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The 1954 Racing Form, Sci-Fi Style

2. The Daily Line:

I double-dog dare you to vote in the Novel category in the 1954 Retro-Hugos to be awarded this year at Noreascon. I dare you to show me a nickel's worth of difference in the five nominees, quality-or-otherwise. It's going to come down to sentiment, favorites, importance, and blind Joe Chance.

The Novel:

1. Caves of Steel by Asimov. The classic robot detective novel (there are two and Ike wrote them both).

2. Fahrenheit 451 by Bradbury. Needs no introduction. It was printed with an asbestos cover in a limited edition. It was made into a flawed movie by Truffaut in 1966. The classic dsytopia where firemen burn books.

3. Childhood's End by Clarke. They come; they hold sway over us; they change humankind (hence the title); they look like the devil. The first transcendental SF novel since Stapledon (one of Clarke's heroes), and one of two this year.

4. Mission of Gravity by Hal Clement. The hard-science fiction novel: Heavy-grav planet; recovery mission; human and aliens having to forget their differences to get the job done...

5. More Than Human by Sturgeon. His best novel, conceived as three novellas. The other transcendental novel of the year, but our own, not one brought in from the outside.

As far as I know, the Bradbury and Clarke have been in print since Day 1, 1953. The Asimov and Clement come in and out of print all the time, and the Sturgeon is reprinted occasionally.

(Where's Bester's The Demolished Man?, you ask. That won the first-ever Hugo the year before, from its magazine serialization, although it's always listed as coming out in 1953....)

Good luck voting!

The Novella:

Two of these, the first Anderson and the Blish, were later expanded into novels, the Blish winning a Hugo in 1953 in its novel form. (If there had been a World Fantasy Award then, the Anderson would probably have won that.) The other Anderson appeared in Astounding and was written at about the height of his powers. Harness' "The Rose" was one of his all-too-infrequent appearances in the field. The Sturgeon is, well, Sturgeon. Every one of these guys was at his best in the novella form, and all of them were working as well as, or better than they ever did here.

The Novelette:

The same with the first Anderson here (in any case, barring the disclaimers below.) This was Poul Anderson's year — 4 sticks of dynamite at once — (and Sturgeon wasn't far behind, with three.) His other nominee in this category is one of the Hoka stories (templates to all the Star Trek episodes where they visit Nazi-western-gangster worlds) written with Gordy Dickson. The Blish was later incorporated into one of his Okie novels of the Cities in Flight series. "The Wall Around the World" is Cogswell at his absolute best. "Second Variety" is the first hint we had that Phil Dick would one day write The Man in the High Castle and Martian Time-Slip.

Again, good luck when you pull that lever!

The short story:

"Star Light, Star Bright." Okay, Alfred Bester giving the hint that he would one day write "The Pi Man". The Bixby story has been done on the original Twilight Zone and TZ: The Movie. It is what we refer to in the business as a Perfect Story. So is "The Nine Billion Names of God" which has the great last line, "Overhead, without any fuss, one by one the stars were going out." "Seventh Victim" by Sheckley was made into a movie in 1966 with Marcello Mastroianni and Ursula Andress called the Tenth Victim, which wasn't as good. "A Saucer of Loneliness": is the second-best short story Sturgeon ever wrote. (The first is "Thunder and Roses" from 1948.) It is both the quietest and most disturbing he ever did.

Best related book:

The Bretnor was the first important book where SF took a look at itself as literature. There are individual essays by Asimov, Campbell, Gerald Heard, Philip Wylie, Bretnor, L. Sprague de Camp, and many others. There's a great essay by Don Fabun on the first three years of the SF boom in the movies + radio and television...

The de Camp was the first book about the writing of science fiction; it was a history; it was the second important book on SF, by about a few weeks I think.

The Conquest of the Moon was the second of the Viking Press books (The first being The Conquest of Space back in 1949 by Ley and Bonestell) — this one too was illustrated by Bonestell, with meticulous and realistic paintings showing what going to the moon (from a 1953 viewpoint) would be like. (The earlier important Science/Art books on the coming Space Age were Clarke's The Promise of Space and Across the Space Frontier ed. Cornelius Ryan from the Collier's Magazine series. With both this and all the movie stuff, this was probably Bonestell's year, too.)

Best Dramatic Presentation: Short Form:

The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms. Either from, or stolen from — opinions vary — Ray Bradbury's "The Foghorn" — he got paid and credited in any case. Cecil Kellaway, Paula Raymond, Lee van Cleef (those are the actors: the Star is the Rhedosaurus, animated by Ray Harryhausen just before the top of his form.) This was the first A-Bomb blast-revives-prehistoric-monster-movie (the template for Godzilla, Rodan, and all the giant animal/bug movies to follow. A classic (The classic is Them! a year later.) B&W

"Duck Dodgers in the 24 1/2 Century!" The funniest seven minutes of SF animation (until the Simpsons' episode with the short-circuiting toaster and the time-traveling Homer Halloween homage to "A Sound of Thunder" 45 years later...) Daffy as Duck Dodgers + Marvin the Martian (unnamed here). The plot: to claim the Moon for either Earth or Mars. A typical piece of Chuck Jones' genius.

