Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask #81

An Audio Interview With Dave McCarty by Chris M. Barkley

Dave McCarty. Photo by Chris M. Barkley.

Yesterday, Saturday February 3rd, my partner Juli Marr and I drove from Cincinnati to attend Capricon 44 in downtown Chicago.

We went because we were cordially invited by Helen Montgomery for a semi-surprise party in support of Leane Verhulst, a beloved Chicago area fan. The Facebook Invitation read as follows:

In September 2023, Leane posted that she had a brain tumor. Since then she had surgery to remove it, and the tumor was biopsied. As some of you may have heard, Leane has been diagnosed with Stage 4 Glioblastoma. She has completed chemo and radiation, but this cancer is aggressive and unfortunately has a low survival rate.

As some of us discussed this, Dave had the idea that we would much rather celebrate her *with* her now instead of later. (I mean, we’ll celebrate her later too. Probably often. Because we embrace the power of “and” here.)

Please come join us at Capricon 44 on Saturday night at 8pm Central for our Celebration of Leane. Capricon 44 is held at the Sheraton Grand Chicago. 

Juli and I have known Leane for many years and have socialized and worked with her at other sf conventions, including several Chicago Worldcons. 

Leane had been in remission and was expected to be there but unfortunately, she had a rather sudden relapse on Friday that required her to be hospitalized for immediate treatment.

As of this post, she is conscious and in stable condition but tires easily. 

As a consolation, Helen Montgomery set up a laptop and people attending the party spent a few minutes chatting with and to lift her spirits up. Juli and I were among the last to speak with her and I must remark that she was bearing up very well despite the difficult circumstances. In one way or another, we all told her that we loved her, wished her well with the hope of a speedy recovery…

Leane Verhulst

The other less important reason was that I was also there to receive my Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer from Dave McCarty, who was until recently the head of the Hugo Award Administrators for the Chengdu Worldcon. (He was also a co-host of Ms. Verhulst’s party.)

The party was a success and a literal Who’s Who in fandom was there including Don and Jill Eastlake, Ben Yalow, Alex von Thorn, Marah Seale-Kovacevic, Laurie and Jim Mann, Steven H and Elaine Silver, Stephen Boucher, Tammy Coxen, James Bacon, Jesi Lipp, Greg Ketter, Geri Sullivan, Janice Gelb, Ann Totusek and Kathy and Paul Lehman.

(Although many photographs were taken, I refrained from doing so for personal reasons.)

As all of you are probably aware of by now, these Administrators, and Mr. McCarty in particular, have been under fire for the shocking and unexplained disqualifications of the works of fan writer Paul Weimer, Chinese-born Canadian sff writer Xiran Jay Zhao, Neil Gaiman’s Sandman mini-series on Netflix and the novel Babel by novelist R.F. Kuang from the Long List of Nominations that was released on January 20.

Mr. McCarty, who has been involved in sf fandom for decades, was bombarded with inquiries from most of the ineligibles (save for Ms. Kuang, who issued a brief statement of her own on Instagram), from outraged sff fans on social media and from curious factions of the mainstream press as well. 

(Full Disclosure: I have not stated this recently but I must make it known that I have known and worked with Mr. McCarty for several decades. I have worked with him on many conventions in a subordinate role and clashed with him on many occasions involving contentious issues that I have brought before the World Science Fiction Fiction Business Meeting. Despite this, I have maintained a cordial and respectful relationship with him over the years.)

As a journalist, I found myself in a bit of a conundrum; being the recipient of the Hugo in Best Fan Writer category this year, I am in the uncomfortable position of being a part of the story I am reporting on.  

But, since I am in the eye of the hurricane so to speak, I am also in the unique position to observe and report on the situation. Keeping my bias in check, I extended an invitation to interview Mr. McCarty several days before I left for Chicago. A day before I left, I receives a text from him accepting the offer, something he did not do when asked by Adam Morgan,  a reporter from Esquire Magazine, which ran the following story this past Thursday, the first day of Capricon 44, much to Mr. Carty’s chagrin: “Hugo Awards 2024: What Really Happened at the Sci-Fi Awards in China?”

On Sunday morning, Mr. McCarty and I sat down in the lobby of the Sheraton Grand Riverwalk Hotel for an extensive talk about his experiences as the Chengdu Hugo Administrator, the Chinese colleagues, he worked with, his future in fandom and the mysterious origins of and his reactions to being named, “the Hugo Pope”.

