Aug 14 2014 3:49pm

Announcing the Winners of the 1939 Retro Hugo Awards!

The Hugo Awards have been given since 1953, and every year since 1955, by the annual World Science Fiction Convention (the “Worldcon”). The first Worldcon occurred in New York City in 1939, and Worldcons have been held annually since then, except during World War II.

The Retro Hugo Awards celebrate the works that attendees would have known at the time of the very first Worldcon, held in New York in 1939. These prestigious awards recognise the best in science fiction, fantasy, and fandom from 1938.

This year, the Retro Hugo Awards were co-presented by Mary Robinette Kowal and Rob Shearman at LonCon3 in London, England.

1939 Retro Hugo Award Winners

Below is a list of the nominees for the 1939 Retrospective Hugo Awards. 233 valid nominating ballots were received and counted from the members of LoneStarCon 3, Loncon 3 and Sasquan. (226 Electronic and 7 Paper.) Winners appear in bold.

BEST NOVEL (208 ballots)

  • The Sword in the Stone by T. H. White (Collins)
  • Carson of Venus by Edgar Rice Burroughs (Argosy, February 1938)
  • Galactic Patrol by E. E. Smith (Astounding Stories, February 1938)
  • The Legion of Time by Jack Williamson (Astounding Science-Fiction, July 1938)
  • Out of the Silent Planet by C. S. Lewis (The Bodley Head)

BEST NOVELLA (125 ballots)

  • “Who Goes There?” by John W. Campbell/Don A. Stuart (Astounding Science-Fiction, August 1938)
  • Anthem by Ayn Rand (Cassell)
  • “A Matter of Form” by H. L. Gold (Astounding Science-Fiction, December 1938)
  • “Sleepers of Mars” by John Wyndham (Tales of Wonder, March 1938)
  • “The Time Trap” by Henry Kuttner (Marvel Science Stories, November 1938)

BEST NOVELETTE (80 ballots)

  • “Rule 18” by Clifford D. Simak (Astounding Science-Fiction, July 1938)
  • “Dead Knowledge” by John W. Campbell/Don A. Stuart (Astounding Stories, January 1938)
  • “Hollywood on the Moon” by Henry Kuttner (Thrilling Wonder Stories, April 1938)
  • “Pigeons From Hell” by Robert E. Howard (Weird Tales, May 1938)
  • “Werewoman” by C. L. Moore (Leaves #2, Winter 1938)

BEST SHORT STORY (108 ballots)

  • “How We Went to Mars” by Arthur C. Clarke (Amateur Science Stories, March 1938)
  • “The Faithful” by Lester Del Rey (Astounding Science-Fiction, April 1938)
  • “Helen O’Loy” by Lester Del Rey (Astounding Science-Fiction, December 1938)
  • “Hollerbochen’s Dilemma” by Ray Bradbury (Imagination!, January 1938)
  • “Hyperpilosity” by L. Sprague de Camp (Astounding Science-Fiction, April 1938)


  • The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells. Written by Howard Koch & Anne Froelick; Directed by Orson Welles (The Mercury Theater of the Air, CBS)
  • Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne. Written & Directed by Orson Welles (The Mercury Theater of the Air, CBS)
  • A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. Written & Directed by Orson Welles (The Campbell Playhouse, CBS)
  • Dracula by Bram Stoker. Written by Orson Welles and John Houseman; Directed by Orson Welles (The Mercury Theater of the Air, CBS)
  • R. U. R. by Karel Capek. Produced by Jan Bussell (BBC)


  • John W. Campbell
  • Walter H. Gillings
  • Ray Palmer
  • Mort Weisinger
  • Farnsworth Wright


  • Virgil Finlay
  • Margaret Brundage
  • Frank R. Paul
  • Alex Schomburg
  • H. W. Wesso

BEST FANZINE (42 ballots)

  • Imagination! edited by Forrest J Ackerman
  • Fantascience Digest edited by Robert A. Madle
  • Fantasy News edited by James V. Taurasi
  • Novae Terrae edited by Maurice Hanson
  • Tomorrow edited by Doug Mayer

BEST FAN WRITER (50 ballots)

  • Ray Bradbury
  • Forrest J Ackerman
  • Arthur Wilson “Bob” Tucker
  • Harry Warner Jr.
  • Donald A. Wollheim

Special Committee Award

  • Jerry Siegel & Joe Shuster

This year’s Worldcon is LonCon 3, which is held from August 14 through 18 in London, England.

Hugo and Retro-Hugo Award finalists are selected by members of the previous Worldcon and of the upcoming one; winners are selected by members of the upcoming one. All Attending and Supporting members of LonCon 3 can vote on the final ballot. For more information about voting in the Hugo Awards, or becoming a member of LonCon 3, please click here.

Don Barkauskas
1. bad_platypus
Is this page being updated dynamically as they are announced? There's currently only one winner noted.

