In 2004, Hugo voters had an opportunity to vote for the Retro Hugos of 1954 because no best novel category was offered at the 1954 LonCon I Hugo Awards ceremony. (The 2014 WorldCon will host the 1939 Retro Hugos.)
In 1954, Vietnam heated up, McCarthyism peaked, and Brown v. the Board of Education abolished systematic segregation of U.S. schools. William Golding published Lord of the Flies, the first Godzilla film premiered in Japan, and Burger King opened its doors.
And Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 might have won the Hugo Award for Best Novel? Maybe?
The other 1954 novels nominated by 2004 NoreasCon voters:
Like most 2004 voters, I read these novels long after their publication year. (My mom was born in 1954, so gimme a break.) I enjoyed nearly all of these books, but how would I rank them?
#5. Mission of Gravity by Hal Clement
A human astronaut enlists the help of a native crew of talking caterpillar people to help him explore their planet of weird G-forces in order to retrieve a lost chunk of spaceship. They run into many obstacles during their search and use sensible logic and scientific knowledge to negotiate the unique landscape. The gravity of the planet is so heavy, it squishes the life out of the story.
#4. Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke
Alien spaceships hover over the big cities of Earth in a casual, benevolent takeover that has humans panicking– then shrugging and going about their business. Life on Earth improves with subsequent generations, but some wonder whether too much peace and comfort is bad for human creativity and innovation. It’s a great story about the nature of humanity, and Clarke’s alien reveal is quite clever.
#3. Caves of Steel by Isaac Asimov
This classic whodunnit is thick with 50’s stereotypes and thin with literary significance, but it’s just a good, fun read. A must read for fans of Star Trek: TNG where we see the early inspiration for everyone’s favorite android.
#2. More Than Human by Theodore Sturgeon
Lone is a mute hobo with psychic skills. Over time, he acquires a small group of children with varying paranormal abilities, and they combine their powers to function and survive, viewing themselves as the next step in evolution. Heavy on SF esper tropes, but styled like a bit like a woodsy fantasy, this down-to-Earth SF story is great introduction to vintage scifi.
#1. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
We know book burning is bad, but what about the encroaching invasion of mindless entertainment? Bradbury’s protagonist is the essence of madness driven by a stifling society inhabiting the future in which we currently live. Unfortunately, Bradbury’s visions aren’t too far off the mark.
*My rankings for 1954 change daily. I love the last four books almost equally.
I’ll post the 1939 Retro Hugo results tomorrow, and check back on Friday and Saturday to review the 1984 and 1994 Hugos!