Revisiting the Hugos

Hugo Nominees: 1974

The 1974 Hugos were awarded at Discon II in Washington DC. The best novel award went to Arthur C. Clarke’s Rendezvous With Rama. This is the first of the Big Dumb Object books, about a mysterious and huge alien object that comes into the solar system and is explored by some men from Earth. I have always felt that it was one of Clarke’s weaker books. It has the poetry of space and of huge alien artifacts, and something of the puzzle of archaeology, when you’re trying to make sense of something incomprehensible without enough clues. But I remember wishing it would get on with it when I read this when I was fourteen, and I was frankly bored when I reread it when I was twenty-five. It’s slow and I couldn’t hazard a guess at the names of the characters even if you offered me large amounts of cash. I haven’t read the sequels and I haven’t reread it for a long time. It’s in print and in the library in both langauages. I think it’s an acknowledged classic that everybody likes except me, so it was probably a good winner even though I don’t care for it.

There are four other nominees and I have read all of them.

David Gerrold’s The Man Who Folded Himself is a novel-length variation on the theme of Heinlein’s “All You Zombies.” It’s not in print, it’s not in the library and it seems to be pretty well forgotten—I haven’t heard anybody talk about it in a long while.

Poul Anderson’s The People of the Wind is about a planet settled by both humans and wonderful flying aliens with a weird culture who live in complex co-existence until the Terran Empire wants to annex the planet, causing complications. It’s great in a typical Poul Anderson kind of way. It’s not in print and it’s not in the library.

Larry Niven’s Protector is set in his Known Space setting. It’s one of the best of the books set there—an alien Pak comes to the solar system looking for a lost colony of his own kind, and finds instead humanity, who are like the sub-sapient breeder Paks, but with our own intelligence. Contains a re-creation of a Surrealist painting in space. I haven’t reread it recently but I remember it fondly. It’s in print but it’s not in the library.

And the last nominee is Robert A. Heinlein’s Time Enough For Love, which is a long book of many parts about the very long life of Lazarus Long. It’s sloppy and self-indulgent, it’s full of embarrassing incest, it doesn’t really have a plot so much as a set of meandering reminiscences in a frame that doesn’t work, but bits of it are absolutely marvelous. I reread it more often than anything else in this list, and although parts of it make me wince, other parts of it bring tears to my eyes. It’s late Heinlein at his most characteristic—you can’t condemn it without throwing very valuable babies away with very dirty bathwater. It is in print. It is in the library in English.

So, five books by men, all except the Gerrold very traditional science fiction, with spaceships and other planets. They’re a pretty solid lot, but not very exciting. What else might they have picked?

SFWA also gave the Nebula to Rendezvous With Rama. Their other nominees are identical except that in place of Protector they have Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow. (People are very strange, and SFWA are very strange even for people.)

Moving swiftly on, the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for hard SF was given jointly to the Clarke and to Robert Merle’s Malevil, which I not only haven’t read, I’ve never heard of it. The runners up are Ian Watson’s first novel The Embedding, and Peter Dickinson’s The Green Gene, both of which I have read and neither of which I’d call hard SF.

The Locus Awards also recognised Rendezvous With Rama. (I’d think I should read it again if I hadn’t just been burned with The Gods Themselves.) Their non-overlapping nominees are Trullion: Alastor 2262, Jack Vance, “The Far Call,” Gordon R. Dickson  To Die In Italbar and Today We Choose Faces both Roger Zelazny, The Cloud Walker, Edmund Cooper, Relatives, George Alec Effinger, Herovit’s World, Barry N. Malzberg, Hiero’s Journey, Sterling Lanier, The Doomsday Gene, John Boyd.

The Mythopoeic Award went to Mary Stewart’s The Hollow Hills, the second of her Merlin books. Other nominees were Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising, Anne Labenthal’s Excalibur, Katherine Kurtz’s High Derynni and Poul Anderson’s Hrolf Kraki’s Saga. At last some women to counteract the rather male lean to this set of lists!