Edit: Never mind, now it's 3 winners. Apparently the answer is "yes."
D. Bell
2. SchuylerH
Finlay is no surprise, though I thought Brundage might have been in with a chance. Bradbury and Ackerman aren't exactly outside bets.
D. Bell
2. SchuylerH
Nothing out of the ordinary so far.
D. Bell
3. SchuylerH
The War of the Worlds win was deserved, methinks.

Clarke beats "Helen O'Loy"! Is this the British vote kicking in?

I'm a Simak fan but I think he won this based on the Asimov connection more than anything else.

"Who Goes There?" was, perhaps, inevitable but it's a lasting, influential story.

T. H. White wins! A good result.
jon meltzer
4. jmeltzer
"Who Goes There" was about as sure for a win as one could get.
Deana Whitney
5. Braid_Tug
Guess the biggest surprises were who came in second.
6. bookworm1398
@5 The stories listed second here aren't the second place winners. From the Loncon website eg for best novel the ranking is 1) The sword in the stone 2) out of the silent planet 3) Galactic Patrol 4) Legion of Time 5) Carson of Venus
David Goldfarb
7. David_Goldfarb
If there had been actual Hugo awards given out in 1939, can anyone seriously assert that The Sword in the Stone would have beaten Galactic Patrol?
James Goetsch
8. Jedikalos
My only different votes were for "Out of the Silent Planet" and "Helen O'Loy".
j p
9. sps49
Huh. I voted for almost half of the winners.

Was Galactic Patrol a bigger deal that The Sword in the Stone back then? T.H. White is in most libraries now (and when I was in school), but Lensman books are harder to find.
10. bookworm1398
@8 You made me wonder so I tried googling. Seems like Galactic Patrol really caught on after.being published as a book in 1950. The sword in the stone was popular immediately being made into a radio show in 1939. Of course that is just general popularity, who knows what the Worldcon attendees would have thought. Being published in a popular genre magazine would probably have given Galactic Patrol a boost.
11. AndrewV
Not sure where the ballot stats are coming from, but they are way off. Best Novel alone had 1196 total votes, according to the official stat sheet.
Don Barkauskas
12. bad_platypus
AndrewV @11: Not sure what you mean. Why is 1196 total votes for Best Novel "way off"?

Edit: Are you confused because of the nominating votes displayed on this page?
D. Bell
13. SchuylerH
@7, 9 & 10: Galactic Patrol was, I imagine, the bigger deal at the time among the mostly American fandom: the start of a new series by an already popular, acclaimed author. However, these are the Retro Hugos, 1939 with the added perspective of 2014. I don't think anyone would have voted for Clarke back then but now we all know he went on to write Rendevous with Rama. "Doc" Smith's space opera may have a certain vintage charm but White's story has proved more enduring.
Alexander Case
14. CountZeroOr
I kind of wish Forrest J. Ackerman was still alive, because it would be really cool if the Ackermonster was able to accept his Retro Hugo in person.

Speaking of which, has there been a case where a winner was able to accept their own Retro Hugo, as opposed to a friend and family member (either because the recipient was in a physical condition that didn't allow them to go, or because the winner had already passed away)?
15. EricNay
Ok, so now I want to read all of these stories (again). Is anyone assembling an epub or something?
Andrew Mason
16. AnotherAndrew
I agree totally with SchuylerH that these are, of necessity, awards given from our own perspective, but it's still an interesting question what would have won in 1939.

Certainly not The Sword in the Stone, and not Out of the Silent Planet, which was the main challenger in the actual ballot, either. Can we be sure that it would have been Galactic Patrol? The sense I get is that while that series was relaly significant for the development of science fiction, that's so because of the later books more than that one. So Williamson or Burroughs might have been in with a chance.

The Clarke win is clearly based on his later reputation. The other two short fiction winners, 'Who Goes There?' and 'Rule 18', seem plausible to me, though the classic status of 'Who Goes There?' has no doubt been enhanced by the films based on it.

I listened to all the Orson Welles nominees, and I think that The War of the Worlds is genuinely the best, quite apart from any legends about it; it is also the most science-fictional, which would have mattered in those days. (Dracula and A Christmas Carol are fantasy; Around the World is actually realistic fiction, despite its obvious connections with the origins of SF.) On the other hand, RUR would no doubt have done better if the voters had been able actually to hear it.

The Best Editor award for Campbell looks plausible, but I don't know enough about the landscape at the time - and the fan awards do seem likely to have been affected by later reputation.
Andrew Mason
17. AnotherAndrew
CountZeroOr@14:There has been at least one Retro-Hugo winner who accepted his own award: Robert Silverberg, on winning the 1951 Retro-Hugo for Best Fan Writer in Philadelphia, 2001. (It's harder with a 75-year Retro-Hugo, obviously.)

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