Writers Circulate Letter of Concern About Saudi Worldcon Bid

Anna Smith Spark, a grimdark author from London, has organized an open “letter of concern” with several dozen co-signers, including Charles Stross, about the bid to bring the Worldcon to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia in 2022, which will be voted on this week. The competition is a bid for Chicago in 2022.  

Anna Smith Spark sent File 770 the letter, and “Also (and I will be dead in the eyes of the WSFS for this) the email they sent me washing their hands of this and having a quick pop at those involved in the anti-Puppies work as well for good measure,” which is a reply received from WSFS webmaster Kevin Standlee.   


An open letter to the World Science Fiction Society (WSFS) and to Norman Cates as the Chair of the 2020 WorldCon

Dear WSFS, and dear Norman,

As writers, publishers and readers of science fiction and fantasy, we are writing to express our concern that Saudi Arabia has been accepted as a potential host site for the 2022 World Science Fiction Convention (WorldCon).

SFF is the great genre of possibilities and pluralities. As readers, writers and publishers of SFF our task is to inspire wonder: we look up at the stars to seek out other ways of being, we look down at the earth around us to find enchantment, beauty, romance, horror, hope. We create new worlds because we believe that in doing so we can make this world a better and intellectually richer place. A Jeddah WorldCon would allow fandom a chance to visit a breathtakingly beautiful city, Jeddah. It would break new ground for SFF Fandom, open up a new world to fans who may otherwise never have an opportunity to travel there, and show solidarity with creative communities within Saudi Arabia and other Arab states. It’s therefore with great sadness that we must face reality for what it is, that the Saudi regime is antithetical to everything SFF stands for.

The most recent Amnesty International report on Saudi Arabia states that in 2019 the Saudi government ‘escalated repression of the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly. They harassed, arbitrarily detained and prosecuted dozens of government critics, human rights defenders, including women’s rights activists, members of the Shi’a minority and family members of activists.  […] Some people, most of them members of the country’s Shi’a minority, were executed following grossly unfair trials.’[1] Saudi women face systematic legal discrimination, while identifying as LGBQT+  is illegal and can be punishable with corporal punishment and even execution. Saudi Arabia is a key player in the war in Yemen that has left 80% of the Yemeni population in need of humanitarian aid, and has been accused of war crimes in the region[2]. The UN concluded last year that it was ‘credible’ that the Saudi Crown Prince personally ordered the brutal murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi for the crime of writing words[3]. It cannot and must not be acceptable to stage an international event against this backdrop. Indeed, the murder of Jamal Khashoggi alone should be enough to render the concept of a literary convention in the country an absurdity.

On a personal level, we note that many of us would ourselves not be able to write or to live freely under Saudi law. We refuse to attend an event if those staffing it cannot have the same basic freedoms. We express deep concern that many members of the SFF community would be excluded from attending an event because of their sexuality, nationality or religious beliefs.

We stand in solidarity with those who seek change in the country. And we write in protest but also in hope – that by raising awareness of the political situation in Saudi Arabia a WorldCon SA will one day be possible.

Yours sincerely,

Anna Smith Spark (organiser), Justin Lee Anderson, Andrew Angel, Helen Armfield, Allen Ashley, Graham Austin-King, Ali Baker Brooks, Andrew Bannister, RJ Barker, Alan Baxter, Donna Bond, James Brogden, Mike Brooks, Angela Cleland, Tom Clews, Adrian Collins, Lee Conley, Emily Cornell, Sarah Doyle, Margaret Eve, Mike Everest Evans, The Fantasy Hive, Fantasy Faction, Nick Ferguson, Karen Fishwick, Carol Goodwin, T. L. Greylock, Joanne Hall, Patricia Hawkes-Reed, Bethan May Hindmarsh, Stewart Hotson, Shellie Horst, Steve D. Howarth, Humber SFF, Barbara James, Cameron Johnston, Daniel Kelly, Simon Kewin, Alex Khlopenko, Shona Kinsella, Alex Knight, David Lascelles, Ulff Lehmann, Dale Lucas, Eloise Mac, Steve McHugh, Juliette McKenna, Peter McLean, Kevin McVeigh, Kareem Mahfouz, Masimba Musodza, Andy Marsden, GR Matthews, Simon Morden, Alistair Morley, T. O. Munro, Stan Nicholls, Chris Nuttall, Scott Oden, Graeme Penman, Peter Philpott, Steven Poore, Gareth L Powell, Robert V.S Redick, Ian Richardson, Courtney Schaffer, S. Naomi Scott, Ian Segal, Mike Shackle, Steve J Shaw, Sheffield Science Fiction and Fantasy Society, , Rita Sloan, Sammy HK Smith, Vaughan Stanger, Mark Stay, Charlie Stross, Allen Stroud, Amanda M Suver Justice, Clayton Synder, Sue Tingey, Three Crows Magazine, Tej Turner, Catriona Ward, Matthew Ward, David Watkins, RB Watkinson, Adam Weller, Graeme Williams, Phil Williams,  Deborah A Wolf.

