israel. For example, the platform of the Movement for Black Lives included the statement that Israel was committing genocide. A Dyke March in Chicago banned Pride flags that included a Star of David.

    So it is not that Israel should be exempt from scrutiny, it is that dedicated anti-Israel attackers use every opportunity to attack Israel.

  25. @Hampus

    Not to say 400 000 dead in Yemen in the US proxy war.

    Suppose the number of 400k is correct — why do you attribute them all to the US? The Houthis started the war; are they not responsible? They block humanitarian aid. Are the deaths that result not directly attributable to them, instead of the United States? The US supplies arms to Saudi Arabia — I suppose that’s why you blame the US (but not Saudi Arabia?). But I note that Saudi Arabia flies SAAB 2000 aircraft in an AWACS configuration, and they shoot Bofors guns and Swedish anti-tank missiles; so doesn’t Sweden get a share of those deaths?

  26. bill: Hampus and you can work that out if you want. However, the attempt to create some kind of Swedish guilt by association is not a sound argument against his criticism of the US.

  27. bill:

    Because most are dying from the US bombing campaign. And I do of course also blame Saudi Arabia.

    I know you aren’t a Swede, so you have missed that there is a Swedish law against selling arms to a country in war. That’s why Bofors used a series of decoy companies to sell the weapons (known by some politicians, but not others). This was a great scandal and the Secretary of Defense had to resign. The last arms that were sold to Saudi from Sweden was in 2015. A new law was also introduced in 2018 for stricter regulations on weapon exports, and since then no new weapons have been sold to UAE either.

    I am however always positive to a boycott of Sweden for our arms exports. I do not approve of us being a part or war profiteering and we have a shameful history of selling weapons using bribes and to countries waging aggressive wars against others.

  28. As Israel is an apartheid state according to both Amnesty and Human Rights Watch, it would be very surprising if there weren’t people working to boycott the state in many organisations. It is good that people work against apartheid and it’s hardly surprising if Movement for Black Lives does so.

  29. I happen to be in favor of creating an elected Council of WSFS that would take over the things currently done by the Business Meeting, although I’d prefer to have constitutional changes have to be ratified by a ballot vote of all of the members of the following year’s Worldcon rather than by the current two-consecutive-Worldcons system. The existing system is designed to prevent a single Worldcon’s business meeting by being “packed” by partisans and forcing through changes, on the grounds that doing so in two consecutive years is well-nigh impossible. I think putting constitutional questions to a ratification vote of the membership would improve the “perceived legitimacy” of WSFS governance, while creating an elected representative system capable of acting outside of and not dependent upon individual Worldcons would improve the ability to deal with unforeseen circumstances.

    One consequence of the existing system, is that it leads to what might be considered a “penumbra” of people who do not regularly attend the Business Meeting (even if they regularly attend Worldcon), but who would show up in force do vote down the ratification of anything they don’t like. I expect that any attempts to change the current “anyone who shows up” system to “elect representatives” would result in a shout of “WSFS Inc! To the barricades, comrades!” to kill it, after which the “penumbra” would retire from the field.

    My draft idea would be to have 21 elected members, in three groups of seven each elected for three-year terms, plus one member appointed to serve at the pleasure of the past two and any future seated WSFS conventions (that means both Worldcons and NASFiCs, so the total number of members would vary). I chose 21 based on the “cube root rule” that observes that many functional “western” democracies’ elected legislatures are approximately the cube root of the population, and 21 is (approximately) the cube root of 10,000.

    (The US House of Representatives, which has been stuck at 435 members since 1920, would grow to around 690 members if they adopted a similar rule. I’m very much in favor of Unpacking the House, but that’s another story.)

    The approximately 25 members (including the appointees) of the Council of WSFS would be required to meet at Worldcon, but would also be authorized to meet at other times, including online, as long as such meetings could be observed by others online.

    If anyone says, “Your system sometimes has an even number of members! How will you break ties?” I reply, “You need a majority to pass a motion. Ties lose.” I’ve never seen it happen, but it’s possible for the Chair of the existing WSFS Business Meeting to vote to create a tie, thus effectively voting against a motion. We’ve come close, and sometimes during a close vote when I’m presiding, I’ve had to consider how I would vote should my vote be able to affect the result, either by abstaining or by casting a vote that would break or create a tie.

    Anyone who says that my defense and explanation of the existing WSFS rules system means that I’m 100% in love with the One True Way that must never be changed is wrong. I’m very dissatisfied with the current system, but I’m also very much aware that changing it requires convincing the existing participants to effectively vote themselves out of existence, and that’s not easy. The First American Republic (under the Articles of Confederation) didn’t vote itself out of existence: the states overthrew it by ratifying the Constitution of 1787 and creating the Second American Republic (the current one), and the legislature of the First Republic more or less said, “Oh, okay” and adjourned sine die without taking any further action.

  30. @Kevin Standlee
    I think that given all the things that WSFS has faced over the last few years that the old guard and the penumbra might not be as opposed to this idea as you fear. Or that an even larger penumbra could be mustered to support change.

    I think something definitely needs to change – our old systems are not working well any more. Something along your council of WSFS lines makes sense to me, although I might want to see a different balance between at-large members and those from past and future WSFS events. But I like the concept.

  31. @Richard Gadsen:

    At the DisCon3 Site Selection, 2916 people participated. This is somewhere just shy of half of the membership (based on the total membership number I could find, about 45%).

    CoNZealand saw 587 out of 4265 voting in Site Selection (about 14%).

    Dublin saw 878 out of 6918 (just shy of 13%).

    It would be a valid complaint that only a small number of members normally vote. I don’t think it is.a valid complain that a small number voted for the Site Selection run by DisCon3.

  32. I think two million dead Iraqis by war and sanctions are worse than Guantanamo.

    The question was as to what is going on currently.

    “Yes, we’re not CURRENTLY concentration camping purportedly a million people, but we do have some really serious human rights issues. (Guantanamo, while small, being one of them.)”

    Talk about moving goalposts!

    But, sure, if you completely switch the proposition under discussion, you can carry on arguing. Just not with me. It wasn’t me who started the discussion of what countries are currently doing. And I’m not going to play games by going along with switching topics as soon as one fails.

    (This is not a denial of U.S. wrongdoing. It’s a refusal to reward dishonest rhetorical techniques.)

  33. Pingback: Pixel Scroll 3/16/22 I Had It, But I Traded It For These Magic Beans | File 770

  34. Rob Thornton wrote: “Going through a left-wing litany of human rights sins through history does not help Worldcon at all.”

    It’s a bit depressing to see human rights being thought of as a “left-wing” issue.

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