Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask #88, A Column of Unsolicited Opinions

In Search Of…The 2023 Hugo Awards      

By Chris M. Barkley: On February 17, 2024, I received the following email:

Feb 17, 2024, 4:25 AM

Dear Hugo and Related Award Winners,

Many of you are wondering when Hugo Awards, and Finalist pins and certificates will be shipped out to those who did not take possession of them in Chengdu. We could not distribute Finalist pins to Acceptors at the convention as is generally the custom, because we were not yet in possession of a large enough supply. So only attending Finalists received pins, and we missed some of them if they showed up early.

The award materials were shipped in bulk to the US for individual mailing, and arrived just recently. We need you to send us the shipping addresses(es) of the Winner or Winners. This needs to be a facility that can take delivery of a medium sized box. A PO Box will not do, unless you have a really understanding post office or a really large PO box. While we have a list of who got their Hugo Finalist pins in Chengdu, we would appreciate you confirming that you did or didn’t receive yours in your responses so that we can be sure we’re getting everyone handled appropriately.

Even if you have previously sent us an address, we would appreciate it if you could send it to us again to confirm things before we ship items out.

Thank you so much for all your cooperation during the preparations for the Awards Ceremony. Everything went really well, and we were pleased with the participation level of our Finalists and Winners at a Worldcon so far away from many of us. The Chinese fans experiencing all of this for their first time were thrilled to see so many finalists and winners there.

Should you have any questions regarding these instructions, please feel free to contact me at [email protected] and [email protected] Because, of course, the HugoTeam email address is still occasionally having hiccups.

Congratulations again to all of you.


Ann Marie Rudolph
Hugo Award Selection Committee
Chengdu Worldcon

Now, after reading this message, I, and everyone else who received this email, had every expectation of the delivery of all of the materials and awards due to the recipients. 

But this is not the case.

On January 20, fandom was rocked by the release of the 2023 Hugo Awards Long List and nominating ballot statistics, which inexplicably excluded a number of nominees and works, from within and outside the People’s Republic of China, and some without any explanation whatsoever.

Thirty-two days later, on Valentine’s Day, matters were confounded even further when my colleague Jason Sanford and I published a revealing investigative report that provided part of the answer; with material provided by award administrator Diane Lacey, it was revealed that the Chengdu Hugo Award Administration team, headed up by Dave McCarty, had ruled that some of works had been ruled “ineligible” because of their alleged or perceived bias against China. 

The Hugo Awards arrived in the United States in late January, but, as I have reported here in an afterword to my interview with Dave McCarty, all of the display cases and some of the awards were damaged in transit from China. As of this writing, there has been no comment from the Chengdu Worldcon Committee how the awards were shipped nor has anyone ascertained how the damage occurred or taken responsibility for their condition.  

Before and during these tumultuous events, I made several inquiries as to when the recipients might expect their awards to arrive. Other than an email asking for my correct mailing address in mid-March (from an administrator not implicated in the scandal), I have not received any other news regarding the awards. 

I must take a moment to commend the work and artistry of Liu Cheng and his team, who designed and manufactured the beautiful and exquisite base of the 2023 Hugo Award. I have often said that I was envious of those who received the 2007 Hugo Award depicting the rocket alongside the Mt. Fuji and the iconic tokusatsu hero, Ultraman (designed by Takashi Kinoshita and KAIYODO). 

2023 Hugo Award by Richard Man

After the ceremony, I couldn’t take a step in any direction as I was besieged by fans for nearly 45 minutes as they clamored to pose for photographs with this magnificent piece of sculpture (and me), a yearning panda, reaching out of a stargate towards the Hugo rocket. I indulged everyone I could that frenzied and crazy evening because who knows when they might have a chance to see and hold such a fine work of art.  

A lot has happened since the end of the Hugo Awards Ceremony nearly eight months ago; most notably an extensive delay in the delivery of a number of Hugo Award trophies won by those residing outside of the People’s Republic of China (estimated to be 29 in total) to the United States to be dispersed by the 2023 Hugo Awards Administrator, Dave McCarty. 

In the past few weeks, as I marked the seventh month since the Hugo Awards Ceremony, I began to wonder if any of the 2023 recipients had either received their awards or have had any other contact regarding their Hugo Awards.

And so, starting on May 15th, I set out to contact all of the twenty-nine recipients via email or social media to conduct a survey of who and who did not receive their Hugo Awards. 

(Note: I did not attempt to contact Samantha Mills (Best Short Story, “Rabbit Test”) or Adrian Tchaikovsky (Best Series, “Children of Time”) since they have publicly declined to accept their awards due to the controversy surrounding their selection. I also did not contact any of the Chinese recipients, for obvious reasons.) 

I made a concerted effort to contact the following people:

T. Kingfisher (Ursula Vernon), Best Novel, Nettle & Bone

Seanan McGuire, Best Novella, Where the Drowned Girls Go

Bartosz Sztybor, Filipe Andrade, Alessio Fioriniello, Roman Titov, Krzysztof Ostrowski, Best Graphic Story or Comic, Cyberpunk 2077: Big City Dreams

Rob Wilkins, Best Related Work, Terry Pratchett: A Life With Footnotes

Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, Best Dramatic Presentation – Long Form, Everything Everywhere All at Once

Daniel Abraham, Ty Franck, Naren Shankar and Breck Eisner, Best Dramatic Presentation – Short Form, The Expanse: “Babylon’s Ashes”

Neil Clarke, Best Editor – Short Form

Lindsey Hall, Best Editor – Long Form

Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas, Chimedum Ohaegbu, Monte Lin, Meg Elison, Erika Ensign and Steven Schapansky, Best Semi-Prozine, Uncanny Magazine 

Haley Zapal, Amy Salley, Lori Anderson, and Kevin Anderson, Best Fancast, Hugo, Girl!

