Mar 6 2011 10:34am

Hugo Nominees: 1973

1973 Hugo Award trophyThe 1973 Hugo Awards were held at Torcon II in Toronto. (For earlier posts in this series, see Index.) The novel winner was Isaac Asimov’s The Gods Themselves.

I find this win inexplicable. The novel consists of three parts—a very boring part with appalling physics and unpleasant squabbling scientists set on Earth, an excellent section set among aliens in a para-universe (the only bit that had stuck in my mind) and another forgettable silly part with humans. It’s in print, and in the Grande Bibliotheque in both languages, so it has lasted. But for me this is one of those “Really? They gave the Hugo to that?” winners. It was Asimov’s first science fiction for some time, and he was a very popular writer, and many of his books are excellent—but The Gods Themselves considered as a whole book seems to me to be among his weakest. But maybe everybody else thought the bit with the aliens was sufficiently great to carry the whole book alone?

There were five other nominees, and I’ve read all of them.

I think Robert Silverberg’s Dying Inside (post) is the standout book of 1972, and I’d definitely have voted for it. It’s a close up study of why telepathy isn’t a good idea, and it’s absolutely brilliant. It’s in print and in the library in French only.

The other Silverberg nominated that year is The Book of Skulls, a comparatively weaker novel about immortality and a secret cult that broadens out to be more than that. It’s also in print and also in the library in French only.

Clifford Simak’s A Choice of Gods is a strange far future pastoral—most of humanity has vanished, the ones who are left live very long lives quietly puttering about in a typical Simak way, and then the missing ones come back. I haven’t read it for ages, maybe I should reread it. It’s extremely out of print, but it’s in the library in French.

Poul Anderson’s There Will Be Time is a golden age style adventure of a man who can move through time saving the world. I’d have thought it was a lot older than 1972, and I’d forgotten about it until I looked it up. (He wrote a lot of books with “time” in the title.) It’s minor Anderson. It’s not in print and it’s not in the library.

David Gerrold’s When Harlie Was One is about a computer becoming conscious. I suppose I technically haven’t read it, as what I read was the eighties rewrite “release 2.0” with updated (to the eighties) technology. It’s a pleasant novel about AI but nothing special.

So, all male nominees again. Dying Inside is the standout for me, all the rest of them are fairly forgettable. Was it really such a dull year?

The Nebulas also gave it to Asimov—I’ve just reread it, post coming soon, because I started to wonder if I’d just totally missed something about it when I first read it. Oh dear. SFWA’s non-overlapping nominees were Spinrad’s The Iron Dream (which is brilliant but goes on too long and shouldn’t have been a novel—one idea is not enough for a whole book) John Brunner’s wonderful but depressing environmental disaster The Sheep Look Up, and George Alec Effinger’s romp What Entropy Means To Me.

The John W. Campbell Memorial Award for hard science fiction novels started this year—it’s an odd thing to choose to honour Campbell when you think about it, as he was a magazine editor all his life. I suppose he did publish novels as serials. Oh well. The judges this year gave it to Barry Malzberg’s Beyond Apollo, which I haven’t read. Second place was James E. Gunn’s The Listeners, a book about SETI, and third was Christopher Priest’s A Darkening Island, aka Fugue for a Darkening Island, a very uncosy catastrophe novel. They also gave a special award for excellent writing to Silverberg for Dying Inside.

The Locus award also went to Asimov. Previously unlisted nominees are Zelazny’s The Guns of Avalon, Gordon R. Dickson’s The Pritcher Mass, Katherine Kurtz’s Deryni Checkmate, Bob Shaw’s Other Days, Other Eyes (post), Harry Harrison’s A Transatlantic Tunnel, Hurrah!, David Gerrold’s Yesterday’s Children, Andrew J. Offutt’s The Castle Keeps, and Gordon Eklund’s Beyond the Resurrection.

The Mythopoeic Award went to (no relation) Evangeline Walton’s The Song Of Rhiannon. Other nominees not yet mentioned were Poul Anderson’s The Dancer From Atlantis, Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Farthest Shore (post) and Thomas Burnett Swann’s Green Phoenix.

Could there possibly be anything of note that all these lists missed?

Well, there’s Sylvia Engdahl’s Heritage of the Star (post) which is YA, but YA qualifies these days even if nobody was looking at it then. There’s Michael Coney’s Mirror Image and there’s Watership Down (post).

I think the five Hugo nominees are an unadventurous lot this year and I don’t think they’re the five best books of the year.

Other Categories


  • “The Word for World is Forest,” Ursula K. Le Guin (Again, Dangerous Visions)
  • “The Fifth Head of Cerberus,” Gene Wolfe (Orbit 10)
  • “The Gold at the Starbow’s End,” Frederik Pohl (Analog Mar 1972) 
  • “Hero,” Joe Haldeman (Analog Jun 1972)
  • “The Mercenary,” Jerry Pournelle (Analog Jul 1972)

Wow. Another great novella year, and I wouldn’t have given it to Le Guin. While I generally love her work, I think Forest is one of her thinnest and preachiest and it hasn’t lasted well. Either the Wolfe or the Pohl would have been a better winner—and I kind of like the Pournelle too, actually.


  • “Goat Song,” Poul Anderson (F&SF Feb 1972)
  • “Basilisk,” Harlan Ellison (F&SF Aug 1972)
  • “A Kingdom by the Sea,” Gardner Dozois (Orbit 10)
  • “Painwise,” James Tiptree, Jr. (F&SF Feb 1972)
  • “Patron of the Arts,” William Rotsler (Universe 2)

Another really good set, and here the winner is one of my all time favourite short works, Anderson doing what he did best.


