[Sep. 4, 1962] Differences of opinion (the 1962 Hugo Awards!)

[if you’re new to the Journey, read this to see what we’re all about!]


by Gideon Marcus

Once again, the best and the brightest of the fans (and many of the rest of them) congregated for the biggest SFnal shindig of the year: WorldCon.  This year, Chicago won the bid to hold this prestigious event.  The Pick-Congress Hotel saw more than 500 fen gather for a Labor Day weekend of carousing, shopping, costuming, and voting.

You see, every year these fans select the worthiest science fiction stories and outlets of the prior year to be recipients of the Hugo, a golden rocketship trophy.  It’s the closest thing one can get to a curated list of the best SF has to offer.  Winning is a tremendous honor; even getting on the nominees ballot is a laudable achievement.  In fact, we have been informed that Galactic Journey was the Nominee-Runner Up this year in the Best Fanzine category — thanks to all of you who got us to one rank below the ballot.  Perhaps next year will be the breakthrough!


The Chicon III fanquet, where the award ceremony was held

So let’s see what the fans decided was 1961’s best, and in particular, let’s compare it to my list of favorites, the ones I gave at the end of last year.

Best Novel

Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein [Putnam, 1961]

Nominees

Dark Universe by Daniel F. Galouye [Bantam, 1961]
Sense of Obligation (alt: Planet of the Damned) by Harry Harrison [Analog Sep,Oct,Nov 1961]
The Fisherman (alt: Time Is the Simplest Thing) by Clifford D. Simak [Analog Apr,May,Jun,Jul 1961]
Second Ending by James White [Fantastic Jun,Jul 1961]


Robert Heinlein holding court

This line-up shouldn’t shock me, given the pre-convention buzz, and yet it does.  Stranger has gotten a lot of attention, particularly from the mainstream edges of our fandom (probably because it dares to mention sex).  It has also earned its fair share of scorn.  It’s a lousy, preachy book, but if we’re judging by the sales, then it’s won its trophy, fair and square.

Galouye’s book was my #2, so I’m glad it was recognized.  The Fisherman was quite good.  The Harrison was no great shakes, especially compared to Deathworld, which it resembled.  I suspect these two made it to the top ranks thanks to their appearing in Analog, the most popular digest.

We weren’t covering Fantastic last year.  Maybe Second Ending is excellent.  Someone tell me, please.

Short Fiction

The Hothouse series by Brian W. Aldiss [F&SF Feb,Apr,Jul,Sep,Dec 1961]

Nominees

Monument by Lloyd Biggle, Jr. [Analog Jun 1961]
Scylla’s Daughter by Fritz Leiber [Fantastic May 1961]
Status Quo by Mack Reynolds [Analog Aug 1961]
Lion Loose by James H. Schmitz [Analog Oct 1961]

Once again, Analog dominates, and once again, I cannot agree.  None of these stories won the Galactic Star last year (and that’s even with me giving out far more awards than Worldcon does).  I did give a Star to the first story in the Hothouse series, but the quality of the tales went down over the course of the publication.  I understand they were novelized early this year, so Aldiss may get another bite at the apple.  He doesn’t deserve it, though (the reviewer for UK sf digest, New Worlds, agrees with me).

As for the rest, Monument is a good story, and I haven’t read the Leiber, but the other two nominees were wretched.  And where’s Cordwainer Smith?  Zenna Henderson?  Or a host of more worthy authors?  Feh, Chicago.  Feh!

Best Dramatic Presentation

The Twilight Zone (TV series) by Rod Serling [CBS]

Nominees

Village of the Damned (1960) [MGM] Directed by Wolf Rilla; Written by Stirling Silliphant and Wolf Rilla and Ronald Kinnoch
The Fabulous World of Jules Verne (1961) [Warner Brothers] Directed by Karel Zeman; Screenplay by Frantisek Hrubin and Karel Zeman; based on the novel Face au Drapeau by Jules Verne
The Two Worlds of Charlie Gordon (U. S. Steel Hour #8.13) [CBS, 1961] Teleplay by Jame Yaffe; based on the short story Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
Thriller (TV Series) [NBC, 1961]

This is interesting.  Three of the five are television shows, and while Jules Verne won a nomination, it wasn’t for any of the films I watched and nominated.  I have not seen Village, but Ashley Pollard spoke fondly of it.  Neither The Twilight Zone nor Thriller were stellar last year, but I suppose if that’s what you tune into week-after-week, you’re bound to be partial. 

I’d be keen to know how the Flowers for Algernon adaptation was.  It was based, of course, on an excellent story.

Best Professional Magazine

Analog Science Fiction and Fact ed. by John W. Campbell, Jr.

Nominees

Galaxy ed. by H. L. Gold
Amazing Science Fiction Stories ed. by Cele Goldsmith
The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction ed. by Robert P. Mills and Avram Davidson
Science Fantasy ed. by John Carnell


That’s Cele Goldsmith, editor of Fantastic and Amazing, at the podium

Another set of rankings that shouldn’t surprise me — Analog has far and away the biggest circulation numbers.  That said, it was pretty lousy last year.  Of course, we weren’t covering Amazing and Fantastic, and Science Fantasy remains the last English-language magazine yet to be reviewed at the Journey. 

It seems the fandom feels Galaxy is of highly variable quality, sometimes showcasing the best stuff and sometimes the worst.  I hold an opposite opinion — for me, Galaxy is always good, but only occasionally stands out.  My feelings on F&SF are, of course, no surprise to the regular followers of my column.

