2023 Hugo Nomination Report Has Unexplained Ineligibility Rulings; Also Reveals Who Declined

The 2023 Hugo Award Stats Final report posted today on the official Hugo Awards website revealed that the Chengdu Worldcon’s Hugo award subcommittee made many startling and sometimes unexplained rulings.

R. F. Kuang’s novel Babel, winner of the 2023 Nebula and Locus Awards, was ruled “not eligible” without explanation, even though it had the third most nominations. The EPH point calculation used to determine the Hugo finalists shows the count for Babel was stopped in the first round, and it accrued no more points when other works were eliminated in the automatic runoff.

(The Google Translate rendering of the Chinese is “Not eligible for nomination.”)

Paul Weimer was another “not eligible” kept off the ballot without explanation, despite having been a Best Fan Writer finalist for the past three years. Weimer had the third most nominating votes this year – and in that category the EPH calculation was completed, showing he ended up with the second highest point-count.

A third such “not eligible” was Xiran Jay Zhao, ruled out of the Astounding Award. As noted here in a comment on the announcement post, it should be impossible for a first-year-of-eligibility Astounding Award finalist to be ineligible the following year unless either they already won the award or the original Hugo committee (Chicon 8) erred in their eligibility determination.

And episode 6 of Neil Gaiman’s series The Sandman (“The Sound of Her Wings”) was labeled “not eligible” without explanation, while the series itself was disqualified from Best Dramatic – Long Form under Rule 3.8.3. The WSFS Constitution’s rule 3.8.3 says a series can be a Best Dramatic Presentation – Long Form finalist, or an episode of the series can be a Best Dramatic Presentation – Short Form finalist, but only one or the other may be on the ballot, the nod going to whichever gets the most nominating votes. Once the episode was removed there was no longer a rule 3.8.3 conflict. Keeping Neil Gaiman’s work off the ballot entirely was the result, however explained.

File 770 asked Dave McCarty, a Chengdu Worldcon vice-chair and co-head of the Hugo Awards Selection Executive Division, the reason for these “not eligible” rulings. He replied:

After reviewing the Constitution and the rules we must follow, the administration team determined those works/persons were not eligible.

File 770 then asked Kevin Standlee, among the best-known interpreters of the WSFS Constitution, what rules there could be in addition to the Constitution. Standlee pointed me to his article posted today, “Elections Have Consequences”.

…An overwhelming majority of the members of WSFS who voted on the site of the 2023 Worldcon (at the 2021 Worldcon in DC) selected Chengdu, China as the host of the 2023 Worldcon. That meant that the members of WSFS who expressed an opinion accepted that the convention would be held under Chinese legal conditions….

…When it comes to local law, this could end up applying anywhere. Here’s an example I can use because as far as I know, there are no Worldcon bids for Florida at this time. Imagine a Worldcon held in Florida. It would be subject to US and Florida law (and any smaller government subdivision). Given legislation passed by Florida, it would not surprise me if such a hypothetical Florida Worldcon’s Hugo Administration Subcommittee would disqualify any work with LGBTQ+ content, any work with an LGBTQ+ author, or any LGBTQ+ individual, because the state has declared them all illegal under things like their “Don’t Say Gay or Trans” laws and related legislation….

Fans are clearly expected to infer these Hugo eligibility decisions were made to comply with Chinese rules or authority, but no one is saying what Chinese rules the Hugo subcommittee was operating under, unlike Standlee’s hypothetical which is based on Florida laws and policies that can actually be pointed to. Another unaddressed question is whether the administrators made these decisions on their own, voluntarily, because they were afraid not to disqualify certain people, or because they were told by someone in authority that’s what they should do.

Paul Weimer has written a response to being ruled ineligible on his Patreon – “Chengdu, I want some answers. Dave McCarty, I want an explanation. I am owed one.”

OTHER RULINGS. In a few cases, the report explains an item’s ineligibility in a footnote.

Best Related WorkThe History of Chinese Science Fiction in the 20th Century was disqualified because one of the authors was on the Hugo subcommittee. 

The Art of Ghost of Tsushima was first published in 2020.

Best Dramatic Presentation – Long FormAndor (Season 1) and Sandman – Rule 3.8.3 (knocked off the ballot because individual episodes got more votes in the Short Form category)

(And yet down below the individual episode of Sandman was knocked off the ballot as an unexplained “not eligible.” What kind of Catch-22 is that?)

Best Dramatic Presentation – Short Form – The Severance episode was a Rule 3.8.3 disqualification going the other direction (the series made the ballot).

The Deep. — Deep Sea, which is the Chinese translation given in the report, is said in a Chinese footnote to have been “published years ago.” (Alternatively, this could refer to the animated movie Deep Sea, whose release date per IMDB was 2023, later than the eligibility period.)