  • (tie) “Eurema’s Dam,” R. A. Lafferty (New Dimensions 2)
  • (tie) “The Meeting,” Frederik Pohl & C. M. Kornbluth (F&SF Nov 1972)
  • “And I Awoke and Found Me Here on the Cold Hill’s Side,” James Tiptree, Jr. (F&SF Mar 1972)
  • “When It Changed,” Joanna Russ (Again, Dangerous Visions
  • “When We Went to See the End of the World,” Robert Silverberg (Universe 2)

Gosh. A tie, but not between the two stories everyone remembers, the Tiptree and the Russ. Oh, and note three categories again, thank goodness.


  • Slaughterhouse-Five
  • “Between Time and Timbuktu”
  • “The People”
  • Silent Running

I don’t know why they kept on with this award. There just aren’t enough offerings to have a decent slate.


  • Ben Bova
  • Terry Carr
  • Edward L. Ferman
  • Ted White
  • Donald A. Wollheim

We’ve changed from ”best magazine“ to ”best editor." Was this a good idea at the time?


  • Frank Kelly Freas
  • Vincent Di Fate
  • Jack Gaughan
  • Mike Hinge
  • John Schoenherr


  • Energumen, Michael Glicksohn & Susan Wood Glicksohn
  • Algol, Andrew Porter
  • Granfalloon, Ron & Linda Bushyager
  • Locus, Charles Brown & Dena Brown
  • SF Commentary, Bruce Gillespie


  • Terry Carr
  • Charles Brown
  • Richard E. Geis
  • Susan Glicksohn
  • Sandra Miesel
  • Rosemary Ullyot

Three women! That’s notable.


  • Tim Kirk
  • Grant Canfield
  • Bill Rotsler
  • Jim Shull
  • Arthur Thomson


  • Jerry Pournelle
  • Ruth Berman
  • Geo. Alec Effinger
  • George R.R. Martin
  • Robert Thurston
  • Lisa Tuttle

The Campbell is an odd award, and it’s not a Hugo, but I’m going to be considering it with them as it’s voted for with them. It recognises writers at the beginning of their careers, and it honours Campbell very well because he did work with so many new writers. Looking at this list, four of them (including the winner) have gone on to become major writers. Ruth Berman is primarily a poet, who has won the Rhysling and the Dwarf Stars award in this decade. Robert Thurston has gone on to have a career writing a lot of tie-in novels.

I like to think I’d have voted for Martin, but he really was at the very start of his career and I don’t know if I’d have noticed him. I might have voted for Effinger or Pournelle instead, if I’d been at Torcon II without the benefit of hindsight. (I’d also have been eight years old, but let’s just forget about that.)

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.

john mullen
1. johntheirishmongol
I agree with you about The Gods Themselves. It was really given for his body of work, not for this novel, which I didn't really like that much. I would have voted for Dying Inside as well. Not a great year for novels.

In hindsight, it is always easier to pick out a writer who becomes outstanding, but in this time, I would have given it Pournelle. Martin is brilliant but erratic.

Although none of the dramatic presentations is outstanding, I still have a great fondness for Silent Running and would have voted for that movie.
2. CarlosSkullsplitter
Poul Anderson’s There Will Be Time is a golden age style adventure of a man who can move through timesaving the world. I’d have thought it was a lot older than 1972, and I’d forgotten about it until I looked it up.
Um. This is the one with the Ambrose Bierce-inspired anti-hippie glossary. It's extremely political: multicultural libertarians versus white supremacist conservatives. Not very Golden Age.
Stefan Mitev
3. Bergmaniac
I think this is definitely one of the worst years years for the Hugos.

Let's start with the novel - I like The Gods Themselves, but it's really nothing special overall. The third part is just weak, the whole plot momentum slowly fizzles away into a predictable and easy resolution, and the Lunar society looks like an unintentional parody. The second part is really good, but as a whole, it's miles away from both Silverberg novels of the year. Especially Dying Inside, which is one of the best thing the SFF genre has ever produced IMO. It's brilliant, deeply moving and superbly written.

The novel version of The Fifth Head of Cerberus wasn't even nominated, which is another disapointment. At least if it had beaten Dying Inside, I would've accepted it, since it's an excellent work in its own right.

Asimov won thanks to his name and "Oh, he's back" factor.

The novella: I am a big fan of Le Guin, but The Word for World is Forest is not one her best works. The villain is too cartoonish pure evil, and it gets preachy at times. Still a very good work overall with some excellent bits, but nowhere near the brilliance of The Fifth Head of Cerberus.

The short story: I Awoke and Found Me Here on The Cold Hill Side should've won IMO, it's such a chillingly effective and memorable story, one of Tiptree's best, and that's saying a lot. When It Changed is great too, and in only several manages to raise many important questions about gender politics, and to be quite moving too. I am amazed both got beaten by Eurema's Dam, which is decent but totally forgettable IMO. At least the other winner is much better, but not as good as those two. Even Silverberg's story is better than the winners IMO.

Tiptree's The Milk of Paradise should've been nominated too, such a great story. I guess it was too shocking for the voters or something...Tiptree had a great year overall, but won nothing.

I've slowly been reading Again, Dangerous Visions, one of the major anthologies of the year, and it's amazing how uneven it is. Some excellent stories (the already mentioned Milk of Paradise and When It Changed, The Funeral by Kate Wilhelm, And the Sea Like Mirrors by Benford, etc), but also some really weak entries (like For Value Received), which you got to wonder how were allowed by a renowned editor like Ellison.
4. James Davis Nicoll
Poul Anderson’s There Will Be Time is a golden age style adventure of a man who can move through time saving the world. I’d have thought it was a lot older than 1972, and I’d forgotten about it until I looked it up. (He wrote a lot of books with “time” in the title.) It’s minor Anderson. It’s not in print and it’s not in the library.

It's special to me for two things: it's the second Poul Anderson novel I ever read (after Satan's World) and either it or Silverberg's Up the Line was my introduction to the Byzantine Empire.