Richard Man, Best Fan Artist

Out of all of the queries sent, I received the following responses:

 T. Kingfisher (aka Ursula Vernon) conveyed to me, via social media, that as of this writing, she had not received her award. She also stated that she was vociferously ambiguous about keeping it, saying that she would decide whether or not to keep it after she received it.

Daniel Abraham’s assistant, Ms. Rogers, reported on May 23rd: 

Nope, no award, no emails, no nothing. I’m just answering for Daniel but I will check with Ty and Naren. Please keep us posted if you hear anything.”

Lindsey Hall, responding on a social media site on May 18th, was surprised; she kept her Hugo Award after the ceremony and had fully intended to have it shipped but never connected again with Mr. McCarty, so she decided to squeeze the case and award into her luggage and she cleared customs in China and the US with no problems at all. She also expressed surprise that none of the other recipients had received their awards yet.  

Lynne M. Thomas commented via social media a few days ago that the Hugo Awards she and her husband Michael Damian Thomas won were dropped off at their Chicago area home by Mr. McCarty at an unspecified date. She also said that both trophies did not show any damage but they were given without the display boxes. She also stated that they did inquire by email in May about the other awards for their staff members but have not received any response as of this writing.  

It turns out Lori Anderson of the Hugo, Girl podcast team was just as curious as I was; my inquiry to her prompted her to email Dave McCarty on May 28th:

Email screenshots with permissions from Lori Anderson

Undeterred, she sent a follow up email on June 6th:

As of this writing, there has been no response from Mr. McCarty.

On May 16th, Richard Man sent this DM response via Facebook:

 “Nope, heh.” And, he followed up by asking, “Have you? Has anyone?”

And I responded, nope.

As for myself, I had a chance to receive my Hugo Award twice; I considered taking it home in my luggage but decided against it on the evening of the ceremony because I did not know what level of bother to expect at customs. So, I can easily attest that my Hugo was the very first to be boxed up. Which I regret to this very day.

Hugo Award in a display box by Chris Barkley, 21 October, 2023

The second time was the weekend of Capricon 44 on February 3rd; when Juli and I arrived, we encountered Mr. McCarty in the upper-level lobby near the dealer’s room and the art show. He told me that the damage to the display box was so bad that it was totally unusable. The Hugo base needed to be tightened up and there was a notable chip in the paint on the panda. He generously offered to bring it to me to take home the next day but also said that he could have it repaired and restored.

After agonizing over it for a few minutes, I told him, yeah, please have it repaired. Which I also regret to this day because not more than an hour later I was taking custody of a flash drive and emails from Diane Lacey that would completely upend Mr. McCarty’s life, and fandom as well.

With the exception of passing along my condolences on the death of a mutual friend, I have not attempted to contact Mr. McCarty. 

On Saturday, June 8th, 2024, I attended the 50th Anniversary celebration of my high school, Purcell-Marian High School, Class of 1974.

I was invited back by the alumni association on the 25th anniversary back in 1999 but I was still feeling a bit resentful and raw from my experiences there; the teasing, fights, bullying and being made to feel as though I was a social outcast still weighed heavily on me. 

But I had grown a lot a quarter century ago and I decided to attend, if anything, to finally put this part of my life behind me for good.

And from the moment my partner Juli and I arrived, we were warmly greeted. Several people personally sought me out and we shared some personal memories that reminded me that not everything was as hellish as I remembered.  

When they asked what I had been doing over the past 50 years, I regaled them with stories about my daughter Laura, my four grandchildren, jobs I held over the decades and my many adventures in fandom.   

Of course, this all culminated with me (repeatedly) whipping out my phone and showing them a photo of myself, holding the 2023 Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer, proudly holding it while being in the People’s Republic of China.

Chris M. Barkley with 2023 Fan Writer Hugo Award by Pablo Vasquez, 21 October 2023

I was delighted to find that there were some sff fans among my classmates and their partners who KNEW what a Hugo Award was and there was much eye-popping and praise.

And when my classmates inevitably ask where I keep it, I cryptically replied that I have a special space reserved in our dining room. 

As of today, June 10th, there has been no response from Mr. McCarty, Ms. Rudolph, Chengdu Worldcon Co-Chairs Chen Shi, Ben Yalow and Hongwei He and convention liaison Joe Yao about this situation. 

What we have at the moment is an astonishing lack of responsibility, accountability and transparency regarding this issue. 

We all know what needs be done:

  • All of the Hugo Award Finalists should be sent their pins and certificates, immediately.
  • If there is a condition or repair issue regarding anyone’s Hugo Award, they should be sent a notice stating what the current situation is and when a delivery can be expected.
  • If an award needs to be replaced in its entirety, the recipient should be notified.
  • If the awards are going to be disbursed to everyone at the same time or as each award has been repaired, recipients should be made aware of that status.  
  • Each and every Finalist should receive a written apology for the convention’s lack of transparency and delay of their materials and awards.  

While I can safely say that no one’s life is at stake here, I can also say that once again, fandom’s black eye from the trials and tribulations of its own making continues to be on public display and, at this point, may actually be festering.

And the silence is absolutely deafening.