Kevin Standlee (kevin_standlee) wrote,
Kevin Standlee

Unintended Consequences

One of the seven* WSFS constitutional amendments ratified at the 2014 Worldcon was called "In the Zone," and it struck out the technical definitions of the three North American Zones that had originally been in place for the purposes of Worldcon Site Selection. (In the past, Worldcons in North America could only be from one of the three zones in any given year; sites outside of North America were always eligible.) The zone definitions were retained when the Site Selection rotation system was scrapped because they also affected the membership of the WSFS Mark Protection Committee.

Until this year, not more than three elected members of the WSFS MPC could reside in the same North American zone. There were no limits on how many non-North Americans could be on the committee. In theory, all nine members could be from outside of North America.

"Residency" was defined by where you lived when you were elected, so if you moved from (say) Kentucky to California during your term, you were still considered a "Central Zone" member until your three-year term ended. This affected Tim Illingworth, who moved from the UK to Kentucky Tennessee. When originally elected, he was from the "Rest of World" zone, but after moving to the USA, the next time he stood for re-election, it was as a Central Zone resident.

I spoke against the ratification of this amendment, on the grounds that in practice the USA still dominates WSFS by sheer population of English-speaking and Worldcon-attending fans. IMO, people who haven't traveled by ground in the USA and Canada have no idea just how freakin' big those two countries are. I still think it worthwhile to keep the MPC's membership from being too concentrated in one area. However, my protests fell on deaf ears and the members voted overwhelmingly to repeal the zone residency requirements and to delete the zone descriptions entirely from the constitution.

The interesting thing, and something I hadn't even considered at the time of the ratification debate, is that repealing the zone definitions means that WSFS no longer has a technical definition of "North America." The zone definitions implicitly defined what WSFS considered North America to be, inasmuch as it was the union of the three zones. Therefore, places like Hawaii, which is manifestly not part of the continent of North America, were included because they were part of the Western Zone. Oddball edge cases like Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon, a piece of France just off the coast of Newfoundland that is is much a part of France as Hawaii is part of the USA, were explicitly written into the definitions. That's all gone now.

Why does this matter? Well, Section 4.8 of the WSFS Constitution starts thusly:

If the selected Worldcon site is not in North America, there shall be a NASFiC in North America that year.
But what is "North America?" It's not defined anymore, not by WSFS. There are lots of ways of defining it, and one of them would be to include everything on the North American tectonic plate, including the places commonly recognized as "North America," but also, curiously, parts of eastern Russia, and also, importantly, the western half of Iceland.

Even leaving aside that there are parts of the main "North American" landmass that are west of the San Andreas fault and therefore not on the North American plate (notably Los Angeles - Anaheim - San Diego), Hawaii is obviously not part of North America. (It is in fact the only US state with no land at all on the NA plate; all of the other edge cases have most of their land area on the NA plate — even California.) There was a credible bid for a Honolulu Worldcon in 1990 (the 1993 write-in bid finished second to San Francisco, defeating Zagreb and Phoenix, both of whom were on the ballot). It's not beyond the realm of possibility that we might hold a Worldcon in Hawaii someday. Under the rules as they now stand, I would say that if Hawaii wins a Worldcon, the constitutional need for a NASFIC would open up, and if it were within my jurisdiction, I'd start accepting bids for a NASFIC.

So where could that NASFIC be? Conceivably, Rekyavik could host a NASFIC. I'd have difficulty disqualifying a bid from there. So we could be faced with the potential for Worldcon being in a US state and the NASFIC being held in neither the USA or Canada, the two countries that have hosted (the latter unofficially, as the "zeroth" convention of the series) NASFIC historically

I rather expect that most of the people who backed the deletion of the zone definitions from the WSFS Constitution didn't actually intend to trigger a NASFIC if Hawaii ever wins a Worldcon or to open the door for Iceland to host a NASFiC, but that's the sort of parliamentary unraveling you can get when you pull on a constitutional loose thread like that.

*Item 2 on the list turned out to be moot because Item 7 struck out the sentence the former amended.
Tags: business meeting, nasfic, worldcon, wsfs

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