There’s nothing in any of this that might plausibly have been nominated for a Hugo, or that seems to me clearly better than the five solid nominees we have.

Was there anything all of these missed?

Using ISFDB, there’s Jerry Pournelle’s A Spaceship for the King, Clifford Simak’s Cemetery World, J.G. Ballard’s Crash, Brian Aldiss’s Frankenstein Unbound, Michael Coney’s Friends Come in Boxes and Syzygy, Doris Pischeria’s Mister Justice, John Brunner’s More Things in Heaven and The Stone That Never Came Down, Hal Clement’s Ocean on Top, Alan Garner’s Red Shift, D.G. Compton’s The Continuous Katherine Mortenhoe and William Goldman’s The Princess Bride. Wouldn’t it have been lovely to have had Goldman on the ballot?

My general feeling looking at all this is that we had a solid representative ballot, and if it wasn’t the five best books of the year there weren’t any egregious gaps either.

Other Categories


  • “The Girl Who Was Plugged In,” James Tiptree, Jr. (New Dimensions 3) 
  • “Chains of the Sea,” Gardner Dozois (Chains of the Sea)
  • “Death and Designation Among the Asadi,” Michael Bishop (If Feb 1973)
  • “The Death of Doctor Island,” Gene Wolfe (Universe 3)
  • “The White Otters of Childhood,” Michael Bishop (F&SF Jul 1973)

Okay, the novella award was won by one of the best novellas of all time, so that’s alright. The others were pretty strong stories, but I can’t imagine anything but the Tiptree winning.


  • “The Deathbird,” Harlan Ellison (F&SF Mar 1973)
  • “The City on the Sand,” Geo. Alec Effinger (F&SF Apr 1973)
  • “He Fell Into a Dark Hole,” Jerry Pournelle (Analog Mar 1973)
  • “Love Is the Plan the Plan Is Death,” James Tiptree, Jr. (The Alien Condition)
  • “Of Mist, and Grass, and Sand,” Vonda N. McIntyre (Analog Oct 1973)

I’d have given that one to the Tiptree as well. And I didn’t know it was written the year after The Gods Themselves.


  • “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas,” Ursula K. Le Guin (New Dimensions 3)
  • “Construction Shack,” Clifford D. Simak (If Feb 1973)
  • “Wings,” Vonda N. McIntyre (The Alien Condition)
  • “With Morning Comes Mistfall,” George R. R. Martin (Analog May 1973)

Another good decision, or one with which I entirely agree. I like the Martin, but “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas” is an enduring classic that people are still arguing over.


  • Sleeper
  • “Genesis II”
  • “The Six Million Dollar Man”
  • Soylent Green
  • Westworld

Another year I’d have voted for “no award.” But I do that in this category most current years.


  • Ben Bova
  • Terry Carr
  • Edward L. Ferman
  • Robert Silverberg
  • Ted White
  • Donald A. Wollheim


  • Frank Kelly Freas
  • Vincent Di Fate
  • Frank Frazetta
  • Jack Gaughan
  • John Schoenherr


  • Algol, Andrew Porter
  • The Alien Critic, Richard E. Geis
  • Locus, Charles Brown & Dena Brown
  • Outworlds, Bill Bowers & Joan Bowers


  • Susan Wood
  • Laura Basta
  • Richard E. Geis
  • Jacqueline Lichtenberg
  • Sandra Miesel


  • Tim Kirk
  • Alicia Austin
  • Grant Canfield
  • Bill Rotsler
  • Arthur Thomson


  • Spider Robinson
  • Lisa Tuttle
  • Jesse Miller
  • Thomas F. Monteleone
  • Guy Snyder

Not such a good lineup as the year before. The two winners have gone on to become major writers, so they were definitely the right choices. Monteleone has become a major horror writer, but I’m not aware of anything significant from Snyder or Miller.

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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