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Writers and Editors (RSS feed)

Big hubbub about science fiction's Hugo Awards

Expect to hear continuing controversy about the 2023 Hugo Awards, awarded at the Worldcon convention held in Chengdu, China. Several authors who should have qualified for the science fiction awards were disqualified without any explanation, including R.F. Kuang, author of Babel: Or the Necessity of Violence, Xiran Jay Zhao, author of Iron Widow, and Paul Weimer, who would have been eligible for Best Fan Writer as well as an episode of Netflix's The Sandman series.


Worldcon in the news Charlie Stross, Charlie's Diary, 1-26-24) "The important thing to note is that the 'worldcon' is *not a permanent organization. It's more like a virus that latches onto an SF convention, infects it with worldcon-itis, runs the Hugo awards and the WSFS business meeting, then selects a new convention to parasitize the year after next.
     Charlie's takeaway: "The world science fiction convention coevolved with fan-run volunteer conventions in societies where there's a general expectation of the rule of law and most people abide by social norms irrespective of enforcement. The WSFS constitution isn't enforceable except insofar as normally fans see no reason not to abide by the rules. So it works okay in the USA, the UK, Canada, the Netherlands, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and all the other western-style democracies it's been held in ... but broke badly when a group of enthusiasts living in an authoritarian state won the bid then realized too late that by doing so they'd come to the attention of Very Important People who didn't care about their society's rulebook.
      Immediate consequences:
    "For the first fifty or so worldcons, worldcon was exclusively a North American phenomenon except for occasional sorties to the UK. Then it began to open up as cheap air travel became a thing. In the 21st century about 50% of worldcons are held outside North America, and until 2016 there was an expectation that it would become truly international. But the Chengdu fubar has created shockwaves. There's no immediate way to fix this..."
    Check out the 200+ comments.

Resignations, Censures Follow in Wake of Hugo Awards Controversy (Sophia Stewart, Publishers Weekly, 2-1-24) "Two leaders of Worldcon Intellectual Property (WIP), the nonprofit that holds the service marks of the World Science Fiction Society, have reportedly stepped down from their posts following accusations of censorship in the voting process for the 2023 Hugo Awards.

     "The Hugo Awards are the most prestigious honors in the sci-fi/fantasy community. The awards, administered by the World Science Fiction Society, are awarded annually at the group's global convention, Worldcon. Last year's Worldcon was held for the first time in China, in Chengdu. "The resignations and disciplinary actions come after the nomination data for the 2023 awards was made public on January 20 and it was revealed that certain authors and books—including R.F. Kuang's hit novel Babel—had been inexplicably deemed "not eligible" for the Hugo. Kuang is Chinese American, and her work draws heavily from Chinese culture and history. Many fans and authors have speculated that state censorship—or self-censorship under the state's watch—was the reason for the opaque ineligibility rulings by the Chengdu–based committee."


Inside the Censorship Scandal That Rocked Sci-Fi and Fantasy's Biggest Awards (Adam Morgan, Esquire Magazine, 2-2-24) Insiders tell Esquire what really happened when the Hugo Awards melted down over unexplained disqualifications—and what it could mean for the future of literary awards.

Genre Grapevine on the Hugo Awards’ “not eligible” problem (Jason Sanford, Genre Grapevine, January 2024) Once again, the Hugo Awards are making international news. And once again, not in a good way. The "Hugo Award stats revealed that a number of writers and works were kept off the award’s final ballot for no valid reason. One of the biggest shockers was that Rebecca F. Kuang’s acclaimed fantasy novel Babel, which won the Nebula Award for Best Novel, was left off the final ballot despite earning 810 nomination votes, enough to place it third on the list of nominated novels."

     See also Worldcon Intellectual Property Announces Censure of McCarty, Chen Shi and Yalow; McCarty Resigns (Mike Glyer's News of SF Fandom, 1-30-24) and Hugo Award nominations raise questions Jane Friedman on The Hot Sheet, 1-31-24) Others also listed as ineligible for Hugo Awards: Xiran Jay Zhao, Neil Gaiman, and Paul Weimer.

The Hugo Awards controversy goes back a few years:


Attack the Bloc: The Hugo Awards Controversy (Emmaline Soken-Huberty, Gildshire, 8-28-19)


Sci-fi’s right-wing backlash: Never doubt that a small group of deranged trolls can ruin anything (even the Hugo Awards) (Arthur Chu, Salon, 4-6-15) Lazy democracy is like an open comments section -- left unmoderated and unguided, the worst people take over.


The Sad Puppy Takeover (Brooke Gladstone interviews Arthur Chu, On the Media radio, 4-17-15) The Hugo Awards are science fiction writing's highest honor, and this year conservative fans, concerned with the liberal leanings of recent awards, banded together to nominate their sci-fi ideals. Brooke speaks with actor and writer Arthur Chu about how the awards controversy reflects a larger history of cultural backlash.

The Hugo Awards Were Always Political. But Now They're Only Political. (Charlie Jane Anders, Gizmodo, 4-4-15) Last August, the Hugo Awards for science fiction and fantasy were swept by a younger group of women and people of color. At the time, we said "This was really a year that underscored that a younger generation of diverse writers are becoming central to the genre." So maybe it's not surprising that there was an organized backlash....When the nominees are mostly white men, as they have been during most eras except for the mid-1990s and the past five years, it does send a message about whose work is going to be considered valuable.


Freeping the Hugo Awards (Susan Grigsby, Daily Kos, 4-12-15) "The Nebulas are awarded by the members of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). The Hugos are nominated and awarded by fans of the genre who are members of Worldcon, making them basically a popularity contest." This piece is about how a group of conservative people ("Sad Puppies"--and not necessarily sci fi readers) gamed the system, stacking the ballot for Hugos with some unlikely candidates with acceptable attitudes toward white males (and fewer heroes who are woman or people of color).

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