The covers of Xiran Jay Zhao's Iron Window and Zachary Ying next to the Hugo Awards logo

2024 Hugo Awards Gives Second Chance to Two Nominees Wrongfully Excluded in 2023 Scandal

Finalists for the 2024 Hugo Awards were announced on March 29, 2024, and readers will be pleased to know that two of the nominees wrongfully excluded from the 2023 Hugo Awards have a second chance at winning their categories.

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Recently, the book industry was rattled by a major censorship scandal at the 2023 Hugo Awards held in Chengdu, China. The skewed results went unnoticed for months due to the committee withholding voting data until January 2024. When the data was released, writers Xiran Jay Zhao, R. F. Kuang, Paul Weimer, and Neil Gaiman discovered they had been inexplicably deemed “ineligible” despite earning enough votes to be finalists in their respective categories. Things took an even stranger turn when members of the 2023 Hugo Award committee refused to provide a straight answer for the ineligibility of these writers and became aggressively defensive.

Finally, 2023 Hugo Awards administrator Diane Lacey leaked emails between her and several other administrators, including Dave McCarty and Kat Jones, proving that the committee had gone through nominees and eliminated anyone they felt might be offensive to China, given that the awards were held in Chengdu. There was no evidence that China had asked them to do this or that the Chinese committee members were involved. Yet multiple emails saw Lacey and Jones compiling detailed reports on each nominee, going as far as to create lists of every time the nominees had so much as mentioned China in their podcasts, social media posts, or works.

Numerous Hugo Awards administrators, including McCarty and Jones, resigned from their positions when the scandal went public, and the new 2024 committee for the Glasgow Hugo Awards promised reform and transparency. While many rightfully remain skeptical of the awards, the 2024 finalists prove the new committee is at least trying to right the wrongs done to the writing community last year.

Xiran Jay Zhao and Paul Weimer re-nominated for 2024 Hugo Awards

Last year, Xiran Jay Zhao and Paul Weimer were wrongfully deemed ineligible to be finalists for the Astounding Award for Best New Writer and Best Fan Writer, respectively. Zhao entered the publishing scene in 2021 with their debut YA science fantasy novel, Iron Widow, which reached high critical acclaim for its retelling of female emperor Wu Zetian’s history. Meanwhile, Weimer is an author, podcaster, and blogger who serves as editor on the popular fanzine Nerds of a Feather, Flock Together.

According to leaked e-mails, Weimer was deemed ineligible for Best Fan Writer last year because he allegedly traveled to Tibet (Weimer later confirmed he never went to Tibet), referenced Tiananmen Square once on social media, and wrote about the Chinese government in a Patreon article back in 2021. Meanwhile, Zhao was seemingly deemed ineligible because the administrators didn’t know if a reimagining of the rise of Wu Zetian “would be negative in China.”

Zhao’s unfair exclusion was especially infuriating because authors are only eligible for the Astounding Award for Best New Writer up to two years after their debut novel. Hence, 2023 was the author’s last eligible year. However, Dell Magazines, which sponsors the Astounding Award, requested that an exception be made and Zhao’s eligibility be extended. Fortunately, the 2024 Hugo Awards committee heeded this request, and Zhao has been re-nominated for the Astounding Award this year. Zhao acknowledged the nomination on X, expressing their appreciation of Dell Magazines for giving them a second chance and commending the 2024 Hugo Award committee for being “committed to transparency.”

Weimer was also re-nominated in the category of Best Fan Writer. Additionally, he and the whole editing team at Nerds of a Feather, Flock Together, were nominated for Best Fanzine. Weimer briefly acknowledged the news, although, to this day, he has “Chengdu Ineligible” in his X bio.

It is gratifying to see the committee making an effort to right the wrongs done last year and giving Weimer and Zhao a well-earned second chance to win their categories. Sadly, R. F. Kuang and Neil Gaiman were not re-nominated this year. Since they were nominated for individual works published or aired in 2022, those works are no longer eligible for the 2024 Hugo Awards, and one can see that extending eligibility could have been messy and potentially unfair for 2023 writers.

While the news about Zhao’s and Weimer’s re-nomination is comforting, the knowledge that Kuang and Gaiman could not be given a second chance demonstrates how egregious the Hugo Awards scandal was. These two writers rightfully earned their places as finalists to be considered for one of the most prestigious awards in the literary world but were wrongfully denied entry. No matter who resigns or how the Hugo Awards change, Kuang and Gaiman will never get back that opportunity. It easily could’ve been Kuang’s first Hugo Award win or Gaiman’s eighth Hugo Award, but because of the actions of a few people, we’ll never really know what might’ve happened.

(featured image: Penguin Teen Canada / Hugo Awards / Margaret K. McElderry Books)


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Rachel Ulatowski
Rachel Ulatowski is an SEO writer for The Mary Sue, who frequently covers DC, Marvel, Star Wars, YA literature, celebrity news, and coming-of-age films. She has over two years of experience in the digital media and entertainment industry, and her works can also be found on Screen Rant and Tell-Tale TV. She enjoys running, reading, snarking on YouTube personalities, and working on her future novel when she's not writing professionally. You can find more of her writing on Twitter at @RachelUlatowski.