Revisiting the Hugos

Hugo Nominees: 1980

The 1980 Hugo Awards were presented at Noreascon II in Boston. The best novel award was given to Arthur C. Clarke’s The Fountains of Paradise (post), a hard SF novel about building a space elevator beanstalk from Sri Lanka into space. It’s an old-fashioned kind of book, and it was old-fashioned even in 1979. It’s the story of one engineering project and one engineer. It has thin characterisation, few women, and not a lot of plot. It’s in print from Warner, and in the Grande Bibliotheque of Montreal (hereafter “the library”) in English only. I don’t hear a lot of discussion about it these days, and I don’t think many people would say it is their favourite Clarke. I don’t think it’s a good Hugo winner.

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

Patricia McKillip’s Harpist in the Wind is unquestionably fantasy. It’s also brilliant. But I’m very surprised to see it with a Hugo nomination, because it’s the third book in the Riddlemaster trilogy and it in no way stands alone. An unconventional choice, but a terrific book. It’s in print as part of an omnibus in the Gollancz Fantasy Masterworks series and also as part of an omnibus from Ace, and in the library as part of an omnibus.

Frederik Pohl’s Jem is science fiction—humans colonize a planet that already has alien inhabitants, and everything goes wrong. The aliens are very well done, and so is the conflict. This is a good solid complex SF novel and would have been a much better winner. It’s not in print and it’s in the library in French only. Somebody should reissue it.

Thomas M. Disch’s On Wings of Song is…indescribable. It’s a brilliant masterpiece, depressing, like all Disch, but thought provoking and amazing. It’s set in a near future collapsed U.S., some of which seems surprisingly accurate. There are machines that can literally send your soul out of your body, if you sing well enough, but they’re illegal in many states. It’s also out of print, and in the library in French only. Somebody should reprint it immediately if not sooner. This would have had my first place vote.

John Varley’s Titan is excellent until the very end where it all falls apart. It’s about a woman exploring an alien ecology, big dumb object orbiting Saturn, in the great tradition of Rendezvous with Rama only with more centaur sex. I adored everything Varley wrote up to nearly the end of this book, and have been disappointed by most of what he has written since. This did not deserve a Hugo nomination. It’s not in print and it’s not in the library, though for some reason the two sequels are.

What an odd set! Four men and one woman, four Americans and one Englishman. One very traditional SF novel about engineering, one epic fantasy, two complex SF novels, and one SF exploration adventure. What else might they have chosen?

SFWA’s Nebula Award also went to the Clarke. (But this time I had time to re-read it so I’m sure I’m not missing something that all of SFWA and everyone in Boston saw.) The only eligible non-overlapping nominee was Kate Wilhelm’s Juniper Time.

The World Fantasy Award went to Elizabeth Lynn’s wonderful Watchtower. They also shortlisted the McKillip, and Lynn’s Dancers of Arun, Patricia Wrightson’s The Dark Bright Water, Charles L. Grant’s The Last Call of Mourning, and Chelsea Quinn Yarbro’s The Palace.

The John W. Campbell Memorial Award went to the Disch, and well deserved too. Second place went to John Crowley’s Engine Summer, a significant book that would have been a worthy Hugo nominee, and third to J.G. Ballard’s very odd The Unlimited Dream Company.

The Locus SF Award went to Titan. Well, rather that than Fountains of Paradise. Nominees that haven’t been mentioned so far: Spider and Jeanne Robinson’s Stardance, C.J, Cherryh’s Kutath, Anne McCaffrey’s Dragondrums, Jack Vance’s The Face, Michael Bishop’s Transfigurations. Roger Zelazny’s Roadmarks, Ben Bova’s Kinsman, Len Deighton’s SS-GB, Michael Bishop’s Catacomb Years, Charles Sheffield’s The Web Between the Worlds, Kevin O’Donnell’s Mayflies. Orson Scott Card’s A Planet Called Treason, Norman Spinrad’s A World Between, James P. Hogan’s The Two Faces of Tomorrow, M.A. Foster’s The Day of the Klesh, Larry Niven’s The Ringworld Engineers, and Jerry Pournelle’s Janissaries (post).

Lots there that could have been nominated. Despite the fact that Janissaries is the only one I’ve written about, the book I’ve read most often out of that selection is undoubtedly A Planet Called Treason, which is flawed but fascinating.

The Locus Fantasy Award went to McKillip. Other nominees not already mentioned: Stephen King’s The Dead Zone, Samuel R. Delany’s Tales of Neveryon—no stop. I can’t type the next nominee without cognitive dissonance seeing them on the same line, so I might as well say something. I don’t understand. Why was this not Hugo nominated? It’s fantasy, yes, but we were nominating fantasy this year. This is a really major book!

To continue: Piers Anthony’s Castle Roogna, Poul Anderson’s The Merman’s Children, C.J. Cherryh’s The Fires of Azeroth (SF, actually), Mary Stewart’s The Last Enchantment, Ursula Le Guin’s Malafrena, Tanith Lee’s Death’s Master, Octavia Butler’s Kindred (post), Lynn Abbey’s Daughter of the Bright Moon, Diane Duane’s The Door Into Fire, Phyllis Eisenstein’s Sorceror’s Son, Tim Powers The Drawing of the Dark.

