The 1969 Hugo Awards were presented at St Louiscon in St Louis, MO. (For earlier posts in this series, see Index.) The best novel award went to John Brunner’s Stand on Zanzibar, one of my favourite books, and Brunner’s absolute best. Brunner decided to write four books each set fifty years ahead and each extrapolating different trends of the present forward. Stand on Zanzibar is overpopulation and sexual freedom, The Sheep Look Up is environmental devastation and domestic terrorism, The Jagged Orbit is racial tensions and weapon enthusiasm, and The Shockwave Rider is computers and organized crime. Stand on Zanzibar is the best of them. It’s a mosaic novel, using ads and music and news reports and different characters to build up the world and the story, in the style of Dos Passos. It’s a really good story, absolutely full of cool stuff, a great world and interesting characters. It’s about to be reprinted by Orb, it’s been pretty solidly in print ever since 1968 and it’s definitely a classic. It’s in the library in French only.
There are four other nominees and I’ve read three of them.
Samuel R. Delany’s Nova is so wonderful that I’ve written about it here twice. I love it. It’s in print, and it’s in the library in both languages. Not only a classic, but still exciting.
Alexei Panshin’s Rite of Passage is another book I’ve written about. It’s in print, but not in the library.
I’ve read Clifford Simak’s The Goblin Reservation but I don’t own it and I haven’t re-read it in a long time. It has aliens and time travel and matter transmission, it’s gently funny and it’s on an odd border between science fiction and fantasy. I remember it as being fairly slight. It’s not in print, and it’s in the library in French only.
I haven’t read R.A. Lafferty’s Past Master, despite having heard good things about it, because Lafferty’s short stories tend to be things where I can’t read more than one of them at a time, so a whole novel seems intimidating. It’s not in print, but it’s in the library in English.
So, we have a novel of near-future Earth written in the style of Dos Passos, an elegant space adventure spanning three galaxies with an interest in class and art and economics, a juvenile set on a starship and distant planet about what growing up really means, a strange gentle story about aliens technology and goblins, and a tall tale. What a range, within genre! Again, we see that the fans were happy to embrace New Wave experimental works, and also keep on nominating traditional writers like Simak—and for that matter like Rite of Passage. I think the voters made the right choice, but if Nova or Rite of Passage had won I’d have been just as happy.
So, looking elswehere, this seems to be the year of “How could they miss that?”
SFWA gave the Nebula award to Rite of Passage, and they had six other nominees. Stand on Zanzibar and Past Master overlap. The others are James Blish’s Black Easter, Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, Robert Silverberg’s The Masks of Time, and Joanna Russ’s Picnic on Paradise. First question—what happened with Nova? After that, well, Black Easter is brilliant but very strange and close to being horror, I wouldn’t expect to see it on a Hugo ballot. I have read Do Androids and I suspect it’s better thought of now than it was then because of the Ridley Scott movie. The Masks of Time could have been on the ballot, but it isn’t a scandal that it isn’t. Russ’s Picnic on Paradise though, that’s a classic. That shouldn’t have been overlooked.
There was another award instituted in 1969, the Ditmars, for Australian SF. The winner was A. Bertram Chandler’s False Fatherland. They also had a category for “International SF,” and the winner there was Thomas M. Disch’s Camp Concentration (post). This is definitely a case where the Ditmars honoured a book the Hugos missed—certainly a classic, certainly influential. Their other international nominees were Aldiss’s Cryptozoic and Harness’s The Ring of Ritornel. I think it’s interesting that there’s absolutely no overlap with the Hugos or the Nebulas.
Looking at the ISFDB:
Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. Paint me amazed this wasn’t nominated. It should have been. SoZ should still have won, but… wow.
Ursula Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea (post). Now back then, fantasy was much less likely to be nominated, and YA much much less likely to be nominated. But in a universe where we gave a Hugo to a Harry Potter book, we should have at least nominated A Wizard of Earthsea while we had the chance for goodness sake.
Other things they might have looked at but it doesn’t matter that they didn’t: John Wyndham’s Chocky, Robert Sheckley’s Dimension of Miracles, Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonflight, Peter S. Beagle’s The Last Unicorn, John Boyd’s The Last Starship from Earth, Lloyd Biggle Jr.’s The Still Small Voice of Trumpets (post), Larry Niven’s A Gift From Earth (post). The other thing I’m noticing is that so much more SF is being published now than in earlier years, where I could list almost everything without my hands falling off. If you look at that ISFDB link above, there’s a lot there.
So this is a year where I’m happy with the winner but where the five nominees definitely don’t seem to me to be the five best books published that year or the five books that showed where the field was in 1969.
- “Nightwings,” Robert Silverberg (Galaxy Sep 1968)
- “Dragonrider,” Anne McCaffrey (Analog Dec 1967, Jan 1968)
- “Hawk Among the Sparrows,” Dean McLaughlin (Analog Jul 1968)
- “Lines of Power,” Samuel R. Delany (F&SF May 1968)
The Nebula went to McCaffrey. It seems to me that there’s a perception that the Hugo was more “popular” and the Nebula more “literary,” and it seems to me that for the years so far this perception is what’s technically known as “wrong.”
- “The Sharing of Flesh,” Poul Anderson (Galaxy Dec 1968)
- “Getting Through University,” Piers Anthony (If Aug 1968)
- “Mother to the World,” Richard Wilson (Orbit 3)
- “Total Environment,” Brian W. Aldiss (Galaxy Feb 1968)
Nebula: “Mother to the World.” Both good stories.
- “The Beast that Shouted Love at the Heart of the World,” Harlan Ellison (Galaxy Jun 1968)
- “All the Myriad Ways,” Larry Niven (Galaxy Oct 1968)
- “The Dance of the Changer and the Three,” Terry Carr (The Farthest Reaches)
- “Masks,” Damon Knight (Playboy Jul 1968)
- “The Steiger Effect,” Betsy Curtis (Analog Oct 1968)
Nebula to Kate Wilhelm’s “The Planners.”
- 2001: A Space Odyssey
- The Prisoner: “Fall Out”
- Rosemary’s Baby
- The Yellow Submarine
So we ignored the book but honoured the movie? Oh well, it’s a pretty good movie. But really, a category ought to have lots of worthy nominees to be worth having.
- F&SF, Edward L. Ferman
- Analog, John W. Campbell, Jr.
- Galaxy, Frederik Pohl
- If, Frederik Pohl
- New Worlds, Michael Moorcock
- Jack Gaughan
- Vaughn Bodé
- Leo & Diane Dillon
- Frank Kelly Freas
- Science Fiction Review, Richard E. Geis
- Riverside Quarterly, Leland Sapiro
- Shangri L’Affaires, Ken Rudolph
- Trumpet, Tom Reamy
- Warhoon, Richard Bergeron
- Harry Warner, Jr.
- Richard Delap
- Banks Mebane
- Ted White (nomination withdrawn)
- Walt Willis
White withdrew because he won the year before, as Panshin did. It’s nice to see a tradition like that being revived recently.
- Vaughn Bodé
- George Barr
- Tim Kirk
- Doug Lovenstein
- Bill Rotsler
Jo Walton is a science fiction and fantasy writer. She’s published two poetry collections and nine novels, most recently Among Others. 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.