Resignations, Censures Follow in Wake of Hugo Awards Controversy

From Publishers Weekly:

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.

In a January 30 statement, WIP officials announced that director Dave McCarty and board chair Kevin Standlee have both resigned from their positions. McCarty was also censured for “public comments that have led to harm of the goodwill and value of our marks and for actions of the Hugo Administration Committee of the Chengdu Worldcon that he presided over.” Standlee was “reprimanded” for “public comments that mistakenly led people to believe that we are not servicing our marks.”

In addition, WIP announced that two others, Chen Shi and Ben Yalow, were also censured for “actions of the Hugo Administration Committee of the Chengdu Worldcon [they] presided over.” The statement adds that there “may be other actions taken or to be taken that are not in this announcement.” Yalow, who co-chaired the Chengdu Worldcon with Shi, is no longer listed on the 2024 Glasgow Worldcon committee and staff page.

“WIP takes very seriously the recent complaints about the 2023 Hugo Award process,” the statement reads, “and complaints about comments made by persons holding official positions in WIP.”

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.

Also deemed ineligible were Chinese Canadian author Xiran Jay Zhao, whose book Iron Widow is about China’s only female emperor, and writer Paul Weimer, who expressed concerns in 2021 over holding Worldcon 2023 in Chengdu.

In response to the outcry, McCarty took to Facebook on January 20 and attempted (sometimes curtly) to address hundreds of comments from angered authors, including Neil Gaiman and Silvia Moreno-Garcia. An episode of Netflix’s TV series The Sandman, based on Gaiman’s comic series, was also declared ineligible.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

28 thoughts on “Resignations, Censures Follow in Wake of Hugo Awards Controversy”

  1. The pattern has been set. You might argue that it was set long ago.
    Step One: Notice that you will not win a competition.
    Step Two: Come up with a way to disqualify your nearest competitors.
    Step Three: Hold the event, hand out the prizes, and if someone objects, slander them as a sore sport, cut their microphone, and drag them out. Make sure any “reporters” tell YOUR side of the story. Use pressure to keep them from also including the OTHER side of the story.
    Step Four: When the ‘loser’ complains, or tries to go to court, point out that the event is over, the prizes have been awarded, and the judgement of the organization is final. Refuse to even consider looking at the facts of the event. Destroy the evidence, and state (with a straight face, if possible) that the destruction was normal procedure.
    Step Five: If subpoenaed, stall, produce only a trickle of evidence, as slowly as possible, and keep the brakes on. Hopefully, they will run out of money, tire of the endless fight, or – best case scenario – die.

    • Not sure where it goes, and it varies from contest to contest – but an essential step is “Change the rules so that the competition cannot possibly win.”

  2. PG has not kept accurate records, but this is likely the largest number of comments any post on TPV has ever generated.

    He may get around to designing a digital award seal for each participant some time.

    • Good one.
      This one stood out right away:

      “In Hollywood, a Hugo Award for best film or TV series may not carry the same cachet as an Oscar or an Emmy, but in bookstores from New York to Moscow, a bright Hugo Award badge on the cover of a novel can help it stand out. “We usually make a display in the store for the nominees and winners,” says Matthew Berger, co-owner of the Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore in San Diego.”

      Does this matter at Amazon? On other online/ebook retailers?

      Also, given how deep backlist heavy SF&F are, the hugo winner badge is hardly much of a recommendation in the wake of the puppy wars and now this teapot tempest, even in B&M. Either folks have never heard of the hugos or, worse, they have. 😉

      • Unless we’re talking 20th century books, I consider the Hugo award to be a warning label: don’t buy.

        As for this tempest: was there supposed to be a different result when you let a country with active-duty concentration camps be in charge of judging your books?

        • The concentration camps are the least of the crimes of the CCP; I’ll see your forced labor camps and raise you the organ harvesting. And that’s still not the worst.
          History will rank them soon enough.

