Friday, August 31, 2001

1951 Retro Hugo Award Finalists (awarded in 2001)

Location: Millennium Philcon in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Comments: In 2001, a second set of "Retro Hugos" were handed out, this time for the year 1951. And these awards, I think, illustrate why these awards are somewhat controversial. While I'm as big a Heinlein fan as they come, I just can't see how Farmer in the Sky won the Best Novel award other than the name of the author attached to it. Farmer in the Sky is a perfectly serviceable juvenile novel, with the added cachet of having been serialized in Boys' Life magazine, but it isn't a particularly substantial novel, and isn't particularly noteworthy even if one were to only consider Heinlein's oeuvre. How it won in place of books like The Dying Earth and First Lensman is a mystery only explainable if one assumes that the voters recognized his name and none of the others (and also happened to overlook Asimov's Pebble in the Sky - perhaps some of the voters got confused by the word "sky" in both titles and thought they were voting for the Asimov book).

In any event, Heinlein won both the Best Novel and Best Novella categories, although to be fair, The Man Who Sold the Moon was a deserving victor, and the usual suspects won the more obscure categories. The whole process of handing out "Retro Hugos" just seems to combine an impetus for blind voting, favoring those works whose authors went on to do more substantial things later in their careers, rather than an assessment of the work of that year. For example, it seems unclear whether the Retro Hugo for Best Short Story was bestowed upon Damon Knight's To Serve Man because it was a compelling short story in and of itself, or because the voters remembered the Twilight Zone episode based upon it. One has to wonder how many "Retro Hugos" are needed to give John W. Campbell, Jr. his due as Best Professional Editor, or whether a substantial number of the voters actually ever heard of the Skyhook, Quandry, or Slant fanzines before they sat down with their ballot.

Best Novel

Farmer in the Sky by Robert A. Heinlein

Other Finalists:
The Dying Earth by Jack Vance
First Lensman by E.E. "Doc" Smith
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
Pebble in the Sky by Isaac Asimov

Best Novella

The Man Who Sold the Moon by Robert A. Heinlein

Other Finalists:
. . . And Now You Don't by Isaac Asimov
The Dreaming Jewels by Theodore Sturgeon
The Last Enemy by H. Beam Piper
To the Stars by L. Ron Hubbard

Best Novelette


Other Finalists:
Dear Devil by Eric Frank Russell
The Helping Hand by Poul Anderson
Okie by James Blish
Scanners Live in Vain by Cordwainer Smith (reviewed in The Science Fiction Hall of Fame: Volume I, 1929-1964)

Best Short Story

To Serve Man by Damon Knight

Other Finalists:
Born of Man and Woman by Richard Matheson (reviewed in The Science Fiction Hall of Fame: Volume I, 1929-1964)
The Gnurrs Come from the Voodvork Out by Reginald Bretnor
A Subway Named Mobius by A.J. Deutsch

Best Dramatic Presentation

Destination Moon

Other Finalists:
Rabbit of Seville
Rocketship X-M

Best Professional Editor

John W. Campbell, Jr.

Other Finalists:
Anthony Boucher
Groff Conklin
H.L. Gold
J. Francis McComas

Best Professional Artist

Frank Kelly Freas

Other Finalists:
Hannes Bok
Chesley Bonestell
Edd Cartier
Virgil Finlay

Best Fanzine

Science Fiction Newsletter edited by Wilson (Bob) Tucker

Other Finalists:
The Fanscient

Best Fan Writer

Robert Silverberg

Other Finalists:
Lee Hoffman
Wilson (Bob) Tucker
James White
Walt Willis

Best Fan Artist

Jack Gaughan

Other Finalists:
Lee Hoffman
Ray Nelson
Bill Rotsler
James White

What Are the Hugo Awards?

Go to previous year's finalists: 1946 (awarded in 1996)
Go to subsequent year's finalists: 1953

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