The Race for 2023

There has been some discussion on Twitter today about potential future Worldcon sites. Washington DC has been awarded the 2021 convention. It is probably too late to do anything about 2022, for which Chicago is unopposed. That leaves us with 2023 as the next possible non-US Worldcon.

Prior to Dublin the extant bids for 2023 were Nice (France), Chengdu (China) and New Orleans (USA). The New Orleans bid has, I understand it, collapsed. However, some US fans were busily organising a bid for another city. Apparently they viewed this as essential to prevent yet another non-US Worldcon. I think they have settled on Memphis but it was a bit confused.

The Chengdu bid is controversial for two reasons, one of which is that it is very hard to get into China. Elizabeth Bear told me that she has been denied a visa because she is a writer. That could happen to a lot of us. My own view is that a Chinese Worldcon won’t happen without government approval, and if that approval exists then it should be possible to set up a system whereby visa applications can be expedited. This is China, after all. If bureaucrats are told to do something they will do it. It is only when they have no instructions that they are dangerous. I know this is rough on my Chinese friends, who very much want to extend the hospitality of their country to the world, but they need to show that they can get people to the convention.

The other issue is personal safety. Clearly a lot of Americans are terrified of going to China. I know a lot of people who have been. That includes my boss, Berkeley. His husband, Duncan, has been working in China for several months, and Berkeley has spent a lot of time out there. Given that he’s never had any job other than Gay Activist, and this should be obvious from his social media activity, I don’t think that China is that dangerous for LGBT+ folks.

It is, however, potentially dangerous to Muslims given what is happening to the Uighurs at the moment. It is also extremely dangerous for anyone who has friends or family involved in the current protests in Hong Kong. That is a very good reason for not voting for China. Things may be different in two years time, but political change in China does not happen easily, and I can’t see their government backing off while neither the USA nor the UK has any interest in asking them to, and the EU desperately needs allies against the Trump-Russia axis.

That leaves us with Nice. It is a lovely city, just down the road from Monaco, and easily accessible by train from much of Europe. It may even be accessible by train from the UK if the Channel Tunnel hasn’t been blocked up Brexit fanatics by then. It also has excellent air links. It is not far from Spain (well, Catalonia) and very close to Italy, which makes it a good site for a European event.

The downside is that the Nice bid committee are largely new to Worldcon. As far as I can see they don’t have much involvement from the folks who run Imaginales and Utopiales either. They don’t have fans from other European countries helping them out. And I don’t know of any tradition of con-running in Nice. Organisationally, they seem to be a weaker bid than Chengdu.

We have two years to turn that around. I know a bunch of French fans, and I plan to talk to any I find at Eurocon this weekend. Being of generous spirit, I also hereby volunteer to take a short holiday on the French Riviera so that I can inspect the site. I may be nagging the Nordic, Croatian and Italian fans to help out too.

Finally I note that in these times of increasingly difficulty of international travel, and of burgeoning climate crisis, it is absolutely essential that we look at ways of making more of Worldcon accessible over the Internet so that people can participate without having to travel. The New Zealand convention is an excellent point at which to start. But that’s a big enough subject for a whole new post and I need to talk to Norm and Kelly first.

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9 Responses to The Race for 2023

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  2. Gregory Benford says:

    Right on about China. I’ve had3 long trips there, even sailed along the coast to Japan, no trouble at the port stops. But then, I was a scientist, not a weird writer.
    Nice group I talked to and think with help such as yours they can make it work. I urged them to work with the Nantes people who run the Verne conf every year. Biggest worry is that Nice is jammed in summer, for the beach etc. Maybe another UK con then?

    • Cheryl says:

      Thanks Greg. I know Jeanne Debats who runs Utopiales in Nantes. I would love to see her involved in any French Worldcon bid. Ditto Stephanie Nicot who runs Imaginales in Epinal. That neither of them is involved in this bid worries me.

      We were discussing the date issue at Eurocon last night. Apparently things calm down a lot after August, and Labor Day weekend might be a possibilty for Nice.

  3. Jan says:

    Hi Cheryl,
    I recently noticed your article on Aug 20 about your thoughts on the 2023 WorldCon Race. You make some good points I agree, but there are some points I do not think are quite spot on. I am a Chinese sci-fi fan living in the UK now so maybe my opinion will be interesting to you. I would like to say some things in reply that might help make you less worried about having the WorldCon in Chengdu.

    Visa Application.
    You mentioned Elizabeth Bear to be denied a visa because she is a writer. I do not think this is correct for the following reason.
    Vera Sun from China FAA (Future Affairs Administration, an SF writing development and IP Agency) had actually got involved in the whole invitation and visa issue for western writers to visit China at that time. Ms. Sun said that Ms. Bear was the only person who did not get the visa, while all other writers got their visas, and some even got 7-10 years long visas period for China. Vera and other Chinese Sci-fi friends offered to help her on this case, but she finally did not come because she was meanwhile busy with other things.
    My other British writer friends who have visited China before did not think it was that difficult to get a visa for China too. Besides, when China holds an international event, the government normally give special express to visa application, or a visa-free policy can also apply to a stay of not longer than say 144 hours within China.
    Fast-track visa applications have been permitted for other International conferences in China and Chengdu too.