[Here is a transcript of the interview produced by consulting two different AI-generated transcripts, and lightly copyedited by Mike Glyer. https://file770.com/wp-content/uploads/Dave-McCarty-Interview-Audio-file-cleaned-up.pdf.]

One question I neglected to ask at the time was whether or not he, or anyone on the Chengdu Hugo Awards Administration team, were required to sign any sort of non-disclosure agreement by the Chinese government or any other entity involved with the convention. I sent Dave McCarty a text message asking the question after I arrived home Sunday evening. His response:

“Nobody on the administration team signed any kind of agreement like that, we’re just bound by our regular WSFS confidential customs.”

And finally, there was the matter of my Best Fan Writer Hugo Award:

I was informed via text by Mr. McCarty that the six or so Hugo Awards shipped from the People’s Republic of China to the United States for distribution arrived at his house this past Monday.

Unfortunately for all involved, all of the awards had been damaged in transit; while he did not detail the damage to the other awards, Mr. McCarty told me that mine had suffered the most damage in that the panda had chipped paint and had also become completely detached from the stargate. He theorized that this happened because the cases did not have any cushioning material inside to insulate it, so that any practically any motion during transport would cause the awards to rock and bounce against the case.

Mr. McCarty reported that all of the custom cases were for all practical purposes, unusable. 

He did tell me that he thinks that the awards can be either fully repaired or possibly even replaced in the next month or so. 

He did offer to give my award as is and have it repaired on my own but I declined and said that anything that he could do to have it restored would be fine with me.

This turn of events will mean that my daughter Laura and her family, my bookstore and library friends and all of ardent admirers at my local Kroger’s supermarket will have to wait just a little while longer to take their selfies with one of the most iconic symbols in literature… 


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259 thoughts on “Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask #81

  1. Jim Janney on February 5, 2024 at 10:26 am said:

    @Camestros Felapton: it’s even worse than that. Glasgow is in Scotland, so the con has to abide by Scottish rules. I seem to recall a Gaiman story that made fun of the ploughman’s lunch, so he for one can expect no mercy.

    I initially intended to make that distinction but “accommodating the local culture of Glasgow” sounded a. playing up unfair stereotypes of a city that I think is lovely and b. far too, too much like a threat of violence 🙂

  2. rcade on February 5, 2024 at 10:32 am said:

    The Hugo Awards being thoughtlessly packaged in China and arriving damaged is so symbolic it hurts.

    If it was a movie, then the script would be laying on the symbolism a bit thick.

  3. I’m curious to see if anyone with Chinese language skills follows up on the document AppleBlue has twice mentioned in the comments. I don’t know if, under the circumstances, there is any way to discern if it is genuine. One could probably at least tell if it exactly matches the format and wording of similar official documents.

  4. Machine translation of the relevant section of that document, attributed to “Sichuan Anti-Pornography and Anti-Illegal Affairs:”, posted by the Propaganda Department of the Sichuan Provincial Committee of the Communist Party of China

    “Second, three special review teams were carefully organized to review the content of 1,512 works in five categories including cultural and creative, literary, and artistic shortlisted for the Chengdu World Science Fiction Conference. Works suspected of involving politics, ethnicity, and religion were strictly reviewed. Check and make recommendations on the disposal of 12 controversial works involving LGBT issues.”

  5. If Americans, as I’m told, are culturally inclined to break rules, it seems like we shouldn’t have any more Worldscon in this country because how can we guarantee that all the various subclauses will be honored?

  6. Later in the piece, they also claim that they dealt with 24 “emergencies” upon reviewing the material in the dealer and exhibitor areas

  7. Mike VanHelder: I was sent that item at the time it came out and there was no way of establishing its authenticity. I had to consider the possibility I was being baited to run it so somebody could announce it was a fake in order to damage the credibility of our other Chengdu reporting. I still don’t know whether to take it at face value.

  8. @AppleBlue: Thank you for saving that.

    @Cam: Heh. See ya Jimmy hats and deep-fried Mars bars for all. Mandatory for their local culture!!1! All references to distilled alcoholic beverages must be changed to whisky, none of this vodka, bourbon, what have you. Blancmages will win Wimbledon.

    I actually genuinely like haggis and Irn Bru, so that’d be no sacrifice.

  9. The interview has revealed much to me. I have been perplexed by the different agendas here, and why ordinary fans would be drawn to evil in this way. Yes, book banning is not just bad, it’s evil. Now at least I see a self-consistent model of at least part of what happened.

