Helping Out Peter Watts
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, rifters.com 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!