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.
- “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.
- “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
THE JOHN W. CAMPBELL AWARD FOR BEST NEW WRITER
- 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.