Revisiting the Hugos

Hugo Nominees: 1982

The 1982 Hugo Awards were presented at Chicon IV in Chicago. The award for best novel was given to C.J. Cherryh’s Downbelow Station (post). It’s a story of interstellar war and diplomacy set in a complex and thoroughly developed universe—it feels like history in a way that science fiction seldom manages. It’s about what it means to be human, when the boundaries start to blur, it’s about what people will do to survive, and it’s about shifting definitions of home and independence and loyalty. I didn’t like Downbelow Station in 1982—I only started to like it after I liked other books in the same universe. It’s not where I suggest people start with Cherryh. But it’s a major achievement and a major novel, and I’m very glad it won a Hugo and encouraged her to keep on with this kind of thing. It’s in print from DAW, and it’s in the Grande Bibliotheque of Montreal (hereafter “the library”) in English only.

There are four other nominees, three of which I’ve read.

Making up in a small way for overlooking The Shadow of the Torturer in 1981, we have The Claw of the Conciliator here. It’s still brilliant, but it really doesn’t stand alone, so I’m not surprised it didn’t win. The Book of the New Sun is so much one thing that it’s a pity we don’t have an award for completed things that take more than one year to publish. It’s in print in a beautiful Orb edition, and in the library in French and English. It’s definitely still part of the dialogue of science fiction.

John Crowley’s Little, Big is—well. It’s strange. It’’s definitely fantasy, and it’s contemporary, and it’s about a family and magic and strangeness. It’s one of those books that seems to dance along the edge of dreams. I have read it once and never again because I didn’t like the way it seemed to creep up on me when I wasn’t looking. Many of my friends count it as a favourite book. It’s certainly a significant book and thoroughly deserves to be on this list. It’s in print from Harper, and in the library in English.

Julian May’s The Many Coloured Land is what I’d have voted for in 1982, and now I think it’s the weakest book on the list. It was so exactly to my taste then and so little to my taste now that you could use it to graph precisely how my tastes have changed. It’s about people in a multi-planet future with psi powers who have a one-way gate to the Pliocene of Earth, through which people can go into Exile, and when they get there they discover to their astonishment a society of Celtic aliens. There are sequels, which I kept reading for far longer than I should have. It’s not in print and it’s not in the library, but if anybody’s interested I remember exactly how all the magic-enhancing torcs worked and the names of the different kinds of psi.

I don’t know how I missed Clifford Simak’s Project Pope. It’s not in print and it’s not in the library and I suppose nobody ever mentioned it to me and I never happened to see a copy. I usually like Simak. I’ll keep an eye out for it.

So, three men and two women, one space science fiction, one far future science fiction, one fantasy, one science fantasy, and one I haven’t read that looks like theological SF as far as I can tell.

These are a pretty good bunch, and I’m feeling good about them, especially after last week.

What else could they have chosen?

SFWA gave their Nebula Award to The Claw of the Conciliator. Non-overlapping nominees are A.A. Attanasio’s Radix, Russell Hoban’s Riddley Walker, and Suzy McKee Charnas’s The Vampire Tapestry.

The World Fantasy Award went very appropriately to Little, Big. Non-overlapping nominees: Ramsey Campbell’s The Nameless, Michael Moorcock’s The Warhound and the World’s Pain, D.M. Thomas’s The White Hotel.

The John W. Campbell Memorial Award went to Riddley Walker.

The Locus Award went to The Many Coloured Land, thus demonstrating that it wasn’t only sixteen-year-old me who liked it. Non-overlapping nominees: Windhaven, George R. R. Martin & Lisa Tuttle, Dream Park, Larry Niven & Steven Barnes, God Emperor of Dune, Frank Herbert, The Cool War, Frederik Pohl, Sharra’s Exile, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Oath of Fealty, Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle, The Divine Invasion, Philip K. Dick, The Book of Dreams, Jack Vance, The Sardonyx Net, Elizabeth A. Lynn, King David’s Spaceship, Jerry Pournelle, Worlds, Joe Haldeman, At the Eye of the Ocean, Hilbert Schenck, The Unreasoning Mask, Philip José Farmer, Voyagers, Ben Bova, Dream Dancer, Janet Morris, The Pride of Chanur, C.J. Cherryh, The Dreamers, James Gunn, Twelve Fair Kingdoms, Suzette Haden Elgin, Giants’ Star, James Hogan, The Affirmation, Christopher Priest, Deathhunter, Ian Watson, VALIS, Philip K. Dick, Lilith, Jack L. Chalker, Systemic Shock, Dean Ing, In the Hands of Glory, Phyllis Eisenstein, Wave Without a Shore, C.J. Cherryh. 

Locus Fantasy went to the Wolfe, which is of course SF. Non-overlapping nominees: The Changing Land, Roger Zelazny, The Captive, Robert Stallman, Camber the Heretic, Katherine Kurtz, The Keep, F. Paul Wilson, Horn Crown, Andre Norton, A Sense of Shadow, Kate Wilhelm, Lycanthia, Tanith Lee, Path of the Eclipse, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, Delusion’s Master, Tanith Lee, Peregrine: Secundus, Avram Davidson, Kingdom of Summer, Gillian Bradshaw, Esbae: A Winter’s Tale, Linda Haldeman, Journey Behind the Wind, Patricia Wrightson, The Sable Moon, Nancy Springer, Madwand, Roger Zelazny, Gryphon in Glory, Andre Norton, Too Long a Sacrifice, Mildred Downey Broxon, Cujo, Stephen King, Blue Adept, Piers Anthony.