My grade Nine history text, The British Epic , covered the crusades in one short subordinate clause so it didn't go into detail about cultures much east of perfidious France .

There Will Be Time is part of the Maurai timeline, which includes a bunch of short works and the novel Orion Will Rise.

1: Specially written for Canadian students circa 1960, a special time culturally for Canada. You won't hear a Canadian politician rant about having been born British and intending to die British these days.

2: Not some pointless post-WWII rivalry but the real deal, the Anglo-French War of 1202-1815.
5. James Davis Nicoll
Poul Anderson’s There Will Be Time is a golden age style adventure of a man who can move through time saving the world.

Except he can't, not a general sense. He can hope to exploit the undocumented bits of history to save his girlfriend but he is not changing anything, just becoming aware of events that were fixed but not yet observed. The grand pattern of history, in particular how Western Civilization was Doooooooomed!, was something the lead could not change.

As I recall the thesis was proposed that WWI was what killed Western Civilization and the decades that followed were just death-twitches.

In general, Poul Anderson books of the 1970s were not a rich sources of optimism.
6. James Davis Nicoll
The 1973 Hugo Awards were held at Torcon II in Toronto.

Blame Canada!
Dru O'Higgins
7. bellman
The tag for Effinger's What Entropy Means To Me goes to the Brunner The Sheep Look Up.
David Levinson
8. DemetriosX
As you and others have said, Asimov probably got the award more as a lifetime achievement. This was literally the first time he had been nominated (apart from the rather odd All-Time Series award in 1966). He had written better and he would write better, although the middle section is often considered some of his best work ever. I probably would have voted for Dying Inside, too.

I'm not going to say much about the short fiction this week. I've probably read most, if not all, of it. Certainly, I've read all of the anthologies that held nominated works, but very few of them stick in my mind. I've only read the LeGuin in the longer novel form and the Wolfe still baffles me every time I read it (again in the longer form, but that's more of a fix-up which contains the original).

The dramatic presentation makes a little more sense this time. No comedy albums, at least. Two Vonneguts, the film and a TV movie adapted from several of his works. He was involved in the latter in some capacity and really liked the former a lot. The People was a TV adaptation of Zenna Henderson starring William Shatner and Kim Darby. Silent Running isn't bad, though it suffers from pacing problems and many of the other general aspects of 70s film-making that bother me a lot. No award would have been better.

The Campbell award is interesting. Pournelle is more old-fashioned than the other nominees who went on to be major writers. I wonder if that had something to do with his win, since there was still an undercurrent that didn't like the new direction SF was going. It's also interesting to see that Pournelle got a lot of nominations in the next few years. He's easy to dismiss as a solo author, but he got off to a good start.
9. Alex Kinnison
"Dying Inside" was a mind-changer for the young SF reader I was in '72. There had been much new writing in the 60's, but while it was different in tone, shifting far from "spaceships and rayguns", much was just shock for shock value without being particularly interesting.
Dying Inside came as a sledgehammer to the brain. This was a real person, "blessed" with a talent we all wished for, who was desperately unhappy and deeply conflicted. It is also a very internal book, the action is in the character, a new experience.
I'll admit, it was hard to read at 14, it was not the escapism we generally got from SF. But it was extremely rewarding, and reads today just as effectively as it did then. I still have my (english) paperback, if you have an opportunity to find and read Dying Inside you will be well rewarded, and it more than earned the reward that year.
Steve Oerkfitz
10. SteveOerkfitz
Have to agree. The Gods Themselves is definetely minor Asimov. Dying Inside should have won. And The Sheep Look Up, What Entropy Means to Me and Beyond Apollo are all better than the rest of the list. I like Lafferty but no way was that a better story than The Russ or Tiptree. Also quite fond of Slaughterhouse 5. Silent Running is pretty bad.
11. Doug M.
_The Gods Themselves_ does include a plot of scientists warning of impending catastrophe, which is ignored by society at large because changing our ways would be expensive and hard. That part actually looks oddly prophetic.

Pournelle's personal Golden Age was interesting but brief. Nothing he wrote alone after ~1975 compares to the solo stuff he did before that.

Poul Anderson and Western Civ: a fair chunk of Anderson's historical analysis is straight Toynbee. Toynbee held that civilizations either met challenges or failed to; if they failed, then they ossified and then died. But the ossification process would be long and drawn out, and might actually look like expansion and success for a while -- although in fact the civilization would be dying inside.

He'd do the same with his fictional future Technic civilization -- as things are going to hell, van Rijn or Falkayn will note that the wrong turning was some council held a couple of centuries back, where the great merchant houses turned from healthy competition to agreed monopolies.

Mind, Toynbee was when Anderson was happy. When he was having a bad month, it was Spengler and the Decline of the West.

Doug M.
Rob Munnelly
12. RobMRobM
I'm currently reading GRRM's Dreamsongs, which has all of his early short fiction work. Much of it was very good but certainly no clear case to make that he was the best of this set. Some of the stories that come after this nomination are excellent and Hugo/Nebula winning even before he begain ASOIF. He's clearly the pick for this if hindsight is taken into account, but not at the time.

Jo Walton
13. bluejo
RobMRobM: I've been a big fan of Martin's since "Sandkings" -- I've been watching for anything new for him since about 1980, and actually much as I like his Westeros books they're not my favorites of his. But looking at what he'd actually published up to 1973 -- as I said, I don't know.
14. dmg
I think Robert Silverberg’s Dying Inside is the standout book of 1972
Only 1972? I daresay that Silverberg's novel is the poster child for what SF can be... but rarely is.

It’s a close up study of why telepathy isn’t a good idea
I agree, but I also view Silverberg's use of telepathy to be something of a metaphor; it stands in for anyone with a now (rapidly) diminishing talent (athletes, etc) and their attendant fall from grace. Or even for aging itself.

and it’s absolutely brilliant.
I agree. But also so much more.

