Saturday, September 4, 2004

1954 Retro Hugo Award Finalists (awarded in 2004)

Location: Noreascon 4 in Boston, Massachusetts.

Comments: A third round of Retro Hugos was handed out in 2004, another award was added to the shelf of John W. Campbell, Jr., and another slate of now-obscure fanzines were voted upon by a collection of people who probably more or less picked who they were voting for at random. That said, the fiction awards handed out in this round of Retro Hugos offer an example of the upside in this sort of award. Although the classic Fahrenheit 451 took home the award, all five of the nominated novels are exemplars of the very best that science fiction has to offer. The only real problem presented here is that only one award could be bestowed. The finalists in the remaining fiction categories were also all of high quality, and deserving of recognition.

Even so, honoring a collection of awardees fifty years after the fact seems pointless and self-indulgent. When the awards were handed out, the only authors remaining alive who had nominated stories were Arthur C. Clarke, Charles L. Harness, and Robert Sheckley. The only living editor on the list of nominees was Frederik Pohl. And while it is likely that the estates of the authors who had works on the list of finalists were appreciative, and the publishers who held the rights to reprint the works probably were too, it seems to me that honoring someone's work years or even decades after they had died is a somewhat useless and empty gesture. In the end, the Retro Hugos seem to be more about fans patting themselves on the back for their good taste in old fiction rather than any kind of meaningful honor for the recipients of the award, and from my perspective that is reason enough to be critical of the practice of handing out Retro Hugos, no matter how deserving we may think the works in question are.

Best Novel

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Other Finalists:
The Caves of Steel by Isaac Asimov
Childhood's End by Arthur C. Clarke
Mission of Gravity by Hal Clement
More Than Human by Theodore Sturgeon

Best Novella

A Case of Conscience by James Blish

Other Finalists:
. . . And My Fear Is Great by Theodore Sturgeon
The Rose by Charles L. Harness
Three Hearts and Three Lions by Poul Anderson
Un-Man by Poul Anderson

Best Novelette

Earthman, Come Home by James Blish

Other Finalists:
The Adventure of the Misplaced Hound by Poul Anderson and Gordon R. Dickson
Sam Hall by Poul Anderson
Second Variety by Philip K. Dick
The Wall Around the World by Theodore Cogswell

Best Short Story


Other Finalists:
It's a Good Life by Jerome Bixby (reviewed in The Science Fiction Hall of Fame: Volume I, 1929-1964)
A Saucer of Loneliness by Theodore Sturgeon
Seventh Victim by Robert Sheckley
Star Light, Star Bright by Alfred Bester

Best Nonfiction, Related, or Reference Work

Conquest of the Moon by Wernher von Braun, Fred L. Whipple, and Willy Ley

Other Finalists:
Modern Science Fiction: Its Meaning and Its Future by Reginald Bretnor
Science-Fiction Handbook by L. Sprague de Camp

Best Dramatic Presentation1

The War of the Worlds

Other Finalists:
The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms
Duck Dodgers in the 24 ½th Century
Invaders from Mars
It Came from Outer Space

Best Professional Editor

John W. Campbell, Jr.

Other Finalists:
Anthony Boucher
H.L. Gold
Frederik Pohl
Donald A. Wollheim

Best Professional Artist

Chesley Bonestell

Other Finalists:
Ed Emshwiller
Virgil Finlay
Frank Kelly Freas
Richard Powers

Best Fanzine

Slant edited by Walter Willis and James White

Other Finalists:
Hyphen edited by Chuck Harris and Walter Willis
Quandry edited by Lee Hoffman
Science Fiction Newsletter edited by Bob Tucker
Skyhook edited by Redd Boggs

Best Fan Writer

Bob Tucker

Other Finalists:
Redd Boggs
Lee Hoffman
James White
Walter A. Willis

1 This Retro Hugo Award was technically given for Best Dramatic Presentation: Short Form, however, no Long Form Retro Hugo Award was selected at the 2004 Worldcon, leaving The War of the Worlds as the only winning Dramatic Presentation piece. For purposes of this index I am grouping this award with the generalized dramatic presentation award given prior to the 2003 split.

Go to previous year's finalists: 1953
Go to subsequent year's finalists: 1955

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