Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Black Gate Essays

Some of my most ambitious pieces are for Black Gate, John O'Neill's excellent online fanzine. I like to keep people aware of them, so here's a summary of some of the best from the past couple or three years.

A particular focus recently has been a series of close readings of short fiction. This began with a look at Samuel R. Delany's "The Star Pit", and most recently I wrote about Cordwainer Smith's "Scanners Live in Vain". Here's all seven of these posts to date, in reverse order of publication.

"Scanners Live in Vain", by Cordwainer Smith;

"The Last Flight of Dr. Ain", by James Tiptree, Jr.;

"Winter's King", by Ursula K. Le Guin;

"It Opens the Sky", by Theodore Sturgeon;

"Winter Solstice, Camelot Station", by John M. Ford;

Three Stories by Idris Seabright;

"The Star Pit", by Samuel R. Delany;

Other Black Gate posts (some reviews, a look at an old F&SF, and something slightly different):

Review of Aspects, by John M. Ford;

Review of Saint Death's Daughter, by C. S. E. Cooney;

Review of The Gentleman, by Forrest Leo;

Review of Underneath the Oversea, by Marc Laidlaw;

Snippet about finding a signed copy of the Twayne Triplet Witches Three;

Retro-Review of F&SF, Summer 1950;

Monday, June 27, 2022

Old Bestseller Review: The Five-Minute Marriage, by Joan Aiken

Old Bestseller Review: The Five-Minute Marriage, by Joan Aiken

by Rich Horton

I encountered Joan Aiken's The Wolves of Willoughby Chase and its sequels, such as Nightbirds on Nantucket, as a preteen and read them with delight. But I didn't really understand at that age that she was also a prolific writer for adults. I did read some of her sister Jane Aiken Hodge's romantic thrillers a few years later, and I knew that Joan and Jane and even their brother Branwell -- er, no, that's unfair, his name was John! -- were following in the footsteps, so to say, of their father Conrad Aiken, a Pulitzer Prize winning poet. John and Jane were born in the US, but Conrad and his first wife Jessie moved to England in 1921, and Joan was born there. Each of the Aikens seemed to have a foot in each of the US and the UK throughout, though perhaps Joan was more completely a British writer. She was born in England in 1924, and her parents divorced in 1929, her mother remarrying in 1930. Martin Armstrong (who also wrote some fantastical stories) became Joan's stepfather. Joan Aiken died in 2004. 

I jested about John Aiken's status, but it's fair to say, I think, that he was the least known of the Aikens. Interestingly, he published early stories in Astounding and New Worlds, but later largely abandoned the SF field, until a couple of novels around 1970. Jane wrote a lot of a enjoyable romantic adventure, and a biography of Georgette Heyer. And Conrad won the Poetry Pulitzer -- but despite Conrad's early success as a poet, I think that by now his name is remembered but his poetry seems largely forgotten. And now that they all are dead, it is probably Joan Aiken whose latter day reputation stands highest. Her exceptional YA fiction -- the Wolves series primarily --  is her major legacy. But she also wrote a great many nice short stories, many collected posthumously in two volumes from Kelly Link and Gavin Grant's Small Beer Press publishing venture: The Serial Garden, and The Monkey's Wedding. It seems that her quite extensive short work may be her best -- the two books I mention above are all I've read but they are outstanding.

Her adult novels aren't as well known, I think. But some time ago I picked up an ex-lib copy of The Five-Minute Marriage, from 1977. This is a Regency romance; and it's a good example of the genre as it was in the 1970s. By good I mean both truly exemplary -- it exhibits the silliness of many of those novels back then (and now!) though also, as was traditional back then, there is no sex. And by good also I mean that if you can ignore the implausibilities it is pretty enjoyable.

The heroine is Philadelphia (Delphie) Carteret, who lives with her mother and teaches music to wealthy children to make ends meet. Her mother's health is shaky, and their economic position is perilous, for Mrs. Carteret, a widow, has been estranged from her family, even though her uncle is the Sixth Viscount Bullington.