    For some, the line between engagement and collaboration is not so clear. I think they Hugo admins and others started by wanting to just engage, but fell easily into becoming collaborators. McCarty feels each set of Hugos should be run by and for the local Worldcon, using its ethos, and not a global fannish ethos (which abhors book banning as evil, at least by or pushed by governments.) Do as they do in Chengdu became his motto, and he stopped skating the line between engagement and collaboration and went full force to the dark side. And once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny.

    Earlier I wrote that there is confusion about how the WSFS constitution says that the Hugos are awarded by WSFS, not by the con, but the con administers their logistics. I didn’t realize that would become the key issue. McCarty believes the opposite. He agreed to do a job, and did it, and has convinced himself it was the right path, and says to this day his decisions were 100% correct.

    But even if we engage with censors, we must not collaborate and implement their repression for them. And we must be careful to not even approach that line.

  10. @ Jon Nepsha, et al.
    I noticed that in an earlier statement, Dave said that he had not been given any official government instructions [my emphasis]. That possibly deliberate phrasing opens the hypothetical possibility of there having been unofficial instructions.

    One strictly conjectural scenario might be that remarks were made in passing to the effect that in the unlikely event of certain people being awarded a Hugo, certain other people resident in China could find themselves, due to unexpected but unavoidable necessities, being redeployed to teaching introductory Mandarin in a Uyghur Re-education Camp in Xinjiang for the next fifteen years, and wouldn’t that be a shame, and doubtless Dave could ensure that such an eventuality would never arise, and that anyway this conversation had never happened, had it?

    All this, of course, is the wildest speculation, impossible to imagine happening in the real world.

  11. Thank you Mr. B for obtaining and sharing this interview with McCarty. Long time fan here, but I’m not big in the community. I just attend and love cons. I’ve attended WorldCons since 1978 and on a few rare occasions the WSFS Business Meeting when something I felt strongly about was under discussion. My blood is boiling right now. I’m so insulted and offended on behalf of all fans by this interview and the attitudes expressed. Everything said by McCarty actually agreed with what I had been speculating. There are still so many unanswered questions though. Too many.

  12. Mike Glyer on February 5, 2024 at 11:38 am said:

    Mike VanHelder: I was sent that item at the time it came out and there was no way of establishing its authenticity. I had to consider the possibility I was being baited to run it so somebody could announce it was a fake in order to damage the credibility of our other Chengdu reporting. I still don’t know whether to take it at face value.

    I think that was wise. I’ve seen it before but had to go off a translation. I don’t believe the text mentions the Hugo Awards. Because the translation uses words such as ‘works’ and ‘categories’ it is easy to jump to that conclusion. However, a local official would be far more concerned with the content of the physical convention than an award. I remain sceptical that local or national representatives of government had any direct influence over the awards. However, I do not doubt for a second that local officials would have kept a close eye on the speakers, panels and topics covered by the convention itself.

    Assuming the screenshot is genuine, I think it is far more plausible that it is about the contents of the convention than the Hugo Awards.

  13. @Terry Hunt: I agree with your wild speculation, although of course this would never happen in the 21st century, which us old fen know is The Future.

    @Brad Templeton: What you said. Maybe we could collectively decide not to award Worldcon and thus the Hugos to places that have government censorship and restrictions on publications? This would include not only China, but also Uganda, Saudi Arabia, and states like Texas and Florida. Thankfully the next 2 US Worldcons are on the West Coast, where you can be gay and smoke pot as long as it doesn’t frighten the horses or children. Pacific Time Zone FTW. Also, Canada continues to exist.

    Besides being rabidly anti-LGBTQ, the Great White Hunter Resort in Uganda is also completely inaccessible for people with mobility difficulties. All stairs, no bathroom modifications, etc. If you don’t have strong legs or if you get winded easily, tough luck.

    @Viqqui: Same for me. Sadly, we’re never going to get the real answers on this.

    @Paul: All of fandom, at least Hugo-voting fandom, needs to do the same. I sure will.

    About the physical Hugos being damaged in shipping — that’s a whole different matter and one I’d attribute to carelessness rather than malice. It’s the perfect soupcon of Sad Trombone to the other incidents/crises. I do hope everyone’s can be fixed quickly. Hinky votes or not, they’re still something to be proud of, and they have pandas.

