Revisiting the Hugos

Hugo Nominees: 1987

The 1987 Hugo Awards were awarded at Conspiracy, in Brighton. The best novel award went to Orson Scott Card for Speaker for the Dead—the sequel to the 1986 winner Ender’s Game. It’s unusual for a sequel to win, and this is the first time it happened two years in a row like this. And it’s another good winner, and another book about which I am conflicted.

I remember buying Speaker for the Dead. I can often remember reading a book for the first time, but it’s not often I remember buying one. It was in Forbidden Planet in London, and I didn’t know it existed but of course the title told me it was connected to Ender’s Game, and I can still remember that shock of joy when I found it. And I did love it—even more than Ender’s Game. It has aliens and spaceships and an intelligent computer. It has distance between the stars measured not in kilometers but in years. It had the fascinating comparison of human, ramen, and varelse. I wish I still loved it, I really do. But you can’t unsee the man behind the curtain. It’s so very manipulative. It pushed my buttons then and now it doesn’t.

It’s in print, it’s in the Grande Bibliotheque (hereafter “the library”) in French only. It’s definitely still being read and talked about. I would absolutely have voted for it in 1987.

There are four other nominees of which I have read two—the lowest for some time.

Let’s start with the ones I haven’t read. I haven’t read L. Ron Hubbard’s Black Genesis because it didn’t look like my kind of thing. It’s not in print and it’s in the library in English only. There was some controversy about the nomination and the role of the publishers at the con, and it came last in the voting below No Award.

I haven’t read William Gibson’s Count Zero because I hated Neuromancer.  It’s in print, and it’s in the library in English. It came third in the voting.

I have read, and written about, Vernor Vinge’s Marooned in Realtime (post). I loved it in 1987, I continue to love it. It’s a post-singularity story about a murder investigation in geological time. It’s in print, but it’s not in the library. It’s a sequel to The Peace War, but it stands alone. This is what I’d vote for if I had to vote on this list now. It came fourth in the voting, perhaps because this was a British worldcon and there was not yet a UK edition, so many of the voters wouldn’t have had the chance to read it.

Bob Shaw’s The Ragged Astronauts is a romp about two planets close enough to share an atmosphere and traveling between them in a balloon. It was a lot of fun, but not really Hugo worthy. It’s not in print and it’s not in the library and I don’t think it has lasted. However, it won the BSFA Award and came second in the Hugo voting, so clearly other people liked it more than I did.

So. all men, four American and one British, all SF. One with aliens and spaceships, one cyberpunk, one novel of ideas, one romp, and I have no idea how to categorise the Hubbard.

An odd year. What else might they have chosen?

SFWA’s Nebula Award also went to Card. Eligible non-overlapping nominees were Leigh Kennedy’s The Journal of Nicholas the American, and James Morrow’s brilliant and chilling This is the Way the World Ends, which I think would have made a good addition to the Hugo ballot.,

Patrick Suskind’s Perfume won the World Fantasy Award. Other nominees were Stephen King’s It, Charles L. Grant’s The Pet, Gene Wolfe’s Soldier of the Mist, Dean R, Koontz’s Strangers, Terry Bisson’s Talking Man (post), and Margaret Mahy’s The Tricksters.

The John W. Campbell Memorial Award went to Joan Slonczewski’s Door Into Ocean, a book that really should have been a Hugo nominee. Second place went to Morrow and third to Card.

The Philip K. Dick Award went to James Blaylock’s Homunculus, with a special citation to Jack McDevitt’s The Hercules Text. Other nominees were Artificial Things, Karen Joy Fowler and A Hidden Place, Robert Charles Wilson.

The Locus SF Award went to Card. Other nominees not already mentioned: Heart of the Comet, Gregory Benford & David Brin, The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood, Foundation and Earth, Isaac Asimov, Chanur’s Homecoming, C. J. Cherryh, The Songs of Distant Earth, Arthur C. Clarke, The Coming of the Quantum Cats, Frederik Pohl, Santiago, Mike Resnick, Enigma, Michael P. Kube-McDowell, When Gravity Fails, George Alec Effinger (post), Lear’s Daughters, M. Bradley Kellogg with William Rossow (post), Star of Gypsies, Robert Silverberg, Nerilka’s Story, Anne McCaffrey, The Warrior’s Apprentice, Lois McMaster Bujold (post). The Moon Goddess and the Son, Donald Kingsbury, Hardwired, Walter Jon Williams, The Architect of Sleep, Steven R. Boyett, Venus of Dreams, Pamela Sargent, The Nimrod Hunt, Charles Sheffield, The Forever Man, Gordon R. Dickson, Rebels’ Seed, F. M. Busby.

A lot of good stuff there, but the standout is the Effinger, which absolutely should have been Hugo nominated.

The Locus Fantasy Award went to Soldier in the Mist. Other nominees not yet mentioned: Blood of Amber, Roger Zelazny, Godbody, Theodore Sturgeon, Twisting the Rope, R. A. MacAvoy, The Folk of the Air, Peter S. Beagle, The Serpent Mage, Greg Bear, Wizard of the Pigeons, Megan Lindholm (post), The Quest for Saint Camber, Katherine Kurtz, A Darkness at Sethanon, Raymond E. Feist, The Mirror of Her Dreams, Stephen R. Donaldson, The Darkest Road, Guy Gavriel Kay, Magic Kingdom For Sale—Sold!, Terry Brooks, Wielding a Red Sword, Piers Anthony, The Falling Woman, Pat Murphy, The Dragon in the Sword, Michael Moorcock, Jinian Star-Eye, Sheri S. Tepper, New York by Knight, Esther M. Friesner, The King of Ys: Roma Mater, Poul Anderson & Karen Anderson, The Hounds of God, Judith Tarr, The Unconquered Country, Geoff Ryman, Yarrow, Charles de Lint, The Hungry Moon, Ramsey Campbell, Dragonsbane, Barbara Hambly, A Voice for Princess, John Morressy, Talking Man, Terry Bisson.