Copied to the Board of the SFWA, Locus Magazine, Tor.com, Starburst, the UK Guardian newspaper


WSFS Web Site Team Reply

Anna:

There is no such entity as the “Board of the World Science Fiction Society (WSFS).” WSFS is an unincorporated literary society that has no Board of Directors, no ongoing chief executive, and no “Head Office.” I am copying the co-chairs of ConZealand on this reply.

The rules of WSFS, which are made by the members of WSFS (the attendees of the Worldcon), set very minimal technical requirements for any group to bid for a Worldcon. The selection is not made by a Board of Directors or Executive Committee, but by the entire membership of WSFS, who vote on the choice, just as they vote on the Hugo Awards. Indeed, the process is very similar in both cases, in that Worldcons are not supposed to make subjective value judgments about nominees for the Hugo Awards. This decision is reserved to the entire membership, exercising their right to vote.

If you are interested in more information about how WSFS works and how you can propose changes in its rules, I can explain things in further detail.

This is not intended as being dismissive, but to try and explain that Worldcons and WSFS as a whole does not give anyone the right to make subjective judgements about either Hugo Award nominees/finalists or prospective Worldcon sites other than the entire membership.

Kevin Standlee, WSFS Web Site Team


[1] https://www.amnesty.org/en/countries/middle-east-and-north-africa/saudi-arabia/report-saudi-arabia/

[2] https://www.unicef.org/emergencies/yemen-crisis

[3] https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=24713

129 thoughts on “Writers Circulate Letter of Concern About Saudi Worldcon Bid

  1. Seanan McGuire, an author who’s also been a Worldcon runner, has added her insights on Twitter, Thread starts here.

  2. I proposed that hypothetical to Kevin Standlee on Twitter, who said that who was going to spend $50-100k on a odious Worldcon Bid?

    It’s unlikely. But an Azerbaijani mogul paid the second-tier English football club Sheffield Wednesday to put “Azerbaijan Land of Fire” on their uniforms in 2014. If a businessperson or country promoter was attuned to Worldcon and the Hugo Awards, I could see that advocate championing the idea that hosting has international prestige and spending the relatively small sum to fund the memberships that would make it happen.

  3. If the WSFS is a coordination rather than a traditional corporation, there’s nothing to be done. It’s ‘morality’ will depend on the current inclinations of the membership. Makes me wonder why I was so upset with the Puppies-and I was-if they merely shifted that morality (into immorality) by becoming members.
    If the WSFS is something in itself, with prior, agreed upon principles, the method of site selection should change (through its geologically slow decision process).

  4. Anna Smith Spark sent File 770 the letter, and “Also (and I will be dead in the eyes of the WSFS for this) the email they sent me washing their hands of this and having a quick pop at those involved in the anti-Puppies work as well for good measure”

    In what bizarre alternate universe is this person living? There is no “quick pop” in Standlee’s reply — and who the hell does she think was “involved in the anti-Puppies work” except all of us who were WSFS members in 2015 and 2016?

    And that “I will be dead in the eyes of WSFS fans” is so incredibly, unbelievably childish. Why would she think any of us would declare her dead in our eyes for voicing the same concerns that a great many of us have already expressed in the last 6 months?