In one case it is possible to deduce the likely reason for the “not eligible” ruling though not explicitly said in the report.

Novelette – “Color the World” by Congyun “Mu Ming” Gu was first published in 2019 (see “Stories 小说 – Congyun “Mu Ming” Gu”).

But it is not explained why Hai Ya’s “Fogong Temple Pagoda” was ineligible for Best Short Story, although the problem must not have been with the author because his “Space-Time Painter” won the Best Novella Hugo.

DECLINED NOMINATIONS. S. B. Divya’s public announcement about declining two Hugo nominations encouraged speculation at the time that many more people were following suit as a political protest. In fact there were not that many refusals, and it’s not demonstrable that any of the others were protests.

Who declined?

Becky Chambers — (Novella – “A Prayer for the Crown-Shy”)

S. B. Divya — (Novelette “Two Hands, Wrapped in Gold”; also removed her name from the list of Hugo-nominated semiprozine Escape Pod’s team members. See “Why S. B. Divya Declined Two Hugo Nominations”.)

Prey – (film – from Best Dramatic Presentation – Long Form)

Guo Jian – (from Best Professional Artist)

CUI BONO. Who got on because people declined?

Novella Where the Drowned Girls Go by Seanan McGuire – which went on to win the Best Novella Hugo.

Novelette – “Murder by Pixel: Crime and Responsibility in the Digital Darkness” by S. L. Huang

Best Professional Artist – Zhang Jian

Who got on where works or people were declared “not eligible” for one reason or another?

Best NovelThe Daughter of Doctor Moreau by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Best Novelette – “If You Find Yourself Speaking to God, Address God with the Informal You” by John Chu

Best Short Story – “Resurrection” by Ren Qing

Best Related WorkThe Ghost of Workshops Past by S.L. Huang and Buffalito World Outreach Project by Lawrence M. Schoen

Best Dramatic PresentationAvatar: Way of Water; Black Panther: Wakanda Forever; Severance (season 1)

Best Fan Writer — HeavenDule

ERROR WILL BE CORRECTED. In the Best Novelette category “Turing Food Court” appears on two different lines of the report. Hugo Administrator Dave McCarty explained, “It 100% is a copy/paste error that I missed in the dozens of back and forths between me and the Chinese folks handling translations.”

UPDATE 01/20/2024. The amended report is now up. Here is the corrected Novelette page. (Thanks to Mr. Octopus for the story.)


Update 01/28/2024: Added a paragraph to make the ineligibility of Neil Gaiman’s works part of the lede. That had only been discussed in the category analyses.

326 thoughts on “2023 Hugo Nomination Report Has Unexplained Ineligibility Rulings; Also Reveals Who Declined

  1. Zimozi Natsuco speculated earlier that there might have been people who participated at Chengdu’s meeting that were not actually WSFS members.

  2. @Mike Glyer

    Dont they know it’s just like the World Series. Worldcon is only called that because it’s sponsored by World brand deodorant.

  3. @Mike Glyer
    Hey, if Science Fiction fans can’t get starry-eyed with puffed up self declared intellectual profundity, what’s the point?

    But beyond taking the piss, the WSFS actually has been living up to the “World” lately. Last years and this years convention are not only on opposite sides of the globe from each other, but also both on different continents than the location of the traditional fanbase. Either the explicit policy is that the only people who count are those who could physically be in the room both those years, or other arrangements should be made.

  4. Jay Blanc: It’s called that because the first one was run in New York in 1939 while the World’s Fair was being held in the city. Knew you’d want to know

  5. @Mike VanHelder

    @bill Or, in other words, “You must be this rich and idle to participate in WSFS.”

    Participation in the current Business Meetings includes many people who are not rich, or idle. But they are committed. And that’s the threshold.

  6. @bill: Admittedly, not all of us WSFS Business Meeting regulars are committed, but all of us should be.

  7. @Bill I don’t care how “committed” you are, you can’t commit your way out of being unable to pay for a long-distance flight, hotel room, food, and convention fees. Perhaps with an established fan network, but not for most people.

    You can be a committed enough fan to be active in your local convention, but unable to cover the costs of going to a Worldcon.

  8. @Bill

    Participation in the current Business Meetings includes many people who are not rich, or idle. But they are committed. And that’s the threshold.

    If you can teach me how to commit my way into paying my bills if I miss a week of work, or commit my way onto a transcontinental flight, or commit my way into being able to cross the border without risk of being detained, all without a surplus of funds and logistical resources, I would super appreciate it.

    “All you need is commitment” is the kind is thing said only by someone who has either forgotten or never known in the first place what it’s like to go hungry.

    Yes, it takes a certain minimum amount of discretionary income to attend Worldcon.

    Hence, a means test. You must be this rich to participate in WSFS.

  9. @Madame Hardy — Yes, it takes a certain minimum amount of discretionary income to attend Worldcon.

