DisCon III, the 79th World Science Fiction Convention, to be held August 25-29, 2021 in Washington DC, announced a controversial Hugo Award credit policy on January 11, 2021, then rescinded it the next day. Convention Co-chair Colette H. Fozard subsequently resigned.
The crux of the issue was the decision to limit the number of names of creators for a given work to four on the final ballot, in visuals during the ceremony, and on trophy plaques:
For many categories of the Hugo awards the work itself is the finalist, but the creators have traditionally been listed as part of the final ballot. As more works have become collaborations, and as categories have been added, the length of the final ballot and the award ceremony have increased. This has begun to cause substantial issues with physical space limitations and accessibility. Pre- and post-ceremony receptions have expanded considerably, which impacts accessibility and budget. Long ballot entries require reduced font sizes on ballots and visuals during the ceremony itself, which also impacts accessibility.
All creators named to DisCon III as part of a Hugo Finalist work will be listed in the DisCon III souvenir book, Hugo Award Ceremony program, and the DisCon III and Hugo Awards websites. These are the permanent records of the administration of the Hugo Awards. There will therefore be no restriction on the number of names linked to a finalist in these records.
However, if a finalist has more than four creators, DisCon III will list a maximum of four names for each finalist on the 2021 Hugo Final Ballot (both printed and online), the visuals used during the Hugo Award ceremony, and the plaques on the Hugo trophies.
The new policy also limited who would be invited to the pre-Hugo reception and seated in the finalist area, and announced that “the winner in each Hugo category will receive up to four (4) Hugo trophies from DisCon III, as appropriate, with the option to purchase more at cost.”
The unlisted nominees were not to be completely ignored:
All creators, regardless of how finalists are listed on the ballot, will be in the convention souvenir book and Hugo Award Ceremony program, on the DisCon III and Hugo Awards web-sites, and will receive Hugo finalist pins and ribbons. All finalists who wish to participate in DisCon III programming will be encouraged to apply, and will be considered for inclusion as a Hugo finalist.
The new policy was immediately met with an outcry online, with many in the field pointing out that some categories have works with multiple creators who wouldn’t be properly honored.
On January 12, chair Bill Lawhorn announced the decision had been reversed. His statement reads
We apologize to the Worldcon community for the Hugo Awards policies announced yesterday. We realize we should have reached out to the wider community for your feedback before finalizing it. Many were hurt and disappointed, especially those who are members of marginalized communities, and we have listened to your feedback and concerns.
The Hugo Awards exist to celebrate and honor all of the creators chosen by the Worldcon membership. We should have considered those creators’ needs and feelings through our policies and the messaging we used. We once again apologize.
Here are the steps we are taking to address the problems that were caused:
All publications and visuals linked to the Hugo Awards will include all Hugo Finalist creators named to DisCon III with no restrictions to the number of names. This includes, and is not limited to, the Hugo Awards ballot, the visuals used during the Hugo Awards Ceremony, the plaques on the Hugo Awards trophies, the Hugo Awards Ceremony program guide, the DisCon III souvenir guide, and the DisCon III and Hugo Awards websites.
We will address concerns about the size of events such as the Hugo Pre-Reception, the number of Hugo Awards trophies, and any other cost considerations individually with the finalists.
We want to thank the fans, especially those who are members of marginalized communities, for speaking out and helping us understand the issues with yesterday’s policies and how they were communicated.
Worldcon and The Hugo Awards are stronger because our fandom continually challenges us to create a better and more inclusive future. We acknowledge the trust placed in us as caretakers of Worldcon. We still have a lot of work to do. We are committed to earning back your trust as we approach DisCon III.
Once again, we offer our sincerest apologies.
On January 15, co-chair Colette H. Fozard resigned in protest. In a guest post at File 770, she explained:
In my years of growing responsibility of working for Worldcons, I have become increasingly alarmed and upset at the level of abuse and vitriol spewed at the all-volunteer staff. So much so that I have now abruptly walked away from probably the best chance I had to improve matters “from the inside.”…
If this were the first time The Internet rounded on Worldcon staff, I would be less worried, but it happens over and over…. Worldcon staff are people. People who are working hard to do the right thing and put on a convention where all feel welcome. Worldcon staff should be, must be, and are held responsible to ensure their work is welcoming and inclusive as possible, but the endless cycle of assume-bad-faith, attack-without-mercy is wearying, toxic and destructive to the very community these people claim to be a part of and care about.
Her complete statement may be read here: <file770.com/fozard-guest-post-about-resigning-as-worldcon-co-chair/>.
The convention also announced the creation of a “Hugo Concierge Team” – Kat Jones, Chris Brathwaite, and Kathy Bond – to “facilitate a smooth experience for Hugo finalists from the composition of the final ballot through the end of the convention and any post-convention wrap-up matters. The Hugo Concierge Team will work with finalists to gather creators’ names and contact information, create and foster connections with program and event teams, provide relevant and timely information to finalists, and ensure clear and constant communication.” For more: <discon3.org>.
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