One of Delphie's students is the daughter of a rich widower, not an aristocrat (he actually made his own fortune), and he learns of their straits and realizes he actually has made the acquaintance of Lord Bullington. He writes a letter of introduction and convinces Delphie to visit her Great Uncle and convince him to give her mother the very small income that seems fair. And Delphie makes the trip, in the company of a flighty young woman whose family owns the shop above which the Carterets live. The trip seems at first a disaster, as her young friend makes a scene by falling into the Bullington's moat. They encounter the two rather forbidding young men staying there -- in particular her second cousin Gareth Penistone, Lord Bullington's grandson and heir. But it turns out that Lord Bullington is about to die, and he has insisted that Gareth marry his great-niece or else he'll give away his fortune. The woman Gareth believes is his second cousin, a certain Elaine Carteret, cannot make it to the Bullington manor in time, so Gareth makes Delphie an offer -- she will pose as Miss Carteret, and marry Gareth, in exchange for a promise of a competence for Delphie's mother. All this is absurd, of course, but fun -- for of course Gareth is actually marrying the woman he should -- the other Miss Carteret is clearly an imposter. 

Any reader of romance novels knows where this is going from here! And so, I trust, do all of you. But the novel takes its enjoyable time getting there, setting up a bit of a mystery, establishing Gareth's character nicely, giving Delphie (and her mother!) alternate potential husbands, introducing a huge array of cute children, and resolving things with a fairly Gothic climax.

What can I say? There is nothing much plausible about this novel, but I thought it plenty of fun. The leads are worth rooting for, the comic relief is nice, the mysterious aspects, easily guessable as they are, are still intriguing. It's nothing special, but it's good entertainment. Of course I'll take just about any Georgette Heyer novel before it, but among the many many other Regencies I've read, this ranks in the upper 10 percent or so.

Sunday, June 26, 2022

Hugo Nomination Recommendations, 1953

Potential Hugo nominees from 1952 (1953 Worldcon)

Continuing my project of suggesting potential Hugo nominees (and winners) for the early years of the Hugos. Here's a look at 1952. This is the year covered by the very first Hugos, from the 11th Worldcon, Philcon II, in Philadelphia, in September 1953. The only Fiction Hugo actually awarded went to Alfred Bester's novel The Demolished Man. Apparently there were plans to name a Short Fiction winner, but there were insufficient votes. The Best Magazine award was a tie between Astounding and Galaxy (that, plus the fact that The Demolished Man appeared in Galaxy, apparently enraged a segment of fans who preferred Astounding.) Best Cover Artist was also a tie, between Hannes Bok and Ed Emshwiller, and Best Interior Artist went to Virgil Finlay. All three of those artist awards make me happy, especially the one to Finlay, my favorite interior illustrator of all time. Philip José Farmer was named Best New Discovery (Writer or Artist), and Forrest J. Ackerman Favorite Fan Personality, while Willy Ley (another Galaxy contributor) won for Best Fact Articles. 

Philcon II provided a brief look at the state of the voting in their Progress Report IV, published a month or two ahead of the convention, I believe. Noting that these were early returns, only representing a subset of the members' votes, there are some fascinating details to glean. The second place novel in the voting at that time was The Long Loud Silence, by Wilson Tucker. Second place for Favorite Fan Personality was Harlan Ellison (!). Robert Madle was competing for Best Fact Articles, and Robert Sheckley was vying for Best New Discovery.

Jo Walton's Informal History of the Hugos discusses the novels, and mentions the International Fantasy Award nominees: Clifford D. Simak's City (the winner), Kurt Vonnegut's Player Piano, and C. M. Kornbluth's Takeoff. She also suggested Foundation and Empire as a potential alternative. For myself, I'm disqualifying City and Foundation and Empire because they were published some years previously, in Astounding (in multiple parts of course.) Richard A. Lupoff, in What If, Volume 1, chose William Tenn's "Firewater!" as a potential Short Fiction winner. 

I also counted, as best I could (and my count is full of likely errors) the number of short fiction pieces written by women, versus the total number. I came up with 98 stories by women out of some 1100. (I tried to eliminate duplicates, translations from earlier years, and non-genre stories, and I tried to identify pseudonyms, but all these processes are potentially error-ridden.) That comes to about 9%, which is consistent with similar counts by other people using different means for the early 1950s, which generally suggest that about 10% of the SF writers in the early 1950s were women. 

