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Author Exclusions Cast Shadow on Hugo Awards in China

Last Updated on 2024/01/26

2023 Hugo Awards Under Scrutiny: Author Exclusions Raise Censorship Concerns.

Controversy shrouds the 2023 Hugo Awards, a globally renowned celebration of science fiction and fantasy literature, following its inaugural hosting in Chengdu, China. The event has attracted criticism due to the absence of several notable authors and works from the award nominations, leading to suspicions of potential meddling or censorship.

Related article: Interview with Rebecca F. Kuang

RF Kuang’s novel Babel, recognized as the Fiction Book of the Year at the 2023 British Book Awards, along with an episode from Netflix’s series The Sandman and works by author Xiran Jay Zhao, were conspicuously absent from the Hugo Awards’ nomination list. The awards, overseen by the World Science Fiction Society, traditionally involve a participative voting process culminating in the World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon). However, the transparency of this process has been called into question in the 2023 awards.

Newly disclosed documents indicate that several authors and works, some of which have ties to China, were not included in the final ballot despite garnering adequate nominations for shortlisting. Notably, this exclusion applied to authors such as Kuang and Zhao, who, though of Chinese origin, are currently based in Western countries. The lack of detailed explanations for these omissions, merely marked as “not eligible,” has fueled speculation about the potential influence of political factors, given the stringent oversight of the Chinese Communist Party over domestic cultural events.

Dave McCarty, the 2023 Hugo Awards jury chair, denied any direct intervention from the government. In a statement on Facebook, he emphasized, “Nobody has ordered me to do anything…There was no communication between the Hugo administration team and the Chinese government in any official manner.” Nonetheless, the specific rules or criteria used by the award administration team to determine the ineligibility of certain works or authors remain undisclosed.

Impacted authors have voiced their concerns and hypotheses regarding their non-inclusion. Zhao suggested that the exclusion might be linked to prior critical remarks about the Chinese government, highlighting the government’s noted sensitivity to criticism, particularly from individuals of Chinese descent. Similarly, Kuang, whose first literary work was the widely acclaimed Poppy War trilogy, inspired by Chinese historical events, expressed confusion and disappointment. She clarified that no explicit rationale for the disqualification of Babel was provided, leading her to suspect motives related to undesirability rather than ineligibility.

The situation was further compounded by the exclusion of an episode of The Sandman, based on Neil Gaiman’s comic book series, from the ‘best dramatic presentation’ category, even though it had received sufficient nominations. Gaiman’s history of critiquing the treatment of writers by Chinese authorities added another layer of complexity to the unfolding controversy.

The events surrounding the 2023 Hugo Awards in China have ignited a broad dialogue on the impact of political considerations on the global recognition and celebration of literary and artistic achievements, underscoring the intricate relationship between cultural expression and geopolitical factors.

Source: The Guardian

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