Hugo Awards: Authors Exclusion Raise Eyebrows Amidst Censorship Worries

A photo of a stack of books with the spines and covers out of sight.

The Sci-fi literary world is in uproar over the Hugo Awards selections of the previous year

The 2023 Hugo Awards, a renowned sci-fi literary recognition, sparked controversy over the exclusion of several authors, prompting censorship concerns.

The World Science Fiction Society, a community of sci-fi enthusiasts, is responsible for the Hugo Awards administration. The process involves group members nominating their preferred works or authors across diverse categories. This selection precedes the annual conference, the Worldcon, that took place in Chengdu last year. This is the first time they have hosted the event in China.

On January 20, the Hugo Awards revealed the complete nomination statistics for 2023, causing an uproar in the literary world. Despite receiving sufficient nominations to be among the finalists. The lack of transparency raised further doubts about the situation.

Particularly controversial was the decision to rule out Babel, a fantasy fiction novel by Chinese-American author RF Kuang. The book won Fiction Book of the Year at the British Book Awards in 2023 and the 2022 Nebula Award for Best Novel. Kuang’s story is considered a critique of British imperialism.

RF Kuang addressed the situation on Instagram, writing that neither she nor her team received an explanation for Babel’s ineligibility. “I did not decline a nomination, as no nomination was offered … I assume this was a matter of undesirability rather than ineligibility”, added the author.

Other noteworthy exclusions included an episode of the Netflix series The Sandman, based on Neil Gaiman’s comic book, and the Chinese-Canadian YouTuber and author Xiran Jay Zhao.

Some individuals raised speculations over the political motivation of these exclusions. This is due to the Chinese Communist Party’s interference with cultural expression in the country. Both Gaiman and Zhao have actively criticized certain past measures enforced by Chinese authorities.

The Head of the 2023 Hugo Awards jury, Dave McCarty, denied any official communication between the Hugo administration team and the Chinese government: “Nobody has ordered me to do anything,” he wrote on Facebook.

Words by Caterina Rossi

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