Leaked emails show works were excluded from Hugo Awards over China concerns

When the administrators of the 2023 Science Fiction and Fantasy's Hugo Awards were counting the votes for works to be nominated for the awards ceremony held in the Chinese City of Chengdu in October, they were told to disqualify any works that could be sensitive to the Chinese government. A link to the February 14 investigative report by Chris M. Barkley and Jason Sanford is here.

A member of the administration team, Diane Lacey, sent confidential internal emails to Barkley and Sanford, and said, "We were told to vet nominees for work focusing on China, Taiwan, Tibet, or other topics that may be an issue in China and, to my shame, I did so."

In one of the leaked emails, the head of the 2023 Hugo awards jury, Dave McCarty, wrote to the other administrators on June 5:

"We need to highlight anything of a sensitive political nature in the work. It's not necessary to read everything, but if the work focuses on China, Taiwan, Tibet, or other topics that may be an issue *in* China … that needs to be highlighted so that we can determine if it is safe to put it on the ballot or if the law will require us to make an administrative decision about it."

Months after the 2023 awards were given, the Hugo Award voting and nomination statistics were finally released, and many observers were puzzled that multiple authors and works that had enough votes to be shortlisted were deemed "not eligible" and removed from the process, with no explanation. McCarty said only, "After reviewing the Constitution and the rules we must follow, the administration team determined those works/persons were not eligible."

When fans and authors questioned McCarty online, he responded angrily and condescendingly, but not substantively. From a February 2 Esquire article by Adam Morgan:

[H]undreds of people have asked McCarty to explain what exactly in the World Science Fiction Society (WSFS) constitution or rules made these works ineligible, but his responses quickly deteriorated into insults, such as "Are you slow?" and, "Clearly you can't understand plain English in our constitution." However, there isn't a single rule in the WSFS constitution that could possibly explain why any of these writers were deemed ineligible.

McCarty later apologized in January for his tone, although not for failing to explain what the standards for ineligibility were.

Among the works that had enough votes to be eligible for the Hugo Award, but were deemed "not eligible" for, it turns out, political reasons were RF Kuang, Xiran Jay Zhao, Paul Weimer, and Neil Gaiman.

In a letter to Barkley and Sanford, Lacey said:

I am NOT making excuses, there are no adequate excuses. I am thoroughly ashamed of my part in this debacle, and I will likely never forgive myself. But the fans that have supported the Hugos, the nominees, and those that were unfairly and erroneously deemed ineligible in particular, deserve an explanation. Perhaps the only way I can even begin to ease my conscience is to provide one.

Science Fiction author and former president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America John Scalzi said on BlueSky:

If accurate, everyone involved should be deeply ashamed and never allowed anywhere near a Hugo ceremony ever again. This is appalling, embarrassing and an absolute abdication of duty. They should have all resigned instead of becoming willing censors. Apologies are owed those removed from the ballot.

Previously: NK Jemisin wins a third, record-breaking best-novel Hugo Award