Finally, I note humbly that I haven't read everything from this period -- though I have read a lot! I'm including a few things that are so highly praised that I believe they deserve a nod even though I can't personally vouch for them, and I've added stories thanks to intriguing recommendations in the comments here and in other places. 


The Demolished Man
, by Alfred Bester

Star Man's Son aka Daybreak 2230 A.D., by Andre Norton

The Space Merchants aka "Gravy Planet", by Frederik Pohl and C. M. Kornbluth

The Sound of His Horn, by "Sarban" (John William Wall)

The Long Loud Silence, by Wilson Tucker

Player Piano, by Kurt Vonnegut

Other possibilities:

The Currents of Space, by Isaac Asimov

Jack of Eagles, by James Blish

Takeoff, by C. M. Kornbluth

Ballroom of the Skies, by John D. MacDonald

Ullr Uprising, by H. Beam Piper

The Blue Star, by Fletcher Pratt

Big Planet, by Jack Vance

Limbo, by Bernard Wolfe

Young Adult:

Vault of the Ages, by Poul Anderson

The Rolling Stones, aka "Space Family Stone", by Robert A. Heinlein

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, by C. S. Lewis

The Borrowers, by Mary Norton

I think my vote would stay with The Demolished Man, but that is pending reading The Sound of His Horn and The Long Loud Silence, both of which are highly praised by people I trust, and which I haven't yet read. (The Long Loud Silence, at any rate, is on the way!) Certainly "Gravy Planet" would have been a good choice, and so would Player Piano. Star Man's Son is a favorite early Norton of mine and many others.

The mainstream produced one major candidate: Bernard Wolfe's Limbo. (Vonnegut was still being marketed, at least to a degree, as an SF writer.) And that set of what were then called "Juveniles" is interesting. Note that the Heinlein was serialized in Boys' Life. On my latest rereading of the Chronicles of Narnia, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader became my favorite.


"Shannach -- the Last", by Leigh Brackett (Planet Stories, November)

"The Specter General", by Theodore Cogswell (Astounding, June)

"The Lovers", by Philip José Farmer (Startling, October)

"Daughters of Earth", by Judith Merrill (The Petrified Planet)

"Baby is Three", by Theodore Sturgeon (Galaxy, October)

"Firewater!", by William Tenn (Astounding, February)

Other possibilities:

"War-Maid of Mars", by Poul Anderson (Planet Stories, May)

"Sargasso of Lost Starships", by Poul Anderson (Planet Stories, January)

"Three Day Magic", by Charlotte Armstrong (F&SF, September 1952)

"Tonight the Sky Will Fall!", by Daniel F. Galouye (Imagination, May)

"Bring the Jubilee", by Ward Moore (F&SF, November 1952)

"Blood's a Rover", by Chad Oliver (Astounding, May)

"Abercrombie Station", by Jack Vance (Thrilling Wonder, February)

"Chulwell's Chickens", by Jack Vance (Thrilling Wonder, August)

I will confess now that I've never warmed to "The Lovers" much, and I include it on the nomination list above for its historical importance, and also to acknowledge that contemporary readers likely would have nominated it as it was something of a sensation. "The Specter General" is in the SF Hall of Fame, Volume II, and it's a fun story, but it's another story I've long thought overrated (especially after a recent reread.) The best story on the list is probably "Baby is Three" (also in the SF Hall of Fame, Volume II), but as an alternate choice for the 1953 Hugo (and noting that "Baby is Three" is also part of the novel More Than Human) I'm tempted to suggest "Daughters of Earth". I think this story -- an account of six generations of women central to the human colonization of extraterrestrial planets -- has been underrated from the very start. In part this may be because it was first published in an anthology that, while somewhat famous, didn't seem to sell well; and was never reprinted until Merril's 1968 collection also called Daughters of Earth. Also, it's fair to say that a significant subplot involving communication with silicon-based aliens stretched my sense of plausibility a bit. But the character stuff, the portrayal of the women, really works. 

