The 1963 Hugo Awards were given at Discon 1 in Washington DC. (For earlier posts in this series, see Index.) The Best Novel winner was Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle, an alternate history novel considered by many to be Dick’s masterpiece. It’s in print, it’s in my library in English and French, it’s certainly a classic seminal work of science fiction.
I haven’t read it.
There’s a game people play in David Lodge’s novel Small World (perhaps the canonical university professor contemplating adultery novel) where everyone announces something they haven’t read. A literature professor announces that he hasn’t read Hamlet and wins the game but loses his job. I feel a little like that admitting that I haven’t read The Man in the High Castle. Like the guy who hadn’t read Hamlet, I know a lot about it anyway just by cultural osmosis. I know the plot was done using the I Ching. I know it’s set in a Hitler-wins world, and somebody writes a book in it where Hitler loses but the other world is very different from our world. I know enough about it that I could have faked my way through a paragraph about it without admitting I haven’t read it—but I said I was going to say when I hadn’t read things and say why. I haven’t read it because I have read half a dozen assorted Dick novels and hated all of them. I can see that he’s a very good writer but I can’t stand the way his mind works. I gave up on him before reaching this book, but I have so consistently a negative response to his books that I doubt it would change my mind.
There are four other nominees, three of which I have read and one of which I have neither read nor previously heard of.
I complained in last week’s post that Arthur C. Clarke’s A Fall of Moondust (post) was unfairly neglected in 1962’s ballot. Clearly the fans at Discon agreed with me, because they put it on the ballot for 1963, despite 1961 publication. Great book. Great choice. It’s neither in print nor in the library, but it has been in print recently in the Gollancz Masterworks series.
Next is a book I love, H. Beam Piper’s Little Fuzzy (post). It’s out of copyright and downloadable for free, so being in print isn’t an issue. It’s in the library in English. Another enduring classic and great choice.
Now we have Marion Zimmer Bradley’s The Sword of Aldones—first woman on the novel shortlist! The Sword of Aldones is the first Darkover book (post)—it’s on the edge of SF and fantasy, introducing that complex world it’s melodramatic and stirring. I read it rather recently—I’d read the rewritten version, Sharra’s Exile and happened to come across a copy of the original. I wouldn’t say it’s an enduring classic, though the world it introduces is definitely still alive.
Last is Sylva by “Vercors”, (a pseudonym for Jean Bruller) a novel translated from French. I am astonished. I mean, okay, this happened the year before I was born and things were different then, but can you imagine seeing a translated novel on the Hugo ballot today? Wow. I hadn’t heard of it. Wikipedia says it’s about a fox who turns into a woman. Fantastic Fiction says it’s about time travelers, Jimi Hendrix, and Jesus. It sounds fascinating. Vercors appears to have been a prolific and well known French writer—he adopted the pseudonym when he was in the Resistance. Sylva isn’t in print in English, nor is it in the library in either language, though several of his other books are. I am fascinated and shall seek it out.
Looked at as a set of five, we have one alternate history, one really hard SF novel, one anthropological SF novel, one planetary romance, and one very odd translation. I’d say all of them but Sylva have stood the test of time, so this is a pretty good list.
What else might they have considered? Looking at Wikipedia I find: J.G. Ballard’s The Drowned World, Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes, Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange (published as mainstream), Aldous Huxley’s Island (also published as mainstream) and Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time. (YA wasn’t considered at the time, but it is now.) I think any of these would have been good nominees, but none of them really scream out that they were omitted—and mainstream SF and YA really weren’t very likely to be nominated then.
So 1963 looks as if it’s doing okay—these are a varied set of books that are all pretty good and don’t overlook very much.
- “The Dragon Masters,” Jack Vance (Galaxy, Aug 1962)
- “Myrrha,” Gary Jennings (F&SF, Sep 1962)
- “The Unholy Grail,” Fritz Leiber (Fantastic, Oct 1962)
- “When You Care, When You Love,” Theodore Sturgeon (F&SF, Sep 1962)
- “Where Is the Bird of Fire?,” Thomas Burnett Swann (Science Fantasy, Apr 1962)
It’s hard to imagine a year so strong that there was something good enough to beat “When You Care, When You Love,” but there it is.
- no award
- Burn, Witch, Burn
- The Day the Earth Caught Fire
- Last Year at Marienbad
- The Twilight Zone (TV series)
I love you, voters of 1963! Remember, we could still do this when faced with dramatic presentation categories that are all rubbish.
- F&SF, Robert P. Mills & Avram Davidson
- Analog, John W. Campbell, Jr.
- Fantastic, Cele Goldsmith
- Galaxy, Frederik Pohl
- Science Fantasy, John Carnell
Oh look, Pohl had taken over Galaxy!
- Roy Krenkel
- Ed Emshwiller
- Virgil Finlay
- Jack Gaughan
- John Schoenherr
- Xero, Pat Lupoff & Richard A. Lupoff
- Mirage, Jack L. Chalker
- Shangri L’Affaires, Fred Patten, Albert Lewis, Bjo Trimble & John Trimble
- Warhoon, Richard Bergeron
- Yandro, Robert Coulson & Juanita Coulson
Discon 1 also gave out two Special Awards:
- Special Award: P. Schuyler Miller for book reviews in Analog
- Special Award: Isaac Asimov for science articles in Fantasy & Science Fiction
Both of these strike me as excellent choices, both as special award categories and as actual things. Asimov’s science essays in particular were a joy to read and well deserving of a Hugo.
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.