  5. Must say I have absolutely no memory of any Anna Smith Spark being involved in any anti-puppy work. I do remember Kevin was much involved in discussions about the new voting system made to counter them.

    An apology from her would be in order.

  6. @Kevin Harkness–

    If the WSFS is a coordination rather than a traditional corporation, there’s nothing to be done. It’s ‘morality’ will depend on the current inclinations of the membership. Makes me wonder why I was so upset with the Puppies-and I was-if they merely shifted that morality (into immorality) by becoming members.

    The membership as a whole rejected the Puppies approach as contrary to what they had always understood, and expected, the Hugos to be, and the way they had always handled Hugo nominations and awards.

    The Puppies, a little group of outsiders upset that it didn’t work in the self-serving way they wanted, tried to change it, and lost, badly.

    If the WSFS is something in itself, with prior, agreed upon principles, the method of site selection should change (through its geologically slow decision process).

    Maybe you could get started doing something more productive in that direction than bitching and moaning about other people not having done it already–just as quite a few WSFS members worked very hard getting a rules change worked out that would make it much harder for Puppy shit to stick in the future.

  7. @JJ: And that “I will be dead in the eyes of WSFS fans”… What Spark said was, “I will be dead in the eyes of the WSFS”, which is a slightly different gratuitously offensive remark, although it clearly escapes her grasp that the WSFS is composed in its entirety of fans.

    Echoing what Hampus and Laura said regarding Kevin and anti-slating proposals developed in response to the Puppies.

  8. @Lis Carey:

    The membership as a whole rejected the Puppies approach as contrary to what they had always understood, and expected, the Hugos to be, and the way they had always handled Hugo nominations and awards.

    If there had been more puppies buying memberships, the ‘membership as a whole’ would have been them.
    @Lis Carey:

    Maybe you could get started doing something more productive in that direction than bitching and moaning about other people not having done it already

    Don’t think I was bitching and moaning. Thought I was pointing out a fundamental weakness to outside forces (like puppies and con bids from freedom-averse countries). There would have to be consensus among members and supporters to move in another direction, which would need discussion . . .

  9. Pingback: Pixel Scroll 7/28/20 We Have Pixelsign The Likes Of Godstalk Has Never Seen! | File 770

  10. Makes me wonder why I was so upset with the Puppies-and I was-if they merely shifted that morality (into immorality) by becoming members.

    The puppies didn’t reflect the majority. They were a minority that used a shady voting tactic to exercise more influence over the WSFS than their numbers would warrant. Because they were so outnumbered, they were trounced in the final vote.

  11. @Kevin Harkness–

    If there had been more puppies buying memberships, the ‘membership as a whole’ would have been them.

    Yep.

    But in this reality, they were a small minority, who used a vulnerability in the nominating system and slate voting to exert more influence than their numbers could ever have justified.

    And the membership as a whole responded by rejecting them completely enough to No Award several categories. And then a lot of people got to work fixing the vulnerability, to make it significantly harder for a small group to do the same again.

    Don’t think I was bitching and moaning. Thought I was pointing out a fundamental weakness to outside forces (like puppies and con bids from freedom-averse countries). There would have to be consensus among members and supporters to move in another direction, which would need discussion . . .

    Yes. Exactly. It needs discussion. It needs people with ideas on how to fix it willing to do the work of making those into proposals we can study, discuss, refine into something ready to be presented at a future Worldcon.

    This letter, released with site selection at CoNZealand about to close, with no idea for how to fix it, no apparent awareness of how WSFS works, and without even enough thought put into it to know who the con chairs are, is just bitching and moaning about the fact that the process is not already whatever vision of perfection they have in their heads.

  12. Unclear of how anti-slating stuff is relevant to that response, and deeply baffled at the attempt to characterise Kevin Standlee (or the WSFS for that matter – who exactly do they think proposed and voted for those changes if not the membership..?) as remotely pro-Puppy.

    I’m pretty sure he wasn’t spending hours of his time walking all us newbies through how the system worked and helping with the wording of proposals so that they wouldn’t get bogged down at the business meetings and also writing multiple long comments and posts about how unhappy he was with the Puppies and their false assumptions about Worldcon, the WSFS, and the Hugos out of some deep cover attempt to foil anti-slating measures… But hey, maybe there’s some fourteenth dimensional chess move I’m missing.

