Two leaders of Worldcon Intellectual Property (WIP), the nonprofit that holds the service marks of the World Science Fiction Society, have reportedly stepped down from their posts following accusations of censorship in the voting process for the 2023 Hugo Awards.
In a January 30 statement, WIP officials announced that director Dave McCarty and board chair Kevin Standlee have both resigned from their positions. McCarty was also censured for "public comments that have led to harm of the goodwill and value of our marks and for actions of the Hugo Administration Committee of the Chengdu Worldcon that he presided over." Standlee was "reprimanded" for "public comments that mistakenly led people to believe that we are not servicing our marks."
In addition, WIP announced that two others, Chen Shi and Ben Yalow, were also censured for "actions of the Hugo Administration Committee of the Chengdu Worldcon [they] presided over." The statement adds that there "may be other actions taken or to be taken that are not in this announcement." Yalow, who co-chaired the Chengdu Worldcon with Shi, is no longer listed on the 2024 Glasgow Worldcon committee and staff page.
"WIP takes very seriously the recent complaints about the 2023 Hugo Award process," the statement reads, "and complaints about comments made by persons holding official positions in WIP."
The Hugo Awards are the most prestigious honors in the sci-fi/fantasy community. The awards, administered by the World Science Fiction Society, are awarded annually at the group's global convention, Worldcon. Last year's Worldcon was held for the first time in China, in Chengdu.
The resignations and disciplinary actions come after the nomination data for the 2023 awards was made public on January 20 and it was revealed that certain authors and books—including R.F. Kuang's hit novel Babel—had been inexplicably deemed "not eligible" for the Hugo. Kuang is Chinese American, and her work draws heavily from Chinese culture and history. Many fans and authors have speculated that state censorship—or self-censorship under the state's watch—was the reason for the opaque ineligibility rulings by the Chengdu–based committee.
Also deemed ineligible were Chinese Canadian author Xiran Jay Zhao, whose book Iron Widow is about China's only female emperor, and writer Paul Weimer, who expressed concerns in 2021 over holding Worldcon 2023 in Chengdu.
In response to the outcry, McCarty took to Facebook on January 20 and attempted (sometimes curtly) to address hundreds of comments from angered authors, including Neil Gaiman and Silvia Moreno-Garcia. An episode of Netflix's TV series The Sandman, based on Gaiman's comic series, was also declared ineligible.
In a Bluesky post, Kuang addressed Babel's snub, writing that the censorship evident in the nomination data "is not only embarrassing for all involved parties, but renders the entire process and organization illegitimate."
As the WIP statement notes, "each year’s World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon) is run by a separate organization" that administers the Hugo Awards for that year. The leaders of 2024 Glasgow Worldcon, which will be held August 8–12 in Scotland's largest city, are already distancing themselves from the Chengdu committee. On January 27, the Glasgow group issued a statement pledging total transparency in the Hugo voting process, assuring fans that it will "publish the reasons for any disqualifications of potential finalists, and any withdrawals of potential finalists from the ballot."
In addition to the resignations and censures, WIP this week also announced that Don Eastlake has been elected as the new WIP board chair.