  14. There are three specific categories mentioned in that translated post. One is convention programming, two is 1,512 “shortlisted” works, and three are the works in the dealer/exhibition area. They are specifically called out as separate. It’s not unreasonable to think that “shortlisted” works refer to or include Hugo nominees, since the material at the convention itself is called out separately.

  15. I genuinely wonder what Dave’s long involvement in fandom has been like, since he seems genuinely surprised that other people would care about what he did, and somewhat resentful that he should give any accounting to anybody. For him, is fandom just him and a group of friends? He gave official updates for the committee on his personal social media, expecting only friends to read it. He rejected requests for explanation from the public, but gave an interview to a friend. He was hostile to anybody who reached out to him asking for official clarification, unless already friendly to them.

    Does he… does he know that fandom is larger than his circle of pals?

  16. Mike VanHelder on February 5, 2024 at 12:54 pm said:

    There are three specific categories mentioned in that translated post. One is convention programming, two is 1,512 “shortlisted” works, and three are the works in the dealer/exhibition area. They are specifically called out as separate. It’s not unreasonable to think that “shortlisted” works refer to or include Hugo nominees, since the material at the convention itself is called out separately.

    Thanks, I missed that

  17. As a journalist

    Does this mean Chris actually has been a paid journalist, or is this a pompous way of saying “I write for fanzines and fan websites such as FILE 770,” in which case innumerable fanzine fans and bloggers and writers for websites have been and are “journalists”?

    If so, I have been a “journalist” since at least 1977, when I co-edited fan newszine TWEEK, following having started my column for newszine KARASS, then the primary fannish newszine, a year or more earlier.

    Not to mention ten years actually living off of being a news blogger (not for sf fandom).

    But maybe Chris is actually a professional journalist who has similarly at least made a living from his writing of news? I have no idea what he does or has done professionally.

    Few actual journalists I know would spend a substantial amount of wordage on the breaking of their awards, but hidey-hidey-ho.

  18. It’s worth considering that in general, people living under authoritarian regimes don’t tend to forge official government communiques for what are hopefully obvious reasons.

  19. I was sent that item at the time it came out and there was no way of establishing its authenticity. I had to consider the possibility I was being baited to run it so somebody could announce it was a fake in order to damage the credibility of our other Chengdu reporting. I still don’t know whether to take it at face value.

    I’d suggest running it with these qualifications.

    I’ve written many many times about how self-censorship works in China, but it feels like pushing a boulder up a hill because of the endless stream of people who have no idea how it works and who keep bringing up the red herrings of whether or not government (or the Party) was involved.

    That’s largely not how it works.

    Chinese people have pretty good ideas of what the forbidden topics, references, symbology, and so on, are, but specifics are never, or at least rarely, ever made public by any Party or governmental officials. The POINT is to be so vague as to cause everyone to self-censor if they have the least doubt that writing/publishing a particular thing MIGHT bring down wrath upon them.

    People should please stop focusing on whether someone “told” the Chengdu committee to do anything. It’s besides the point of how the self-censorship regime works in China.

    There are INNUMERABLE books on how this all works, as well as innumerable articles in journals, magazines, newspapers, and every other form of publishing, that people can read in order to comment intelligently on Chinese self-censorship.

    Meanwhile, for the sake of simplicity and not bombarding people with links they’ll never read, I present once again this sole link as being most closely aligned with our present concerns; I hope everyone who has not read it will read it:

    https://theconversation.com/online-fan-communities-in-china-carry-out-their-own-form-of-self-censorship-191644

    Meanwhile, that party officials might have pored over Hugo nominees is still entirely plausible, while also remaining for the moment completely unconfirmed.

    There are three specific categories mentioned in that translated post. One is convention programming, two is 1,512 “shortlisted” works, and three are the works in the dealer/exhibition area. They are specifically called out as separate.

    Regarding the last, speaking as a former Director of Operations of a Worldcon (well, of two, but that’s not relevant) who had to escort three FBI agents around a Worldcon huckster/dealer’s room to look for material being sold that was in violation of copyright, I have no problem whatsoever imagining government agents being tasked with looking at work in Worldcon dealer’s rooms that might be seen as problematic by government, or, in China’s case, the CCP.

    (I escorted the FBI team under an informal agreement that I’d be permitted to communicate with problematic hucksters to attempt to solve any issues before the FBI addressed them; only if hucksters refused to cooperate would the FBI step in to speak, which happened in only one very memorable incident.)

