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

The local convention committee is responsible for organising the nominations and voting. The Chinese government would hold them responsible if any unacceptable books were nominated.

From Charlie Stross’s blog:

And the convention committee didn’t realize that there was this thing called the WSFS Constitution which set out rules for stuff they had to do. I gather they didn’t even realize they were responsible for organizing the nomination and voting process for the Hugo awards, commissioning the award design, and organizing an awards ceremony, until about 12 months before the convention (which is short notice for two rounds of voting. commissioning a competition between artists to design the Hugo award base for that year, and so on).


Whoo boy, this whole thing turned out to be worse than I had imagined. I assumed it was the Chinese government/Chinese administrators self-censoring, or there was incompetence and cover-up (the voting numbers don’t add up, and the Chinese administrators didn’t seem to have realized what they had signed up for when they got the con) but the active complicity of the Western administrators in all this makes Dave McCarty’s angry responses to people questioning events all the more fucked up.

It’s still unclear to me who, if anyone, told the US/Canadian administrators to put together a list of potentially problematic authors/entries - if it was the Chinese administrators, the Chinese government, or the Chengdu science fiction museum company people (who seem to have wormed their way into Worldcon decisions), or if the Western administrators took it entirely upon themselves to put together the list (with erroneous information, no less).

It’s also unclear who did the actual disqualifications - it doesn’t seem like the Western administrators made those decisions although the rife-with-inaccuracies information they provided was clearly the basis for those decisions. It’s not clear if it was the Chinese government, the Chinese administrators, the Chengdu sci-fi museum people, and/or the Western administrators who made disqualification decisions. (McCarty claims the Chinese government wasn’t directly involved, but he’s not exactly a reliable source here, given his previous claims about following the constitution.)

Whoever was responsible for the disqualifications themselves, the Western administrators seriously fucked up. That they were trying to comply with censorship rules they didn’t understand on issues they had no understanding of, based on nominee information that wasn’t accurate just made things orders of magnitude worse. Of course, this is how censorship works, even for people who do understand it - being vague, arbitrary and inconsistent to make people self-censor even beyond what the written law requires. The irony is that the Chinese government has been embarrassed, so heads will roll of those whose “crime” was that they were trying to appease the government. The greatest sin in authoritarian governments is embarrassing the leaders, even when you were doing what you were explicitly told to do by those leaders.

Sounds like it was all down to the votes from new Chinese members. It takes surprisingly few votes for Hugo and Worldcon decisions to get swayed. There were some irregularities that made people question if the Chinese votes were legitimate, but apparently people realized the Chinese translation of the sign-up information was ambiguous and may have been a legitimate reason why so many of the new membership sign-ups were so weird (e.g. no addresses).

I’m definitely going with “worse.” Even if the Western administrators weren’t doing any actual disqualifying themselves, they were herding the Chinese administrators/government/corporate interests in those directions, and wholly unnecessarily.

I’m guessing he was thinking, “Oh boy, I really fucked up, didn’t I?” I find that with some people, the more at fault they realize they are, the more defensive, angry and accusatory they become.

“Also, we don’t have any idea what is offensive to Chinese authorities, nor which authors might have said/done those things…”

Ukraine was in the running, apparently…

That’s still not clear - the Western administrators certainly put together the list of potentially problematic nominees (though it’s also not clear if they took it entirely upon themselves to come up with the list, or did so after being asked), and then that information may have just been passed onto the Chinese administration team who made the decisions (based entirely on that information guiding them in particular ways). Although it’s also not clear if the Chinese government hand any direct input, and the private Chengdu world science fiction museum owners seem to have had a big influence (if not actually running) the con, since they arranged the whole thing to coincide with their grand opening, even delaying the con so it would happen.

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Malyasia must cost much more.

I mean, if it was your printer’s incompetence that periodically wreaked havoc on your timelines, you’d probably pay a competitor a bit more to not have to deal with it, right?

It’s strange that censorship is more tolerable.

To be clear, from EVERY detail I’ve read (and I’ve been deep in the weeds on this since folks first noticed the voting discrepancies), the censorship originated with and ended with Dave. There were no emails from the Chinese part of the convention about it, and he noticeably left them off all correspondence about what they needed to remove. He’s a complete douche bag who decided he knew best, made his choices, and dragged the other western members of the committee along with him (mostly willingly it seems).

The real losers here are the Chinese fans who wanted this as their coming out party for the sci fi world. The whole fiasco has embarrassed China, and there is real worry they may crack down again on one of the few areas there’s even a slight modicum of ability to avoid censorship (not entirely of course). All because one man and his lackies decided to do what THEY thought best rather then doing the actual job they were picked to do and letting any censorship happen on the other end if it was going to happen.

It’s a mess, and a black eye to the Hugo’s, and the folks who manage the trademark of this thing really need to fucking get a handle on shit fast and stop letting it all be a new cluster fuck every year. The design of this thing - cities bid for Worldcon, get it through fan votes, then its up to them to stage it all however they feel is best, and oh yes, just make sure to have fans vote on the Hugo’s and give those away - means every year people are reinventing the wheel, knowledge is barely shared, and ultimately there are fuck ups that could have been avoided if there was any continuity from year to year.


From the little I’ve read about the subject, the Party encourages science fiction and censorship is not very strict, with the proviso that portraying a post-Communist China is absolutely forbidden. There’s a whole sub-genre of jingoistic military SF about war with Japan, which China naturally never starts and never loses.

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Censorship is not tolerable, that’s why we switch printers. Malaysia is a penny or two more per book, when printing 20,000 units. Cargo sailing from there is a bit slower than the big Chinese ports. The closure of the Red Sea is another huge hairball for international shipping, adding a month to sail around Africa.


I also work in publishing and have had some experience of the difficulties of working with the Chinese government.

One thing is that every publisher in the country needs to have a licence from the government. This is held by a named individual and can be withdrawn, which makes it illegal to publish. So you have to keep on the right side of the party.

We also had problems getting visas for our staff to go to meetings and book fairs because the company’s name contains the word “Press”, not unusual for a western publisher but the Chinese immigration people are likely to interpret it as meaning journalism, another thing they are not at all keen on.

However as you say it is a huge market.


Specifically a post-Marxist-Leninist-Maoist China. I don’t think an anarcho-communist, Trotskyist or libertarian-Marxist China would be approved by the CPC.


Indeed. Perhaps I should have written “a China not ruled by the Communist Party”.






… next year they’re holding Worldcon in the Torment Nexus :scream:

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Samantha Mills has returned her Hugo


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