Nov 28 2010 11:11am

Hugo Nominees: 1959

Hugo Awards trophy from 1959The 1959 Hugo Awards were awarded at Dentention, Detroit. (You can visit the Hugo Nominees index to see the years that have been covered so far.) The winning novel was James Blish’s A Case Of Conscience, and we have nominees at last. They were Robert A. Heinlein’s Have Spacesuit, Will Travel, Robert Sheckley’s Immortality Inc (aka Time Killer), Poul Anderson’s The Enemy Stars (aka “We Have Fed Our Sea”) and Algis Budrys’s Who?. What we have here are five very different books—and I have read all of them. Only the Blish and the Heinlein seem to be in print. The Blish and the Budrys are in my library in both languages, none of the others are available there.

A Case of Conscience is religious science fiction. It posits a planet that has been arranged by the devil especially as a trap for humanity. Have Spacesuit, Will Travel is a YA adventure with aliens and the fate of humanity. The Enemy Stars is a space opera adventure. Immortality Inc is near-future SF about transferring consciousness into a dead body. Who? is a future Cold War novel of identity. They’re all great books, and good nominees, and any one of them would have been a worthy winner.

Looking at the Wikipedia 1958 novels list, I can’t see anything obvious that was overlooked. (The really odd thing about that 1958 list is how many of the non-SF novels I have read—all published six years before I was born—far more than for any other year I’ve looked at.) I do see several other things that could have been contenders—T.H. White’s The Once and Future King, though only the last part was new in 1958, so it might not have been eligible. There’s also Theodore Sturgeon’s To Marry Medusa, and Andre Norton’s The Time Traders. I wouldn’t have been surprised to see any of those on the shortlist, but I don’t think they’re better or more representative than what the voters nominated.

So taking the five nominees as a whole I think they do pretty well at representing the best of science fiction as it was in 1959.

Other Categories


  • “The Big Front Yard,” Clifford D. Simak (Astounding, October 1958)
  • “Captivity,” Zenna Henderson (F&SF, June 1958)
  • “A Deskful of Girls,” Fritz Leiber (F&SF, April 1958)
  • “The Miracle-Workers,” Jack Vance (Astounding, July 1958)
  • “Rat in the Skull,” Rog Phillips (If, December 1958)
  • “Second Game,” Katherine MacLean & Charles V. De Vet (Astounding, March 1958)
  • “Shark Ship,” (aka “Reap the Dark Tide”) C. M. Kornbluth (Vanguard, June 1958)
  • “Unwillingly to School,” Pauline Ashwell (Astounding, January 1958)

What a lot of nominees. The winner is excellent and memorable, and I’ve read and remember several of the others—this looks like a strong field. It’s also nice to see three women here—these are the first female Hugo contenders, and we get them the first year we have nominees.


  • “That Hell-Bound Train,” Robert Bloch (F&SF, September 1958)
  • “The Advent on Channel Twelve,” C. M. Kornbluth (Star Science Fiction Stories No. 4)
  • “The Edge of the Sea,” Algis Budrys (Venture, March 1958)
  • “The Men Who Murdered Mohammed,” Alfred Bester (F&SF, October 1958)
  • “Nine Yards of Other Cloth,” Manly Wade Wellman (F&SF, November 1958)
  • “Rump-Titty-Titty-Tum-Tah-Tee,” Fritz Leiber (F&SF, May 1958)
  • “Space to Swing a Cat,” Stanley Mullen (Astounding, June 1958)
  • “Theory of Rocketry,” C. M. Kornbluth (F&SF, July 1958)
  • “They’ve Been Working On...,” Anton Lee Baker (Astounding, August 1958)
  • “Triggerman,” J. F. Bone (Astounding, December 1958)

How could they not have given it to “The Men Who Murdered Mohammed”? It’s one of my favourite short stories of all time! I haven’t read (or don’t remember) the Bloch, but there are some other good short stories here that have lasted.


  •  no award
  • The Fly (1958)
  • Horror of Dracula
  • The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad

I love you, voters of 1959! I nearly always vote “no award” in the dramatic presentation categories, because I almost never find the offerings worth consideration.