  20. Gary Farber: Few actual journalists I know would spend a substantial amount of wordage on the breaking of their awards

    When I was much younger, I spent a few years learning journalism and working for a small newspaper as a side gig.

    I will say that I do consider Mike Glyer to be a professional journalist. He’s been doing this for 40 years, he gives airtime to things that aren’t necessarily part of his fanac but which are of interest to his readers, and I have observed him being painfully fair and balanced even when I was aware that his personal feelings differed greatly from what others were saying/doing.

    His ability to respect and preserve confidentiality and embargoes is impeccable. And when he feels that information on a story he wants to present is incomplete, he seeks it out — sometimes making significant effort to do so — in order to ensure that what we read is the whole story (or at least as much of it as is available to report). He avoids trying to make stories be about himself, maintains a neutral stance on most things, and refrains from self-promotion and self-aggrandizement.

    I see Mike doing all the things that I was taught are best practice in journalism. YMMV, but I definitely regard him as a professional journalist.

  21. Correct me if I am wrong, since I am not a tech guy, but what McCarty says about problems with the voting numbers does not seem to match with what others have said about analysis of the voting numbers?

    And, even if it was true, that would mean we should have no confidence that the numbers were anything like correct when the awards were given out, right?

    At a minimum I strongly think every Hugo for which Dave McCarty ran the numbers should be audited.

  22. There are plenty of journalists creating journalism without being paid for it or making it their career. One of them posts comments here — look for the gray box.

    As for the notion that journalists don’t report on themselves, I can only exclaim, “Holy Hunter S. Thompson!”

    P.s. What JJ said.

  23. I see Mike doing all the things that I was taught are best practice in journalism. YMMV, but I definitely regard him as a professional journalist.

    I wasn’t discussing Mike, who I certainly agree writes and publishes in a professional manner. (I’ve also known Mike, and vice versa, and have been reading his writing, since 1973, FWIW.)

    I was asking about Chris, who… does not write in anything resembling a professional manner, in my experience and opinion.

    But in any case, I’m not here to impugn Chris; I was simply asking for clarification of his meaning.

    I’m also happy to confirm that using the criteria of at least some people, I’ve decades of experience as a professional journalist, myself. But that’s pretty much of interest only to myself. Thanks for the response.

    As for the notion that journalists don’t report on themselves, I can only exclaim, “Holy Hunter S. Thompson!”

    What I wrote was “few actual journalists.” The “New Journalists” did not become the primary standard in American reporting. But this is trivia.

  24. I was the Hugo Administrator for CoNZealand. Our base designer created custom shipping cases for the awards. The bases were shipped from New Zealand to the US and assembled here for reshipping out to finalists. And many of those assembled awards arrived damaged. No one had ever actually shipped an assembled Hugo in the cases, and while they were carefully constructed, it turned out that they allowed enough movement to break delicate wooden bits and in some cases gouge the actual quartz bases.

    Am I some sort of horrible, irresponsible person for failing not know that the vendor provided shipping case would not be sufficient? I happen to know that the Hugos from China also had vendor provided shipping cases. Dave’s job was to administer the Hugos – he’s not a shipping expert. Shit on him for things that are actually his fault.

  25. @Gary Farber

    Does this mean Chris actually has been a paid journalist, or is this a pompous way of saying “I write for fanzines and fan websites such as FILE 770,” in which case innumerable fanzine fans and bloggers and writers for websites have been and are “journalists”?

    As I recall it was citizen journalists that took down Dan Rather’s fraudulent reporting roughly 20 years ago.

    We’ve had plenty of other instances of individual citizen journalists correctly reporting stories that the major media either misreports or just overlooks as unworthy of their efforts. Matt Drudge would be an excellent example.

    Regardless of whether Mr. Barkley gets paid for his journalism, he has committed an act (probably more than one) of journalism and therefore is correct to use that description of his activities. The word “journalism” describes an action that anyone may commit.

    FTR, I disagree with Mr. Barkley on many topics. Whether or not he is correctly described as a “journalist” is not one of those topics.

    Regards,
    Dann
    Tronatology 101 – Never let the smoke out.

  26. Tammy Coxen: You know, when I won a special committee award in 1982, which was a lovely handmade statuette, my friends arranged to have it carefully attached to a wooden frame which was then slipped into the shipping box in order to avoid that banging around. And guess what happened. When the box got banged around, the frame transmitted the kinetic energy to the statuette and it cracked like mad. Things happen even with the greatest care and best of intentions. Fortunately, my father was very handy and was able to repair it so you could hardly tell.