Actually all the "other possibilities" are personal indulgences, not serious Hugo candidates, except maybe for Chad Oliver's story, or perhaps Charlotte Armstrong's story, which comes recommended by Paul Fraser. Also perhaps Ward Moore's "Bring the Jubilee", a long novella that I mentioned for its slightly longer novel version in my 1953 post. The Anderson stories are early work, and very "pulpy" (though fun), and anyway I couldn't resist mentioning "Sargasso of Lost Spaceships" having listed James Blish's "Sargasso of Lost Cities" among the candidates from 1953. The Vance stories are linked, and were published as a fixup "novel" under the title Monsters in Orbit, an Ace Double half.


"The Year of the Jackpot", by Robert A. Heinlein (Galaxy, March)

"The Martian Way", by Isaac Asimov (Galaxy, December)

"Bridge", by James Blish (Astounding, February)

"Surface Tension", by James Blish (Galaxy, August)

"The Birds", by Daphne Du Maurier (Good Housekeeping, October)

"Ararat", by Zenna Henderson (F&SF, October)

Other possibilities:

"The Deep", by Isaac Asimov (Galaxy, December)

"Youth", by Isaac Asimov (Space Science Fiction, May)

"The Last Days of Shandakor", by Leigh Brackett (Startling, April)

"Star, Bright", by Mark Clifton (Astounding, July)

"Steel Brother", by Gordon R. Dickson (Astounding, February)

"What's It Like Out There?", by Edmond Hamilton (Thrilling Wonder, December)

"That Share of Glory", by C. M. Kornbluth (Astounding, January)

"Lover When You're Near Me", by Richard Matheson (Galaxy, May)

"Noise Level", by Raymond F. Jones (Astounding, December)

"Conditionally Human", by Walter M. Miller, Jr. (Galaxy, February)

"Delay in Transit", by F. L. Wallace (Galaxy, September)

In this category I think I have to choose "Surface Tension" as the winner. But Blish's other candidate, "Bridge", the first story chronologically in Cities in Flight (and thus the first part of They Shall Have Stars) is also excellent. "The Martian Way" is one of my favorite Asimov stories. "Ararat", the first of Zenna Henderson's People stories, is very good as well; and the Heinlein and Du Maurier stories are also excellent. Still, "Surface Tension" remains the best and most significant story of this bunch. (Note that the version in The Seedling Stars is a fixup of the Galaxy novelette and a much earlier story, Blish's first significant story, "Sunken Universe", from the May 1942 issue of Super Science Stories, as by "Arthur Merlyn" (talk about a pseudonym that screams "pseudonym"!) Blish significantly revised it for the novel version.)

From the other possibilities -- a pretty good list in itself -- I'll mention in particular Raymond F. Jones' "Noise Level", a pure quill Campbellian crank story, but one which I found very effective on a recent reread. Indeed, Jones is a writer worth a look, sort of in the Daniel F. Galouye or J. T. MacIntosh realm -- an uneven and sometimes irritating writer who could still be intriguing. And "Conditionally Human" is generally remembered as a novella, but the 1952 Galaxy version was a novelette, expanded for its reprinting in the T. E. Dikty anthology Year's Best Science Fiction Novels: 1953.) I should also add that "What's it Like Out There?" is quite a powerful story about an embittered spaceman returning from Mars -- it may be the best story Hamilton every wrote.

Short Stories

"A Sound of Thunder", by Ray Bradbury (Collier's, June 28)

"Hobson's Choice", by Alfred Bester (F&SF, August)

"What Have I Done?", by Mark Clifton (Astounding, May)

"The Analogues", by Damon Knight (Astounding, January)

"The Snowball Effect", by Katherine MacLean (Galaxy, September)

"An Egg a Month from All Over", by "Idris Seabright" (Margaret St. Clair) (F&SF, October)

Other possibilities:

"Beyond Lies the Wub", by Philip K. Dick (Planet Stories, July)

"Faq'", by George P. Elliott (The Hudson Review, Spring)

"The Foxholes of Mars", by Fritz Leiber (Thrilling Wonder, June)

"The Altar at Midnight", by C. M. Kornbluth (Galaxy, November)

"The Luckiest Man in Denv", by C. M. Kornbluth (Galaxy, June)

"The Fly", by Arthur Porges (F&SF, September)

"I Am Nothing", by Eric Frank Russell (Astounding, July)

Another set of pretty strong stories. I'm torn between "An Egg a Month from All Over", which is clever and mounts to a delightfully nasty ending; and "The Analogues", a brilliant and scary piece that became part of a less effective novel, Hell's Pavement. The George Elliott piece, which has been called Borgesian, is worth a look, from a writer who often touched on the fantastic.

