Revisiting the Hugos

Hugo Nominees: 1972

The 1972 Hugo Awards were held at LACon I, in Los Angeles. (For earlier posts in this series, see Index.) The novel Hugo was won by Philip Jose Farmer’s To Your Scattered Bodies Go, the first of the Riverworld books. The premise is that everybody who was ever alive wakes up, naked, on the shore of a very long river that resembles the Mississippi. If they’re killed, they wake up again naked somewhere else along the river. Strange containers they call grails provide food at regular intervals. Nobody knows why they’re there or where they are or what’s going on. To Your Scattered Bodies Go follows the adventures of Richard Francis Burton, the Victorian explorer, as he meets an interesting assortment of all the people who ever lived. It’s a great book, and if the sequels are less great it’s only because no explanation can possibly live up to that premise. I loved this book with wild enthusiasm when I was a teenager and it will always have a place in my heart. I think it’s a fine Hugo winner. It’s in print, and in the Grande Bibliotheque of Montreal in English.

There were six nominees, of which one was withdrawn. I’ve read all of them.

Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonquest is the second novel of the Pern series. I loved it to pieces when I was fourteen, but I can now see problematic gender issues and find the sex scenes squicky. It’s not as good as the first volume, but it widens the scope of the series and stands alone well. I think this is the first time we’ve had a sequel nominated, and it didn’t win, which is an overall trend with the Hugos, the voters tend to prefer standalones or first volumes. It reads like fantasy but it’s actually about a lost colony on a world where dragons have been bred to fight the destructive menace of Thread, which falls from the sky. It’s in print, and it’s in the library in French and English.

Roger Zelazny’s Jack of Shadows is a fairly weak Zelazny novel about a thief in a fantasy world. It lacks his usual sparkle. It isn’t in print. It’s in the library in French only. I don’t think it had lasted well.

The Lathe of Heaven (post) is one of my favourite of Ursula K. Le Guin’s works. It’s near future, and it’s about a man whose dreams can change reality. It’s a classic. It’s in print, and it’s in the library in English.

Robert Silverberg’s A Time of Changes is one of two Silverberg novels nominated, the other, The World Inside, was withdrawn. This is generally unnecessary with Hugo voting. A Time of Changes is set far in the future on the strange colony world of Borthan, where people keep themselves sealed off from one another. A visitor from Earth and a telepathic experience change one man into a revolutionary who wants everybody to share themselves instead of keeping apart. The World Inside is about overpopulation considered as a good thing, with everyone encouraged to have sex and children and live in huge towers. They are both in print, and in the library in both languages.

These are all good books and except for Jack of Shadows, worthy nominees. We have five science fiction and one fantasy, four men and two women, and they are pretty much all New Wave books. I’d have voted for The Lathe of Heaven, but I think the Farmer is also a good winner.

What else might they have chosen?

The Nebula went to A Time of Changes, with Le Guin also nominated. Other nominees were Poul Anderson’s The Byworlder, one of Anderson’s best—that would have been a fine addition to the Hugo ballot. There’s also R.A. Lafferty’s The Devil is Dead, which I haven’t read, T.J. Bass’s Half Past Human, which I remember fondly but which is mostly forgotten now, and Kate Wilhelm’s Margaret and I, which is again largely forgotten and which I found disappointing.

The Locus Award went to The Lathe of Heaven. I like it when the awards are spread out between the good books this way. Other nominees not previously mentioned: Philip Jose Farmer’s The Fabulous Riverboat (Riverworld 2), Robert Silverberg’s Son of Man and The Second Trip—he was having a really productive year!—Lloyd Biggle Jr’s The World Menders, Suzette Haden Elgin’s Furthest, R.A. Lafferty’s Arrive at Easterwine and Thomas Burnett Swann’s The Forest of Forever.

The BSFA award went to an Aldiss collection, not eligible as a novel. The Ditmar went to Lee Harding’s Fallen Spaceman with Ringworld winning the International Award.

The Mythopoeic Award went to Joy Chant’s Red Moon and Black Mountain. Also nominated and not already mentioned: Evangeline Walton (no relation) The Children of Llyr, Michael Moorcock’s Chronicles of Corum, John Gardner’s horrible Grendel, Joan North’s The Light Maze, Ursula Le Guin’s The Tombs of Atuan and Isidore Haiblum’s The Tsaddik of the Seven Wonders.

Can there possibly be anything of note that all these lists missed? Well, yes. The ISFDB gives me James Blish’s And All the Stars a Stage and The Day After Judgement, Doris Lessing’s Briefing for a Descent Into Hell, Heinlein’s Glory Road, and Moorcock’s A Cure For Cancer. [ETA: Oops, database error, Glory Road was 1963.]

So our list of nominees this year looks pretty good—not “everything good” or “Jo’s favourite books of the year” but a representative set of good books, almost any of which would have been a worthy winner.

Other Categories


  • “The Queen of Air and Darkness,” Poul Anderson (F&SF Apr 1971)
  • “Dread Empire,” John Brunner (Fantastic Apr 1971)
  • “The Fourth Profession,” Larry Niven (Quark/4)
  • “A Meeting with Medusa,” Arthur C. Clarke (Playboy Dec 1971)
  • “A Special Kind of Morning,” Gardner Dozois (New Dimensions 1)

Wow, another great year. I think the Anderson is the best, but I’d have had a very hard time voting here.


  • “Inconstant Moon,” Larry Niven (All the Myriad Ways)
  • “All the Last Wars at Once,” Geo. Alec Effinger (Universe 1)
  • “The Autumn Land,” Clifford D. Simak (F&SF Oct 1971)
  • “The Bear with the Knot on His Tail,” Stephen Tall (F&SF May 1971)
  • “Sky,” R. A. Lafferty (New Dimensions 1)
  • “Vaster than Empires and More Slow”, Ursula K. Le Guin (New Dimensions 1)

Now here the Niven definitely deserved to win, a real classic. But also some other memorable stories. The Nebulas had three short fiction categories, which were won by Katherine MacLean’s The Missing Man, the Anderson, and Robert Silverberg’s Good News From the Vatican.


  • A Clockwork Orange
  • The Andromeda Strain
  • “I Think We’re All Bozos on This Bus” (recording)
  • The Name of the Game: “LA 2017” (screenplay by Philip Wylie; directed by Steven Spielberg)
  • THX 1138

Okay, a winner I don’t hate. But they’re clearly having a hard time scraping up enough nominees.


  • F&SF, Edward L. Ferman
  • Amazing Stories, Ted White
  • Analog, John W. Campbell, Jr.
  • Fantastic, Ted White
  • Galaxy, Ejler Jakobsson


  • Frank Kelly Freas
  • Vincent Di Fate
  • Jack Gaughan
  • Jeff Jones
  • John Schoenherr


  • Locus, Charles Brown & Dena Brown
  • Energumen, Michael Glicksohn & Susan Glicksohn
  • Granfalloon, Ron & Linda Bushyager
  • SF Commentary, Bruce Gillespie


  • Harry Warner, Jr.
  • Terry Carr
  • Tom Digby
  • Susan Glicksohn
  • Rosemary Ullyot
  • Bob Vardeman


  • Tim Kirk
  • Alicia Austin
  • Grant Canfield
  • Wendy Fletcher
  • Bill Rotsler

Jo Walton is a science fiction and fantasy writer. She’s published two poetry collections and nine novels, most recently 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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