    I thought Seanan McGuire’s thread was very good, very helpful, and hopefully likely to be listened to, since she’s a pro as well as a fan with considerable fannish experience and sometimes people seem to think the pro bit matters a lot more. A bit of extra oomph.

  13. Well, if the signatories to the letter would like to decide what changes they would like to see in WSFS Site Selection, I (and no doubt others) would be happy to work with them to bring proposals to the 2021 Business Meeting

  14. Chip Hitchcock: Maybe you’d like to try again without the insult and abuse.

    When people read that kind of thing here, they don’t form an opinion about you, they form one about me.

  15. I think many people, for whatever reason, take Kevin’s logistical approach of, “This is how the system works” in response to what they see as a moral imperative as being in opposition to said moral imperative. So when he responds with something like, “There is no rule in the WSFS constitution that allows an individual or small group to enact a pre-emptive removal of a bid, and I have concerns of how to structure such a rule in a way that doesn’t have potential for abuse”, people don’t see anything other than “Your moral qualms matter nothing to my adherence to tradition.” Which is an unfair and inaccurate interpretation of what he’s saying, but there you go.

  16. It’s just so flamingly silly, the entire premise of the letter is criticising Worldcon and the WSFS for something they did not do. There is no mechanism for accepting or rejecting bids before the vote. No-one at WSFS or ConZealand’s concom chose the bid. The fans chose to make the bid, and who are you, precisely, to say that fans should have that right taken away based on their country of origin? The bids happen, people vote on them. So pay yer fee and make yer choice! That’s the mechanism! If you want a different mechanism, pay yer fee, write your proposal, find likeminded co-sponsors, attend a business meeting, and persuade enough other members to vote for it! That’s the mechanism for change! Writing and presenting a letter a handful of hours before site selection voting ends is not going to do a single solitary thing because there’s no-one who can act on it!

    AUGH. This is not hard. Although it might very well be hard if you dismiss anyone trying to tell you how it works as taking a jab at “anti-Puppies work” as opposed to… trying to tell you how it works.

    I’m probably going to regret losing my temper tomorrow, but seriously, I knew absolutely sod all about how any of this worked a few years ago but because I cared about actually blocking slates – although as a non-attending member my ability to personally create change was limited – rather than just demanding that Someone In Charge Do Something (Even Though They Can’t) I listened when people who knew what they were talking about told me how it worked. Listening and asking questions? Actually super easy! Barely an inconvenience! Possibly should have been part of this process a bit sooner! Perhaps something to think about for the future!

    ETA: Oh flip – didn’t think how it might reflect on you, Mike. Do please delete if over the line. I can’t tell!

  17. I voted for site selection on Sunday (I voted last year too). I haven’t been able to go to Worldcon in over a decade but I like that they exist and participate as much as possible even when I can’t attend.

  18. For folks who want to change how Worldcon does site selection, first read Article 4 of this document. That’s what has to change. And if you’re feeling froggy, draft a statement that does whatever it is you want it to do, so you can start vetting it amongst some knowledgeable fans with a vested interest in seeing things done right. (here’s a hint: “No Worldcons in Saudia Arabia” probably won’t fly, but who knows?)

  19. Meredith: Even passionate comments of that kind are not abuse, by which I mean “insulting and offensive language.”

  20. @Marshall: I’m reminded of the bit from A Man For All Seasons

    Roper: So now you’d give the Devil benefit of law?
    More: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?
    Roper: I’d cut down every law in England to do that!
    More: Oh? And, when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you – where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country’s planted thick with laws from coast to coast – man’s laws, not God’s – and, if you cut them down – and you’re just the man to do it – d’you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake.

  21. @Mike Glyer

    Well, if it does provoke anything you’d rather not deal with I shan’t get upset if you change your mind about whether it can stay!

  22. @NickPheas:

    Could a revived puppy campaign divert the con to somewhere utterly inappropriate?