Monday, June 20, 2022

Old Bestseller Review: The Happy Harvest, by Jeffery Farnol

Old Bestseller Review: The Happy Harvest, by Jeffery Farnol

by Rich Horton

Very early in my "Old Bestseller" project I reviewed Jeffery Farnol's Guyfford of Weare. It's an enjoyable novel, and so are the two that made Farnol's reputation, The Broad Highway and The Amateur Gentleman. Over time I've picked up a couple further Farnol novels, and I've just read a later one, from 1939, The Happy Harvest. Sad to say, it doesn't really work as well as those other novels.

John Jeffery Farnol (1878-1952) was born in England to a metal worker, and trained as an artist. He married an American girl in 1900 and they lived in the US for a while. Farnol worked as a scene painter at first, then turned to writing. His first novel appeared in 1907, and his first big success was The Broad Highway in 1910. He moved back to England around this time. He was a very popular writer (and indeed The Broad Highway was the bestselling book in the US in 1910), best known for romances, often set during the Regency (though some novels were contemporary and some set in other historical periods.) Farnol was a significant influence on the supreme writer of Regency romances, Georgette Heyer, who was a generation younger. 

The Happy Harvest fits into two separate sequences of novels. It is the middle book in a loose trilogy, with The Crooked Furrow (1937) and his last finished novel, Waif of the River (1952). (One more novel was substantially written by his wife from his notes following his death.) It is also one of a number of novels featuring the character Jasper Shrig, a Bow Street Runner who solves murder mysteries in many of these books. 

The events of The Happy Harvest take place about a decade after The Crooked Furrow. That book concerns two cousins, Roland Verinder and Oliver Dale. Their uncle proposes that they each live on their own means for a year to prove their worth, and they fall in love with the same girl, and have adventures, and Oliver ends up rescuing two young children from a life in the streets, while Roland wins the girl. As The Happy Harvest opens, Oliver, in his late 30s by now, is looking forward to the two children he rescued, Clia and Robin, who are now about 20, marrying each other. Clia, however, has other ideas. She has long planned to marry Oliver (shades of Heinlein's The Door Into Summer.) For that matter Robin, if basically a good sort, is rather rackety and undisciplined.

Complications ensue when a particularly nasty local man turns up murdered. This man had gotten another girl pregnant and abandoned her, leading to her suicide. He tried to rape Clia, though she escaped. Soon after he is found dead, and Robin is immediately the chief suspect. He escapes to London, and to Oliver's Aunt Rosamund, who runs a home with the object of helping the poor. Oliver, after some waffling, realizes that Robin must be innocent, and he asks his old friend Jasper Shrig to investigate. Meanwhile, Clia, already rattled by the realization that she wanted her potential rapist killed, is devastated to learn from a blackmailer that her father was also a murderer and her mother a suicide. 

There's not a ton of suspense, really. We know from the beginning that Oliver truly loves Clia and will submit to her desire that he marry her; and that Jasper Shrig will learn that she is not actually the daughter of a murderer; and that Jasper will also learn who really killed the bad guy. The solution to the latter mystery is pretty guessable. And to be honest I was really bothered by the book's tacit endorsement of Clia's belief that if her father (whom she never knew) was a murderer, so she must be as well. (To be fair, Aunt Rosamund opposes this belief, but no one else seems to.) Oliver and Clia are enjoyable characters I suppose, but not as interesting as say Sir Richard and Helen D'Arcy in Guyfford of Weare. And Robin, as well as cousin Roland, are rather tiresome and implausible. In his best books, Farnol's dialogue is pretty sparkling, but that's not really true here. Finally, the structure of the novel is partly built on a conceit -- that Oliver is writing it as the events unfold. This doesn't really hurt the novel too much, but it does seem strained. 

So, this seems a minor part of Farnol's oeuvre. It's not terrible, but it's far from great. I'll still likely try a few more of his books, though. 