Best Professional Artist

Ed Emshwiller

Nominees

Virgil Finlay
Mel Hunter
John Schoenherr
Alex Schomburg


Emsh is on the right

Kelly Freas appears to have fallen out of favor.  Emsh remains the favorite, and I can agree with that.  I think I’m going to have to start nominating my own set of artists for Galactic Stars, especially after the beautiful work Gaughan contributed for Vance’s novella, The Dragon Masters (which almost assuredly will win a Star of its own, if not a Hugo).

Best Fanzine

Warhoon ed. by Richard Bergeron

Nominees

Cry ed. by F. M. Busby, Elinor Busby and Wally Weber
Yandro ed. by Robert Coulson and Juanita Coulson
Amra ed. by George H. Scithers
Axe ed. by Larry Shaw and Noreen Shaw

Last up is the fanzines, which I don’t generally have time to read — though I did pick up the latest copy of Rhodomagnetic Digest, and I now have a subscription to Axe and Science Fiction Times.  Fill me in on what I’m missing, folks?

So there you have it.  A markedly different list from what I would have chosen, but then I suppose there is merit to having more than one curated selection at your disposal.

What choices did you make?




14 thoughts on “[Sep. 4, 1962] Differences of opinion (the 1962 Hugo Awards!)”

  1. Not much I can add — it’s amazing how many of the nominated works I haven’t read — but I definitely agree that there were many great works of short fiction which were overlooked.

    (How did the Hothouse series, and not just one of the stories, get nominated, anyway?  That seems very odd.)

    I can add another vote for Village of the Damned, which is very good.  Check it out if it shows up at your local second run theater, or maybe in a few years on the tube.

  2. Kelly Freas actually took a bit of a vacation between 1960 and 1964, doing mainly work for MAD magazine , and I think taking a rest break in Mexico?
    In a way this was a blessing, poor Ed Emsh , who was doing work of equal quality for quite a while finally got several Hugos in row.
    Emsh had been swamped by the ASF appearances of Freas, even tho Emsh did appear, not as often there.

  3. And here we see the biggest drawback of having only one category for short fiction. It’s apples and oranges through and through. And if you ask me, the fix was in to give this thing to Aldiss. Victoria asks how the series came to be nominated. My guess is that none of the individual stories garnered enough nominations to make the ballot, so the awards committee lumped them all together in order to get Aldiss on there. If you ask me, that makes it a novel, but Heinlein was obviously going to get that one, since a) sex and b) Heinlein. Of course, we’re talking about people who can’t even count to three. They still haven’t decided if this was officially ChiCon II or ChiCon III.

    I didn’t see Charlie Gordon, but I did hear a good story about the show. Apparently, the producers insisted on a happy ending where after first losing his new-found smarts, Charlie suddenly gets them back. Cliff Robertson was bitterly opposed to that, but they twisted his arm and made it clear that was the only way he’d get the show aired, so he agreed. Fortunately, the US Steel Hour is still live and Cliff Robertson is a consummate professional. The show was supposed to end with Charlie looking dejectedly at a book and then suddenly turning the pages with ever greater enthusiasm and understanding. But Robertson timed it perfectly so that the show ended just before the wrongness began. Cliff Robertson ought to get an award just for that.

    1. No fan I know in Dallas went to Chicago, but a few of us had memberships.
      No one voted for Stranger but all of us voted for Aldiss.
      The Heinlein novel was a surprise we didn’t expect and no one liked it. One of my friends said it was Heinlein’s Nehemiah Scudder Trunk Novel. Had to ask him what a Trunk Novel was.
      It read like it had been gestating too long.
      One fan says it reminded him of Dickens’s Scrooge thoughts:
      “You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of underdone potato. “

    1. Good point.  It would be better if the Hugos gave awards to novellas, novelettes, and short stories as separate categories.

  4. Cliff Robertson was good in The Two Worlds of Charlie Gordon .
    However what was a sensational short story, Flowers for Algernon , became a bit lackluster as a teleplay. It was not bad , did show how difficult it is to adapt prose source material as a visual narrative.

  5. It took a while to make it through the Galouye book.  I almost put it down a couple of times, but it got better, and when I finished, I was glad I’d read it.  But I wouldn’t read it again.

    The Heinlein… I can’t say much that others here haven’t.  But if his editor had chainsawed out about half the word count, I think it would have been a much better book.

    The Harrison was interesting, but it was two different novellas jammed crudely together.  Either would have been quite good on its own, perhaps among Harrison’s better works, I’d think.  But it’s not a novel in the sense of a single coherent narrative.

    The Biggle had an interesting premise, but it moved so slowly and creakily it was an effort to get through it.  Very unlike Biggle’s earlier works.

    The Schmitz… I don’t know what was wrong with it, precisely.  I wound up skipping, then never managed to finish it.  I like Schmitz’ writing, but somehow his storytelling often evades me.

    I generally like Simak.  His stories generally flow smoothly without the highs and lows other writers use to keep readers interested.  This one was 100% Simak, and it had a big overarching Plot Idea… but the implementation was so hard to swallow that I was unable to enjoy the book.

    By SF standards they were all readable, but none of them were prizeworthy in my opinion.  I kinda feel like the Grinch saying this, but none of these were up to my opinion of the authors’ earlier works.  None of them succeeded in gaining a slot in my increasingly-limited shelf space; they’re in the big box tied with string, for my wife’s cousin to pick up next time he passes through town.  He has some kind of store back home that trades(?) used paperback books.  Sounds like an unlikely business plan, but they do all sorts of weird things in the big city.

    I’m hoping everyone was just saving up all their best work for next year…

  6. Village of the Damned is surprisingly enjoyable; said as most film adaptations are often pale shadows of the source text–with honourable exceptions of course, like for example, Forbidden Planet, a loose adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Tempest.

    The Fabulous World of Jules Verne has an interesting visual look, which I enjoyed.

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