  27. And I try not to say “you know” anymore — that was a childhood habit I worked on breaking — but I just read it about 500 times while working on the interview transcript. I hope I don’t regain the habit.

  28. Gary Farber at 1:29: This was also how censorship worked in the USSR, except that all the publishers were state owned. The editors rather than the official censorship organ (Glavlit) were responsible for what got into print, and if somebody on high had objections, editors could be, and were, punished (usually just fired) for material, including sf, that Glavlit had passed. There existed guidelines on what you could and couldn’t say, but they were vague and changed over time. So censorship was largely self-censorship by authors and anticipatory censorship by editors. (I’m not current on how it works under Putin, but my guess is not too differently. )

  29. What I wrote was “few actual journalists.”

    I’m a journalism school graduate and former newspaper reporter, so I might be expected to be invested in gatekeeping the term “journalist.”

    Hell to the no I say to that. The gate has been knocked down for at least a quarter century — since blogs came along. If you cover something regularly and you do it well enough to build an audience — and you maintain a standard of ethics, fairness and accuracy that people can respect — welcome to the club. You are a journalist.

  30. Dave’s job was to administer the Hugos – he’s not a shipping expert.

    You’re making the assumption McCarty shipped them, but he is the person who received them. This writeup by Chris Barkley makes it sound like someone else handled that in China.

  31. One non-controversial correction: the deliberately bad book written by lots of different people was Atlanta Nights.

    I’m dropping this in here for any future passers-by who got here by googling for “Eye of Argon.” And because it’s factual and doesn’t have me going “wait, what?” , unlike some things in that interview transcript.

  32. I didn’t know so many folks were working on transcripts, so I did one as well, using my now-completely-obsolete medical transcription skills. I started with an AI transcript and then went over it by hand to fix the errors and misspellings and so on. (The AI bot I was working with translated “Cixin Liu” as “Xi Jingping”, which was amusing.)

    Anyway here’s my transcript if anyone wants to see it, just so my work does not go completely to waste.

    (And yes, Dave was talking about “Eye of Argon”, not Atlanta Nights)

  33. Vicki Rosenzweig: That’s true. I think that bad-book-with-multiple-authors idea got conflated with another book. McCarty is talking about a group reading, and Eye of Argon is the one that each fan would read til aloud they cracked themselves up, then it would be the next fan’s turn to see how long they could go before laughing.

  34. As I recall it was citizen journalists that took down Dan Rather’s fraudulent reporting roughly 20 years ago.

    Funny you should mention that. I used to be a footnote in the Wikipedia article on that event due to my blogging about it.

    Old fannish experience with typewriters let me point out at a very early stage in that debate that the IBM Executive typewriter worked with proportional spacing, a capacity some people were foolish and ignorant enough about to claim that it wasn’t possible.

    Ten years of news blogging brings much experience with reporting on many events.

  35. Unless I’m missing something, isn’t the “who counts as a journalist” discussion completely orthogonal to anything involved in the WorldCon, Hugos, or basically anything else?

    People seem to be getting pretty worked up over what’s, at best, an unrelated minor side issue

  36. Gary Farber: I like to think Dann already knew that typewriter story because he read it in File 770 #144 (page 13). But that’s my bias showing.

  37. @Patrick McGuire:

    This was also how censorship worked in the USSR, except that all the publishers were state owned.

    It’s how all totalitarian/repressive states have had to work since the development of mass literacy, but especially, of course, since the internet.

    Huge as the apparatus of state censorship is in China, there aren’t enough people to keep track of everyone’s writings/doings without convincing people of the need to self-censor so as to minimize the possibility of direct state (at whatever level: town, province, national, party, government) intervention.

    The Chinese have had a more thorough censorship regime than the USSR or Putin have managed, so far as I can tell, but both governments have collaborated considerably in trying to learn from each other.

    When the Chengdu bid first arose and some of us were warning about the dangers, I was faintly surprised at how widespread the ignorance was in fandom as to how China works, but it was only faint because I’m all too experienced, after fifty years of fanac, with the degree to which many fans (by no mean all!) ignore politics and ignore mainstream news sources, let alone international news or news of other countries’ internal doings. And many take no interest in reading fat books about real countries, as opposed to fantasy worlds.