The Mythopoeic Award went to Little, Big. All the nominees have been mentioned already.

Was there anything everybody missed?

There’s Richard Cowper’s A Dream of Kinship, and Elisabeth Vonarburg’s The Silent City in the original French publication, and M.A. Foster’s The Morphodite, Diana Wynne Jones’s The Time of the Ghost.

A lot of good stuff, and I like The Price of Chanur better than Downbelow Station, but nothing that stands out as a clear omission, or clearly better than the nominees we have.

So I’d say 1982 was a year where the nominations did what they should. Good!

Other Categories

NOVELLA

  • “The Saturn Game,” Poul Anderson (Analog 2 Feb 1981)
  • “Blue Champagne,” John Varley (New Voices 4)
  • “Emergence,” David R. Palmer (Analog 5 Jan 1981)
  • “In the Western Tradition,” Phyllis Eisenstein (F&SF Mar 1981)
  • “True Names,” Vernor Vinge (Binary Star #5)
  • “With Thimbles, With Forks and Hope,” Kate Wilhelm (Asimov’s 23 Nov 1981)

Really? Gosh. The Anderson is okay, but the Varley and the Vinge are classics.

NOVELETTE

  • “Unicorn Variation,” Roger Zelazny (Asimov’s 13 Apr 1981)
  • “The Fire When It Comes,” Parke Godwin (F&SF May 1981)
  • “Guardians,” George R. R. Martin (Analog 12 Oct 1981)
  • “The Quickening,” Michael Bishop (Universe 11)
  • “The Thermals of August,” Edward Bryant (F&SF May 1981)

SHORT STORY

  • “The Pusher,” John Varley (F&SF Oct 1981)
  • “Absent Thee from Felicity Awhile,” Somtow Sucharitkul (Analog 14 Sep 1981)
  • “The Quiet,” George Florance-Guthridge (F&SF Jul 1981)
  • “The Woman the Unicorn Loved,” Gene Wolfe (Asimov’s 8 Jun 1981)

NONFICTION BOOK

  • Danse Macabre, Stephen King (Everest)
  • After Man, Dougal Dixon (Macmillan)
  • Anatomy of Wonder, 2nd Edition, Neil Barron, ed. (R.R. Bowker)
  • The Art of Leo & Diane Dillon, Leo & Diane Dillon, edited by Byron Preiss (Ballantine)
  • The Grand Tour, Ron Miller & William K. Hartmann (Workman)

I love After Man, though I wouldn’t call it non-fiction exactly. What an odd category this is!

DRAMATIC PRESENTATION

  • Raiders of the Lost Ark
  • Dragonslayer
  • Excalibur
  • Outland
  • Time Bandits

Raiders is genre now? I suppose there was that two second bit at the end. But No Award all the way.

PROFESSIONAL EDITOR

  • Edward L. Ferman
  • Terry Carr
  • David G. Hartwell
  • Stanley Schmidt
  • George Scithers

David Hartwell said last week that he’d been having a good year that year, but this must have been the year people noticed!

PROFESSIONAL ARTIST

  • Michael Whelan
  • Vincent Di Fate
  • Carl Lundgren
  • Don Maitz
  • Rowena Morrill

Doug M. suggests that Whelan covers had some influence on the nominators. I have no idea if this is right. I didn’t see the U.S. covers at the time and they don’t have any resonance for me. Even if I looked them up, I can’t possibly judge how American nominators would have seen them—and these posts take long enough without adding cross-cultural art criticism to them. But Whelan is winning for Professional Artist, so people who did see and like U.S. covers clearly did like his work.

FANZINE

  • Locus, Charles N. Brown
  • File 770, Mike Glyer
  • Science Fiction Chronicle, Andrew Porter
  • Science Fiction Review, Richard E. Geis

FAN WRITER

  • Richard E. Geis
  • Mike Glyer
  • Arthur D. Hlavaty
  • Dave Langford

FAN ARTIST

  • Victoria Poyser
  • Alexis Gilliland
  • Joan Hanke-Woods
  • Bill Rotsler
  • Stu Shiffman

JOHN W. CAMPBELL AWARD FOR BEST NEW WRITER (Not a Hugo)

  • Alexis Gilliland
  • David Brin
  • Robert Stallman
  • Michael Swanwick
  • Paul O Williams

This is a year where two of the nominees went on to become major writers, writing important books and winning Hugos. Unfortunately, neither Brin nor Swanwick was the winner, though they’d both have been really excellent ones, just the kind the award was designed for, significant writers at the beginning of their careers.

Gilliland had already won a Hugo as Fan Artist in 1980. He published six books between 1981-1992, none of which I’ve read.

Robert Stallman was already dead before being nominated, but it shows how impressed people were with his work.

Paul O. Williams wrote seven post-apocalyptic SF novels between 1981 and 2004, and apparently was also devoted to the haiku form and was President of the U.S. Haiku society. He died in 2009.

So one nominee who didn’t achieve any more because he was dead, two minor writers, including the winner, and two major writers.


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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