  10. @Mike VanHelder — you should read my statement as meaning that commitment is necessary, not sufficient.

    And “rich” is not the level that is necessary. Is Kevin Standlee (to unfairly use him as an example) rich? I don’t know him personally, but he doesn’t come across as wealthy. It does appear, though, that he budgets his money and leisure time to participate in Worldcon — it is a commitment for him.

    ““All you need is commitment” is the kind is thing said only . . .” I never said that all you need is commitment. It is self-evident that you also need the money to pay for travel — so self-evident, that I thought it was unnecessary to point it out. But apparently I was wrong.

    You harp on this fact, the need for money to pay for leisure activities, as if it were some sort of injustice to be rectified. Feel free to sponsor someone to Glasgow.

  11. The threshold is not “committed”. The threshold is “has sufficient money, time, and ethnicity/national origin”. You are saying that requiring in-person meetings weeds the bozos out; the rest of us are pointing out that it also weeds out many, many worthwhile people whose voices are worth hearing.

  12. Madame Hardy — neither you nor I know the best mix of people to participate in business meetings. For all its faults, the current mix yields a group that is manageable under existing rules. It “works”, in the sense that meetings do not devolve into shouting matches that don’t accomplish anything, or use up all the available time in managing who can speak.

    If meetings go online, it’s likely (as Kevin Standlee has pointed out) that they will become unmanageable because of how many more people will suddenly be able to participate, and because it is simply more difficult for a group to communicate efficiently in virtual space than in physical space.

    And whether the people that are weeded out by needing to be there physically would really be worthwhile (in the sense that the meetings provide better outcomes) is an open question. You say that their voices are “worth hearing”; maybe so, but simply adding voices to a meeting starts diminishing returns, and quickly starts subtracting instead of adding once the number gets big enough.

    The existing threshold (of money, interest, available time, people skills, literacy, etc.) means that some folks who would like to participate cannot. ANY system that would restrict attendance to something less than the entire membership of a given Worldcon would do the same. Kevin has proposed an alternative that would similarly “work”, but would also limit direct participation.

  13. @bill: “If meetings go online, it’s likely (as Kevin Standlee has pointed out) that they will become unmanageable because of how many more people will suddenly be able to participate”

    I don’t disagree, but as I’ve said before, it doesn’t have to be a black-and-white thing. As a usually-supporting, sometimes-attending member who’s been to a few business meetings, I would be happy to be able to follow the business meeting discussions online and vote remotely, even if the right to speak at the meeting was limited to those who are physically present.

    It wouldn’t be perfect, but it would be manageable, and a huge improvement over the current situation, and would go a long way towards making the freshly-renamed “WSFS membership” something that would empower me, as a WSFS member, to take part in the decisions. I.e. be an actual membership.

  14. @JJ Hugo Administrators never rule on eligibility before the fact (and I absolutely understand the rationale for not doing so; they’ve got way too much to deal with already, without having to address a multitude of hypotheticals thrown at them by Hugo nominators). What you see as a puzzling unwillingness to respond to a single request about eligibility, I see as a very reasonable unwillingness to respond to requests about the eligibility of dozens of works and creators.

    Simpson Dohh!. Then why did they just not say?????

  15. @Kevin S. Re: allowing remote participation in the BM. Your point: Proxy voting is generally prohibited unless your governing document allows it. I’ll go look up the reference in Robert’s Rules of Order, Newly Revised if you don’t believe me.

    Kevin – Yes, I recall you referring to Roberts Rules as a rationale on the video of the Chengdu Business Meeting (mega thanks and chunks to you for providing these vids – I for one am among the few that regularly watch them), and at the time I thought the Roberts Rules argument was inappropriate regarding the question of remote access to an international meeting. (My eyebrows went up; my builder’s tea nearly spilt; my flaber was somewhat ghasted; Brit Cit nearly had its fourth Prime Minister in two years….)

    As I understand it, Roberts was designed to cater to “governing the meetings of a diverse range of organisations – including: church groups, county commissions, homeowners associations, non-profit associations, professional societies, school boards, and trade unions – that have adopted it as their parliamentary authority“.

    https://robertsrules.com/qa-forum/

    The thing is that all these Roberts Rules constituencies are either local – school boards, church groups and county commissions – or have a non-local but stable constituency memberships – professional societies and trade unions.

    The WSFS Business meeting is neither of these and so Roberts is not wholly suitable. Worldcon is increasingly international and a Worldcon in Japan or Helsinki will have markedly different WSFS members physically attending compared to two different Worldcons in N. America. At the time of my first Worldcon (1979) just four (I think) Worldcons over four decades since the first (1939) were held outside of N. America, but some 13 (I think) in the four decades or so since 1979 (14 I think if you count Glasgow 2024).