    It’s doubtful, because the Puppies were fairly successful at getting pluralities for the Hugo nominations for a couple of years, but the ranked choice system effectively requires at least approval from the majority to win a Hugo, and they completely failed at that. The site selection voting process is fairly similar, since a majority is needed to win under the ranked choice system.

    Suppose there were multiple sites bidding for a Worldcon — say, Anaheim, Boston, Copenhagen, and Sydney — and some troublemakers decided to mount a bid for Pyongyang too. Even if Pyongyang somehow led among the first choices, the ranked choice system means it would be unlikely to win unless it were at least acceptable to the majority of voters.

  23. @Lis Carey:

    Yes. Exactly. It needs discussion. It needs people with ideas on how to fix it willing to do the work of making those into proposals we can study, discuss, refine into something ready to be presented at a future Worldcon.

    The WSFS constitution would have to be amended, and right now it does exactly what it was intended to do: produce Hugos and Worldcons. A mild proposal might be to have any bidding organization pledge that all attendees will be treated according to the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights along with stronger LGTBQ and accessibility guarantees.

  24. I’m really curious to know who told them about only one of the co-chairs (and why they didn’t, um, check ConZealand’s website).

    I don’t object to their objection, precisely – support for a Worldcon in Saudi Arabia has been extremely thin on the ground in every discussion I’ve seen, however sympathetic many of us are towards the awkward situation the SA fans are in – but their information seems to have been patchy at best (missing one of the co-chairs of ConZealand; no understanding of site selection rules; no obvious indications that they understand that they could, if they wanted to, have voted in site selection themselves; WSFS doesn’t work the way they seem to think it does) and I’d quite like to know where it came from so I can treat any information from that source with skepticism in future.

    It’s hard to imagine starting a proper dialogue when the description of the response to their letter was so dismissive and misrepresented the contents (and I’m sure they thought the description was completely correct, so that doesn’t bode well for their accurate reading of anyone else’s words) but if nothing else I hope they broaden their sources on WSFS information (maybe even… looking at the websites) because whoever they asked clearly wasn’t giving them what they needed to write an informed letter or do something potentially useful like a get out the vote campaign.

  25. Meredith: I’m really curious to know who told them about only one of the co-chairs (and why they didn’t, um, check ConZealand’s website).

    Oh, you’re going to love the answer to that one, Meredith: the letter’s author posted the letter on the British Fantasy Society’s Facebook page, then in a comment below it asked “has anyone got the address for the WorldCon Comittee Chair or oversight committee that this needs to go to?” and… (wait for it)

    … another BFS member piped up with “The Chair’s name is Norman Cates” while posting a link to the CoNZealand Divisions webpage which listed the names of both chairs. Obviously, the letter author didn’t even bother looking for herself.

  26. Meredith: It’s hard to imagine starting a proper dialogue when the description of the response to their letter was so dismissive and misrepresented the contents (and I’m sure they thought the description was completely correct, so that doesn’t bode well for their accurate reading of anyone else’s words)

    Based on the letter writer’s complete lack of research before publishing the letter, their blatant misrepresentation of WSFS’ response, their false implication that it was someone other than WSFS members themselves who did “the anti-Puppies work”, in my opinion the letter’s author is someone who should never be listened to, about anything.

    She needs to post an apology letter to Kelly Buehler and to the WSFS members — but I am quite sure we will never see that, she’s too busy being self-righteously ignorant. 😐

  27. @Steve Green For “lack of govenance”, I read a simple disinclination by the WSFS to impose draconian rules upon itself. As Kevin points out, the WSFS has no board of directors, but comprises the membership of the current Worldcon. Do you not consider them capable of making the correct decision?

