The annual Hugo Awards were this weekend, celebrating sci-fi and fantasy literature (and some non-literature) that enchanted audiences through the ever stressful year of 2021. But as creators got together to bask in the accomplishments of their peers and were honoured just to be nominated, the awards show found itself under fire for one of the companies that was sponsoring it.
Specifically, the U.S. defence contractor Raytheon Technologies. Founded in 2020 after a merger between the Raytheon Company and United Technologies Corporation, their primary focus is weapons for the military, and they’re one of the largest defence manufacturers in the world. (A lot of their revenue comes from the US government.) The company made their presence known when WorldCon, the sci-fi convention in Washington, DC where the awards take place, announced Raytheon’s Intelligence and Space division as a sponsor to take photos with during the red carpet event that opened the ceremony.
Walk the Red Carpet for @TheHugoAwards!
Raytheon Intelligence & Space is taking pro Red Carpet Photos of all on their way to the ceremony, so put on your Hugo best and visit the Palladian Room hallway for your red carpet moment!#Worldcon2021 #DisConIII #Worldcon #Hugos pic.twitter.com/RSfI9P1duY
— DisCon III – The 79th Worldcon (@worldcon2021) December 19, 2021
Amongst the sci-fi author community, the backlash has been sharp. Most of the comments in the tweet above are pointing out the bleakness of war profiteers finding a way to profit off a celebration of the typically forward thinking speculative science fiction genre. Some have been quick to point out that it’s just one arm of the company that’s doing the sponsoring, but to many more, the fact that a company who specialises in missiles and drones has a space division in the first place is troubling all on its own. It easily brings to mind how Marvel Comics planned to “team up” with defence contractor Northrop Grumman in an attempt to “focus on aerospace technology and engineering in a positive way.” What ended up happening instead was Marvel cancelling the partnership soon after it was announced, and the comic intended to promote this was as in bad taste as it sounded if you knew who Northrop Grumman was.
At time of writing, DisCon has yet to speak on the partnership with Raytheon for the event. For now, fans are left feeling soured that a night that should’ve been about a genre they loved had to brush up against a reality they hate.