The irony is that Silverberg wrote so many outstanding novels during those heady, trippy years of 1968-1973... But then had to withstand the withering heat from HE and others for following up with potboilers (Majipoor, etc). Why could he not perform more miracles of artistic creation? Sheesh, talk about performance punishment! :-)

PS: Nice post, Alex K!
Rich Horton
15. ecbatan
Curiously, I have already written an essay covering the 1973 Hugos and suggesting alternatives -- I did it for Steven Silver's fanzine Argentus, issue 2, which can be found here. I find in looking it over that I don't entirely agree with what I wrote then (9 years ago or so), though I mostly do. (What I most regret is my dismissive remarks about Dying Inside -- I was plain wrong.)

The first thing I ought to say is that while I called 1971 a sort of local minimum for SF, 1972 was the opposite -- a remarkable year, especially in short fiction.

For novel, my suggested shortlist was:

334, Thomas M. Disch
An Alien Heat, Michael Moorcock
The Farthest Shore, Ursula K. Le Guin
The Fifth Head of Cerberus, Gene Wolfe
The Sheep Look Up, John Brunner

It's worth noting that that does not intersect at all with the Hugo nomination list. I will concede that I was unfairly ignoring Dying Inside, which belongs on the shortlist. But I'd still have given the award to The Fifth Head of Cerberus. And any of those novels would be a big step up from The Gods Themselves, though I must say that reading it almost contemporaneously with its appearance I enjoyed it a lot. (Mainly the middle part, mind you.) As others have noted, its win can largely be viewed as both a "body of work" award, and a celebration of Asimov's return to the field.

Dying Inside did win an award, from the John W. Campbell Memorial Award jury, for "excellent writing", or something of that nature. We ought to look at the other three contenders for that award -- three more very fine books.

The highly controversial winner was Barry Malzberg's Beyond Apollo. Second place went to James Gunn's The Listeners, and third place to Christopher Priest's impressive first novel, Darkening Island (UK title Fugue for a Darkening Island, I believe). All good to excellent books.

A few more interesting books -- my favorite Harry Harrison novel (not a high bar, as I've noted before), which Jo already mentioned: ATranslatlantic Tunnel, Hurrah! (which was the title of the Analog serial -- it was originally called Tunnel Through the Deeps in book form, but there is a new release (promoting it as sort of ur-Steampunk, seems to me) with the much superior original title restored).

A good short James Blish novel, Midsummer Century.

And from the mainstream, not only Watership Down, but Ira Levin's The Stepford Wives.

So I'd say, despite a less than inspiring Hugo shortlist, 1972 was actually a pretty good year for SF novels.
16. gardner dozois
I think there's little doubt that the win for THE GODS THEMSELVES was a beloved-writer-is-writing-fiction-again-after-a-long-absense award, just as the Lafferty may have been a he's-old-and-sick-and-will-probably-die-soon award. Such things are common not only in the Hugos and the Nebulas, but in the Oscars and the Emmys--in fact, in just about every award.

The winner SHOULD have been DYING INSIDE, not only the best SF novel of the year, but the best from Silverberg's whole Middle Period. If it couldn't go to DYING INSIDE, for some reason, I'd rather have seen it go to WATERSHIP DOWN, actually, than most of the other finalists and potential finalists, a landmark of sorts in fantasy, and frquently read even to this day, unlike most of the others, including the nearly forgotten THE GODS THEMSELVES.

By this time, few people probably remember the firestorm kicked up by Malzberg's BEYOND APOLLO winning the first John W. Campbell Memorial Award. The War of the New Wave was still grumbling along at this point, and the Old Guard went ballistic at the win, some saying that it was a disgrace to Campbell's memory that such a book won (it had Lots of Sex in it, and was widely considered to be an attack on astronauts and the Space Program), and others saying that Campbell must be spinning in horror in his grave.

Another artifact of the War this year was, as mentioned, the "anti-hippie" glossary in the Anderson novel.

In novella, "The Word for World Is Forest" is one of my least favorite Le Guin works, being much too diadactic and heavy-handed, even approaching shrill. (It does appear to be one of the elements that went into the mix for AVATAR, though, so it did have a lasting effect.) I have no doubt whatever that the award should have gone to Gene Wolfe's "The Fifth Head of Cerebus," one of the best SF novellas ever written, and a high point in Gene's career. If for some reason it couldn't go to Wolfe, then it should have gone to "The Gold at the Starbow's End," although "Hero," the opening section of THE FOREVER WAR, would have been a reasonable choice too. I'd have voted for the Le Guin well toward the end of the category.

It seems to have been a weak year for novelette. "Goat Song" is a reasonable choice, although I don't think it was as strong as "The Queen of Air and Darkness" from the year before. Almost all of the other novelettes are long forgotten (and, actually, "Goat Song" isn't usually counted among Poul's key works these days, either).

"The Meeting" is a good story, but I don't think either it or the Lafferty (one of Laffery's weaker stories, actually) deserved the Hugo. What should have won out of that field was Tiptree's "And I Awoke and Found Me Here on the Cold Hill's Side," although a respectable argument can be made for "When It Changed," too (although it also touched off one of the fiercest battles of the War, and the fanzines ran red with blood for months after it was published).

What I think REALLY should have won, though, was Russ's "Nobody's Home," her other story for the year, a story so amazingly ahead of its time that it reads like something Greg Egan might have written in the '90s, even though it was published in 1973.

I was told by a BNF who was involved in running the Worldcon that year that I'd actually won in the John W. Campbell Award voting, but was disqualified after the fact because I'd published a story professionally back in 1966. Whether this is actually true or not, I have no idea.
Rich Horton
17. ecbatan
Now to the short fiction. This was really an amazing year. And yet the Hugo voters got it mostly wrong. (The novelette award is pretty good.)

