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07.14.04

The 1954 Racing Form, Sci-Fi Style

1. The Boston Handicap

They're going to give out the 1954 Retro Hugos at Noreascon, the World SF Convention in Boston this year.

World SF Conventions started in 1939, held in conjunction with the New York World's Fair, of Trylon and Perisphere fame (Forry Ackerman walked across the Brooklyn Bridge in one of those wide-shouldered costumes like out of Things To Come to advertise it.) They were held in 1939-1941 (Denver), then went into hiatus for the duration of the war, then started back up again in 1946. (There's the famous story that Claude Degler showed up at someone's house in Portland on July 2nd and asked "Where's the convention?" "Uh, Claude, " the person said, "they've moved it to Labor Day weekend." — the first three had been held across July 4th — "I'll wait," said Claude. They've been held, in the US or somewhere else in the world, continuously since.)

In 1953, the Worldcon gave out the first-ever Science Fiction Achievement Awards, nicknamed the Hugos, in honor of Hugo Gernsback, émigré editor of Modern Electrics, Science and Invention, and, oh yeah, Amazing Stories, the world's first SF magazine. (He also published Wonder Stories, Air Wonder Stories, and Scientific Detective Monthly, and at the time of the first Hugos was editing Science Fiction Plus — a slick — and still using Frank R. Paul covers, the guy who did the first one in 1926...)

The awards were given out for work done the year before — 1952 — plus some oddball categories, like #1 SF Fan (Forry, of course, who tried to give it to someone else.) The awards were the hit of the convention.

In 1955, they gave out the Hugos again, and they have at every Worldcon since, 49 years of them.

There were no Hugos given out at the 1954 Worldcon.

1953 had been anno mirabilis in the field, too.

The Noreascon people are going some way toward rectifying that, 50 years on. (Later, I'll go into why that's not literally true, but for now, just trust me.)

If you don't think that the one year (after it started) that they didn't give out Hugos was the greatest missed-opportunity the awards ever had, just take a gander at the official ballot they've come up with, based on the preliminary ballot.

The 1954 (for 1953 work) Retro Hugo Ballot

NOVEL:

  Caves of Steel by Isaac Asimov (Galaxy serial)

  Farenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (Ballantine)

  Childhood's End by Arthur C. Clarke (Ballantine)

  Mission Of Gravity by Hal Clement (Astounding)

  More Than Human by Theodore Sturgeon (FS&G Ballantine)

NOVELLA:

  "Three Hearts and Three Lions" by Poul Anderson (F&SF)

  "Un-Man" by Poul Anderson (Astounding)

  "A Case of Conscience" by James Blish (If)

  "The Rose" by Charles L. Harness (Authentic)

  "...And My Fear is Great." by Theodore Sturgeon (Beyond)

NOVELETTE:

  "Sam Hall" by Poul Anderson (Astounding)

  "Adventure of the Misplaced Hound" by Poul Anderson & Gordon R.Dickson (Universe)

  "Earthman Come Home" by James Blish (Astounding)

  "The Wall Around the World" by Theodore Cogswell (Beyond)

  "Second Variety" by Philip K. Dick (Space Science Fiction)

SHORT STORY:

  "Star Light, Star Bright" by Alfred Bester (F&SF)

  "It's a Good Life!" by Jerome Bixby (Star SF Stories #2 Ballantine)

  "The Nine Billion Names of God" by Arthur C. Clarke (Star SF Stories #1 Ballantine)

  "Seventh Victim" by Robert Sheckley (Galaxy)

  "A Saucer of Loneliness" by Theodore Sturgeon (Galaxy)

BEST RELATED BOOK:

  Modern Science Fiction: Its Meaning and Future ed. by Reginald Bretnor (Coward-McCann)

  The Science Fiction Handbook by L. Sprague de Camp (Hermitage)

  Conquest Of The Moon by Werner von Braun, Fred R. Whipple, Willy Ley (Viking)

BEST DRAMTIC PRESENTATION : SHORT FORM

  Beast From 20,000 Fathoms

  "Duck Dodgers in the 24½ Century!"

  Invaders From Mars

  It Came From Outer Space

  War Of The Worlds

BEST PROFESSIONAL EDITOR:

  Anthony Boucher

  John W. Campbell Jr.

  H. L. Gold

  Frederik Pohl

  Donald A. Wollheim

BEST PROFESSIONAL ARTIST:

  Chesley Bonestell

  Ed Emshwiller

  Virgil Finlay

  Frank Kelly Freas

  Richard Powers

BEST FANZINE:

  Hyphen

  Quandry

  SF Newsletter

  Sky Hook

  Slant

BEST FAN WRITER:

  Redd Boggs

  Lee Hoffman

  Bob Tucker

  James White

  Walter A. Willis

(The committee had some rules: they have to correspond to present categories — which is why you have a Short Form Dramatic Presentation consisting of one cartoon against four feature films — none of which were more than 90 minutes long — the dividing line under the present rules (we didn't live in the age of the inflated spectacular then, just the spectacular.) And not enough nominating ballots were received in the Best Semi-Prozine (There were none in 1953, and the category wasn't created until the 70s) or Best Fan Artist, and of course there were no Long Form Dramatic Presentations in 1953.)

The most astounding (now Analog) thing about this is that, 50 years later, seven people on the ballot are still here, still working (with the exception of Bob "I don't do that anymore" Tucker, who is one swell writer, and so of course will do that some more, even though here ((on the ballot)) and here, now, is nominated for his fan writing...)

I can't think of any other field — perhaps history — where people are still working, still turning out stuff fifty years on from their best work; there's every possibility that some of the winners will be there to accept an award they should have gotten (see below) half a century ago...

When I sold my first SF story in 1970, three-quarters of the history of the field — writers, artists, editors, filmamakers — were still alive and kicking, turning out genre work, still showing up at conventions. At my first conventions, I'd only missed Doc Smith by a couple of years; Campbell was still sitting at the same desk he'd parked his butt in in 1937. Pretty much everybody else — editors, fans, artists, fanzine editors — were doing the same things they'd done across three or four decades ever since SF had become a genre because of Gernsback.

I was watching Jack Williamson talking to the late, sorely-missed Chad Oliver at the SFRA conference 1988. I suddenly asked Jack "When was your first story published?" "February 1928," he said. "Chad," I said, "His career is one month older than you are." There we were — guys who'd sold their first stories in 1927, 1949, and 1970 — three generations, happy as clams, being where we wanted to be and doing what we wanted to be doing ...

NEXT TIME: I will show you why voting in the 1954 Retro Hugos is going to be the hardest thing you've ever done...

 


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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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