Revisiting the Hugos

Hugo Nominees: 1976

The 1976 Hugo Awards were given at MidAmericon in Kansas City, Missouri. The best novel award was won by Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War (post). It’s an impressive  book and a worthy winner—it’s about a young man drafted under the “Elite Conscription Act” to go and fight aliens, who goes out to fight aliens and thanks to relativity keeps coming back to human society grown stranger and stranger. It’s in print, and it’s in the Grande Bibliotheque of Montreal (henceforward “the library”) in English and French.

There are four other nominees, and I’ve read all of them, but I’ve only re-read one of them at all recently, and they all strike me as rather weak.

Alfred Bester’s The Computer Connection (aka Extro) I remember as being very disappointing, without remembering much more about it. It isn’t in print, but it is in the library in English and French.

Roger Zelazny’s Doorways in the Sand (post) is a beautiful Zelazny novel with aliens and stereoisomers, minor work but still lovely. It’s not in print and it’s not in the library. It has always been hard to find—my anecdotal evidence for this is that I have a U.S. edition. Somebody should reprint it.

Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle’s Inferno is about a science fiction writer escaping from Dante’s Hell with Mussolini as his guide. I mildly enjoyed it the first time I read it when I was fourteen, but I haven’t felt much urge to pick it up again since, nor have I read the recent sequel. It has a science fictional sensibility, but it’s definitely about the afterlife and therefore fantasy. It’s in print, and it’s in the library in English.

Robert Silverberg’s The Stochastic Man is a near future SF novel about prediction and the difference between prediction and actually seeing the future. I remember it being really powerful and a bit of a downer. It’s not in print, and it’s in the library in French only—this is also something somebody should reprint, and probably the best of the four.

Five books by men, four science fiction of the traditional set-in-the-future kind, and one fantasy of hell, all except the winner books by well-established writers.

What else might they have considered?

SFWA gave the Nebula to Haldeman. They were having one of their years where they had a very long nomination list, some of which wouldn’t be qualified for the Hugo.

Non-overlapping eligible nominees were Arthur Byron Cover’s Autumn Angels, Tanith Lee’s The Birthgrave, Ian Watson’s The Embedding (presumably on U.S. publication?), Vonda MacIntyre’s The Exile Waiting, Michael Bishop’s A Funeral For the Eyes of Fire, Barry N. Malzberg’s Guernica Night, Marion Zimmer Bradley’s The Heritage of Hastur (post), Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities, Katherine Maclean’s Missing Man, and E.L. Doctorow’s Ragtime, which I didn’t even know was SF.

I haven’t read all of these, but I’m sure most of them would have made fine Hugo nominees. These last two Nebula nominees are in a different category however. SFWA nominated Joanna Russ’s The Female Man and Samuel Delany’s Dhalgren, (post) which should both absolutely have been on the Hugo ballot too. It’s ridiculous that they were overlooked. They’d have been better nominees than anything on the list except The Forever War.

The World Fantasy Novel went to Richard Matheson’s Bid Time Return and also shortlisted Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot.

This was the year the Campbell Memorial Award went a little crazy and gave the award to Wilson Tucker’s Year of the Quiet Sun, a 1970 book, after saying no 1975 books were worthy of the award, and then shortlisted Bob Shaw’s Orbitsville and The Stochastic Man. Ouch. Orbitsville did win the BSFA award, which might have been some consolation.

The Locus Award went to Haldeman and shortlisted another book that really should have been on the Hugo ballot—John Brunner’s The Shockwave Rider. Also shortlisted and not mentioned so far in this post, Arthur C. Clarke’s Imperial Earth, (post), Roger Zelazny’s The Sign of the Unicorn, Jack Vance’s Showboat World, Ray Nelson’s Blake’s Progress, M.A. Foster’s The Warriors of Dawn, Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson’s Illuminatus! Cordwainer Smith’s Norstrilia might not have been eligible because it had already been published in two halves in magazines in the sixties.

Again using the ISFDB, is there anything of note that wasn’t nominated for anything? Yes! There’s one of my favourite books, Michael Coney’s Hello Summer, Goodbye (post) and there’s George Alec Effinger and Gardner Dozois’s Nightmare Blue.

So not doing so well this year really, a fairly weak shortlist and three absolutely vital SF novels missed. If the shortlist had been Russ, Delany, Brunner, Silverberg and Haldeman I think it would have done a much better job of showing where SF was that year.

I wonder what went wrong? I wonder if a lot of the previous year’s Worldcon members nominating in 1976 were Australian and had only had a chance to see books published there?

Other Categories.


  • “Home Is the Hangman,” Roger Zelazny (Analog Nov 1975)
  • “ARM,” Larry Niven (Epoch)
  • “The Custodians,” Richard Cowper (F&SF Oct 1975)
  • “The Silent Eyes of Time,” Algis Budrys (F&SF Nov 1975)
  • “The Storms of Windhaven,” Lisa Tuttle & George R. R. Martin (Analog May 1975)

I’d have voted for the Cowper, I think, but these are all good, except the Budrys which I haven’t read or don’t remember.


  • “The Borderland of Sol,” Larry Niven (Analog Jan 1975)
  • “And Seven Times Never Kill Man,” George R. R. Martin (Analog Jul 1975)
  • “The New Atlantis,” Ursula K. Le Guin (The New Atlantis)
  • “San Diego Lightfoot Sue,” Tom Reamy (F&SF Aug 1975)
  • “Tinker,” Jerry Pournelle (Galaxy Jul 1975)

Martin was robbed, I adore that story, and “Borderland of Sol” is relatively ordinary.


  • “Catch That Zeppelin!,” Fritz Leiber (F&SF Mar 1975)
  • “Child of All Ages,” P. J. Plauger (Analog Mar 1975)
  • “Croatoan,” Harlan Ellison (F&SF May 1975)
  • “Doing Lennon,” Gregory Benford (Analog Apr 1975)
  • “Rogue Tomato,” Michael Bishop (New Dimensions 5)
  • “Sail the Tide of Mourning,” Richard Lupoff (New Dimensions 5)


  • A Boy and His Dog
  • “The Capture” (Phil Foglio cartoon slide show)
  • Dark Star
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail
  • Rollerball


  • Ben Bova
  • Jim Baen
  • Edward L. Ferman
  • Robert Silverberg
  • Ted White


  • Frank Kelly Freas
  • George Barr
  • Vincent Di Fate
  • Steve Fabian
  • Rick Sternbach


  • Locus, Charles Brown & Dena Brown
  • Algol, Andrew Porter
  • Don-O-Saur, Don C. Thompson
  • Outworlds, Bill Bowers
  • Science Fiction Review, Richard E. Geis


  • Richard E. Geis
  • Charles Brown
  • Don D’Ammassa
  • Don C. Thompson
  • Susan Wood


  • Tim Kirk
  • Grant Canfield
  • Phil Foglio
  • Bill Rotsler
  • Jim Shull


  • Tom Reamy
  • Arsen Darnay
  • M. A. Foster
  • John Varley
  • Joan D. Vinge

Tom Reamy died young after producing one very good novel and enough stories for one collection—including a Nebula winning novelette, and numerous other Hugo and Nebula nominations for short work. I think he was a good choice and would have become a really major writer if he’d had the chance. We also have three other terrific nominees—M.A. Foster, John Varley and Joan Vinge have all produced really great work in the time since, and if they’re quite not household names I’d expect anyone reading this to know them. Only Arsen Darnay hasn’t imprinted himself on my consciousness—anybody know what happened to him?

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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