    Safety.
    You also mentioned personal safety, and lots of American are terrified of going to China. Is this true? Maybe. Interestingly this also once applied to one of my friends who is an American Fortune 500 top-ranking executive. When he visited me before one year’s Christmas, he told me he had tried to give me a call, just in case there was any trouble, when he was passing China Customs and while I was still in Britain. Because we were close friends, I just laughed at him for his ridiculous thoughts that I did not know where he learnt from about China. But he did tell me again that he would love to visit China again next time for tourist.
    One of my Chief-in-Editor friend in a popular American Sci-fi magazine did comment to us on one night during the WorldCon Dublin that some top-level Americans like to defame China as a ‘dangerous’ place to go. It is a very safe country and Western visitors are always made to feel welcome and special by everyone.

    Hospitality.
    I would say China is a country with traditional morals about being generous and hospitable to guests, no matter where they are from. I believe that Chengdu will definitely do much better than other competitors in accommodating friends and guests from all over the world.
    To be honest, I did enjoy the French wine and talks with French team on the Friday night at Worldcon in Dublin, but honestly I did not feel much Sci-fi vibe from them. Regarding visiting Southern France like Nice, I have also another concern that local people seemed to dislike English-speaking foreigners, and they tend to reply you in French although they may know what you are saying in English. Local taxi drivers can rip you off without any hesitation. (It can happen to you too.)

    Distance.
    I do agree you suggest that we should look at ways of making WorldCon accessible over the Internet, considering the burgeoning climate crisis. Chengdu does have very good internal and external transport connections though, and flights there are good value. Anyone visiting Chengdu should also maybe take the opportunity to see more a China such as Shanghai, Beijing and my own beautiful home town when I am in China of Xi’an, which is the ancient capital of China. Please enjoy China. You will learn so many things about the country and Chinese people will learn about you too. You will love it!

    Finally, please support Chengdu for WorldCon 2023, because it won’t let you down, and give yourself a chance look at China from your own experience.
    (By the way, I am not working for any of their team, but I know when China tries to do something, they will do their best).

    • Cheryl says:

      Hi Jan,

      Many thanks for dropping by, and for confirming what I expected would be the case for visa processing. I will leave Elizabeth Bear to respond on her personal situation. I’m just passing on what she told me.

      I suspect you are right that the American media gives a bad impression of China. One person who responded to me on Twitter was convinced that her life would be in danger if she visited China. I have no idea why, but it will be hard for you folks to reassure such people. I have a number of friends who have visited China, and even worked there, and had no trouble.

      Unfortunately the situation for people who have ties to the current political unrest in Hong Kong is rather different, but maybe things will be different in 4 years time. Right now I’m not sure that the UK will be a safe place to visit in 2024, which is worrying for the Glasgow bid.

      As to the French, I have a number of lovely friends in French fandom, though not people involved in the Nice bid. Hopefully you will get to meet them at some point. I was in Paris earlier this year and was plesantly surprised at how much more welcoming people were to English-speakers than they had been last time I visited some decades ago. I think we have the EU to thank for that.

      • Jan says:

        Hi Cheryl.
        Thanks for reading my reply. I had many good experiences in France too, but I did feel that I suffered some prejudice as a foreigner sometimes. Maybe it was just unlucky. I can assure you that China is very safe for foreigners anyway. Chinese people love visitors. You will feel like celebrities!
        For Hong Kong, I know this is a difficult issue. I really hope and believe it can be solved peacefully and satisfactorily for everyone soon, so that by 2023 we can enjoy can all enjoy a great time together in Chengdu.

  4. I think I’m in a similar place as you with this. I have a hard time taking the Memphis bid seriously for a couple of reasons, and people I trust implicitly have told me about the human rights situation in Xinjiang. As much as I’d love to see Chinese fandom blossom, I don’t think I can morally support a bid from China. (And honestly, I’m not positive I could morally support a bid from the USA at this point.)

    So I’m throwing my resources down behind Nice and I know some other, far more experienced people in Europe who want to support Nice as well. I think if we work together on this and harness that expertise, Nice could turn out to be pretty good.

    • I’m not sure why you are so quick to dismiss a Worldcon bid being run by a past Worldcon division manager (a job that I consider as difficult as chairing most sub-Worldcon-complexity conventions).

      • Well if you insist, I’m inclined to agree with Cheryl’s analysis that the bid exists because it’s “essential to prevent yet another non-US Worldcon.” Having a Worldcon in the US three years in a row, in the current situation, is bad for Worldcon. Moreover launching a bid just so the US can have a bid, in the wake of another US bid that fell apart, comes across to me as opportunistic, even a bit entitled, especially as it’s coming late in the game compared to the other two–Nice launched four years ago!

        I mean, the Memphis website isn’t even really a website yet, it’s more a statement of intent.

        Secondly, I’ve been to Memphis and I’m not at all confident in the city’s infrastructure–I’m not confident in any US infrastructure really. The venue isn’t finished yet. I’m not a FedEx package so flights there are going to be expensive as Memphis isn’t a passenger hub.

        Now, I’ll tell you I’m not planning to monitor this thread. I’m happy to be convinced, and if you e-mail me I will listen. If you don’t have my e-mail address, it’s first initial last name at gmail, no special characters.

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