Peter Watts

December 11, 2009 by  

Peter Watts,the critically-acclaimed Canadian author of Blindsight and other dystopian novels, entered a dystopia of his own on Tuesday after border guards beat and pepper sprayed him at the US-Canadian border. Now you can help with his legal defense.

Over at BoingBoing, Cory Doctorow has a full account of what happened. Watts was returning to Canada via the Michigan border after helping a friend move house in Nebraska. After border guards asked to search his car, Watts got out of the vehicle and questioned what they were doing – and immediately was pepper sprayed, handcuffed, and placed under arrest. Witnesses in the car with him said he did nothing more than question the guards; he did not attempt to attack them. Nevertheless, he has been charged with felony assault against a federal officer.

While Watts was being detained, Doctorow called Cindy Cohn, legal director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. She called her contacts in Michigan, and luckily got help from a civil rights lawyer there who got Watts released the next day. He is safe at home now, but still faces felony charges that could land him in jail for two years, and prevent his ever crossing back into the United States again.

Doctorow explains:

Defending this charge will cost a fortune, and an inadequate defense could cost Peter his home, his livelihood and his liberty. Peter’s friends are raising money for his legal defense. I just sent him CAD$1,000, because this is absolutely my biggest nightmare: imprisoned in a foreign country for a trumped-up offense against untouchable border cops. I would want my friends to help me out if it ever happened to me.

If you want to help, here’s how. Watts’ friend David Nickle writes:

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,, or you can just send a PayPal donation to

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.

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