    Well let’s be clear having the power to say a bid doesn’t meet a minimum standards on human rights isn’t draconian. I also think a group that isn’t willing to say this is not acceptable in print in its own constipation rather than what it does say which is that any kind of bid is acceptable

    If WSFS members feel outraged and embarrassed to be shown there is a a flaw in their approach. Then that’s a good thing and I do hope this gets fixed in 2021 but it deserves criticism

  28. @JJ

    … :internal screaming:… So they glanced down far enough to see “chair: experience” but not far enough to see “chair: business” I suppose. It’s a… sort of..? understandable error (although when there’s only one chair it’s not generally worth giving them a descriptive word to say what they’re in charge of so perhaps that ought to have been a hint) in that you can see how it ended up happening but given all the other errors and that it was Kelly Buehler specifically who they missed (not a good look when you’re trying to criticise sexism) it’s hard to give it a pass. I’m grateful that another commenter over there’s suggestion (based on what? who knows!) that multiple other bids could have been rejected in favour of the JeddiCon bid didn’t make it into the letter, at least!

    It looks like a couple of people tried to provide some gentle corrections with regards to the actual process but I guess the letter organiser(s) were in such a rush trying to get the letter out before site selection was over that they didn’t take the time to really consider whether there were any (MANY) misunderstandings and investigate a bit more.

    I feel a bit sorry for some of the people who clearly trusted that they were being given all the relevant information, though. Not a lot sorry, since they still had the responsibility to do their research before putting their name to something, but based on the intro they were given, without proper knowledge of the process, and in a group I trusted, I might well have made the same mistake. I hope some of them decide to look into it a bit more and learn about how it actually works.

    I wasn’t super thrilled at the description of it being “anti-Puppies work” rather than “anti-slate work”. The whole response was designed to be general protections against any future efforts, regardless of motivation or group, not just, like, that annoying group over there, specifically, even if their actions were what prompted the anti-slate rule changes. It seemed to me it showed a further misunderstanding of how the WSFS rules and rules changes work. (Also, I don’t remember anyone of the name Anna Smith Spark participating in any of that, although I’m happy to be corrected, whereas quite obviously a large number of WSFS members and Kevin Standlee in particular sure did, so, another error right there.)

    It looks like Anna Smith Spark was only aware of the bids at all as of the 25th and immediately flung herself (along with whoever else was involved; apparently the original letter text wasn’t hers) into a headlong rush of Trying To Do Something About It Before It’s Too Late without giving herself time to stop, think, ask, and find out what, exactly, could actually be done about it, or even really consider that there might be anything she’d need to know to be able to take or suggest useful and practical action. Which, again, I can sort of understand as a mistake! It’s not the worst instinct ever to think you’re seeing a bad thing about to happen and try to stop it, it’s just… I think she really stuffed it up, and I’m not sure, based on her words so far, that she’s going to figure out why or even that she has. I’d love to be proved wrong! If she takes a breath and decides to listen, without assigning any assumed motivations, to what people are saying, perhaps we’ll get somewhere.

    (To be clear, to any JeddiCon peeps dropping by, I don’t think you’re doing a bad thing! There’s absolutely nothing wrong with wanting a Worldcon in your country. I can’t support your bid, but I respect you putting in the effort to make one and I hope someday it can happen without putting any visiting fans at risk.)

  29. Yes, this uproar about the JeddiCon bid erupted on Twitter only a few days ago, even though it has been known for several months now that Jeddah was bidding. It seems as if a lot fo people didn’t pay attention to who was bidding and suddenly started screaming a few days before site selection closes and with no real awareness of how the process works.

    Which is okay, not everybody has to know how Worldcon site selection works. But some of the signers, e.g. Charles Stross should kow.

  30. That to me has been the wildest part of this. I’d understand if it had happened right after Question Time or something (my jaw may have dropped slightly when the bid explicitly stated “don’t show, don’t tell” during the Q&A) but I’m still not sure what, specifically, prompted everybody suddenly noticing the Jeddah bid.

  31. Trust the members. The bid system ain’t broke and we don’t need to fix it. The only real “fix” is to get as many current members as possible to vote in site selection.

  32. As Chair of the Sheffield Science Fiction and Fantasy Society, I would like it on record that we are definitely not signatories to this letter.

  33. Goobergunch on July 28, 2020 at 11:14 pm said:
    I’m still not sure what, specifically, prompted everybody suddenly noticing the Jeddah bid.

    I’m wondering when people will notice Chengdu.

    From a cursory search of Twitter, there does seem to be some support from Western fandom for that bid.

  34. rob_matic: I’m wondering when people will notice Chengdu.

