Revisiting the Hugos

Hugo Nominees: 1966

The Hugo Awards for 1966 were handed out in Tricon, in Cleveland. (For earlier posts in this series, see Index.) The Best Novel Award was a tie, for the first time ever, and one of only three novel ties in the history of the award. The two winners were Frank Herbert’s Dune (post) and Roger Zelazny’s “And Call Me Conrad” aka This Immortal. They are both wonderful books, and I’ve just re-read them back to back, and if I’d had the deciding vote I’m not sure which I’d have given it to. (Now, that is. If you’d asked me in 1966, I’d have probably voted for Green Eggs and Ham.)

Dune is a huge book, an overwhelming experience, clever, full of ideas, baroque. It has factions plotting over spice that makes people prescient and able to travel FTL, it has a messiah, and it has a really good description and experience of being prescient. It’s written in an ornate way. And Call Me Conrad is a short, funny book about a wisecracking mutant immortal in a post-apocalyptic future Earth that wants to be free of alien domination. It uses Greek mythology for resonance. It sets a pattern for what Zelazny was going to do later. It’s accomplished and stylish in a way Dune just isn’t. You could compare them to a bludgeon and a stiletto. But they are both great books, and great classics of science fiction, and they both deserve their Hugo.

I’ve read both of them a million times. Dune is thoroughly in print, and is in the library in both languages. This Immortal doesn’t seem to be in print—but please tell me I’m wrong. There was a Gollancz Masterworks edition in 2000, and an iBooks edition. It’s in the library in French only. By the measures I’m using, then, Dune has lasted better. There have also been two films of Dune, and lots of sequels, and no films or sequels to This Immortal. It would make a great film. But thank you, Zelazny, for writing Lord of Light and the Amber books and not giving us This Immortal Messiah, Children of This ImmortalGod Emperor of This Immortal… no. There should be more books complete as they are. And This Immortal should be in print, dammit.

In some ways we have one traditional winner and one New Wave winner—but then again, Dune isn’t that traditional.

Dune was published over two years in Analog, and then as a book, and so was eligible in 1964, when first nominated, and still eligible to win in 1966. I’m glad these rules have been tightened up since, because it gave some books more than a fair chance.

And the other nominees were:

Robert Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (post). This was also eligible twice, in magazine and book form, and it won the year after, so let’s leave it for then.

E.E. Doc Smith’s Skylark Duquesne—the conclusion of the Skylark series. I haven’t read it, but I have every reason to believe it’s slightly old fashioned top class pulpy adventure like the rest of Doc Smith. It’s not in print, and it’s not in the library.

John Brunner’s The Squares of the City—this isn’t in print or in the library either. This is a book about a revolution in a third world country where the two leaders are doing it as a game of chess played with real people in a real city without the real people knowing. It’s perhaps a little too clever, and I don’t much care for the main character, but it was an ambitious book that helped get Brunner into position for writing his truly great books later.

So, five books, two winners, an ecological messianic novel, a mythologically resonant novel of a devastated future Earth, a revolution on the moon, a pulp adventure in space, and a low key revolution in a third world country. Not quite what you would expect, and an interesting set of books that show how diverse and exciting SF was at that moment.

What else might they have considered, and was there anything they missed? Well, for the first time for a long time, there were other awards. The Nebulas, the awards given by the professional association the Science Fiction Writers of America, were given for the first time that year. The Nebula ballot is extremely long. People say the Nebulas are the professional award and the Hugos the popular one, so in a year in which the Hugos were won by Zelazny and Herbert, as you’d expect the Nebula was won by Dune, and This Immortal wasn’t even on the ballot. Indeed, apart from Dune, there’s no overlap at all.

The Nebula ballot consisted of

Most of these seem like they’d have been reasonable additions to the Hugo ballot, none of them seem as if they’re screaming to be on there in place of the actual nominees.

And what else was there? Using ISFDB as recommended last week by DemetriosX, I see Harry Harrison’s Bill the Galactic Hero, Samuel Delany’s City of a Thousand Suns, Philip Jose Farmer’s Dare, H. Beam Piper’s Gunpowder God (post) and Poul Anderson’s The Corridors of Time.

In other categories, we start with a new one:


  • “Foundation” series, Isaac Asimov
  • “Barsoom” series, Edgar Rice Burroughs
  • “Future History” series, Robert A. Heinlein
  • “Lensman” series, Edward E. Smith
  • The Lord of the Rings, J. R. R. Tolkien

Well, that’s a very odd category with some extremely odd nominees, and some of those things are not like the others and I think they could have done with my post on different kinds of series. Because LOTR is one book, just saying. I’m somewhat surprised that Foundation won, even though I like the Foundation books. There is a problem with series and awards, and maybe an award for series (to be given in the year the last volume comes out?) would be a good idea, because they are different from a novel in the same way a novel is different from a short story. But “best all time series” is a little silly.


  • “’Repent, Harlequin!’ Said the Ticktockman,” Harlan Ellison (Galaxy Dec 1965)
  • “Day of the Great Shout,” Philip José Farmer (Worlds of Tomorrow Jan 1965)
  • “The Doors of His Face, the Lamps of His Mouth,” Roger Zelazny (F&SF Mar 1965)
  • “Marque and Reprisal,” Poul Anderson (F&SF Feb 1965)
  • “Stardock,” Fritz Leiber (Fantastic Sep 1965)  

Great selection, good choice. And wasn’t Zelazny having a good year?


  • If, Frederik Pohl
  • Amazing Stories, Cele Goldsmith
  • Analog, John W. Campbell, Jr.
  • F&SF, Joseph W. Ferman
  • Galaxy, Frederik Pohl

I can see that Pohl was one of the best editors that year, but If, rather than Galaxy?


  • Frank Frazetta
  • Frank Kelly Freas
  • Jack Gaughan
  • Gray Morrow
  • John Schoenherr


  • ERB-dom, Camille Cazedessus, Jr.
  • Double: Bill, Bill Mallardi
  • Niekas, Edmund R. Meskys & Felice Rolfe
  • Yandro, Robert Coulson & Juanita Coulson
  • Zenith Speculation, Peter R. Weston

And… no Dramatic Presentation category, presumably because there was nothing eligible and good. How sensible they were! How I wish we’d quietly decide to do without it in such years.

Jo Walton is a science fiction and fantasy writer. She’s published two poetry collections and eight novels, most recently Lifelode. She has a ninth novel coming out on January 18th, Among Others, and if you liked this post you will like it. She reads a lot, and blogs about it here regularly. She comes from Wales but lives in Montreal where the food and books are more varied.


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