|Crossing the Jin River, the Anshun Bridge is an|
iconic sight in downtown Chengdu, China.
(Image via Wikipedia)
Where the World Science Fiction Convention takes place has an impact on accessibility, safety, and consequently participation for most members of the science fiction community. It is therefore incumbent on all of us to seriously consider the ramifications of each of these possible options before casting a ballot.
None of the bids are perfect, and there are human rights concerns with each of the proposed host countries.
A bid to bring Worldcon to China’s fifth-most-populous city has been brewing for most of the past five years. In fact, this bid is so high-profile that much of the discussion seems to have broken down into pro-China and anti-China positions. This is a shame since this sort of discussion misses the complexities of the underlying questions.
Chengdu in 2023 is a well-organized bid whose supporters have done an excellent job of promoting through social media, through attendance at previous conventions, and through outreach to conrunners.
By all accounts, Chengdu is a beautiful city, and the fans working on this bid have been terrific. That being said, they may be fighting an uphill battle.
Despite the fact that Twitter is banned in China, this group’s account has the most followers of all the 2023 bids, with 294 followers as of this writing. While that follower count is dwarfed by the Glasgow 2024 bid, it still indicates that the Chengdu champions have been doing the legwork to promote their organization.
|China is noted for its government's|
deep and abiding respect for privacy.
(Image via HRW.org)
This is the second bid for a Worldcon in China, after Beijing’s failed bid for the 2016 Worldcon. With the country’s vibrant community of science fiction talent, and an engaged and enthusiastic fan base, the prospect of bringing a Worldcon to the country has generated significant excitement.
In recent years, Worldcon has done more to embrace the “world” part of its name, and ensuring equitable access to the convention is something that WSFS members should prioritize. Let’s be honest, if the convention is held in a place that most Americans either can’t or won’t access in 2023, they’ll have had the opportunity to attend one in their home country in 2021 and 2022.
However, China doesn’t fare as well on travel safety indices as the competing bids, and there are significant questions to be raised about the conduct of China’s government in recent years that should trouble site selection voters.
- Global perspective
- Interesting and vibrant city
- High vaccination rate, estimated to be in excess of 80 per cent of the central Sichuan population vaccinated
- Human rights issues in China
- Travel safety questions
- Surveillance state
- Difficulty of getting tourist visa for some fans from the West
- Direct flights from only nine international locations: Almaty, Addis Ababa, Taipei, Cairo, Kinshasa, Phnom Penh, Seoul, Singapore, and Vancouver, Canada. Most North American travellers would have to go through either Beijing, Vancouver, or Guangzhou
has an iconic pyramid. This one's
a bit newer though.
(Image via MemphisTravel.com)
Whether the impetus behind this campaign is just parochial miserliness or is genuine concern about human rights and safety is probably a matter of perspective. That being said, after the collapses of the Spokane 2023 bid and the New Orleans 2023 bid, Memphis has emerged as the US standard bearer for this year’s Worldcon.
The bid documents paint a picture of a fairly standard US Worldcon; solid facilities, well-planned out commitment to diversity and accessibility. Memphis is a storied American city with a significant importance to the history of music. It is also a city that is known for its cultural and ethnic diversity.
That being said, there is only a bare-bones web presence for the bid, and a modest Twitter presence. (Full disclosure, one of this Blog’s contributors has volunteered a small amount with the Memphis bid.) Concerns have been raised about the lack of local Memphis involvement in the bid.
Pros: Convention organizers have expressed commitment to diversity and inclusion Existing US-based fandom community has track record of successful conventions under difficult circumstances City known for a rich musical history Cons: Difficulty of getting tourist visa for many fans from the Global South Declining state of democracy in the USA Rumoured lack of local fandom involvement in bid State government enacted anti-Trans laws in 2021 Tennessee ranked 44th among US states in COVID-19 vaccination rate, with only 45 per cent of the population fully vaccinated as of this writing Airport has direct flights from no international locations other than Cancun, Mexico
Having only announced their intention to host at the end of April, the Winnipeg in 2023 bid is the late entrant into the Worldcon race this year. It’s also the only city currently bidding to have previously hosted a Worldcon, having done so with 1994’s “ConAdian.”
Despite the late entry, Winnipeg’s bid is extremely active and credible. The website has a robust amount of content that is updated regularly, they have been blogging about the strengths of their bid, and have extremely active social media accounts on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Youtube. Since their announcement, they have made promotional appearances at almost every relevant online convention.
|The Canadian Museum of Human Rights is a|
beautiful and interesting museum in Winnipeg,
but unfortunately gives short shrift to labour
organizing as a means to promote workers' rights.
(Image via humanrights.ca)
The bid committee has a solid group of experienced conrunners involved, and there is a lot of reason to believe that if Winnipeg is selected, they will be able to pull together a successful convention despite the shorter-than-usual timelines.
Winnipeg itself is a much more interesting and vibrant city than you might expect, with significant cultural influences from Indigenous, French Canadian, and Anglo-Canadian traditions, as well as many new Canadians. It is the city in Canada with the largest number of Indigenous residents, a fact that can be seen in the city’s art and its cultural centres.
Among the locations that are bidding for the Worldcon in 2023, Manitoba is probably the safest place for LGBTQIA2S+ travelers. It was the first jurisdiction in Canada to ban conversion therapy, and was among the first to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation.
- Well-organized bid committee
- Indigenous culture and art
- Excellent facilities
- Safest for LGBTQIA2S+ community
- Rushed bid process
- Difficulty of getting tourist visa for many fans from the Global South
- Airport has direct flights from few locations overall, and only one international location (Minneapolis)
- Manitoba has the fourth-worst COVID-19 vaccination rate in Canada, with only 68 per cent of the population fully vaccinated as of this writing
- Current government has a problematic attitude towards Indigenous people
|(Image via NewScientist)|
At the time of this writing, Memphis (and much of the American Southeast) has been pummeled by a deadly fourth wave of the pandemic. The province of Manitoba (where Winnipeg is located) repeatedly bungled its pandemic response, though not quite as badly as some other jurisdictions in Canada. Chengdu appears to have the highest vaccination rate among the three potential hosts, but there are reasons to doubt the Government of China’s reporting methods.