It was my "Golden Age" year according to Peter Graham's formulation ("The Golden Age of SF is when you were 12"), and one of the first adult SF anthologies I remember reading is Nebula Award Stories 8, which collects stories from 1972.

I'd place the Hugo winner fifth of five on the Hugo shortlist, "Bad Ursula", shrill and preachy. (I think the book version is the same story, unexpanded, by the way, though I could be wrong. It was a very long novella.) The winner, by a wide wide margin, should have been "The Fifth Head of Cerberus", one of the most amazing SF novels ever. But Fred Pohl's "The Gold at the Starbow's End" is also exceptional. And I also quite enjoyed the two very different examples of Military SF on the ballot, the Haldeman (part of The Forever War) and the Pournelle. (Both stories appeared in Analog, by the way, as did Pohl's story, and it was immediately clear that Ben Bova was really revitalizing the magazine.)

In my Argentus article I gave my alternate Hugo to "The Gold at the Starbow's End", but that's because I left "Fifth Head" off the list in deference to the novel.

A couple further novellas were nominated for the Nebula but not the Hugo, interesting stories, too, though they wouldn't have been my winner:

"Son of the Morning", Phyllis Gotlieb
"With the Bentfin Boomer Boys on Little Old New Alabama", Richard A. Lupoff

The Lupoff story, along with the Le Guin and a couple further stories on the ballots this year, was from Harlan Ellison's Again, Dangerous Visions.

One other fine novella was Frederik Pohl's "The Merchants of Venus" (his first Heechee story).

Novelettes on the next rock.
18. Doug M.
Incidentally, Pournelle was one of the oldest Cambpell award winners -- in 1973, he was already 40.

(Lisa Tuttle, who was a runner-up here, was just 21; next year she would become the youngest Campbell winner ever at 22.)

If you look at what the voters had to work with, Pournelle does look like the reasonable choice. GRR Martin was still doing journeyman work, and Effinger only had IMS one book out.

And looking forward, well, the award is supposed to go to someone who's likely to be a major influence on the field. And Pournelle was that. Anyone who was an SF fan in the 1980s will remember those endless anthologies (Destinies, New Destinies, I Like War, Let's Have a War, I Want a War, etc.). And let's not talk about the collaborations (Niven, Steven Barnes, Stirling, John F. Carr, Charles Sheffield, Roland Green...) You can Kevin Bacon Pournelle to pretty much the entire field in three steps or less.

The Campbell voters would do some pretty strange things over the years -- P.F. Plauger? Alexis Gilliland? -- but whether you like Pournelle or not, it's hard to fault them for this one.

Doug M.
Rich Horton
19. ecbatan

As I said, I think "Goat Song" was a decent choice for the Best Novelette award. But there were at least two better choices, neither of which got nominated. These are Keith Roberts's chilling and powerful "Nazis win" Alternate History story "Weihnachtsabend"; and Gary Jennings's incredibly funny "Sooner or Later or Never Never".

The Hugo nomination list is pretty good, with a strong Tiptree story and a very good Gardner Dozois story. I'd also mention, from the Nebula nominations, a really nice story from another Golden Age writer making a return to the field, Alfred Bester: "The Animal Fair".

A couple other novelettes worth a mention -- another Tiptree, a personal favorite of mine though in all honesty perhaps not quite her best work: "Forever to a Hudson Bay Blanket"; and Robert Silverberg's "{Now + n, Now - n}".

Now on to Short Story. I am almost completely in agreement with Gardner in this category. Neither the Pohl/Kornbluth nor Lafferty story was all that great a winner. (Though they are OK stories.) "When It Changed" is undoubtedly profoundly influential, but as a story it falls well behind Gardner's choice, perhaps my favorite Joanna Russ story ever (other choice: "The Second Inquisition") -- "Nobody's Home". A complete masterpiece. A great great story. As Gardner notes, it is in some ways almost Eganesque -- yet it is also astonishingly moving.

But there remains the Tiptree question. What a truly amazing year Tiptree had. The two novelettes already mentioned ("Painwise" and "Forever to a Hudson Bay Blanket"). And look at these short stories:

"And I Awoke and Found Me Here on the Cold Hill's Side"
"And I Have Come Upon This Place By Lost Ways"
"Filomena and Greg and Rikki-Tikki and Barlow and the Alien" (aka "All the Kinds of Yes")
"The Man Who Walked Home"
"On the Last Afternoon"

All of those are amazing stories. "And I Awoke" is just brilliant. But they weren't even Tiptree's best, in my opinion. I thought the best short story of 1972 was another Again, Dangerous Visions story -- Tiptree's "The Milk of Paradise". Talk about totally blowing me away! That's my choice for the 1972 Hugo -- though I will say that if you pick "Nobody's Home" I'm not really arguing.

A couple further stories worth a mention:
"Alien Stones", by Gene Wolfe
"Lamia Mutable", by M. John Harrison
"Zirn Left Unguarded, the Jenghik Palace in Flames, Jon Westerly Dead", by Robert Sheckley (best title ever!)

One might also note that 1972 saw the publication of famed film critic Roger Ebert's only two SF stories (that I know of), which appeared in Amazing and Fantastic: "After the Last Mass" and "In Dying Venice". Neither Hugo-worthy, mind you.
20. Gardner Dozois
I'd forgotten about "The Merchants of Venus." I might even have given it the Hugo over "The Gold at the Starbow's End," although nothing beats "The Fifth Head of Cerberus" in my opinion. (I prefer the novella to the novel, which is why I usually think of it as novella instead of part of a novel). Those two Pohl stories represent the first stirrings of the New Pohl, as he revitalized his writing career.

And yes, Bova did a startlingly effective job of revitalizing a moribund ANALOG, bringing in new blood such as Haldeman, Pohl, Niven, and Zelazny, and that's why he won the Hugo that year, and for a couple of years thereafter, if memory serves.
21. gardner dozois
Yes, Keith Roberts's "Weihnactsabend" certainly deserved a place on the list, and I think I may have given it the Hugo over "Goat Song."

