Helping Out Peter Watts

Peter Watts, the Hugo-nominated author of Blindsight, is in an interesting (and by “interesting” I mean “bad”) predicament thanks to an incident at the US/Canada border, and may need some help. Here are the details, from Watts’ friend, writer David Nickle:

Hugo-award-nominated science fiction author Dr. Peter Watts is in serious legal trouble after he was beaten, pepper-sprayed and imprisoned by American border guards at a Canada U.S. border crossing December 8. This is a call to friends, fans and colleagues to help.

Peter, a Canadian citizen, was on his way back to Canada after helping a friend move house to Nebraska over the weekend. He was stopped at the border crossing at Port Huron, Michigan by U.S. border police for a search of his rental vehicle. When Peter got out of the car and questioned the nature of the search, the gang of border guards subjected him to a beating, restrained him and pepper sprayed him. At the end of it, local police laid a felony charge of assault against a federal officer against Peter. On Wednesday, he posted bond and walked across the border to was released into Canada in shirtsleeves (he was released by Port Huron officials with his car and possessions locked in impound, into a winter storm that evening). He’s home safe. For now. But he has to go back to Michigan to face the charge brought against him.

The charge is spurious. But it’s also very serious. It could mean two years in prison in the United States, and a ban on travel in that country for the rest of Peter’s life. Peter is mounting a vigorous defense, but it’s going to be expensive – he’s effectively going up against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and he needs the best legal help that he can get.

He’s got that help, courtesy of one of the top criminal lawyers in the State of Michigan. We, Peter’s friends and colleagues here in Canada, want to make sure he gets the help he needs financially to come out of
this nightmare whole.

The need for that help is real. While Peter is a critically successful science fiction writer, he is by no means a best-selling author. Without help, the weight of his legal fees could literally put him on the street by spring.

We can’t let that happen. So there’s going to be fundraising.

We’re going to think of something suitable in the New Year – but immediately, anyone who wants to help can do so easily. Peter’s website, has a link to a PayPal account, whimsically named the Niblet Memorial Kibble Fund. He set it up years ago for fans of the Hugo-nominated novel Blindsight and his Rifters books, to cover veterinary bills for the cats he habitually rescues from the mean streets of Toronto. Peter has made it clear that he doesn’t want to use the veterinary money to cover his lawsuit. But until we can figure out a more graceful conduit for the legal fund, that’s the best place to send donations for now. Just let Peter know that the donation’s for his legal defense, and that’s where it will go.

Here’s the link to the backlist page on Peter’s website. The link to the Niblet Memorial Kibble Fund is in the middle of the page. The page also links to creative-commons editions of all his published work, which he’s made available free. Peter would approve, we think, if you downloaded one or two or all of them. Whether you make a donation to the legal fund or not.

Speaking personally, I’m a friend of Peter Watts and also a fan of his writing; he and I shared a reading at the last Worldcon and his story was just terrific. I don’t know any more details about his altercation with the US Border Guards than what I’m sharing with you now (update: Peter’s side of the event is now on his site), but I’m certainly willing to believe that he’s innocent of the charge laid on him, and this is a mistake as opposed to a genuine international incident. But mistake or not, it’s still going to be expensive for him to deal with.

So, if you’re a fan of his and want to help him deal with this, you know what what to do. If you’re not a fan yet, go check out the work of his linked to above, and if you find it interesting, send some cash his way. Thanks.

Update, 2pm: Bill Schafer at Subterranean Press says that from now until the end of the day, the first 50 people who purchase the “Judge Sn Goes Golfing”  chapbook from SubPress directly will see all proceeds go to to Peter Watt’s legal fund. So if you’ve been putting off getting “Judge Sn,” now you have a good excuse to get it. Here’s a link to the SubPress order page.

Update, 5:30pm: Sold all 50 and Subterranean Press has sent $1,000 to Peter’s legal fund. Thanks, everyone!

Well, AM I?!?

Someone just opened a profile for me on You can go vote if you want. I did. I voted “yes.” Because, damn. Sometimes, if I didn’t have to live with me every day, I’d just slap the crap out of myself.

The only thing I object to is the person submitting me has me in a category called “weak chins.” Hey, now. My chin isn’t weak. It just doesn’t feel the need to get into everyone’s face, starting with mine.

Fanzines, Semiprozines, Best Related Work, Whatever

Over at File 770 Vincent Docherty, Hugo Award Administrator for AussieCon 4, discusses in some detail as to whether blogs and Website are eligible for consideration in the Best Fanzine and Best Semiprozine categories (if they meet the general criteria of either category). The short answer appears to be yes, although I really do suggest folks interested in the subject head over to File 770 and get Docherty’s detailed response.

This question has some interest to me because a) I’m a Hugo winner for the category of Best Fan Writer, for work I’ve written here, and perhaps because of that b) I’ve been asked by curious folks whether I think Whatever qualifies as a “fanzine.”

My short answer to b) is no, I don’t think it does. I think “fanzine” to a large extent implies a purpose-driven publication, be it online or otherwise; i.e., the point of the thing is to be, as the rules specify, a “generally available non-professional publication devoted to science fiction, fantasy, or related subjects.” Whatever isn’t that; it’s a generally available non-professional publication devoted to whatever the hell John Scalzi feels like writing about.

Now, I think I write enough science fiction-related material here to be eligible for the Fan Writer category, which is a good thing considering the Hugo that now resides in my daughter’s room. But Whatever as a whole isn’t enough about that to suggest to me it qualifies in the fanzine category. So I wouldn’t put it forward for consideration as a fanzine, and if it were nominated in the category — which to be clear I would consider a long shot anyway — I would decline the nomination. I do certainly feel a substantial number of blogs and sites would qualify as fanzines, because they are primarily focused on SF/F-related subjects. This just isn’t one of them. Also, of course, Whatever does not qualify as a semiprozine in any way.

(Update: I am informed by those who know, both privately and in the comments, that my definitions here for fanzine are more conceptually restrictive than how the category works in the real world, and that various fanzines have been nominated and have won without a huge percentage of content related to SF/F directly. In which case I’m happy to backtrack a bit, although I will say as a personal matter I’d still be uncomfortable with a fanzine nomination for Whatever in the category.)

A related question is whether Whatever might qualify as a “Best Related Work,” the new Hugo category that arises from the ashes of the Best Related Book category, which I won this year, for a book featuring essays originally presented here on Whatever. My thought on that: I kind of hope it’s not. It seems to me that this category should be for discrete rather than continual works — i.e., projects of a specific and finite scope, as opposed to ongoing and meandering projects.

As an example of what I mean, if on Whatever I decided to do a series of entries composed of subtantial critical commentary on the Best Novel Nebula winners — one a week for the 45 (or so) weeks it took — when it was done, I would guess that the “Traveling the Nebulas” series might be eligible for a Best Related Work nomination, presuming anyone nominated it: it’s on a specific topic; it has a finite length. So a project on Whatever (or any other online site) could be eligible in the category, while Whatever itself isn’t.

Mind you, this is only my thought on the Best Related Work category; I could be wrong about the details of how it’s supposed to work. That said, to my mind it would be a shame if the Best Related Work category devolved into an ersatz “Best Web Site” category. The Fanzine and Semiprozine categories are ones in which Web sites can find recognition; Fan Writer is a category where the blog writers themselves can get that same recognition. I think Best Related Work should be about specific and limited-scope projects.