Invaders from Mars. Directed by William Cameron Menzies. Jimmy Hunt, Arthur Franz, Helene Carter, Morris Ankrum. This is the one with the wailing sound and the sand opening up under your feet, in case the title isn't bringing it back. Martians in green fuzzy suits; the ruby spike in the back of your neck; Army vs. Martians in a fight to the death; the was-it-a-dream ending... In 3-D AND Color.

It Came From Outer Space. Jack Arnold's first SF film. Richard Carlson, Barbara Rush, Joe Sawyer, and Russell Johnson. The aliens come in their meteor-like spaceship; it's broken; they duplicate townspeople to help repair it. This was the second Bradbury movie of the year. He did them a treatment called "The Meteor," which Bill Warren has shown was used extensively for the movie (Harry Essex is credited with the final screenplay). In B&W and 3-D.

The War of the Worlds. Directed by Byron Baskin; produced by George Pal (who'd started the whole SF movie boom with Destination Moon (1950) and When Worlds Collide (1951). Gene Barry, Ann Robinson, Les Tremayne, Paul Freen, narr. by Cedrick Hardwicke. The H. G. Wells 1898 novel transferred to 1953 California. The Martian machines spitting heat rays; soldiers and tanks melting; the sucker-tentacled Martians in the deserted farmhouse. The scenes of the dying Martians in the city. Matte paintings by Chesley Bonestell. Color.

You're on your own in this one.

Best Professional Editor:

Anthony Boucher (F&SF). For the 1st three years it was he and McComas; now on his own (thru 1958). He took it through its first golden age. Two of the fiction nominees are from F&SF.

John W. Campbell Jr. (Astounding). The man had simply changed the field from 1938 on, making it capable of literature. This was before he disappeared into the swamps of Dianetics, the Dean Drive, and the Hieronymous Machine. Four of the fiction nominees, including one of the novels, are from Astounding.

H. L. Gold (Galaxy) Gold and Boucher were challenging Astounding for leadership of the field and had been for three years. (The quote on Gold's editing: He made weak stories good, and he made great stories good.) Whatever: two of the fiction nominees are from Galaxy.

Frederik Pohl (Star SF Stories, Ballantine) Pohl was editing the first viable original anthology series, and of course doing his own work and collaborating on all the great stuff with Kornbluth. (The Clarke and Bixby short storiy nominees appeared here.)

Donald A. Wollheim (Ace Books) He had just finished editing the Avon SF and Fantasy Readers, he was in charge of the SF line at Ace Books and created the Ace Doubles. Later he would be responsible for the paperback careers of Edgar Rice Burroughs and J. R. R. Tolkien (trust me), later he founded DAW books.

Best Professional Artists:

Chesley Bonestell. He had done and would do the art for the Viking space series; his work was a large part of the Collier's series on space travel. He'd done the astronomical art for Destination Moon, When Worlds Collide, and War of the Worlds. His stuff had been everywhere in 1953.

Ed Emshwiller. Cover and interior art for all the magazines, esp. Galaxy. He did about half the Ace Doubles covers. Later, an award-winning filmmaker. Half the fun was looking for the "Emsh" somewhere on the machinery or rockets in his art.

Virgil Finlay. Then doing covers for the last of the Weird Tales and Famous Fantastic Mysteries pulps + interiors for all the magazines. Meticulous stipple-work and scratchboard drawings: luscious babes and butch spacemen.

Frank Kelly Freas. Then as now. His best work was for Astounding and book jackets. He won multiple Hugos for one year (I think it was 1958) in which every piece of art he'd done was for mystery magazines...

Richard Powers. The cover artist for Ballantine Books; the first successful non-representational artist in SF. His work seemed to be on every cover all the time; whenever it did appear, it seemed to capture the exact feel of the book.

Best Fanzine:

You're on your own here, too, as far as I'm concerned. I think two of them won Hugos later — look at the deVore book. Or ask John D. Berry or Andy Hooper, who probably have copies of all of them ...

Best Fan Writer:

Two of these people are still with us. All I know about Walt Willis is the famous quote: Either he offered Charles Burbee or Burbee offered him, some of his eggs at breakfast at some convention one morning; and either he or Burbee waited until the other one had the eggs in his mouth, and either he said to Burbee, or Burbee said to him, "No thanks. I try not to eat anything that comes out of a chicken's butthole."


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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