    And even now we continue to see widespread ignorance of how self-censorship works and how there was no need whatever for direct Party or governmental intervention with the Chengdu Worldcon-runners in order for there to be fear among the organizers of attracting such direct attention.

    I’ve said all along that I had no proof, but that it seems entirely clear that Dave and the other non-Chinese members of the Chengdu bid were motivated to a large degree by a desire to protect the Chinese members of the committee that they worked with, and the recent revelations have only served to further my belief that this has been true, albeit by no means a complete explanation of everything.

    (This is NOT a defense of Dave or anyone else, I wish to state as clearly as possible. It’s just an explanation of how the psychology of repression works.)

  38. Maytree: I’ve downloaded it and will take a look. One thing to remember, it’s Chris, not Charles, Barkley.

  39. I like to think Dann already knew that typewriter story because he read it in File 770 #144 (page 13). But that’s my bias showing.

    As so many have eloquently stated for many years: LOL.

    Unless I’m missing something, isn’t the “who counts as a journalist” discussion completely orthogonal to anything involved in the WorldCon, Hugos, or basically anything else?

    Absolutely.

  40. In the interview (as transcribed), Dave McCarty says, “… if we gave a more satisfying answer in China, yeah, there would definitely be a negative reaction here.”

    Maybe he should try giving an answer that would satisfy the Chinese fans, some of whom are up in arms about the Hugo disqualifications. (Perhaps, to put it into People’s Daily-speak, he could say something like “the committee determined that including certain disqualified nominees on the final ballot could have hurt the feelings of 1.3 billion Chinese people.”) I don’t know how much more negative the reaction could be from fans in the West.

  41. One thing to remember, it’s Chris, not Charles, Barkley.

    Gah, right, fixed it. Charles is the basketball player….

    I’ve enabled comments on the doc if anyone wants to suggest corrections or add notes. I also added time stamps for the recording to make it easier to locate specific statements if desired.

  42. I want to second Ryan Jones’ question: Does Dave McCarty truly understand that fandom is larger than his circle of friends? Those of you who’ve worked with him or interacted with Dave substantially in the past, does Ryan’s description sound off-base to you?

    What I can make of Dave’s talk about the nomination numbers bears no relationship to what we’re seeing, am I right? He doesn’t talk about the “cliff”, he doesn’t explain why there’s no “total number of nominations” in each category? Those of you who’ve worked with him in the past, is he usually sloppy about numbers?

  43. Mike (and others):

    ErsatzCulture, pomelo, other Chinese-knowers, & I have discussed about that purported censors’ report. I can email you an English version that’s a mixture of better machine translation plus real human translation, or I could post it here. If the email addy I have for you is still good …

    In general, folks, the Chinese translations at DeepL are much better than those from Google.

  44. The nomination stats have more than a couple problems. Either the ballots weren’t processed correctly or the report is inaccurate or both.

  45. If there is an error in the SQL used to generate the stats, as suggested, then it must be corrected and a revised set of nomination figures published. It won’t clear up all of the questions, but it might clarify a few.

  46. A Chinese police task force scouring the full list of thousands of works nominated for the Hugo for possible pornograhic or other “illegal” content and making “recommendations” about 12 works it deemed problematic because they appeared to be pornographic or otherwise prohibited by Chinese law does sound weirdly credible.

    Supposing Chinese cops pointed to something similar to 2017 Hugo finalist “Alien Stripper Boned From Behind By The T-Rex” and recommended throwing it out, the Hugo team might have had a point in going: “OK, officer.”

    Babel is not porn, nor illegal in China.

    Chinese cops didn’t recommend censoring it.

    Even if they had, the correct response would have been, “Excuse me, officer, your task force is in error: This author is published in China and this is a serious novel about 19th century Western colonial oppression.”

    But they didn’t.

    Makes no sense.

    My takeaway from Dave’s interview: “The Hugo vote calculations are inaccurate multiple ways, but I’m talking about one that I wish to make a case didn’t change the results. However, even though I’m claiming that fixing it wouldn’t change the results, we’re not going to fix it. I’m certainly not going to tell you anything about the other inaccuracies that might well have changed the results.”

    However, Dave is dead on that taking the Hugos away from the hosting Worldcon, having them imposed from above by an outside permanent committee, will end in tragedy. It would probably kill off the awards. He’d be a lot more credible making that argument if it weren’t for the lies and omissions.

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