The 2014 Hugo Awards ceremony is this Sunday, August 17th at LonCon3. As we count down to the big day, let’s review the best novel nominees from previous decades.
First up: Fifty years ago!
1964: the U. S. abolishes legalized racial segregation, Nelson Mandela is sentenced to life in prison, and Che Guevara has a nice chat with the United Nations. The Beatles invade the west, Diet Pepsi is introduced, and Stanley Kubrick releases “Dr. Strangelove.”
… and Clifford Simak wins the Hugo Award for his 1963 novel Here Gather the Stars (Way Station) at Pacificon II in Oakland, CA in September.
I was -15 years old. Too young to vote, I suppose.
The other 1964 Hugo Best Novel nominees, in final ranked order:
How I would have voted (worst to best):
#5. Glory Road by Robert H. Heinlein
Blech. Before his seminal libertarian piece The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (which I still have yet to read) and after his war-mongering treatise Starship Troopers, Heinlein wrote this piece of cra–, er, crafty fantasy parody, full of nudie quests and nudie adventures. And a foul-mouthed little French dude. The Heinlein loyalists were out in force in 1964, which goes to show that there is a fine line between popular votes and bloc voting.
I can’t believe this dumb book beat out Vonnegut.
#4. Witch World by Andre Norton
It’s the sixties version of Young Adult fiction, but it’s SF written by a woman, making Norton the second female author to be nominated for a Hugo Best Novel award (Marion Zimmer Bradley beat her to it the year before). The story itself is rather clumsy and forgettable, although fans assure me the series gets better (and more progressive, because virginal witches are so passé).
#3. Dune World by Frank Herbert
The precursor to the juggernaut that is Dune (1965), caught a nod from the Hugo voters after its serial publication in 1963, but didn’t rock the world until a couple of years and few more sandworms later. I didn’t get to read it in its serial format, but Dune is no favorite of mine. Still, it’s way better than Glory Road and Witch World, and I get it… the world-building.
Oooh, now it’s getting difficult. Simak or Vonnegut? Vonnegut or Simak?
#2. Way Station by Clifford D. Simak
I dig this Cold War story the way I dig vanilla ice cream on a hot apple pie. It’s sweet, warm, and melting with ethical goodness. Who doesn’t love aliens in the countryside stories? But sometimes Simak’s pastoral meanderings get a little off-track.
#1. Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
Simak just can’t compete with Vonnegut’s incisive, irreverent delivery and brilliant fictional constructions. I have to wonder why Cat’s Cradle was ranked so low by the Hugo voters. Was it a crossover backlash? SF fandom can be rather territorial.
That’s 1964! Kick off your Birkenstocks, grab your platforms, and join me tomorrow to recount the Hugo best novel nominees of 1974!