I've never been crazy enough about "The Milk of Paradise" to give it the award over "Nobody's Home," the clear winner in my opinion, but "The Man Who Walked Home" is also a classic, and has been reprinted many times since. Yes, this was in some ways the high point of Tiptree's career, and her output that year was amazing.

Thanks for the kind words about "A Kingdom by the Sea," Rich, but it's even more completely forgotten than the other novelettes in the category.
22. Doug M.
"With the Bentfin Boomer Boys" got expanded into "Space War Blues", a novel I remember fondly but have not dared to reread for many years now.

"Nobody's Home" is indeed an astonishing story, and a generation ahead of its time. It's one of the few plausible stories about enhanced intelligence, which is an accomplishment by itself. It's incredibly well written, funny and sad. (Apparently Russ studied under Nabokov at Cornell, for what that's worth.) And it's also a damn fine SF story -- solid worldbuilding, dense with information. It's, what, ten pages long? yet she manages to (subtly!) sketch in all sorts of information about her future society.

Like the children being born in cohorts... you pause and think about it, and it makes sense (long lifespans + group families + low population growth + wanting to surround children with love and interaction = several adults having kids at once, but with the bunches spread out over decades or longer). But it's done with a single throwaway line.

I've re-read that story several times, and I keep catching new stuff.

I also have a sneaking suspicion that it's taking a very subtle swipe at a certain sort of constructed self-image very common among SF fandom. The Komarovs are brilliant and hypercompetent! but they're also sexy and social and urbane and very, very well adjusted. And it's not the Kovarovs who have our sympathy by the end of the story..

There may just be the faintest mocking edge to it, and I wonder if the fans of the time didn't pick up on that. It's half forgotten now, but Russ was widely loathed and derided, back in the day. Go figure.

Anyway, I didn't realize she'd written both those stories in a single year. Phew.

Doug M.
Rich Horton
23. ecbatan
Doug -- I don't think P. J. Plauger was such a bad choice for the Campbell. I've always thought it a shame he didn't stick with the field much -- though he's obviously had a pretty good career as a Computer Scientist. He was doing some very enjoyable stuff early on.

The Campbell has a bit of a problem that Gardner's anecdote illustrates -- its restricted to very early in a writer's career. Some writers may publish some early weak stuff, then develop -- as with Gardner. Others publish their first important work in their eligibility period. (Our host, a very worthy Campbell winner, is an example.) The sometimes confusing eligibility rules don't help either -- a writer might develop their skills (even gain a following) purely in "small press" magazines without impacting their Campbell eligibility. Then once they publish a novel, or a story in Analog or Asimov's or some other "eligbible" spot, they will be better positioned to gain votes than a writer who first appears in a "big" magazine.
24. Gardner Dozois
I agree with everything Doug says about "Nobody's Home," which is why I put it in my MODERN CLASSICS OF SCIENCE FICTION. A wonderful story, and a groundbreaking one--now almost totally forgotten, alas.

Yes, in some circles, Russ may well have been the most loathed figure in SF in the day, and certainly the most controversial, at the forefront of both the War of the New Wave and the Feminist Revolution, not only as writer but as one of the field's leading critics--although she's been out of the field for so long that probably most readers don't remember that.
Rich Horton
25. ecbatan
I forgot two novelettes that I really wanted to mention, both probably deserving a spot on my fictional "shortlist":

Thomas Disch's "Things Lost" (also from Again, Dangerous Visions); and Edgar Pangborn's "Tiger Boy".

And one short story, one of my favorite Harlan Ellison stories, "On the Downhill Side". (First Ellison story I read.)
Jo Walton
26. bluejo
Gardner: I can't believe you think so little of "Goat Song"! It's one of my favourite Anderson shorts. Who else would write Orpheus and Eurydice science fiction?

I have always -- well, for the last twenty odd years that I've been reading your "best of" collections -- thought that you had if not impeccable taste in SF short stories then tastes that were remarkably congruent with mine. So I really am taken aback.
Alayne McGregor
27. alaynem
I'm curious why no one has seriously suggested Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Farthest Shore as a candidate for best novel. It is, after all, the culminating book in one of the most influential and well-known fantasy trilogies that could be read by younger readers as well as adults. Or was it just not recognized as such at the time?

Or is it just the YA cooties?
Rich Horton
28. ecbatan
Well, I did have The Farthest Shore on my shortlist!
Clark Myers
29. ClarkEMyers
#26 - SUM is maybe a little harder (well maybe a lot harder SF) than some others but maybe Tim Powers did Orpheus and Eurydice - and Samuel R. Delany would. Google/reference books suggest more.

An odd publishing history may make Goat Song anachronistic if dates of writing as opposed to publishing matter.

My own principal take away from this thread is the enduring importance of shorter forms as the best of genre fiction.
30. James Davis Nicoll
The Campbell voters would do some pretty strange things over the years -- P.F. Plauger? Alexis Gilliland?

Bah! Philistine.

By the way, there were five published anthologies of stories by John W. Campbell writers edited by George RR Martin with a sixth apparently never published. I remember then as being worth hunting down.

From isfdb:

New Voices: The John W. Campbell Award Nominees

1 New Voices in Science Fiction (1977) also appeared as: New Voices 1: The Campbell Award Nominees (1978)

2 New Voices II (1979)

3 New Voices III (1980)

4 New Voices 4 (1981)

5 The John W. Campbell Awards, Volume 5 (1984)

6 The John W. Campbell Awards, Volume 6 (unpublished)(unpublished)
5 The John W. Campbell Awards, Volume 5 (1984)
31. afterthefallofnight
I remember thinking at the time that Asimov's award was, as several people on this list have already mentioned, more of a lifetime achievement award. I enjoyed the book but I would not have voted for it.

