Science fiction authors were excluded from the awards for fear of offending China

HONG KONG – Organizers of the Hugo Awards, one of science fiction's most prominent literary awards, excluded several authors from last year's shortlists over concerns that their works or public comments might be offensive to China, leaked emails show.

Questions have been raised about why writers, including Neil Gaiman, RF Kuang, Shiran J. Chow and Paul Weimer, were deemed ineligible as finalists despite receiving enough votes according to information released by awards organizers last month. Emails released this week revealed their concern about how some authors might be viewed in China, where the Hugo Awards were held last year for the first time.

“Since we are taking place in China and the laws we operate under are different…we need to highlight anything of a politically sensitive nature at work,” Dave McCarty, chair of the 2023 awards jury, wrote in a June 5 email. .

He added that any work focused on China, Taiwan, Tibet or other sensitive issues “needs to be highlighted so we can determine if it is safe to put on the ballot.”

McCarty, who resigned from his awards role last month, did not respond to a request for comment. Organizers of the 2024 Hugo Awards, which are being held in Glasgow, said in a statement on Thursday that they were taking steps “to ensure transparency and attempt to correct the gross loss of confidence in the management of the awards.”

Last year's Hugo Awards, which unlike most literary awards are run by fans, were held in October during the 81st World Science Fiction Convention, known as Worldcon, in the southwestern Chinese city of Chengdu. Dozens of science fiction and fantasy writers have signed an agreement Open letter The site was chosen by voting members of the conference in protest, citing in an open letter allegations of abuses against Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in China, which Beijing denies.

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Email messageswhich was first reported by science fiction writers and journalists Chris M. Barclay and Jason Sanford on Science Fiction News Site File 770 And Sanford's Patreon accountAwards organizers detail “China's potential downsides” in authors' published works, book reviews and social media histories.

Some books, such as Quang's Babylon – which won the 2023 British Book Award for Fiction – appear to have been excluded simply because they are set in China. Zhao's novel The Iron Widow has been described as “a reimagining of the rise of the Chinese Empress Wu Zetian.”

The organizers also noted comments made by authors, including Barclay and Sanford, about the merits of holding the awards in Chengdu and whether they had signed or shared the open letter.

“They went through all my blog posts and all my reviews like a fine-tooth comb,” Paul Weimer, the American author and three-time Hugo Award nominee who was disqualified, told NBC News in a phone interview on Friday.

Among the reasons cited for Weimer's exclusion was his supposed previous travel to Tibet, a Chinese region where Beijing is also accused of abuses.

“The funny thing is I didn’t even go to Tibet. I was in Nepal. They didn’t get the basic facts right about me,” he said.

Weimar, who Display name on X As of Friday, it was changed to “Paul 'Nepal is not Tibet' Weimer,” he said, and said the scrutiny went against not only the spirit of the Hugo Awards, but the spirit of science fiction itself.

“Censoring people based on what you think the government might not like is completely antithetical to the whole science fiction enterprise,” he said.

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The emails were posted by awards organizer Diane Lacey, who wrote some of the emails and said in A letter of apology is attached That in hindsight maybe she should have quit.

“We have been asked to screen candidates for work that focuses on China, Taiwan, Tibet or other topics that might be an issue in China, and it is a shame that I did that,” said Lacey, who did not respond to a request for comment. .

“I'm not naive about the Chinese political system, but I wanted Hugo to happen, and for them not to completely crash and burn.”

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