  • F&SF, Anthony Boucher & Robert P. Mills
  • Astounding, John W. Campbell, Jr.
  • Galaxy, H. L. Gold
  • Infinity, Larry T. Shaw
  • New Worlds, John Carnell


  • Frank Kelly Freas
  • Ed Emshwiller
  • Virgil Finlay
  • H. R. Van Dongen
  • Wally Wood


  • Fanac, Terry Carr & Ron Ellik
  • Cry of the Nameless, F. M. & Elinor Busby, Burnett Toskey & Wally Weber
  • Hyphen, Walt Willis & Chuck Harris
  • JD-Argassy, Lynn A. Hickman
  • Science-Fiction Times, James V. Taurasi, Sr., Ray Van Houten & Frank R. Prieto, Jr.
  • Yandro, Robert Coulson & Juanita Coulson


  • no award
  • Brian W. Aldiss (ran highest but lost to “no award”)
  • Paul Ash
  • Pauline Ashwell
  • Rosel George Brown
  • Louis Charbonneau
  • Kit Reed

On this, it seems the voters might have been a bit too quick to vote for “no award.” I think it’s pretty clear that Brian Aldiss would have deserved the honour if it had been given—he’s gone on to edit major anthologies and works of science fiction criticism, as well as writing major novels and short stories. But I don’t know what the basis for this vote was, I don’t know what he’d published by 1959, and maybe it wasn’t all that impressive. As for the other contenders—Ashwell had a Hugo nominated novelette that year, but I’m not aware of any future work, and the others are minor writers or people who did not stay in the field.

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 in January, 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.

Jo Walton
1. bluejo
Posts on A Case of Conscience and Have Spacesuit Will Travel have been written and will be posted in a few days I should think.
René Walling
2. cybernetic_nomad
Re: Best New Writer, by 1958, Aldiss had published Space, Time and Nathaniel (57), a collection of his short stories (all of them at the time) and Non-Stop (58, aka Starship in the US)
john mullen
3. johntheirishmongol
A Case of Conscience was the best choice of those, at least for me. Too often scifi avoids religion, and look at the best and most well-known books in the genre, and they are all about religion (Dune and Stranger). Funny thing is I am not religious at all.

Cliff Simak was always one of my fave writers when I was growing up and mostly his stories hold up.

Robert Bloch was a great writer, but I would need to reread the stories to make a judgement against the fans. To me, he was more horror than scifi, and I suspect reading it now, it would more fit in that category
Rich Horton
4. ecbatan
More later, but a quick note on the new writer list. Obviously, Aldiss deserved to win, it's something of a shame there was a "No Award", though I suspect voters were being honest and not voting when they didn't know.

But what's interesting is "Paul Ash"/Pauline Ashwell, who are the same person. She had two notable stories in 1958 -- the delightful Hugo nominee "Unwillingly to School" and the Paul Ash story, "Big Sword", which I haven't read but which gets admiring comment from some who have read it.

She has continued to write, intermittently, for decades, under both names. (Her real name is given as Pauline Whitby at the ISFDB -- I assume that's her married name, though I'm not sure.) According to an article at io9, her actual first publication came at the age of 14, under the name "Paul Ashwell", in a very obscure magazine called Yankee Science Fiction.

Notable stories as by Ash include a 1993 Analog serial, The Man Who Stayed Behind, as well as stories in 1966 (including the well-regarded "The Wings of a Bat") and 1988-1991, all in Analog.

Notable stories as by Ashwell include several sequels to "Unwillingly to School" ("The Lost Kafoozalum" in 1960, "Rats in the Moon" in 1982, and eventually a fixup novel, Unwillingly to Earth (1992)), and an unrelated novel, Project FarCry. Her most recent story credit at the ISFDB is "Elsewhere", in Analog in 2001.

She's still alive as far as I know, and she'd be 82, so she may well be retired from writing.

Her best stories are the "Lizzie Lee" pieces, beginning with "Unwillingly to Earth". But in general I found her work entertaining, though by no means a patch on Aldiss.

I wonder if the voting results would have changed if the votes for "Paul Ash" and "Pauline Ashwell" were combined.

Of the other new writer nominees, Rosel George Brown had a brief career, but did some interesting stuff before her untimely death in 1967, and Kit Reed has had a long, often brilliant career -- she's a major SF writer, though again not quite at Aldiss's level. On the whole, that's a pretty good Best New Writer nomination list.
JS Bangs
5. jaspax
A Case of Conscience is the only nominee that I've read, but it's a wonderful book, and certainly a deserving winner. I look forward to the re-read post, as I think I got different things out of it than most people.
6. rushmc
"Both languages?" There are only two?
Jo Walton
7. bluejo
Rush MC: Two is enough, surely? They used to be Greek and Latin, but they've recently been updated to French and English! But you're right, I should perhaps have clarified that for people who live elsewhere. Available in the Grande Bibliotheque Montreal in French and English, and allophones are out of luck.
David Levinson
8. DemetriosX
Of the novels, I've only read the Blish and the Heinlein, and Spacesuit is one of my least favorite of his earlier works (I probably need to revisit it now that I'm older). I really can't argue with the voters.

The same is true for the novelettes. The only other title I know is the Leiber, which while typical, is not necessarily his best work. The short story list is incredible really. I agree that the Bester would be tough to beat, but Bloch was at his peak in this period. The Leiber is also a classic.

