Revisiting the Hugos

Hugo Nominees: 1983

The 1983 Hugo Awards were awarded in ConStellation, in Baltimore. The best novel winner was Isaac Asimov’s Foundation’s Edge, a late addition to his wonderful Foundation trilogy. I have read it, and it struck me as fairly entertaining but ill-advised—it was thirty years since he’d written about this universe. I felt that going back to it, and especially connecting it up to the Robots universe, diminished the originals. But it was popular, and so were the other sequels and prequels. It seemed to me to be nailing down corners of the universe that were better left unpinned, but other people evidently liked it. It doesn’t seem to be in print, but it’s in the library (the Grande Bibliotheque) in English and French.

There are six nominees and I have read them all, and written about two of them.

Arthur C. Clarke’s 2010: Odyssey Two is another disappointing sequel by a beloved veteran writer. The strange thing is that the original 2001 novel didn’t get nominated. I suppose the subgenre is near future hard SF. It’s in print, and it’s in the library in English and French.

I’ve already written about my reactions to Robert Heinlein’s Friday (post). It’s a deeply flawed book, but I love it anyway. It’s in print, and it’s in the library in English only. I think it’s a reasonably good nominee but I’m glad it didn’t win.

Donald Kingsbury’s Courtship Rite is wonderful but very odd. It’s about a lost colony on a planet where there’s very little to eat except other people, and it’s a sweet love story about evolutionary fitness and cannibalism. It’s quite unforgettable, and exactly the kind of thing that should be nominated, and I’d have been quite happy for it to have won. It did win the Compton Crook Award for Best First Novel.

C.J. Cherryh’s The Pride of Chanur (post) is what I’d have voted for then or now, an outstandingly good book in my absolute favourite subgenre—aliens and spacestations. It has wonderful aliens, and wonderful spacestations too come to that. It’s in print, but it’s not in the library.

Gene Wolfe’s The Sword of the Lictor is part three of the Book of the New Sun, and it really doesn’t stand alone even a bit. It’s in print and in the library in English.

So, five men and one woman, five definitely science fiction and one science fiction disguised as fantasy. One first novel, last year’s Hugo winner, three writers with cult status and Gene Wolfe, who still hasn’t won a Hugo.

What else might they have chosen?

SFWA gave their Nebula Award to Michael Bishop’s No Enemy But Time. Other non-overlapping nominees were Philip K. Dick’s The Transmigration of Timothy Archer and Brian Aldiss’s Helliconia Spring. The only one I’ve read is the Aldiss. It’s probably his best work and certainly should have made the Hugo list. It won the John W. Campbell Memorial Award and the BSFA Award—good!

The World Fantasy Award was won by Michael Shea’s Nifft the Lean. Non-overlapping nominees were Fevre Dream by George R. R. Martin, The Nestling by Charles L. Grant, and Phantom by Thomas Tessier.

The Philip K. Dick Award, for paperback original SF, was won by Rudy Rucker’s Software, another book from the incipient cyberpunk movement, and one which would have been a great Hugo nominee. They gave a special citation to The Prometheus Man by Ray Faraday Nelson. Other nominees were Aurelia by R. A. Lafferty, Roderick by John Sladek, The Umbral Anthology of Science Fiction Poetry by Steve Rasnic Tem, ed. and Waiting for the Barbarians by J. M. Coetzee.

The Locus Award went to the Asimov. Non-overlapping nominees were: The Crystal Singer by Anne McCaffrey, Starburst by Frederik Pohl, Merchanter’s Luck by C. J. Cherryh (post), Life, the Universe and Everything by Douglas Adams, The Golden Torc by Julian May, Hawkmistress! by Marion Zimmer Bradley (post), Eye of Cat by Roger Zelazny, The Descent of Anansi by Larry Niven & Steven Barnes, Mindkiller by Spider Robinson, A Rose for Armageddon by Hilbert Schenck, The White Plague by Frank Herbert, Coils by Fred Saberhagen & Roger Zelazny, Wintermind by Marvin Kaye & Parke Godwin, Birthright: The Book of Man by Mike Resnick, Light on the Sound by Somtow Sucharitkul, Nor Crystal Tears by Alan Dean Foster, The Fall of the Shell by Paul O. Williams.

The Mythopoeic Award went to Carol Kendall’s The Firelings. Nominees not so far mentioned were The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley, The Darkangel by Meredith Ann Pierce, God Stalk by P. C. Hodgell, Lady of Light by Diana L. Paxson, The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley, The One Tree by Stephen R. Donaldson, Queen of Sorcery by David Eddings.

The Prometheus Award (Libertarian SF) went to James P. Hogan’s Voyage From Yesteryear.