Watership Down or The Listeners would have received my vote. Both made quite an impression on me (though for very different reasons).
32. Doug M.
I'm with Gardner on this one. It's a good story, but I wouldn't call it a great one.

Nature versus the machine. its destruction will bring an age of chaos! but necessary; and what rises from the ruins might perhaps be better, or at least more human.

Putting aside that this was not a new idea even in 1973 -- E.M. Forster had already done it back in the Roosevelt administration -- it's not really executed with brio here. It's not bad, it's not mediocre -- it's good. But what would make it great?

It does lack a closing epipany, which is a plus. (Anderson had two things he was really bad at but kept trying to do anyway: final epiphanies and love scenes.) And while I haven't reread it in a while, I faintly remember that he managed to keep his more distinctive stylistic tics to a minimum as well. (Yonder; perforce; abstract noun active-verbed.) But those are reasons the story isn't bad, not reasons it's a classic.

Doug M.
33. Doug M.
Plauger won the Campbell based on a handful of short stories. All of those stories were good, and one of them -- "Child of All Ages" -- was awesome; I'm surprised it hasn't been mentioned. It's still worth looking up and reading.

But SF was Plauger's hobby, not his job. His real work was writing software and books about software. He got deeply involved in this and, after 1976, pretty much gave up writing SF entirely.

To be fair, apparently he's a pretty important figure in his field. He's written major, important books about coding and software design. But his total output for the last 35 years has been three short stories and a short novel -- "Wergild" -- which was anthologized in Analog but never, AFAICT, published otherwise. The Campbells are supposed to say something meaningful about an SF writer's future /as an SF writer/ . In the case of P.F. Plauger, they didn't.

Also, they passed over John Varley, which is just whack.

(Ehh, we're getting ahead of ourselves. That was 1975, not 1973. My bad.)

Doug M.
34. gardner dozois
A sixth volume of THE JOHN W. CAMPBELL AWARDS was assembled, and bound galleys of it were sent out (I have one), but it was never actually published, the publisher pulling the plug on the series before the book could actually come out in finished form. A similar thing would happen with the final Marta Randall-edited volume of NEW DIMENSIONS. These are ghost books, that are probably being discussed in some alternate world version of this blog.

As Doug said, "Goat Song" is a good story, but didn't strike me as a great one; I can easily think of a half-dozen Anderson stories I thought were more memorable. Nevertheless, it's the only one remembered at all anymore out of that ballot, and probably deserved its win.
zaphod beetlebrox
35. platypus rising
I prefer 334 to both Dying Inside and The Fifth Head of Cerberus. Yes, the stories are loosely connected, but they're brilliant, and the fact each one is different adds to the power of the whole.

I don't know whether Goat Song is more remembered than Painwise and A Kingdom By The Sea, but those two are better.
36. James Davis Nicoll
I remember the Rostler, but only because it ties into my interest in arcologies in SF. And really what I remember is the novel, not the earlier version.
Andrew Barton
37. MadLogician
A thing that struck me about "The Word for World Is Forest" at the time is that there is not one human female character in the book. Human women are always seen through the eyes of a male (usually the chauvinist Captain Davidson) and described in the plural - for example a pair of women who both have beehive hairstyles. I suppose this device is intended to allow us to retain sympathy for the aliens after the shocking slaughter of all the human women. A book that needs such devices makes weak propaganda.
38. Gardner Dozois
As the Department of Defense taught me decades ago, propaganda that's RECOGNIZABLE as propaganda is not the best propaganda. That's why some of the Heinlein juveniles, where the propaganda is slipped in so smoothly that you don't even notice it, are better as propaganda than "The Word for World Is Forest" or THE FEMALE MAN (or STARSHIP TROOPERS, for that matter).
Rich Horton
39. ecbatan
The Rotsler seemed quite fun at the time, but it just hasn't lasted.

Rotsler -- like Alexis Gilliland, for that matter -- made his name in fandom as a cartoonist, then became a prose writer. I think the affection people had for him as a fan artist (he won multiple Hugos, I believe) helped the reception of his fiction -- people wanted him to do well.

Doug -- as you say, probably better to discuss the Plauger Campbell in 1975. But it's not quite fair to criticize the award because Varley has ended up having by far the more significant career. (Especially when Plauger's career was cut short voluntarily by him, though I do think it likely that Varley would still have been the more important writer.)

At the time of the Campbell voting -- say June 1975 -- Plauger had published four stories, all in Analog, including most recently (in March 1975) "Child of All Ages", an excellent story and a Hugo nominee (to be). Varley had published five -- three good stories in F&SF, but none as good as "Child of All Ages", and two much weaker stories in Vertex. Based purely on their bodies of work to that date, Plauger seems quite plausibly the better choice.
40. Jeff R.
If this one was the Lifetime Achievement hugo then how do we explain 1983?
41. Mark Stackpole
I first read "Nobody's Home" in 2009 rather than 1972 and for me it just hasn't aged well. After some 35 years, Ms Russ's gathering of superpeople read more like a cocktail party hosted by an associate professor in the OSU humanities department.
42. Todd Mason
I like "The Meeting" a lot better than anyone else here, I's barely sf, it's true, but it's a powerful grapple with several important issues, presented just so, and clearly was torn out of Kornbluth's guts, and took some of Pohl's hide, at least, as well.

Jo Walton's dismissal of the A/V shortlist (aside from SILENT RUNNING, pretty but remarkably stupid) is also ill-advised, even if the two Vonnegut adaptations and the Zenna Henderson teleplay were not the best possible works...worse work, as this discussion notes, has been awarded the Hugo in literary categories, in this year and others.

But the Lafferty is indeed minor Lafferty.