    Consequently Roberts Rules should not be used as a guide for the international dimension to WSFS business meeting matters such as allowing remote access. Roberts Rules was not designed for this and does not speak to this: this is why you will be most unlikely to find reference to this in Roberts.

    Do use Roberts as a guide, but do not treat Roberts as strictly gospel for the WSFS BM: Roberts was not designed for this.

    From the Minutes, “Mr. Standlee spoke in favor of the motion.” so perhaps he can explain why this ban exists.
    Because a majority of the members present voted for it.

    Yes, because – if I recall correctly and you provided the vid – you spoke referring to Roberts and they bowed to your WSFS BM experience and wisdom.

    there’s a sort of penumbra of people who don’t regularly attend, but do monitor what happens

    That’s little old me. My penumbra casts quite a shadow.

    I have visions of a 1,000-person Zoom call lasting around-the-clock.

    I agree, that would be a nightmare. But I wonder if there are other ways? Could the Chair be sent (word count limited?) statements in support or against items on the agenda? If only a handful of such statements were made then the Chair (or their nominee) could read them out. If scores were sent then perhaps the chair could say that the BM received x number in favour and y number against. Just a spur of the moment thought off the top of my head but I’m sure there are a number of workable options that would enable non-physical attenders to have some sort of a say.

    Let’s not dismiss remote participation in some form completely out of hand.

    @Richard Gadsden To be fair, if 1000 people attended the physical meeting, it wouldn’t work much better.

    Totally agree.

  16. Jonathan C: Then why did they just not say?????

    Actually, they did: They sent you the rules, and the rules specify that works must have been first published in the previous year. The rules do not exempt self-published works from “first published”. Therefore, since The Martian had been first published prior to the previous year (and you did know that), it was not eligible.

    Your enquiry was probably one of hundreds they got regarding potential eligibility, and they just don’t have the personpower to reply individually to all of them. So any enquiry about eligibility gets the boilerplate “Here are the rules” message.

    I understand that’s not a satisfying reply. It’s very easy to think “what’s the big deal to respond to my one enquiry?” if you don’t stop to think about the fact that they get hundreds (or possibly thousands) of eligibility enquiries, and yours is just one more on a massive pile of them.

  17. You are saying that requiring in-person meetings weeds the bozos out

    Oh, I thought that meant only bozos would be able to be there! ;P

    @Rick Moen

    Admittedly, not all of us WSFS Business Meeting regulars are committed, but all of us should be.

    Do the ones who’ve been committed get a special pass to be let out for the meetings?

    ::ducks and runs away::

  18. Laura: Do the ones who’ve been committed get a special pass to be let out for the meetings?

    *snort*

  19. Seriously though I’m very happy that Glasgow will be polling the membership about a couple of the proposals up for ratification before the business meeting. It will just be more input and not binding, but it’s a start toward involving more than just those who can show up at the business meeting in person.

  20. @Laura – yes. Finding out how well other methods work is the first step to changing existing procedures.

  21. I think WSFS/the next two business meetings should adopt an explicit “we follow Robert’s Rules of Order except when otherwise specified, below.” Or “A-J will be done in the following way. For how to run the Business Meeting, we default to Roberts Rules of Order,for anything not given above.” And there are several months to brainstorm what those exceptions and addenda should be.

    This would be like a publisher having a house style. Those are often in the form “Chicago Manual of Style, with these exceptions [three-page alphabetical list]” or that the publisher follows X dictionary on spelling, with an exception list for things like names, neologisms, and specifics where someone decided “I don’t like what’s in Chicago, we’re still going to do X.”

  22. @Vicki Rosenzweig

    As previously mentioned, Robert’s Rules of Order aren’t designed for the way they are used in the Business Meeting.

    Here’s my proposal, stop having Business Meetings, at least the way they are now. They don’t work, the only people who think they do work are the people who enjoy Robert’s Rules of Order as a game.

    Instead, set up a site that is for the online debating of proposals. Select the top ten supported proposals, then ballot for these proposals on the Site Selection ballot.

    And we need to have a mechanism for time-limited emergency resolutions, to cure things like Chengdu’s Hugo Awards.

    But my feeling is that even if Business Meeting reform were supported, the road block of having to get through multiple Business Meetings to do so will mean that by the time it gets done we’ll be in the time frame where we’ve run out of viable Worldcon Bids.

  23. @Vicki Rosenzweig: The WSFS Constitution (Section 5.1.4) already provides that the Standing Rules take precedence over Robert’s Rules of Order. And the Standing Rules depart from Robert’s Rules in some aspects.

    This is not to say that everything is fit for purpose, but yes, there are exceptions and addenda to Robert’s Rules already in place for the Business Meeting.

  24. Pingback: The 2023 Hugo Awards: A Report on Censorship and Exclusion - File 770

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