Illogical and Surprising Exclusions From Hugo Awards Ignite Controversy

The 2023 Hugo Awards excluded several famous authors from awards without reason. Read on for details about the ongoing controversy.

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Book jackets for The Sandman by Neil Gaiman, Babel by R.F. Kuang, and Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao are featured in front of a yellowing book page.

The Hugo, Lodestar, and Astounding Awards released the voting statistics document for the 2023 awards. Despite receiving votes for eligibility, the document revealed that work from R.F. Kuang, Xiran Jay Zhao, and Neil Gaiman were ruled unqualified for the 2023 Hugo Awards. Authors and fans are now questioning the Hugo Awards’s decision for the exclusions but are not receiving sound clarification.

The Controversy

Bestselling author R.F. Kuang is the author of The Poppy War trilogy, Babel: An Arcane History, and Yellowface. Kuang’s historical fantasy novel Babel, published by HarperVoyager in 2022, was awarded the British Book Award for Fiction Book of the Year, the Nebula Novel Award 2023, the Locus Award 2023, and earned the third most nominating votes for the Hugo Best Novel Award.

Book jacket for Babel by R.F. Kuang. An ornate building rises above others in a city. A flock of white birds circle around the tall building and into the starry night sky.

Xiran Jay Zhao’s bestselling debut science-fiction book Iron Widow, published in February of 2023 by Tundra Books (NY), earned the fourth most nominating votes in the Astounding Awards category but was also excluded. Both Zhao and Kuang came out on social media saying that the reasons for the ineligibility of their books were not disclosed to them.

Book jacket for Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao. A woman in a black suit detailed with a white triangle pattern over her spine and arms poses among a red, orange, and yellow wing of a mystical creature. The woman has her hair up in a bun with ornate pins.

Furthermore, episode six of prolific author Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series was deemed unqualified for the Best Dramatic Presentation Short Form Award. Like Babel, this episode received the third most nominating votes. Gaiman was also rejected for the Best Fan Writer Award.

The Response

The Hugo Awards themselves have not presented reasons explaining these perplexing results, but Dave McCarty, an awards administrator, responded vaguely to concerns on his personal Facebook page. When asked by Publishers Marketplace, he declined to cite the rules that made these nominees ineligible for their respective awards, only stating that the works were not suitable.

Book jacket for The Sandman comic book by Neil Gaiman. An alien-like monster hunches on the cover, dressed in a red robe that flows around them.

Additionally, the awards took place at the World Science Fiction Convention in Chengdu, China, prompting allegations of interference from the Chinese government in the awards. McCarty has denied these claims.

So far, no other comments have been made on behalf of the Hugo Awards or the Hugo team at the Chengdu World Con. These inexplicable exclusions raise concerns over censorship, and the lack of clarification from the Hugo Awards taints their acclaimed reputation.

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