Kelly Freas won the artist award again. That gives him 2 out of 3 of the artist awards given thus far. There is some awesome talent on that list, though. Wally Wood is usually thought of as a comic artitst. I wonder what got him the nomination.

Of the new authors, I also wanted to point out that Kit Reed has been a regular voice in the genre, particularly in short fiction. She's had 3 Tiptree nominations over the years. Still, this will be the category that probably gives us the most trouble. We have the benefit of hindsight and it's astounding how often a seemingly promising newcomer turns into a shooting star.
9. dthurston
I'm really surprised you haven't read "That Hell-Bound Train". It's quite good, and a worthy winner.
Paul Weimer
10. PrinceJvstin
The Bloch story is definitely memorable. I think it is more horror than fantasy or science fiction, or maybe it should be labeled christian fantasy, since it has a deal with the devil.
David Levinson
11. DemetriosX
I just looked more closely at the amateur mag list. There are a lot of names that would become prominent. Terry Carr won, and we also see FM Busby and the Coulsons. How many people still come out of active fandom and the zines?
Joe Romano
12. Drunes
Of the novel nominees, A Case of Conscience is the only one I've read, although Who? has been on my TBR list for a long time. I may be in the minority here, but I'm a sucker for SF with strong spiritual or religious tones -- so even if I had read all of the other nominees, I probably would have voted for Blish's book, too.

For the novellette, though, I would have voted for Jack Vance's The Miracle-Workers, my favorite Vance story without a doubt. But, of course, how can you argue against Clifford Simak. What a strong year for shorter books?

And movies? In some ways I'd agree with Jo that many SF and fanatasy movies are not worthy of a Hugo, but the three 1958 nomineees were very good and there should have been a winner. Of the three, The Fly was the weakest. If anyone other than Vincent Price had starred in it, it probably would only be remembered by hardcore fans. But Horror of Dracula revived the classic horror genre and launched about 6-8 years of good horror movies. Okay, it wasn't SF or fantasy, but how about Ray Harryhausen's SFX in The Seventth Voyage of Sinbad? Anything Harryhausen touched was worthy of an award. It should have won the Hugo that year and I suspect the voters were looking for hard SF rather than aything else.
René Walling
14. cybernetic_nomad
@DemetriosX: There are still new writers coming up through fandom. Among those nominated for a Campbell in the last ten years or so are David Levine, John Scalzi, Lawrence Schoen, and Jo Walton (There's more I'm sure, but I know all of these folks either attended/organized conventions or published zines/blogs before being professional writers).
15. OtterB
A Case of Conscience is certainly an excellent book, although Have Spacesuit, Will Travel is one of my very favorite Heinleins.

I remember reading some Paul Ash/Pauline Ashwell stories in Analog when they were published there. I rearead them and read "Unwillingly to Earth" for the first time not too long ago, because her name came up in your alphabetical re-read. Project Farcry is, I believe, a novel incorporating the earlier stories Big Sword and The Man Who Stayed Behind. She also had a Nebula nomination in 1992 for a novella in the same series, Man Opening a Door, which I remember from when I first read it, but haven't been able to lay my hands on to reread.
Bob Blough
16. Bob
Great review, Jo. I would only add that Brian Aldiss's Non Stop (aka Starship) should have been one of the top five. Who? is more of a "good for it's time, but outdated" book, IMO, but at the time was well received.
Arthur D. Hlavaty
17. supergee
Immortality Inc. is available in the NESFA Press collection, Dimensions of Sheckley, along with the even better Dimension of Miracles and Mindswap.
Pamela Adams
18. PamAdams
The novelette and short story categories are interesting to me. I've read several of them- and they were all worthy nominees. Makes me wonder what the ones I haven't read were like. My recollection is that the Bloch was funny , with a twist ending. Funny can do well in the short story Hugos.

The Nine Yards song is stuck in my head now. Time to grab Silver John off the shelf....
19. theofloinn
Anderson's The Enemy Stars is quite good. It's not so much space opera as a character story: four men in a starship who don't much like one another and are forced to deal with a crisis. There are instantaneous matter transmitters for star travel, but first you have to get the installation to the destination world, and these ships travel the old-fashioned way. Consequently, they are crewed in shifts over the centuries, with the crews transporting to and from the ship as it travels toward its destination.

The story involves the diversion of a ship bound for a-Crucis to make scientific observations of a collapsed star. The crew are Terangi Maclaren , Dave Ryerson , and two colonials: Seiichi Nakamura and Chang Sverdlov .

Subscribe to this thread

Receive notification by email when a new comment is added. You must be a registered user to subscribe to threads.
Post a comment