Thursday 6 January 2022

Hugos Unlike Any Previous

The 2022 Hugo Awards seem likely to be unlike any previous Hugos, because the Hugo-nominating constituency will be unlike any previous.

As far as we are aware, there has yet to be a Worldcon in which the largest single contingent of the membership came from anywhere other than the United States. Likewise, as far as we can determine, there has yet to be a Hugo Awards at which the plurality of votes came from anywhere other than the United States.

Even when the Worldcon was in Dublin two years ago, members living in the U.S. were the group
Even when the Worldcon was in far-off Helsinki,
there were more Americans than Fins in attendance.
(Photo by Tapio Haaja via Pixabay)

most represented in sales, with 2,750 of the 6,918 memberships (and 1,582 of the 4,190 in-person memberships) being purchased by U.S. residents. In Finland two years before that, 3,368 of the 8,748 memberships (and 1,141 of the 3,316 in-person memberships) were purchased by U.S. residents. At Japan’s 2007 Worldcon, 1,907 of the 4,010 memberships sold were purchased by U.S. residents. The complete and exact tally of how many people from each country bought memberships to Discon III is not available yet due to issues with the registration system, but similar patterns repeat in the demographic breakdown of every Worldcon for which we have found the statistics.

This dominance of American voters is reflected in the results of the Hugo Awards; almost 85 per cent of all Hugo-nominated fiction, and almost 85 per cent of all Hugo-winning fiction was written by U.S.-born authors (a statistic that’s even more revealing when one realizes that the calculation counts Isaac Asimov, Algis Budrys, and Manly Wade Wellman as not being U.S.-born.)

Editor and author Xueting
Christine Ni would be a
worthy inclusion on the Hugo
ballot. (Image via Amazon)

We predict that these statistics (which have remained fairly stable over recent decades) are about to change.

Rumours about a large number of supporting memberships being purchased in the days leading up to the 2023 Worldcon site selection vote were viral at Worldcon 2021. Turns out they were also accurate, with more than 2,400 Chinese residents purchasing supporting memberships for Discon III; approximately 1,600 of those memberships were purchased in the 10 days before the convention. The final vote tally was 2,006 votes for Chengdu to 807 for Winnipeg.
Science Fiction World prints more
than 200,000 copies every month.
(Image via

We have trepidation about the Chinese government and its human rights record, but we also have respect for the fans and the bid committee behind the Chengdu Worldcon. As much as we would have preferred to see the 2023 Worldcon happen in Winnipeg, we are embarrassed to have seen the (sometimes racist) response we have seen towards the people working on the Chengdu Worldcon bid. Based on our attendance at related Worldcon 2021 sessions and conversations with members of both bids, the groups behind the 2023 bids seemed to be enthusiastic and professional, and backed by dedicated fans.

The Chengdu bid won this site selection vote through organizing, through outreach to convention runners, and through encouraging their local fans to purchase supporting memberships and to vote. As has often been pointed out by proponents of the Chendu bid, China is the country with the world’s largest number of science fiction fans. 

Based out of Chengdu, Science Fiction World (科幻世界) is the science fiction magazine with the largest circulation on Earth; comparable to the total of Analog, Asimov’s and the Magazine of Science Fiction & Fantasy combined. The 2,400 Discon III supporting memberships from China represent a fraction of a percent of the circulation of this one magazine.

Canadian author Derek Künsken
does well in North America ...
but more than a million people
read his works in China.
(Cover of the Chinese edition
of Quantum Magician via the

The vast majority of these memberships were bought by people who have never previously participated in voting on the Hugo Awards, as this will be their first Worldcon memberships. And excitingly, they will be eligible to nominate works for the Hugos in 2022. Given that there are usually little more than 1,000 nominating ballots cast in a given year, these supporting members of Discon III could have an enormous influence on what makes the ballot at the Chicago Worldcon. We encourage them to nominate. 

The third-highest grossing movie worldwide in 2021 was the Chinese-language time-travel movie Hi Mom. Han Song has won the Chinese Galaxy Award six times, but remains little-known among English-speaking readers. Xueting Christine Ni has been tirelessly working to promote Chinese science fiction for years, and could be recognized in one of the editor categories. And some authors underappreciated by Hugo voters (such as Derek Künsken) have found a broader audience with their works translated for Chinese-language magazines such as Non-Exist Magazine. We might also hope that these new Hugo voters will not neglect the fan categories.

There is a real possibility that the 2022 ballot could be the most surprising Hugo Awards shortlist in years — and the least U.S.-centric to date.


  1. I think 2022, very much so 2023, and 2024 have the potential to be really different.

    1. I agree with Paul. It is both exciting and nervous-making, as with any change.

  2. Which is why IMO WorldCon may represent Sci Fi "FANS" but Sci Fi readership at least in the US is represented now by DragonCon

  3. Has a non-English, untranslated work ever made the shortlist in any category? I wonder how that would play out this year.

    1. As far as I'm aware there has not been. The closest was in 1962 when (at the urging of Brian Aldiss) the Worldcon committee gave a "special Hugo citation" to the Swedish sci-fi musical Aniara. But that isn't actually a Hugo award.