Revisiting the Hugos

Hugo Nominees: 1959

The 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.


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