    I’m in the Filer pool for “August 25, 2021” when people who aren’t Worldcon members notice that bid.

    (If only people had contributed money to these pools, I would be rich! Get out your wallets and PayPal accounts, people!)

     
    rob_matic: From a cursory search of Twitter, there does seem to be some support from Western fandom for that bid.

    You’re not wrong. The Chinese government paid for free trips for around 20 Worldcon conrunners to go to the 2019 Chinese SF convention. 😐

  35. JJ on July 29, 2020 at 3:19 am said:

    You’re not wrong. The Chinese government paid for free trips for around 20 Worldcon conrunners to go to the 2019 Chinese SF convention. ?

    I guess that makes it a tough decision, balancing a free holiday against the human rights abuses, repression and genocide.

  36. When I first waded into the discussion in Twitter, I also thought that site selection being decided by vote was all the oversight one could ask for (and, frankly, the letter and its Twitter supporters asking WSFS management to step in gave me a certain “Karens against Qurans” vibe).

    But seeing the actual numbers of votes involved gave me some pause. The sums involved for a malicious party to buy a winning number of votes are tiny — not quite within the budget of some perma-fail right wing publisher, but pocket change to state actors or oligarchs. The Jeddah bid does not seem to engage in any such tactics, but they certainly would seem possible.

    And the forthcoming Chengdu bid raises another problem: even absent any malicious tactics, SFF fandom in China seems to be rapidly growing, so it’s conceivable that they could win simply through organic enthusiasm of the locals.

    But how would one prevent such scenarios? I don’t think installing a site vetting committee would fit in the WorldCon’s DNA. I also wonder whether US fans may tend to downplay the problematic aspects of US bids, especially for foreign visitors, compared to other countries’ defects (cf. McGuire considering anti-Roma prejudice in France a deal breaker, while apparently continuing to attend US cons).

  37. The numbers of voters are relatively small because there haven’t been particularly controversial bid locations. I think we’ll have more voters than we’d otherwise have expected this year because people are making a a point to vote against Jeddah. Contested vote years are always higher than uncontested ones. If there ever looked like a campaign to “buy the worldcon” was in action (and we would know about it – while that info might be confidential, someone would let it slip), then I think fandom would mobilize, buy supporting memberships and vote – just like Sasquan hit 10k members who wanted to vote down the Puppy slate. It does require people to pay attention more than 24 hours before voting ends, though.

  38. @OGH: I stand by my remarks on both Spark (negative) and McGuire (positive); Smith in particular chose to find offense where there was none. Your blog, your choice of where to divide; ours to consider what to do about the division — and about what you haven’t divided, now or in the past. (IMO I’ve had worse directed, unremoved, against me.) I notice that so far you have not cut the description of Smith as “self-righteously ignorant”, which is a more-compact form of what I said.

    @Andrew: the trouble with that MfAS quote is that too many people are convinced that their righteousness is sufficient armor, with no need for laws that interfere with their judgment.

    @rob_matic: there was at least one person on the PRC-sponsored trip who I would expect (based on recent history) to cut the PRC up, down, and sideways. They may have gone due to ambition, or may have subscribed to the largely-discredited if-you-engage-it-they-will-improve approach. I haven’t heard anything from them about Chengdu since, but I’m even less connected than I used to be. I also haven’t heard of anyone turning down the invitation; I don’t know how much that speaks to careful selection by the PRC and how much to a desire for ecumenism overriding facts on the ground.

    @microtherion: there was a common belief in fandom around the turn of the century that certain fans could buy Japan a Worldcon at any time; IIRC, the geographic distribution of voters in the year they won made clear that this didn’t happen.

    @Cora Buhlert: well, now we know how much Stross actually knows about Worldcons.

    @Nicholas Whyte: I would like to think you meant that sarcastically; enthusiasm is all very well, but past bids have had to convince a spectrum of voters. I also note that enthusiasm doesn’t translate to competence, and that that kind of selection would make finding competence from outside non-trivial.

