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08.01.04

The 1954 Racing Form, Sci-Fi Style

4. The Trifecta

I am writing this from 10,000 feet up in the Taos Ski Valley at the Rio Hondo Writers' Workshop. (This is not a usual occurrence for me.) The Rio Hondo is about 12' wide. (Mark Twain: "The local sport here is jumping back and forth across the river until tired.") There are trout in the river (browns and rainbows according to my New Mexico Fishing Waters) but I haven't fished yet. I haven't bought a license because 1) I wanted to look at the water before I did, 2) I'm on a tight budget, and 3) the car was blowing oil and using coolant all the way up to Santa Fe (where I stopped for 36 hours.) I'd have to stop every 100 miles (so I stopped 7 times), let the engine cool, add oil and coolant, convenient or not. I used a quart and a half of oil on the way, and 2/3 a gallon of coolant (very diluted). I feared a blown head-gasket every mile of the way. There's still the trip back... The car (Chad Oliver's old 1985 Toyota Tercel wagon with the Mighty 62 hp engine) has 175,000 miles on it. It used more oil and coolant in the first 300 miles than it did in the last 400, which I take to be a good sign. I bought another gallon of pure coolant in Espanola which I used some of to top off the reservoir, and put in 200 milliliters of oil.

Fine, you say. What does your car trouble have to do with the 1954 Retro Hugos (which were not given out for work done in 1953 because, of all years, there were no Hugo Awards at the 1954 Worldcon...)?

EVERYTHING.

I'm here with 11 other SF professionals (there will be 12 by this coming Saturday) ((Their names would frighten you.)) Besides workshopping, we are eating too much good food and having way much too much plain damn intellectual fun...

And what I did when I got here is copy the Retro Hugo ballot out of Locus by hand and put it on the coffee table in the headquarters (where the food is — we workshop somewhere else) and told everyone to mark down only their 1st choice in each category (although Noreascon will probably use the Australian ballot, which wasn't introduced into the Hugo voting until the 70s — it used to be winner-take-all, which led to: a 3-vote difference = a tie, in some cases...)

These are knowledgeable people, whose careers in SF range from 10 to 30 years, the average being about 20. These are not people who just fell from the turnip truck into the SF roadside ditch. They didn't vote in some categories, but they did tie themselves in knots the same way YOU will. Here are their results:

Novel:

  Fahrenheit 451 — 3 votes

  Childhood's End — 3 votes

  More Than Human — 4 votes

Novella:

  "A Case of Conscience" — 5 votes

  "The Rose" — 1 vote

  "...And My Fear Is Great" — 2 votes

Novelette:

  "Earthman Come Home" — 1 vote

  "The Wall Around the World" — 1 vote

  "Second Variety" — 4 votes

Short Story:

  "Star Light, Star Bright" — 1 vote

  "It's a Good Life!" — 5 votes

  "The Nine Billion Names of God" — 1 vote

  "Seventh Victim" — 2 votes

Best Related Book:

  Science Fiction Handbook — 3 votes

  Conquest of the Moon — 2 votes

Best Dramatic Presentation:

  "Duck Dodgers..." — 7 votes

  Invaders from Mars — 1 vote

  War of the Worlds — 1 vote

Best Editor:

  Boucher — 4 votes

  Campbell — 1 vote

  Gold — 2 votes

  Pohl — 1 vote

  Wollheim — 1 vote

Best Artist:

  Bonestell — 2 votes

  Emshwiller — 1 vote

  Finlay — 3 votes

  Powers — 3 votes

Best Fanzine:

  SF Newsletter — 1 vote

  Skyhook — 1 vote

Best Fan Writer:

  Bob Tucker — 3 votes

  James White — 1 vote

  Walt Willis — 1 vote

The first thing that strikes me is that Caves of Steel and Mission of Gravity got no votes. And that More Than Human got more votes than Childhood's End. These are writers, though: are they too literary? Well, maybe, but then the Bixby story outdrew the Clarke story; and "A Saucer of Loneliness" got NO fucking votes... neither did Modern Science Fiction in the related-book category. So are they stuffy people? Not With "Duck Dodgers..." outvoting War of the Worlds seven to one. In other words, it's a crap shoot with this bunch too.

Ahora: el momento la verdad:

You may want to write this down, or put it in your computer, or whatever it is you do, and see if you want me to invest a little money for you in the SF Hall of Fame Handicap, in the Future, which is where we all will Live!!!

Check back with me @ the fifth of September.

Novel: It has to be either More Than Human or Fahrenheit 451, so I'm going to say the winner will be — Childhood's End.

Novella: "A Case of Conscience"

Novelette: Since Blish just won the award for novella, this winner will be "Second Variety" by Phil K. Dick.

Short Story: Since Clarke and Bixby are the ones to beat, I'm going Way Out on a limb and hope the winner will be — "A Saucer Of Loneliness".

Best Related Book: Modern Science Fiction by Bretnor

Best Dramatic: short form: It's down to War of the Worlds or "Duck Dodgers...." Let's go with the Imp of the Perverse and say it'll be "Duck Dodgers..."

Best Editor: Four fiction nominations from Astounding. It'll be John W. Campbell Jr.

Best Artist: Freas is still with us. 1953 was Bonestell and Powers' Year. So the winner will be — Virgil Finlay

Best Fanzine: Skyhook

Best Fan Writer Bob Tucker (and about damn time too!)

VOTE EARLY AND OFTEN

Editor's note: This essay was first posted in August, 2004. Since then, Norwescon has bloomed and faded, and the Retro Hugos have been awarded. That means you can learn right now who won the 1954 Retro Hugos. If Howard has whetted your appetite for Retro-Hugo infighting, you can review the the full gory details. Enjoy!

 


I C London, I C France, which may be the Web's most technologically primitive blog, is brought to you through the typing, proofreading, editorial, and coding efforts of Team Waldrop, also known as Mary Kay Kare (proudly reality-based) and L. Blunt Jackson (Seattle, Philadelphia, Tau Ceti), and via the steadfast couriers of the United States Postal Service. Much thanks to all involved!

New: Locus Magazine is offering a special deal on the issue with the superb Heart-of-Waldrop photo and interview. Che'ekidaou'ut.

Howard Waldrop is a legend in his own time. He writes, he fishes, he builds bookcases. He does not have a cellphone, a computer, or an email account.

For someone who is about as wired as an echidna, Howard has a pretty substantial online career. He has had a website since 1997. You can read The Ugly Chickens, The Other Real World, Winter Quarters, D = R x T, and his collaboration with Leigh Kennedy, One Horse Town, on SciFiction. Mary Margaret Roadgrader is available on the excellent Strange Horizons. He has an occasional column, Crimea River, on Electric Story. And now he has a blog. Go figure.

For additional embellishments of the Waldrop legend, see Who Is Howard Waldrop, Anyway? For extravagant lies about Howard, see Alternate Waldrops, on Strange Horizons. Howard's most recent books are Custer's Last Jump and Other Collaborations and Dream Factories and Radio Pictures. Buy 'em.

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