The Delany and the Butler should both have had Hugo nominations, but it’s not really the Hugos so much as the World Fantasy Awards falling down on the job here—good winner, but their selections seem really conventional when I look at this list.

Is there anything all these awards missed? Looking at the ISFDB I see Brian Aldiss’s Brothers of the Head and Cryptozoic, Philip Jose Farmer’s Jesus on Mars, K.W. Jeter’s Morlock Night, Bob Shaw’s Nightwalk and Douglas Adams’s The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.

I think this is another year for the negative side—these five nominees are definitely not the five best or most significant of the year.

Other Categories


  • “Enemy Mine,” Barry B. Longyear (Asimov’s Sep 1979)
  • “The Battle of the Abaco Reefs,” Hilbert Schenck (F&SF Jun 1979) 
  • “Ker-Plop,” Ted Reynolds (Asimov’s Jan 1979)
  • “The Moon Goddess and the Son,” Donald Kingsbury (Analog Dec 1979)
  • “Songhouse,” Orson Scott Card (Analog Sep 1979)

Good winner. I had the Hugo winners anthology for this year and can remember actually crying at this story. I don’t know whether I should look at it again or not!


  • “Sandkings,” George R. R. Martin (Omni Aug 1979)
  • “Fireflood,” Vonda N. McIntyre (F&SF Nov 1979)
  • “Homecoming,” Barry B. Longyear (Asimov’s Oct 1979)
  • “The Locusts,” Larry Niven & Steve Barnes (Analog Jun 1979)
  • “Options,” John Varley (Universe 9)
  • “Palely Loitering,” Christopher Priest (F&SF Jan 1979)

Again, good winner. I’ve been a fan of Martin’s from this story onwards.


  • “The Way of Cross and Dragon,” George R. R. Martin (Omni Jun 1979)
  • “Can These Bones Live?”, Ted Reynolds (Analog Mar 1979)
  • “Daisy, In the Sun,” Connie Willis (Galileo Nov 1979)
  • “giANTS,” Edward Bryant (Analog Aug 1979)
  • “Unaccompanied Sonata,” Orson Scott Card (Omni Mar 1979)

Good winner and an awesome list of nominees. I had no idea Willis had been writing this long.


  • The Science Fiction Encyclopedia, Peter Nicholls, ed. (Doubleday)
  • Barlowe’s Guide to Extraterrestrials, Wayne Douglas Barlowe & Ian Summers (Workman)
  • In Memory Yet Green, Isaac Asimov (Doubleday)
  • The Language of the Night, Ursula K. Le Guin, edited by Susan Wood (Putnam)
  • Wonderworks, Michael Whelan (Donning)

Look, new category! And what a great set of nominees to start off—and as usual, a set of things not very like each other and hard to compare. I’ve read four of these (everything but the Whelan, which I assume is an art book) if you can say you’ve read an Encyclopedia, and I have no idea which I’d vote for. Probably the Le Guin, but… when you have four novels, no matter how different, they are at least all novels.


  • Alien
  • The Black Hole
  • The Muppet Movie
  • Star Trek: The Motion Picture
  • Time After Time


  • George H. Scithers
  • Jim Baen
  • Ben Bova
  • Edward L. Ferman
  • Stanley Schmidt


  • Michael Whelan
  • Vincent Di Fate
  • Steve Fabian
  • Paul Lehr
  • Boris Vallejo


  • Locus, Charles N. Brown
  • File 770, Mike Glyer
  • Janus, Janice Bogstad & Jeanne Gomoll
  • Science Fiction Review, Richard E. Geis
  • Thrust, Doug Fratz


  • Bob Shaw
  • Richard E. Geis
  • Mike Glyer
  • Arthur D. Hlavaty
  • David Langford

People could still nominate Arthur Hlavaty now. He’s still a terrific fan writer. He has a wonderful way of putting things.


  • Alexis Gilliland
  • Jeanne Gomoll
  • Joan Hanke-Woods
  • Victoria Poyser
  • Bill Rotsler
  • Stu Shiffman


  • Barry B. Longyear
  • Lynn Abbey
  • Diane Duane
  • Karen Jollie
  • Alan Ryan
  • Somtow Sucharitkul

Interesting list.

Longyear produced that one wonderful novella, and I entirely see why people voted for him. He’s kept writing but never been very prolific or written anything else that’s had the same kind of attention since.

Lynn Abbey edited some collections with Asprin and did some writing in the Cherryh’s Merovingian universe. I haven’t heard anything about her in a while.

Diane Duane has gone on to have a major career, largely in YA. She’d also have been a good winner.

Karen Jollie is a complete blank to me—anyone?

I don’t know Alan Ryan either, but Locus says he won a World Fantasy Award for short story in 1984 and edited a pile of anthologies in the eighties but nothing recent.

Somtow Sucharitkul is a writer I really like. He has published a lot of books, science fiction, fantasy, horror and historical, some under the more pronouncable name S.P. Somtow, he’s wonderful but he’s never really had the sales to go with his talent. He’d have been another good 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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