Back to the Hugos: 1956

It’s Hugo Week! And I’m barely aware of what’s been nominated this year! So you know what that means… it’s time to go… Back to the Hugos!

Hugo Year: 1956

Sixty years ago. The year that ushered in the start of the Cuban revolution, Eurovision, and Pele’s career was also the year that established Bob Heinlein’s long career of undeserved Hugo best novel nominations and wins. This WorldCon was hosted by Robert Bloch at NyConII in New York City. Also of note, some kid named Robert Silverberg won the “Most Promising New Author” award.

The list:

Screenshot 2016-08-13 at 8.10.00 PM

Left to right: WINNER- DOUBLE STAR by Robert A. Heinlein, followed by NOT THIS AUGUST by CM Kornbluth, THE END OF ETERNITY by Isaac Asimov, THE LONG TOMORROW by Leigh Brackett, & THREE TO CONQUER by Eric Frank Russell

My retroactive ballot:

Screenshot 2016-08-13 at 8.08.28 PM

(And I’m being generous with those last three.)

Links to my reviews:

The Long Tomorrow by Leigh Brackett – What should have easily been the first Hugo-winning novel written by a female author, The Long Tomorrow is actually one of the few SF classics, especially from the fifties, that could be considered insightful, engrossing, and, above all, well-written. A far cry from Brackett’s other pulp and screenwriting, The Long Tomorrow is a Tom Sawyer-esque post-apocalyptic journey through America’s waterways. Deserving of its SF Masterworks status, it is a must-read for any SF fan and yet another lost opportunity for the Hugo voters to recognize the actual “best” of speculative fiction.

Not This August by C. M. Kornbluth – A story about a Russian takeover of US soil is certainly not something people worry about today (ahem)but this Cold War-era satire isn’t so much knee-jerk alarmist as it is complex and ambiguous. At times flag-wavey, at other times a demonstration of nationalist and militarist hypocrisy, the odd, abrupt ending is worthy of contemplation.

Double Star by Robert A. Heinlein – Amazing that I ranked a Heinlein novel anywhere but last, right? Well, this undeserved Hugo winner could be award-winning if it were nominated for “The Least Horrible Heinlein” award. It’s a bland story about an actor hired to replace a kidnapped Martian politician and he’s so convincing that even his lovelorn secretary can’t tell the difference! It’s a good example of fifties sci-fi, meaning: it’s simple, readable, and you’ll probably be too unprovoked to bother dumping it in the toilet with the rest of his novels.

The End of Eternity by Isaac Asimov – Now, this is a book you might want to dump in the toilet, BUT, if you bother– which, you really don’t need to because it’s pretty tiresome– push through to the end because what you’ll find interesting is that Asimov is actually making a rather vigorous feminist statement. Amid all of the pseudoscience time-travel tedium, he’s actually drawn up a repulsive protagonist hero with views as skewed as his time travelling chronology. When his female foil turns out to be the actual hero of the story, and not the slutty doormat he expects, the protagonist’s mind is blown.

Three to Conquer by Eric Frank Russell – Just your basic telepathic detective tale. Nothing special.

 

That’s it for Back to the Hugos: 1956! See you tomorrow for… 1966!

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6 thoughts on “Back to the Hugos: 1956

  1. Joachim Boaz says:

    Should I, or should I not (you say no…) read Asimov’s The End of Eternity…. One of the few major works by Asimov I have not read. My copy smells nice, which often does influence whether I pick it up! hah

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’d be curious to see what you make of his treatment of Nöys, the female protagonist who is treated so horribly in the first half, until the narrative turns its attentions to the main guy’s shortcomings. The sexism is off-the-charts in some places, but then… I dunno.

      Like

    • Warstub says:

      I enjoyed it as a solid time-travel tale. Some interesting futuristic descriptions and a good twist – I don’t remember what the twist was, but I remember that I thought it was good!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I would rank those books exactly as you did. Brackett’s is an underrated masterpiece, and Kornbluth’s is one of those rare ’50s SF gems that doesn’t fit most of the bad stereotypes of a ’50s SF novel.

    Like

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