    In a way, it’s a pity there wasn’t more noise about Jiddah earlier — not “Somebody should do something!” unless coupled with “Fans are the somebody”; OTOH,
    * I’d like to think that Valente’s worries are unnecessary.
    * I remember when there was an attempt to use moral suasion against a bid (an observation near the end of the Detroit/Chicago for 82 race that Michigan had passed the ERA and Illinois hadn’t), which came across as a ploy by a weak bid rather than a genuine force. I would like to think that wouldn’t have happened in this case, but I’ve learned not to overestimate the netverse.

  39. stairstep thought: would it be amusing to ask Smith why Bozho wasn’t disqualified from running for PM?

  40. ETA: Tammy Coxen and I were composing at the same time. I don’t mean to erase their comments in repeating the same thoughts at greater length.

    Would it be hypothetically possible for a bid to “buy” site selection? Hypothetically. Let’s do a thought experiment.

    They’d probably need to garner enough votes to win on the first round (not only against any competing bids, but also against None Of The Above). Looking at past voting numbers, maybe 1500? Maybe 2000 to be safe? Each of those would need a supporting membership for the voting convention and a voting membership. Let’s see: currently that would have been $150NZ, which comes to around $100US. So a total of $150,000-$200,000US to acquire the votes. I believe the language about memberships requires that voting memberships must be held by “individual natural persons” so you’d also need to organize 1500-2000 individual natural persons to cooperate.

    That’s a lot of people to keep quiet about an organized plan. And while membership records are confidential, unless the paid support was distributed to look like an ordinary membership surge, someone with access to the databases is going to notice and likely raise questions. If word got out that an action like this was in the works, then you’d have to have enough votes to overcome participation from people who might not ordinarily vote in site selection, but would turn out to protect the process. Unless you didn’t start buying the supporting+voting memberships until so late in the game that there wouldn’t be much time for reaction. Which not only would require vast amounts of coordination, but would generate an even more suspicious bolus of unexpected membership demographics. (Unless, as noted, you carefully arranged “natural” distribution.)

    Possible? Yes. By someone with massive resources, not only in money but in personnel. Someone who understands the system and fannish philosophies well enough to avoid the major pitfalls.

    But what then? What happens after you win the bid vote with a method that would look highly suspicious after the fact, even if you kept the process secret in advance? Who do you think will attend your convention once it becomes obvious that it was purchased? In the end, what would you have bought?

    While technically possible, I find it unlikely that outright “buying” a Worldcon site selection vote would ever happen, regardless of by whom and for what purpose. There are more likely undesirable scenarios.

  41. Right. If you did manage to buy it, almost no one would attend it. And there would probably be a “Shadow Worldcon” organized by the real bid that lost. WSFS & the Worldcon is where the members are, and if they all go do their thing somewhere else, that’s where the Worldcon will be.

  42. @Chip Hitchcock

    I thought perhaps it was your choice of acronym for Anna Smith Spark.

  43. Fran Dowd:

    “As Chair of the Sheffield Science Fiction and Fantasy Society, I would like it on record that we are definitely not signatories to this letter.”

    This is a bit eye-opening. How the heck did the society end up among the signatories?

  44. I wish the signatories would understand that WSFS is not a cabal of SMOFs, its all the members of the current Worldcon. The way to get WSFS to reject a bad bid is for the members to vote on it using the Site Selection Rules. A vetting mechanism would involve creating a vetting committee who’s membership would be contentious. Its no different for standing for Parliament, anyone can do it provided they satisfy minimal rules (the UK deposit system is akin to WSFS asking to prove you have a hotel – or at least a room, I95 in ’95). Then let the voters decide.

    Addressing your letter to WSFS means all the CoNZealand members, adding one of the chairs was pointless.

    It does smack of a Twitter storm to attract publicity and raise FUD when there is no chance of Jeddicon winning.

  45. Fran Dowd:

    “As Chair of the Sheffield Science Fiction and Fantasy Society, I would like it on record that we are definitely not signatories to this letter.”

    This is a bit eye-opening. How the heck did the society end up among the signatories?

    Easy to answer. There are three SFF groups in Sheffield, two of which I am involved with. The third is listed in the letter erroneously and I will admit fault by not having checked with Anna beforehand. I apologise to Fran for the inconvenience caused.

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