[Dec. 11, 1960] Something Bright (the 1960 Galactic Stars!)

The chill of winter is finally here, heralding the end of a year.  It’s time for eggnog, nutmeg, presents, pies, and family.  But more importantly, it’s time for the second annual Galactic Stars awards.

Forget the Hugos–here’s what I liked best in 1960.

In a tradition I began last year, I look back at all fiction that debuted in magazines (at least, The Big Four) with a cover date of this year as well as all of the science fiction books published.  Then I break down the fiction by length, choose the best by magazine, and finally the best overall.  All using the most modern and sophisticated scientific techniques, of course.

Last year, my choices mirrored those chosen at the Labor Day Worldcon for the Hugo awards.  We’ll see if my tastes continue to flow in the mainstream.  I break my length categories a bit finer than the Hugos, so there are bound to be some differences from that aspect, alone. 

(stories within the category are ordered best to least)

Best Vignette (1-9 pages):

A Day in the Suburbs, by Evelyn Smith (F&SF)

Words and Music, Arthur Porges (IF)

The Barrier Moment, Poul Anderson (Analog)

Best Short Story (10-19 pages):

From Shadowed Places, Richard Matheson (Combat Unit, Keith Laumer, runner-up) (F&SF)

Something Bright, Zenna Henderson (Galaxy)

Gun for Hire, Mack Reynolds (Analog)

Best Novelette (20-45 pages)

Immortality for Some, J. T. McIntosh (Analog)

Meeting of the Minds, Robert Sheckley (Galaxy)

All the Traps of Earth, Clifford Simak (F&SF)

Best Novella (46+ pages)

To the Tombaugh Station, Wilson Tucker (F&SF)

The Lost Kafoozalum, Pauline Ashwell (Analog)

(none in Galaxy/IF)

Best Novel/Serial

A Canticle for Leibowitz, Walter M. Miller (1st Place)

Deathworld, Harry Harrison (2nd Place)

The High Crusade, Poul Anderson (3rd Place)

Science Fact

Element of Perfection, Isaac Asimov (F&SF)

F&SF and Analog competed for the top of their categories, with Galaxy/IF not winning a single one.  This carried over into the novels, with Canticle originally appearing in F&SF, and Deathworld and Crusade both Analog stories. 

This is consistent with the overall magazine rankings…

Best Magazine

Fantasy and Science Fiction (3.17 stars)

Analog (2.92 stars)

Galaxy/IF (2.75 stars)

…particularly when you understand that Analog’s rating is encumbered by John Campbell’s wretched “science” articles. 

All in all, there were fewer stand-out (5-star) stories in 1960.  On the other hand, women wrote three of the fourteen fiction winners, a proportion larger than their representation by a factor of two. 

I think the answer is clear—if we want better fiction, we need more women writing it!

Finally, adding a new category to accommodate the large and small screen:

Best Dramatic Presentation

The Time Machine, George Pal

with a special nod to…

The Twilight Zone, Rod Serling (the 1st Season)

As always, tell me your favorites for 1960.  Here’s hoping for an excellent 1961 in science fiction/fantasy! 

16 thoughts on “[Dec. 11, 1960] Something Bright (the 1960 Galactic Stars!)”

    1. A few other items that might merit consideration:

      In the Vignette category:

      Damon Knight, “Enough Time,” AMAZING, July 1960
      Fritz Leiber, “Mariana,” FANTASTIC, Feb. 1960

      In the underpopulated Novella category:

      Fritz Leiber, “The Night of the Long Knives,” AMAZING, Jan. 1960
      Ward Moore, “Transient,” AMAZING, Feb. 1960

      The times, they are a-changing.  Or at least some of the places are.

      John Boston

  1. It seems to have been a pretty good year for the genre. Choosing between “The Lost Kafoozalum” and “The Longest Voyage” is a tough call. I think I agree with you. The Ashwell was a bit more fun and read a little better, but you could have at least given Anderson a runner-up nod like you did Laumer.

    The long-form fiction is really impressive. Those are 3 really good books. On top of that, you’ve got Venus Plus X, which might not be Sturgeon’s best, but is challenging, and a couple of books that a lot of people (well, critics anyway) seemed to like, though none of us did: Rogue Moon and The Tomorrow People. Drunkard’s Walk wasn’t bad either. I hope this is the start of a trend. I’d like to see more novel-length science fiction. Give authors room to really explore their ideas.

    1. This year definitely favored long form over short.  Or perhaps I’m just becoming more demanding.  I’ll try to be objective next year.

      I did like the Anderson, but I didn’t love it.  The language ground, he’d trod before with Crusade, and I thought the theme was a little hamfisted. 

      Drunkward’s Walk was solid, in the same above-average class as Venus Plus X.

  2. Vignette:
    I didn’t read any of those.

    Short Story:
    I’ve read most of those. “Combat Unit” outshines them all by orders of magnitude.  If this Laumer guy can continue to write stories like that he’ll be a major player.

    Novelette:
    I’d rate the Simak story as the best of a mediocre lot.

    Novella:
    I didn’t read either of those, based on previous disappointments from those authors.

    Novel:
    I’d put “Deathworld” over “The High Crusade” on merit, but the Anderson story was downright fun, so I couldn’t object if it won.  But “A Canticle for Leibowitz”… whaaaaat?  It was overlong, moved slowly to nowhere, and preachy in an odd way.  I made it about halfway through and skipped through the rest; it’s one of the handful of books I couldn’t force myself to finish.

  3. I seem to have missed a lot of the shorter pieces.  It does look like it was a good year for novels.  I can’t argue with “A Canticle For Leibowitz,” but I would have been just as happy with “Venus Plus X.”

    My one quirky opinion is that I didn’t care for “To the Tombaugh Station” at all.

    Agreement on “The Time Machine” and “The Twilight Zone.”

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