Is there anything all these awards missed? There’s John M. Ford’s The Princes of the Air, (post) but I think most of the things worth noting did get on one of these lists.

So, is the Hugo list doing its job this year? Nearly. I think the winner is weak, and I’d have liked to see the Aldiss and the Rucker on it in place of any of the Asimov/Clarke/Heinlein but… it’s okay. Not perfect, but okay. These are representative books of 1982, and there aren’t many of the lasting significant books of 1982 that got missed.

Other Categories


  • “Souls,” Joanna Russ (F&SF Jan 1982)
  • “Another Orphan,” John Kessel (F&SF Sep 1982)
  • “Brainchild,” Joseph H. Delaney (Analog Jun 1982)
  • “The Postman,” David Brin (Asimov’s Nov 1982)
  • “To Leave a Mark,” Kim Stanley Robinson (F&SF Nov 1982)
  • “Unsound Variations,” George R.R. Martin (Amazing Stories Jan 1982)

“Unsound Variations” is one of Martin’s most chilling stories, and one that I remember better than I want to. The rest of these are also excellent—it seems to me that we keep having a set of brilliant novellas year after year, that it’s consistently a really strong category.


  • “Fire Watch,” Connie Willis (Asimov’s 15 Feb 1982)
  • “Aquila,” Somtow Sucharitkul (Asimov’s Jan 18 1982)
  • “Nightlife,” Phyllis Eisenstein (F&SF Feb 1982)
  • “Pawn’s Gambit,” Timothy Zahn (Analog 29 Mar 1982)
  • “Swarm,” Bruce Sterling (F&SF Apr 1982)


  • “Melancholy Elephants,” Spider Robinson (Analog Jun 1982)
  • “The Boy Who Waterskied to Forever,” James Tiptree, Jr. (F&SF Oct 1982)
  • “Ike at the Mike,” Howard Waldrop (Omni Jun 1982)
  • “Spider Rose,” Bruce Sterling (F&SF Aug 1982)
  • “Sur,” Ursula K. Le Guin (The New Yorker 1 Feb 1982; The Compass Rose (revised))


  • Isaac Asimov: The Foundations of Science Fiction, James Gunn (Oxford University Press)
  • The Engines of the Night, Barry N. Malzberg (Doubleday)
  • Fear Itself: The Horror Fiction of Stephen King, Tim Underwood & Chuck Miller, eds. (Underwood-Miller)
  • A Reader’s Guide to Fantasy, Baird Searles, Beth Meacham & Michael Franklin (Avon)
  • The World of the Dark Crystal, J. J. Llewellyn, text; Brian Froud, illustrator (Knopf)


  • Blade Runner
  • The Dark Crystal
  • E.T. The Extraterrestrial
  • The Road Warrior
  • Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

A rare year when there’s not only a worthy winner in this category, but something that almost looks like sufficient nominees to be worth running it.


  • Edward L. Ferman
  • Terry Carr
  • David G. Hartwell
  • Stanley Schmidt
  • George Scithers


  • Michael Whelan
  • Frank Kelly Freas
  • Don Maitz
  • Rowena Morrill
  • Barclay Shaw
  • Darrell Sweet


  • Locus, Charles N. Brown
  • Fantasy Newsletter, Robert A. Collins
  • File 770, Mike Glyer
  • Science Fiction Chronicle, Andrew Porter
  • Science Fiction Review, Richard E. Geis


  • Richard E. Geis
  • Mike Glyer
  • Arthur Hlavaty
  • Dave Langford


  • Alexis Gilliland
  • Joan Hanke-Woods
  • William Rotsler
  • Stu Shiffman
  • Dan Steffan


  • Paul O. Williams
  • Joseph H. Delaney
  • Lisa Goldstein
  • Sandra Miesel
  • Warren G. Norwood
  • David R. Palmer

Hmm. Paul O. Williams seems to have won on the strength of his first novel The Breaking of Northwall. He published half a dozen more novels, but he was a minor writer.

Joseph H. Delaney had a novella on the Hugo ballot, and he went on to write other award nominated short work through the eighties.

Lisa Goldstein is the standout on this list—she has continued to produce excellent fantasy right up to the present day. She has been nominated for Nebulas, Mythopoeics, and World Fantasy Awards. I think hindsight would make her the best winner from this list—and not just because she’s one of my favourite writers.

I don’t know much about Sandra Miesel or Warren G. Norwood—anyone?

David R. Palmer had published a handful of notable short work over the couple of years prior to this nomination, and then the much praised novel Emergence in 1984 and the sequel Threshold in 1985, and since then nothing but rumours of a third in the sequence.

So not a great year for the Campbells overall.

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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