Revisiting the Hugos

Hugo Nominees: 1968

The 1968 Hugo Awards were presented in Baycon in Oakland. (For earlier years, see the Index.) The novel winner was Roger Zelazny’s Lord of Light (post). It’s science fiction in which the crew of a starship have taken on the attributes of Hindu gods to rule the planet populated by the descendants of passengers of the ship, and one of the original crew starts a new Buddhist religion as a rebellion. Many people love it. (I’m not one of them, see my post for details.) It’s in print in the SF Masterworks series, and it’s in my library in English and French, so I think we can say it has lasted.

There are four other nominees, and I’ve read three of them, and I’m really sorry but 1968 seems to be a “books I don’t like” year.

Let’s start with the one I do like, but which should never have been a nominee—were the voters all stoned? Chester Anderson’s The Butterfly Kid is that rare thing: hippie science fiction. It was 1968, and doubtless this was published right at the heart of the summer of love. It’s a charming book about drugs that really change reality. It’s part of the loose “Greenwich Village” trilogy with Michael Kurland’s The Unicorn Girl and T.A. Waters’s (much weaker) The Probability Pad, and the characters have the names of the authors. I read The Unicorn Girl first—indeed I read it very early, before I knew what SF was, and it’s surprising it didn’t warp me forever. The Butterfly Kid is very much of its time and I kind of like it, but it has all the depth of a twinkie. It isn’t in print and hasn’t been republished since 1980. It isn’t in the library and I think it’s fair to say that while some people remember it fondly it’s mostly forgotten.

The Einstein Intersection is my least favourite Samuel Delany science fiction novel. I tried re-reading it last year after I suddenly loved Nova, but clearly I’m still not old enough for it, dammit. It’s about far-future mutants, and it’s about searching for love, and it uses mythological imagery in the same way Delany did so brilliantly in Nova and Babel-17 but I can’t find anything to connect to and it always slips away from me. It’s another classic example of a story that doesn’t have a surface for you to skitter over. But I’m quite ready to admit that my problem with it is a problem with me—indeed, I’m longing for this problem with me to be fixed, and fairly confident that if I keep trying I’ll like it sometime in the future. Delany’s one of my favourite writers after all! (But… this has been my stance with reference to this book for the last thirty years.) This probably is a worthy nominee that I just don’t appreciate. It’s in print from Wesleyan University Press, and it’s in the library in English.

Robert Silverberg’s Thorns is brilliant but terrible. It’s the story of a future sadistic media tycoon getting two damaged people to fall in love for the entertainment of the masses. I read it in the early eighties and I’ve never re-read it, because it’s just too painful. Silverberg is a wonderful writer, but with a subject like this that’s not a plus. It’s just too much. Thorns definitely deserved the nomination. It’s not in print, though it was fairly recently reprinted in the Gollancz Masterworks series. It’s in the library in French only.

Last comes the one I haven’t read, Piers Anthony’s Chthon. It’s his first novel and apparently grim, about a prisoner in a horrific future—and also atypically cleverly structured. I have no opinion on it, and I’m unlikely to read it even though people say it’s better than the Anthony I have read. It’s neither in print and nor in the library.

So 1968’s nominees match my tastes least of any year yet! Was it just a year when everyone was writing books I don’t like, or what else might they have chosen?

The Nebula went to The Einstein Intersection and the nominees overlap except for the addition of The Eskimo Invasion by Hayden Howard instead of the Anderson. I know nothing about this book except that it’s a fix-up of shorter work that was briefly discussed in last week’s comment thread.

Books I’d have preferred to see on the ballot include: Ursula Le Guin’s City of Illusions (post), Thomas M. Disch’s Echo Round His Bones, Ira Levin’s Rosemary’s Baby, Robert Silverberg’s Gate of Worlds, Angela Carter’s The Magic Toyshop, Clifford Simak’s Why Call Them Back From Heaven? and Poul Anderson’s World Without Stars.

Other books published in that strike me as reasonable possibilities include: Norman Spinrad’s Agent of Chaos, Philip K. Dick’s Counter Clock World, Brian Aldiss’s Report on Probability A, Michael Moorcock’s The Jewel in the Skull, E.C. Tubb’s The Winds of Gath… oh all right, not really Hugo material, but I did enjoy those Dumarest books and this is the first one.

