Revisiting the Hugos

Hugo Nominees: 1965

The Hugo Awards for 1965 were given at Loncon II, in London. (For previous posts in this series, see the index.) Unlike the previous British convention, they gave awards in the previously established categories—I don’t know how they managed with publication and eligibility issues. The novel winner was Fritz Leiber’s The Wanderer. It’s a disaster novel about a traveling planet that comes into the solar system to refuel and causes chaos. It’s in print as an ebook and was recently in print from Gollancz in the U.K. It’s in the library in English. I haven’t read it—I thought I had, but when I got it out of the library it was clear I had confused it with a different Leiber book. I’m now waiting for recommendations in comments as to whether I should read it or not. Right now, I have no opinion as to whether or not it was a good Hugo winner.

There are three other novel nominees, and making up for my lapse over the Leiber, I’ve read all of them.

Edgar Pangborn’s Davy is in print from Old Earth Books. It’s a story of a boy having an adventure in a post-apocalyptic world, and it’s more like Kim Stanley Robinson’s The Wild Shore than anything else. Like most of Pangborn it’s gentle and clever. I was lucky enough to discover Pangborn when I was a teenager, and I loved him. It’s in the library in English.

Cordwainer Smith’s The Planet Buyer is the first half of Norstrilia. It’s a classic, and it’s brilliant, and I can’t believe it didn’t win. It’s in print from NESFA and it’s in the library in both languages. Like most of Cordwainer Smith, it’s hard to describe. It’s beautifully written and weird, and it’s about genetically engineered animal people and longevity drugs and the only problem with it is that your eyes keep get wider and wider as you go, and it’s hard to read like that.

The last nominee is John Brunner’s The Whole Man, U.K. title Telepathist. It isn’t in print, it hasn’t been in print since 1990, it and maybe I am the only person who loves it. It was one of the first science fiction books I read (sometimes I love alphabetical order) and it’s about this guy who is a mutant telepath in the near future, and it doesn’t make him happy. I shall re-read it and do a proper post about it soon. It isn’t Brunner’s best, but it’s a very good book and it would have been a worthy Hugo winner. (Also, first time something nominated is by a friend of mine, though of course John wasn’t my friend in 1965, when I could barely talk.)

So, a near future telepath, a far future revolt over geriatric drugs and freedom, a post apocalyptic odyssey, and a disaster novel about a wandering planet—all solidly science fictional, all pretty good books, all worthy nominees. I’d have been happy with any of the three I’ve read as winners, and I’m reserving judgement on the Leiber.

What did they miss? Again using the not entirely reliable Wikipedia archive of 1964 novels, quite a lot.

One can only applaud Hugo nominees for not selecting Heinlein’s Farnham’s Freehold, and I think this demonstrates that people do not blindly nominate favourite writers no matter how bad the book. But Marion Zimmer Bradley’s The Bloody Sun is a better novel than Sword of Aldones, which was nominated the year before. Previous winner Philip Dick had a bumper year, with Clans of the Alphane Moon, The Simulacra and Martian Time Slip, and none of them were noticed. Also ignored were Keith Laumer’s The Great Time Machine Hoax, Arkady and Boris Strugatsky’s Hard to Be a God, Jack Vance’s The Killing Machine and The Star King, Daniel Galouye’s Simulacron-3 (Counterfeit World) Samuel Delany’s The Towers of Toron, J.G. Ballard’s The Burning World and Brian Aldiss’a Greybeard. Greybeard in particular is a classic.

In YA fantasy, which wasn’t considered for Hugos then but certainly is now, there’s Lloyd Alexander’s The Book of Three, Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

In the face of all this, it’s hard to feel confident that the nominees were the four best novels of 1964. If we were going to select something to fill the empty fifth slot, we’d have a hard time choosing, I think.

Other Categories


  • “Soldier, Ask Not,” Gordon R. Dickson (Galaxy Oct 1964)
  • “Little Dog Gone,” Robert F. Young (Worlds of Tomorrow Feb 1964)
  • “Once a Cop,” Rick Raphael (Analog May 1964)

I’m surprised at such a short shortlist, but certainly the winner is a good story, and the Young is pretty good too.


  • Dr. Strangelove
  • Seven Faces of Dr. Lao

I’m actually not going to complain, for once, as I think Dr. Strangelove is actually a good movie and SF at the same time. I don’t think it’s worth having a category with so few possible entrants, but certainly in 1965 they gave it to a worthy winner.


  • Ballantine
  • Ace
  • Gollancz
  • Pyramid

I guess Gollancz got on there because it was a British worldcon. Dear old Gollancz with their yellow covers. I loved them when I was a teenager. Even now, a yellow spine on a hardback lifts my heart, the same as an orange spine on a paperback.


  • Analog, John W. Campbell, Jr.
  • F&SF, Avram Davidson
  • Galaxy, Frederik Pohl
  • If, Frederik Pohl

Talk about competing against yourself! Two nominations for Pohl for different magazines.


  • John Schoenherr
  • Ed Emshwiller
  • Frank Frazetta
  • Jack Gaughan


  • Yandro, Robert Coulson & Juanita Coulson
  • Double: Bill, Bill Bowers & Bill Mallardi
  • Zenith, Peter R. Weston

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 on January 18th, 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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