Revisiting the Hugos

Hugo Nominees: 1979

The 1979 Hugo Awards were awarded at Seacon in Brighton, and that was another legendary convention because I’ve been hearing legends about it since I got into fandom ten years later. I was fourteen in the summer of 1979, but it’s technically the first Worldcon I could have gone to. I did know it was happening. I saw an article about it in the Times the day it started. Despite not really knowing what a science fiction convention was I spent the whole day with a railway timetable and various adults trying to arrange it. Robert Silverberg was going to be there, I kept saying. Arthur C. Clarke was going to be there! But destiny and common sense were against me.

The best novel Hugo went to Vonda McIntyre’s Dreamsnake, a book I loved when I read it a year or two later but which I haven’t re-read in a while. It’s science fiction with a fantastic feel, a quest across a post apocalyptic wasteland with healing snakes. It won the Nebula and Locus Award too. It’s not in print, and it’s in the Bibliotheque et Archives Nationale du Quebec (hearafter “the library”) in French only. It’s a good book but it hasn’t lasted well—I think it must have really spoken to the zeitgeist at the time.

There are four other nominees and I’ve read all of them. Interestingly for a British Worldcon, no British writers, and several books not published in the U.K. in time for nominators to have seen them.

Tom Reamy’s Blind Voices is a Bradburyesque story that edges on horror, about a carnival with real magic and mysterious secrets. It’s beautifully written, and was also nominated for the Nebula. I’m sorry to see that it’s not in print and it’s not in the library. Reamy’s career was cut short by his untimely death—this was his first novel, and if he’d lived and gone on writing he might have been better remembered. U.K. edition 1979.

C.J. Cherryh’s The Faded Sun: Kesrith is the first of the Faded Sun trilogy. It’s about aliens and being alone among aliens and realising you’re the alien one, and it’s claustrophobic and depressing even for Cherryh, and I love Cherryh. It’s in print from DAW in an omnibus with the two sequels, but it’s not in the library. I’d say it has lasted as a minor work from a major writer. It was also nominated for a Nebula. No U.K. edition until the eighties. It’s the only nominee that wouldn’t have been available to British voters, and I wonder if it suffered by that?

James Tiptree Jr’s Up the Walls of the World is Tiptree’s slightly disappointing first novel—disappointing in comparison to how wonderful her shorter work was. It’s science fiction with telepaths and telepathic aliens. It’s not in print, and it’s in the library in French only. It’s not the first thing one thinks of when talking about Tiptree, in fact it’s fairly far down the list. But like Dreamsnake, it was also in print in the U.K.

Anne McCaffrey’s The White Dragon is the third of her trilogy of stories about Lessa and the Dragonriders of Pern. It’s in print and it’s in the library in English only. It’s unusual for a book in a continuing series to be nominated, even a popular series like this one. I’d say this is the weakest of the books on the list and the first one I’d throw out of the balloon. (U.K. edition 1979.)

So, four women and one man, two science fiction, two science fantasy and one dark fantasy. They’re all books worth reading. But what else might they have nominated?

SFWA’s Nebulas had considerable overlap—McIntyre, Reamy and Cherryh. Their other two nominees were Gore Vidal’s Kalki, which I haven’t read, and Gardner Dozois’s excellent Strangers, which should definitely have been on the a Hugo list.

The World Fantasy Awards were won by Michael Moorcock’s Gloriana. Other nominees were Les Daniels The Black Castle, Tanith Lee’s Night’s Master, Charles L. Grant’s The Sound of Midnight, and Stephen King’s The Stand. I’d have been surprised if any of these had made the Hugo ballot.

The John W. Campbell Memorial Award was also won by Gloriana, which astonishes me, as it is out and out fantasy—literary experimental fantasy, but not SF by any stretch of the imagination. (This is a very weird award.) I haven’t heard of either of the honourable mentions, Paddy Chayefsky’s Altered States or Donald R. Benson’s …And having writ….