I'm afraid I always saw the propaganda in STAR LUMMOX and TIME FOR THE STARS, and the beginnings of the Heinlein juvies I tried (even if he was the soul of subtlety compared with the Pournelle YAs). Gordon Dickson's YAs, on the other hand...
43. Todd Mason
We’ve changed from ”best magazine“ to ”best editor." Was this a good idea at the time?

Well, if you wanted to give Terry Carr and Donald Wollheim or any other non-magazine editor a shot at the the current bifurcation better yet? The magazine editors certainly continued to dominate the award for quite some time...
44. Todd Mason
And I should've, and so will, challenge the notion that THE FEMALE MAN is propaganda...far less so, certainly, than "When It Changed" or "Houston, Houston, Do You Read?", which might be more fairly characterized thus...THE FEMALE MAN is satire, and doesn't spare Any of its subjects. And is still an achingly true account at various points as well.
Bob Blough
45. Bob
Any year that produces: Dying Inside, The Book of Skulls, The Fifth Head of Cerberus , 334, The Farthest Shore, A Choice of Gods, What Entropy Means to Me, The Sheep Look Up, The Farthest Shore , The Listeners, Fugue for a Darkening Island and Beyond Apollo in one year cannot by any stretch of the imagination be thought of as being a poor year for novels. That the best weren't chosen for awards - yes, certainly, but that list speaks of vibancy, depth and excitement. I loved that era.

The short fiction was likewise terrific - the best , I think, being "The Fifth Head of Cerberus", "Goat Song", "The Man Who Walked Home", "Nobody's Home", "Kingdom by the Sea", "The Gold at the Starbow's End", Painwise", "When We Went to See the End of the World", "Tiger Boy", "When it Changed", "And I Awoke and Found Me on the Cold Hillis Side", "The Funeral", "With the Beftin Boomer Boys in Little Old New Alabama", "The Meeting" and "On the Downhill Side". It was an exciting time to be reading SF.

Sometimes to judge by what is remembered and what is forgotton is not appropriate. Much of what is forgotton in modern day SF are some of the genre's masterpieces.
steve davidson
46. crotchetyoldfan
Just wanted to chime in with support for the "we don't just give awards for quality" camp. I remember the fanzine and con discussion during that time frame and seem to remember that thinking at the time was generally of a house-cleaning order; lets make sure to give some awards to folks what really deserve em but haven't really gotten any yet kind of thing.

As far as the novel (Gods) that middle section was quite intriguing.
David Dyer-Bennet
47. dd-b
I was pretty pleased by The Gods Themselves; it felt like a significant jump upwards in Asimov's writing to me. There certainly was an element of happiness at having him back, as well.

I didn't care for Dying Inside at all. I liked even Book of Skulls better (but still not all that much). I remember it as unlikeable people doing unlikeable things in unlikeable situations for unlikeable reasons -- which is to say, literature with a capital "L", that is, the "literary genre" as opposed to those books that turn out to speak to a lot of people across a lot of time.
Rich Horton
48. ecbatan
One book from the mainstream recently popped into my mind. I believe it's from 1972. And it's a book Jo introduced to me (by mentioning it on rec.arts.sf.written many years ago). This is Sumner Locke Elliott's The Man Who Got Away. It's about a man who disappears one day, and ends up revisiting his entire life in reverse, until he gets to his childhood and we see why he turned out the way he did (which is to say, not so good). It's only borderline SF, in that the fantastical device, the backward time travelling, is fundamentally a device to tell the story -- although it is in a sense "real" because the main character really does disappear in order to travel in time.

Rich Horton
49. Denny Lien
I don't think I've ever heard of THE MAN WHO GOT AWAY, though I have an interest in time-reversal stories. (My standard joke is that I want to edit an anthology called BACKWARDS RUNNING TIME ABOUT STORIES FICTION SCIENCE OF BOOK MAMMOTH THE.)

The introduction, of course, could conclude with "Continuted on Previous Rock."

1973 was the first year I atteneded a worldcon, and the first year I atteneded the Hugo ceremony (from way way way in the back of the room), though I had joined and voted for the Hugos a couple of times previously. I'm afraid I no longer remember what I did vote for at the time in most categories, though I'm pretty sure I voted for THE BOOK OF SKULLS for novel.
Jo Walton
50. bluejo
Denny: I would absolutely buy that book, the title made me chortle.
52. neroden
"_The Gods Themselves_ does include a plot of scientists warning of
impending catastrophe, which is ignored by society at large because
changing our ways would be expensive and hard. That part actually
looks oddly prophetic."

Yep, and the final section concludes that only more technology can save us, because society just *will not* change -- people as a whole will only deal with disaster if you give them an "easy way out".

Also seems incredibly prophetic and insightful now.

As usual with Asimov, the characters are cardboard, but who cares? And *everyone* loves the middle section. I have to say I think it deserved the award; the competitor novels are more interesting on the surface, but apart from _The Sheep Look Up_ not particularly original or insightful -- I don't share the fascination with Silverberg. Kind of a weak year IMNSHO.

Russ? I simply can't read her fiction, even though I love her essays and criticism. I don't know what to say about it, I simply can't tolerate her fiction style, it puts me to sleep. I think I'm not alone. Perhaps it's a fiction-by-people-who-prefer-writing-essays problem, because I've spotted it not only in the writing of famous academics, but in my own attempts at writing fiction (which is why I don't write fiction...)

_The Word for World is Forest_ is an interesting one. I like it but perhaps mainly because it is the only book where LeGuin actually expresses *anger*; she pushes social relativism, forgiveness, understanding so heavily, so often, even when she has an agenda, that it's really startling. It's a very, very angry book. Possibly the angriest book I've ever read. Perhaps this demonstrates once again that the thing she really most identifies with are trees. :-) I'm not sure any of the characters apart from the trees are actually sympathetic. The definition of a "god" as someone who brings something new into the world is interesting though.

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