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.
My retroactive ballot:
(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!