        • 2001: J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
          2002: Neil Gaiman, American Gods
          2003: Robert J. Sawyer, Hominids
          2004: Lois McMaster Bujold, Paladin of Souls
          2005: Susanna Clarke, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell
          2006: Robert Charles Wilson, Spin
          2007: Vernor Vinge, Rainbow’s Edge
          2008: Michael Chabon, The Yiddish Policemen’s Union
          2009: Neil Gaiman, The Graveyard Book
          2010: China Mieville, The City & The City
          2011: Connie Willis, Blackout/All Clear
          2012: Jo Walton, Among Others
          2013: John Scalzi, Redshirts
          2014: Cixin Liu, The Three Body Problem
          2015: no award
          2016: N. K. Jemisin, The Fifth Season
          2017: N. K. Jemisin, The Obelisk Gate
          2018: N. K. Jemisin, The Stone Sky
          2019: Mary Robinette Kowal, The Calculating Stars
          2020: Arkady Martine, A Memory Called Empire
          2021: Martha Wells, Network Effect
          2022: Arkady Martine, A Desolation Called Peace
          2023: T. Kingfisher, Nettle & Bone

          I have not read all of these. Of those I have read, I think some are very generous. I love Bujold, but Paladin of Souls is not one of her stronger books. And Redshirts is a mildly amusing one-note extended joke. But Jemisin, for example, is brilliant, Gaiman an international treasure, and Willis a perpetual delight. This list is far, far from a “do not buy” warning.

          • Jemisin is brilliant? I find those unreadable. And I’ve had 50 years of practice choking down SFF. 3 years in a row? Who merits 3 years in a row?

            Tastes do vary.

            • Publicity Budgets, too. 😉

              By my reckoning, 2010 is a clear divider, although a couple after that are…okay…and in the last decade meaningless.

              That said: those are just the novels.
              The most eggregious crimes have been in what used to be the SF calling card: short fiction.

              I know magazine circulation is but a fraction of last century but some of the awards suggest the voters never read classic SF short fiction or, worse, don’t understand the field. None stand up to Bradbury, Ellison, Merrill, Sturgeon, and on and on.

              • Oh, yes. In The Year of the Puppies (2015) the novelette “winner” should have been rejected about 30 seconds after being picked up from the slush pile. Neither science fiction OR fantasy. (The most speculative of physics says that gravity can be reversed – under extremely unlikely circumstances. The rules of fantasy say that your world at least has to be consistent.)

                If I were foolish enough to send them money again for a membership, I would be tempted to nominate the latest in a series of novels that I mistakenly wandered into – where a main premise is that a diet of pure sugar will make you immortal.

                • Narratives and Awards are supposed to be reflective of their times. Those awards do not speak well of the current times.

                  Some of those winners will not age well; if the cultures they aspire to promote endure, they will be seen as trite, at best. If they do not endure, they will be seen as anachronisms from a time best forgotten.

                  (SONG OF THE SOUTH, anybody?)
                  Great songs, great animated episodes. The framing sequence? Disowned.

                  Some places it is best not to go, in the real world and the fictional ones.

            • Who merits three years in a row?

              Someone who ticks off the proper ideological checkboxes and whose victories would be perceived as “owning the Puppies.” The Worldcon crowd is incredibly petty and extremely susceptible to saying they like things because they think they’re supposed to like them.

  3. It was extremely disingenuous in the first place to hold a con that depends on FREEDOM to think, experiment, create – in a dystopia making the best use of its modern mind-control methods.

    What exactly did the organizers think would happen?

    They accepted hospitality and funding – and sold whatever souls they have left. Faustian bargain.

    That was my first thought when it was announced, and nothing has changed to make it anything but worse.

    China wants the money and the prestige of hosting international events – but not the bother of maintaining a climate which encourages them legitimately, so they cheat (and think nobody notices!).

    So glad I haven’t had to live in a Communist country.

    • These things have historically ended poorly.
      Worldcon is just starting to learn how poorly.
      Ditto for the uncrowned emperor.
      The problem isn’t just their regimes, though, but the rest of the world that thought they could deal with the likes of them.

        • Not lately.
          Not many Lakes, Huffs, Webbers, or Noviks among the current wave of tradpub SF, judging by the output.

          • No more late night posting.
            (sigh) Obviously I meant Weber and David *Drake*.
            Drake’s works in particular draw on deep history:

            “His best-known solo work is the Hammer’s Slammers series of military science fiction. His newer Republic of Cinnabar Navy series are space operas inspired by the Aubrey–Maturin novels. In 1997, Drake began his largest fantasy series, Lord of the Isles, using elements of Sumerian religion and medieval technology. In 2007, Drake finished the series with its ninth volume.

            Drake co-authored novels with authors such as Karl Edward Wagner, S.M. Stirling, and Eric Flint. Typically Drake provided plot outlines (5,000–15,000 words) and the co-author did “the real work of developing the outline into a novel”.[6] He did not “consider [his] involvement to be that of a real co-author.”[6] Drake also contributed to the Heroes in Hell series.