Peter Beagle’s The Folk of the Air won the Mythopoeic Award, Marooned in Realtime won the Prometheus Award.

So the Hugo list missed When Gravity Fails and The Warrior’s Apprentice and The Door Into Ocean and This is the Way the World Ends—a lot of really excellent stuff that wasn’t on the ballot. So I’d say this wasn’t a good year.

Other categories


  • “Gilgamesh in the Outback” by Robert Silverberg [Asimov’s Jul 1986; Rebels in Hell, 1986]
  • “Escape from Kathmandu” by Kim Stanley Robinson [Asimov’s Sep 1986]
  • “R & R” by Lucius Shepard [Asimov’s Apr 1986]
  • “Spice Pogrom” by Connie Willis [Asimov’s Oct 1986]
  • “Eifelheim” by Michael F. Flynn [Analog Nov 1986]

For the first time, these are in order of how they ranked in the voting.


  • “Permafrost” by Roger Zelazny [Omni Apr 1986]
  • “Thor Meets Captain America” by David Brin [F&SF Jul 1986]
  • “The Winter Market” by William Gibson [Stardate Mar/Apr 1986; Interzone #15 Spr 1986]
  • “Hatrack River” by Orson Scott Card [Asimov’s Aug 1986]
  • “The Barbarian Princess” by Vernor Vinge [Analog Sep 1986]

I’d have voted for the Card, for sure. British voters would not have seen it. I remember when I got hold of the Asimov’s with that in, and it was June of 1987—I was reading it when I moved into my house in Lancaster—I sat down on the kitchen counter to finish it because the furniture hadn’t been delivered yet. And I’d have bought the magazine as soon as I saw it. Omni, on the other hand, was easily available, and Interzone of course.


  • “Tangents” by Greg Bear [Omni Jan 1986]
  • “Robot Dreams” by Isaac Asimov [Robot Dreams, 1986; Asimov’s mid-Dec 1986]
  • “The Boy Who Plaited Manes” by Nancy Springer [F&SF Oct 1986]
  • “Still Life” by David S. Garnett [F&SF Mar 1986]
  • “Rat” by James Patrick Kelly [F&SF Jun 1986]


  • Trillion Year Spree by Brian W. Aldiss and David Wingrove [Gollancz, 1986; Atheneum, 1986]
  • The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller, Klaus Jenson and Lynn Varley [DC/Warner, 1986]
  • Industrial Light and Magic: The Art of Special Effects by Thomas G. Smith [Ballantine Del Rey, 1986]
  • Science Fiction in Print: 1985 by Charles N. Brown and William G. Contento [Locus Press, 1986]
  • Only Apparently Real: The World of Philip K. Dick by Paul Williams [Arbor House, 1986]


  • Aliens
  • Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
  • The Fly
  • Little Shop of Horrors
  • Labyrinth


  • Terry Carr
  • Gardner Dozois
  • David G. Hartwell
  • Edward L. Ferman
  • Stanley Schmidt


  • Jim Burns
  • Frank Kelly Freas
  • Don Maitz
  • Barclay Shaw
  • Tom Kidd
  • J. K. Potter


  • Locus ed. by Charles N. Brown
  • Interzone ed. by Simon Ounsley and David Pringle
  • Science Fiction Chronicle ed. by Andrew I. Porter
  • Science Fiction Review ed. by Richard E. Geis
  • Fantasy Review ed. by Robert A. Collins


  • Ansible ed. by Dave Langford
  • File 770 ed. by Mike Glyer
  • No Award
  • Lan’s Lantern ed. by George “Lan” Laskowski
  • Texas SF Enquirer ed. by Pat Mueller
  • Trap Door ed. by Robert Lichtman

That’s harsh. Ansible 1987—so good I’m still linking to it.


  • Dave Langford
  • Patrick Nielsen Hayden
  • Simon Ounsley
  • Mike Glyer
  • No Award
  • D. West
  • Arthur D. Hlavaty
  • Withdrawn – Nomination Declined: Owen Whiteoak


  • Brad W. Foster
  • Arthur “ATom” Thomson
  • Stu Shiffman
  • Taral Wayne
  • Steve Fox

John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer (Sponsored by Dell Magazines and administered on their behalf by WSFS)

  • Karen Joy Fowler
  • Lois McMaster Bujold
  • No Award
  • Katharine Eliska Kimbriel
  • Rebecca Ore
  • Leo Frankowski
  • Robert Reed

Wow. Well, Fowler was a very good winner on past productions, and a perfectly good winner on what she has done since—she’s a major writer but most of her work is interstitial, on the borders of genre.

But really Bujold is the standout major writer on this list—and she had three novels out in 1986. I wonder if she was hurt by the vote being in Britain, where she didn’t have anything out until 1988? She is of course one of the most significant writers working today, the winner of five Hugos and three Nebulas, and on this year’s Hugo ballot again.

I’m astonished at how high No Award placed, as we have three more major writers below the line.

I’m not familiar with Kimbriel—Locus tells me she had a first novel out in 1986 which must have impressed some nominators.

Rebecca Ore has gone on to write a pile of award nominated SF novels over the next couple of decades.

Robert Reed has written a number of novels and an incredible number of wonderful short things. He’s one of my favourite writers at short length—I’ll buy a magazine if he’s in it, and this keeps me buying magazines because he’s prolific. He won a Hugo in 2006 with “A Billion Eves.” He was right at the beginning of his career, but I see this as just the kind of Campbell nomination one would wish to see.

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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