More than 80 science fiction and fantasy authors are protesting at the possibility of one of the genres’ biggest conventions being held in Saudi Arabia in 2022, saying that “the Saudi regime is antithetical to everything SFF stands for”.
Led by fantasy author Anna Smith Spark, writers including Charles Stross, Juliet McKenna, Stan Nicholls, and Catriona Ward have signed an open letter objecting to Jeddah’s bid to host the World Science Fiction Convention in two years’ time. Pointing to the fact that homosexuality is illegal and punishable by death in Saudi Arabia, its escalating restrictions on freedom of speech, and the 2018 murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the writers argue that it is unacceptable to stage an international event against this backdrop.
In the letter addressed to the board of the World Science Fiction Society (WSFS) and the 2020 Worldcon chair, Norman Cates, the authors stated that “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.”
While the writers acknowledge that holding the convention in Jeddah would “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”, hey state that “the Saudi regime is antithetical to everything SFF stands for. 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,” say the writers.