Sci-Fi’s Biggest Awards Mired In Controversy Because Of China?

By April Ryder | Published


The Hugo Awards (prestigious sci-fi literary awards) were hosted in China for the first time in 2023, and recent scrutiny regarding the exclusion of several authors from the awards process has stirred an uproar. 

Authors Excluded To Appease China?

the sandman

Major concerns are being voiced, suggesting interference or censorship of the awards process on the part of the communist country. The concerns come after the release of documents that plainly show that some works and authors were excluded from the Hugo Awards ballot, even though they had plenty of nominations to earn their inclusion. 

Among the exclusion list were RF Kuang (New York Times bestselling author of Babel), Xiran Jay Zhao (another notable Chinese author), and episode 6 of the Netflix show The Sandman. Both Xiran and Kuang were born in China and now operate in Western society. 

The Hugo Awards Gave No Reason For The Exclusions

However, no reason was specifically given regarding the exclusion of the authors from the Hugo Awards. When the full nomination stats were published on January 20th, the full extent of alleged censorship of the awards process was revealed. 

In the papers, some titles were clearly marked as “not eligible”, even though they were listed as having been given votes, but there was no reason listed as to why the titles were ineligible for the Hugo Awards. 

Hugo Awards Claim No Interference

Netflix china

One concerning suggestion is that the Chinese government targeted these specific authors. China maintains extensive control over any cultural events that take place in the country, along with any media and many other things, presenting a pretty solid basis for assumption. 

Dave McCarty, who headed the Hugo Awards jury for 2023, posted on social media that “Nobody has ordered (him) to do anything” and that “there was no communication between the Hugo administration team and the Chinese government in any official manner”.

However, he has not made himself available for comment. He has kept his communications regarding the manner quite public, posting various statements on his Facebook account. 

An Outspoken Author Blames Censorship

One response was labeled as the official response of the Hugo Awards administration team. “After reviewing the constitution and the rules we must follow, the administration team determined those works/persons were not eligible,” but again, no further reasoning was given for the determination. 

Author Xiran Jay Zhao speculates that her work (Iron Widow and Iron Widow 2) was likely excluded from the Hugo Awards due to her openly critical comments about various aspects of the Chinese government. 

Xiran was quoted sharing her feelings on the matter, saying, “You would think that as a big, powerful country, China would be graceful about criticisms, but they, in fact, take it very personally.” 

Neil Gaiman Was Excluded

neil gaiman

In addition, the episode of The Sandman that was labeled “not eligible” was based on a comic written by Neil Gaiman. Neil Gaiman has also been publicly critical of Chinese authorities over imprisoning writers. Gaiman was excluded from the Hugo Awards ballot, even though he did receive enough nominations to be included. 

Hugo Awards Were Warned

china censorship

Xiran and other Chinese writers apparently raised their concerns about the Hugo Awards being held in China long before the ceremony commenced. Until now, the Hugo Awards have always been well-trusted due to their transparent processes. This situation places a stain on their record, but not an insurmountable one. This situation presents a solid opportunity to learn. 

Source: The Guardian