The Locus awards have a long list. Nominees not previously mentioned are: Ben Bova’s Colony, Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Stormqueen!, Gordon R. Dickson’s The Far Call, Poul Anderson’s The Avatar, Roger Zelazny’s The Courts of Chaos, Gregory Benford’s The Stars in Shroud, Joan Vinge’s The Outcasts of Heaven Belt, Charles Sheffield’s Sight of Proteus, Marta Randall’s Journey, Katherine Kurtz’s Saint Camber, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro’s Hotel Transylvania, Marvin Kaye and Parke Godwin’s The Masters of Solitude, and Elizabeth Lynn’s A Different Light. A lot of good stuff here, and several books that could well have deserved a Hugo nomination  but nothing that makes me feel it was an injustice.

The BSFA award went to A Scanner Darkly, which was a 1977 book in the U.S., highlighting the difference between U.S. and U.K. publication schedules.

Is there anything all of these missed? Robin McKinley’s Beauty (post), Suzy McKee Charnas’s Motherlines, Octavia Butler’s Survivor (post), Richaed Cowper’s The Road to Corlay and Hal Clement’s Through the Eye of a Needle.

Out of all these books I could find five I like more and are more significant and have lasted better, but I think the five we have do represent the totality pretty well.

Other Categories


  • “The Persistence of Vision,” John Varley (F&SF Mar 1978)
  • “Enemies of the System,” Brian W. Aldiss (F&SF Jun 1978)
  • “Fireship,” Joan D. Vinge (Analog Dec 1978)
  • “Seven American Nights,” Gene Wolfe (Orbit 20)
  • “The Watched,” Christopher Priest (F&SF Apr 1978)

Thank goodness Varley did eventually win one! Very good set of stories here.


  • “Hunter’s Moon,” Poul Anderson (Analog Nov 1978)
  • “The Barbie Murders,” John Varley (Asimov’s Jan/Feb 1978)
  • “Devil You Don’t Know,” Dean Ing (Analog Jan 1978)
  • “The Man Who Had No Idea,” Thomas M. Disch (F&SF Oct 1978)
  • “Mikal’s Songbird,” Orson Scott Card (Analog May 1978)

I’d have definitely voted for the Card here, with the Varley a hair behind.


  • “Cassandra,” C. J. Cherryh (F&SF Oct 1978)
  • “Count the Clock that Tells the Time,” Harlan Ellison (Omni Dec 1978)
  • “Stone,” Edward Bryant (F&SF Feb 1978)
  • “The Very Slow Time Machine,” Ian Watson (Anticipations)
  • “View From a Height,” Joan D. Vinge (Analog Jun 1978)

I don’t remember the Cherryh. I’d have voted for the Watson, a story that has stayed with me for a long time.


  • Superman: The Movie
  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” (radio series)
  • Invasion of the Body Snatchers
  • The Lord of the Rings
  • Watership Down

Seriously? Good grief. I would have voted for Hitchhikers, and then very emphatically for No Award.


  • Ben Bova
  • Jim Baen
  • Terry Carr
  • Edward L. Ferman
  • George Scithers

I’d have voted for Baen. Words can not express how much Destinies meant to me in 1979.


  • Vincent Di Fate
  • Steve Fabian
  • David Hardy
  • Boris Vallejo
  • Michael Whelan


  • Science Fiction Review, Richard E. Geis
  • Janus, Janice Bogstad & Jeanne Gomoll
  • Maya, Rob Jackson
  • Mota, Terry Hughes
  • Twll-Ddu, Dave Langford

Ugol’s Law suggests that I am not the only person reading this who can pronounce the name of Langford’s fanzine. It means “Black hole,” by the way.


  • Bob Shaw
  • Richard E. Geis
  • Leroy Kettle
  • Dave Langford
  • D. West


  • Bill Rotsler
  • Jim Barker
  • Harry Bell
  • Alexis Gilliland
  • Stu Shiffman


  • Stephen R. Donaldson
  • Cynthia Felice
  • James P. Hogan
  • Barry B. Longyear
  • Elizabeth A. Lynn
  • Charles Sheffield

A good year for the Campbells—all of them have gone on to have careers in the field and I know who they are. I think Donaldson was the obvious winner but there’s not a dud there, any one of them would have made a good solid winner.

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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