            Drake’s plots often use history, literature, and mythology; in his foreword to The Lord of the Isles, Drake explained that while he had an academic background in history, he regarded himself as an antiquarian rather than a historian and that this perspective informed his approach to writing. Starting with Northworld in 1990, he generally explained the background of each book in an afterword or preface. Additionally, Drake’s plots frequently involve a contest of political systems.

            John Clute stated in the entry on Drake in the 1993 edition of The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, “Today there seems very little to stop [Drake] from writing exactly what he wishes to write.”

            Some of Drake’s works are available for free download in the Baen Free Library.”

            His REPUBLIC OF CINNABAR stories draw from incidents of the Roman Republic. Drake will be missed. Flint, too. Yet another way 2023 was awful.

            Weber and Novik from the Napoleonic Wars, and Huff from various eras including her experiences in the Vietnam War.

            • You forgot the Belisarius and Raj Whitehall series. Both based off of the premise “What if Justinian hadn’t been allowed to make his horrible decisions?” Both still quite enjoyable and stand on their own merits.

              Agreed that both Drake and Flint are sorely missed.

  4. Imagine my surprise at hearing that a Communist country led by Xi Peng and the Chinese Communist Party would allow or not censor American Chinese or other nationals who hold the opinions contrary to the party line.

    It would seem appropriate to add asterisks to all the Hugos won at the Chinese Worldcon, as it’s only fair to mark them as tainted by association.

    The only good that has come out of this is that it makes the whole furore over the Sad Puppies look like a mere bagatelle by comparison.

    • Well, now…
      The actual revelations from the Puppy Wars weren’t just about bias but, more importantly, how *cheap* gaming the system was. (Is?)

      It brought into question how a certain tradpub managed to win so consistently with titles that weren’t head and shoulders above titles that couldn’t even get nominated. It put their award in the same category of marketing tool as “NYT Bestseller”.

      And the fallout made all awards suspect since the reality is most fields are too big and too broad to annoint *any* book the “best” in the field. Add it all up and there no longer is anything of value other than tradpub marketing left in most awards. And, maybe, a bit of chest thumping.

      • It brought into question how a certain tradpub managed to win so consistently with titles that weren’t head and shoulders above titles that couldn’t even get nominated

        And let’s be real here–that was the real reason it was so controversial. Certain people believed the award belonged to them and their circles, and anything that threatened that stranglehold had to be destroyed with extreme prejudice.

          • It should mean that, but the fact is that “award-winning” still holds some cachet among certain portions of the reading public, mostly those unaware of the shenanigans that go on behind the scenes.

  5. Controversy over the Hugos is supposed to be news? Really?

    “The Hugo Awards are the most prestigious honors in the sci-fi/fantasy community.”

    No, they’re not. That would be THE NEBULAS.

    But realistically, the mass of readers doesn’t care about any award; the field has grown too big for anybody to declare anything in it “the year’s best ” anything, much less an phallic shaped award named after a scammer. A remnant two generations past its time.

    • Two different things, Felix. The Nebulas were the “writers” (or “literary merit”) award, the Hugos were the “readers” (or “popular merit”) award. Of course, neither is true, or has been for a long time (if ever), thanks to publisher influence through lobbying or outright bribery (only partially driven by “wokeness,” although that is a factor). The Dragon is now considered by many to be the prestigious “readers” award; no equivalent “writers” award has surfaced to date.

      In any case, no award can completely capture the undefinable measure of “quality.” Even (to paraphrase The Lieutenant) how much beer money is sacrificed to the writer – that measure is corrupted by the amount of marketing resources dedicated to a particular piece. At least in the short term – which is the basis for all official awards. (Note that more than sixty years later, the 1960 Hugo winner “Starship Troopers” has a respectable sales ranking in the Kindle Store in the 17-18 thousand range. Whereas “Redshirts” from just ten years ago is well behind at a ranking of 23 thousand.)

      • I wasn’t aware the Nebulas had their own puppy moment. They either kept it quiet or I missed it. Neither is terribly relevant these days, though. Nor am I sure the Dragon is either. Just cliques promoting their own.

        As to STARSHIP TROOPERS, well movies aside, quality will out.
        And like most great SF remains current generation after generation. ST in particular is looming even more relevant in these days of post-civism society and declining military enrollment. It seem decreasing numbers of people find US (or UK) society worth risking their life to defend.

        I suspect THE MOON IS A HARSH mistress will become even more relevant in coming decades. If lunar habitats and transportation becomes cheap enough, how soon before some “wise” folks think of shipping uninvited migrants there? Or, more likely, Greenland. Simiar outcome, though.

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