And YA books which wouldn’t have been considered eligible then but which totally are these days, Nicholas Fisk’s Space Hostages, and John Christopher’s The City of Gold and Lead, both of which are solid SF, and Alan Garner’s The Owl Service, which is fantasy and probably his best book.

Do I think the five nominees are the best five books of the year? Not a chance. Do I think they give a good picture of where the field was? I think they probably do. And I also think that despite all its problems, Lord of Light was the best of them.

There are people who say that the people who came into fandom via Star Trek shifted the balance of the Hugos. I don’t see any evidence of that in this novel list. What I do see here is the victory of the New Wave.

Other Categories


  • (tie) “Riders of the Purple Wage,” Philip José Farmer (Dangerous Visions)
  • “Weyr Search,” Anne McCaffrey (Analog Oct 1967)
  • “Damnation Alley,” Roger Zelazny (Galaxy Oct 1967)
  • “Hawksbill Station,” Robert Silverberg (Galaxy Aug 1967)
  • “The Star Pit,” Samuel R. Delany (Worlds of Tomorrow Feb 1967)

Look, a novella category! And what a terrific one! You couldn’t ask for two more different winners, but they are both wonderful in their own ways… and I really love “Hawksbill Station” and “The Star Pit,” too. The Nebulas gave their novella award to Moorcock’s “Behold the Man.” Can’t argue with that. And (as well as some overlap) they also nominated Sturgeon’s “If All Men Were Brothers, Would You Let One Marry Your Sister?” So if this was a bad year for novels it was one of the best years ever for novellas. I honestly would have had a hard time nominating just five and I don’t know how I would have voted.


  • “Gonna Roll the Bones,” Fritz Leiber (Dangerous Visions)
  • “Faith of Our Fathers,” Philip K. Dick (Dangerous Visions)
  • “Pretty Maggie Moneyeyes,” Harlan Ellison (Knight May 1967) 
  • “Wizard’s World,” Andre Norton (If Jun 1967)

Dangerous Visions cleaning up in the awards, and not surprising. It really was an astonishing anthology. The Nebulas also have Niven’s “Flatlander,” and Zelazny’s “The Keys to December,” and “This Mortal Mountain.”


  • “I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream,” Harlan Ellison (If Mar 1967)
  • “Aye, and Gomorrah…,” Samuel R. Delany (Dangerous Visions)
  • “The Jigsaw Man,” Larry Niven (Dangerous Visions)

Again, a hard choice. The Nebulas gave it to “Aye, and Gomorrah,” and also listed “Answering Service,” by Fritz Leiber, “Baby, You Were Great,” by Kate Wilhelm, “The Doctor,” by Ted Thomas, “Driftglass,” by Samuel R. Delany and “Earthwoman,” by Reginald Bretnor, inexplicably ignoring Ellison and Niven.


  • Star Trek: “The City on the Edge of Forever,” Harlan Ellison
  • Star Trek: “Mirror, Mirror,” Jerome Bixby
  • Star Trek: “The Trouble with Tribbles,” David Gerrold
  • Star Trek: “The Doomsday Machine,” Norman Spinrad
  • Star Trek: “Amok Time,” Theodore Sturgeon

All Star Trek, all the time. I don’t think I’ve seen any of these episodes but I know a surprising amount about them, just by fannish osmosis. I didn’t, however, know that “Amok Time” was by Sturgeon. But of course it was. It all makes sense now. Who else could have put the sex in?


  • If, Frederik Pohl
  • Analog, John W. Campbell, Jr.
  • F&SF, Edward L. Ferman
  • Galaxy, Frederik Pohl
  • New Worlds, Michael Moorcock


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


  • Amra, George Scithers
  • Australian SF Review, John Bangsund
  • Lighthouse, Terry Carr
  • Odd, Raymond D. Fisher
  • Psychotic, Richard E. Geis
  • Yandro, Robert Coulson & Juanita Coulson


  • Ted White
  • Ruth Berman
  • Harlan Ellison (nomination withdrawn)
  • Alexei Panshin (nomination withdrawn)
  • Harry Warner, Jr.

Panshin said in File 770 last year that he withdrew because he had won the year before and hoped to set a precedent. Ellison reportedly withdrew because he had won a Hugo and Nebula in the past.


  • George Barr
  • Johnny Chambers
  • Jack Gaughan (nomination withdrawn)
  • Steve Stiles
  • Arthur Thomson
  • Bjo Trimble

Jo Walton is a science fiction and fantasy writer. She’s published two poetry collections and nine novels, most recently 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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