Revisiting the Hugos

Hugo Nominees: 1961

The 1961 Hugo Awards were held in Seacon in Seattle. (For earlier posts in this series, see Index.) The categories are reasonably familiar and fairly sensible, they have nominees and all is good.

The Best Novel winner was Walter M. Miller’s A Canticle For Leibowitz (post). It’s a book about a post-apocalyptic order of monks who preserve knowledge of science through a new dark age and towards a new apocalypse. It’s certainly a classic and a book that has lasted—it’s in print from a major publisher, it’s in my library in French and English, and I frequently hear it mentioned in discussion. I think it’s a very worthy Hugo winner.

Harry Harrison’s Deathworld is the only one of the five I haven’t read. I’m not sure why I haven’t—I have read quite a bit of other Harrison and enjoyed most of it. It’s in print from small press Wildside. It seems to be an exciting adventure of planetary exploration. It’s in the library in French only.

Poul Anderson’s The High Crusade (post) has long been a favourite of mine. It has recently been republished by Baen in a fiftieth anniversary edition. It’s in the library in French and English.

Algis Budrys’s Rogue Moon is not in print, and not in the library either, so I have to conclude that it hasn’t stood the test of time. I remember it as a very pulpy adventure with people exploring an alien base on the moon—not as memorable as Who?

Theodore Sturgeon’s Venus Plus X is a thought-provoking novel about gender issues—it’s a tale of androgynes living in utopia, and if it had been published more recently it would have won a Tiptree Award. It’s a clever thought-provoking book that’s both weirdly ahead of its time and yet could not have been written in any other. It’s in print from Vintage, and in the library in English only.

Of the four I have read, I’d say we have three really memorable SF novels that have lasted. Do these five books show where the genre was in 1960? Yes, if the genre was half thought-provoking stories and half exciting romps on other planets—and that feels about right.

What else was there that year? Again using Wikipedia’s list I find a whole lot of things. There’s Philip K. Dick’s Dr. Futurity, Frederik Pohl’s Drunkard’s Walk, Peter Beagle’s A Fine and Private Place, L. Sprague de Camp’s The Glory That Was, Nikos Kazantzakis’s The Last Temptation of Christ (published as mainstream), Poul Anderson’s Tau Zero (a much more serious book than The High Crusade), Judith Merril’s The Tomorrow People, John Wyndham’s The Trouble With Lichen, Alan Garner’s The Weirdstone of Brisingamen (YA fantasy wasn’t considered then, but it is now), and James H. Schmitz’s Agent of Vega.

It wouldn’t be hard to argue that one or two of those ought to be on the list in place of one or two of the others, but I think A Canticle for Leibowitz is the standout book of the year in any case. So were the voters at Seacon doing a good job of picking the five best books? Not a perfect job, but a pretty good job, yes, I think so.

Other Categories


  • “The Longest Voyage,” Poul Anderson (Analog Dec 1960)
  • “The Lost Kafoozalum,” Pauline Ashwell (Analog Oct 1960)
  • “Need,” Theodore Sturgeon (Beyond)
  • “Open to Me, My Sister,” Philip José Farmer (F&SF May 1960)

Poul Anderson and Theodore Sturgeon were having good years! And there’s Pauline Ashwell again too, I should seek out something of hers one of these days. Only one short fiction category again.


  • The Twilight Zone (TV series)
  • The Time Machine
  • Village of the Damned


  • Astounding/Analog, John W. Campbell, Jr.
  • Amazing Stories, Cele Goldsmith
  • F&SF, Robert P. Mills


  • Ed Emshwiller
  • Virgil Finlay
  • Frank Kelly Freas
  • Mel Hunter


  • Who Killed Science Fiction?, Earl Kemp
  • Discord, Redd Boggs
  • Fanac, Terry Carr & Ron Ellik
  • Habakkuk, Bill Donaho
  • Shangri L’Affaires, Bjo Trimble & John Trimble
  • Yandro, Robert Coulson & Juanita Coulson

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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