Saturday, June 18, 2022

Hugo Nomination Recommendations, 1954

Potential Hugo nominess from 1953 (1954 Worldcon -- SFCon, in San Francisco)

Continuing my project of suggesting potential Hugo nominees (and winners) for the early years of the Hugos. The 1959 Worldcon was the first to settle on a year of eligibility (the calendar year prior to the year of the Worldcon) and on a nomination process. The nomination process, voting rules, and categories changed quite often over the next 10 to 15 years, before largely settling down, in the fiction categories, anyway. But at least to some extent, things were more comparable to present day rules beginning with the 1959 Hugos, for 1958 stories.

There were no Hugos awarded at the 1954 Worldcon -- and perhaps as a result, there has been some attention paid to potential Hugos from that year! And, indeed, there were Retro Hugos awarded at the 2004 Worldcon. 

Jo Walton's Informal History of the Hugos didn't really cover 1954, as there were no Hugos that year, though she suggested that Theodore Sturgeon's More Than Human would have been a good novel winner. Richard A. Lupoff, in What If, Volume 1, chose Damon Knight's "Four in One" as a potential Short Fiction winner. And Noreascon 4, the 2004 World SF Cconvention, did award Retro Hugos, and there was a quite a plausible set of five nominees in each of the fiction categories. I've marked the nominees (and winner) with a bolded RH (not to be confused with my initials!) in the lists below. And, finally, I wrote an article for Locus Online back in 2004, suggesting potential nominees in the fiction categories. I've changed my mind some since then, and I also messed up some of the story lengths, but I still like what I wrote, which is here: The Best Science Fiction of 1953: A Look a Potential Retro Hugos.


The Caves of Steel, by Isaac Asimov RH

Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury RH winner

Childhood's End, by Arthur C. Clarke RH

Mission of Gravity, by Hal Clement RH

More Than Human, by Theodore Sturgeon RH

Other possibilities:

The Big Jump, by Leigh Brackett

Revolt in 2100, by Robert A. Heinlein

Starman Jones, by Robert A. Heinlein

The Sinful Ones, by Fritz Leiber

The Green Millennium, by Fritz Leiber

You Shall Know Them aka Les Animaux Denatures, by "Vercors" (Jean Bruller)

Bring the Jubilee, by Ward Moore

Children of the Atom, by Wilmar Shiras

The Kraken Wakes aka Out of the Deeps, by John Wyndham

This was a remarkable year for SF novels, and the five that I list as nominees -- the same list the Retro Hugo nominators picked -- are all certified classics in the field. There some impressive alternate choices too -- among those I list, Leiber's The Sinful Ones (an expansion and in my opinion an improvement on his 1950 short novel "You're All Alone") is a personal favorite. In my Locus article I picked The Caves of Steel as the winner, but I'm really torn. Nowadays I might lean to either More Than Human, or to the Retro Hugo winner, Fahrenheit 451.

The Vercors novel, You Shall Know Them, was published in France in 1952 but I list it here for the first edition of its English translation (by Bruller's wife, Rita Barisse). (There were other editions of the English version (the same translation): The Murder of the Missing Link and Borderline.) It's a purposely controversial novel, and hard to take at times, but very interesting. My review: You Shall Know Them.


"A Case of Conscience", by James Blish (If, September) RH winner

"The Rose", by Charles Harness (Authentic, March) RH

"Double Meaning", by Damon Knight (Startling, January)

"The Diploids", by Katherine MacLean (Thrilling Wonder, April)

"... And My Fear is Great", by Theodore Sturgeon (Beyond, July) RH

Other possibilities:

"Three Hearts and Three Lions", by Poul Anderson (F&SF, September and October) RH

"Un-Man", by Poul Anderson (Astounding, January) RH

"Sargasso of Lost Cities", by James Blish (Two Complete Science-Adventure Books, Spring)

"The Wanton of Argus", by John Brunner (as "Kilian Houston Brunner") (Two Complete Science-Adventure Books, September)

"Cue for Quiet", by T. L. Sherred (Space Science Fiction, May and July)

In this category my choice for the winner is still Charles Harness's "The Rose", an extremely strange, dreamlike, story of science vs. art. The rest of the ones I list as possible nominees are all strong, though, and any one would have been a good winner.

The "other possibilities" include two solid Poul Anderson stories ("Three Hearts and Three Lions" being a shorter version of the 1961 novel), one of several interesting T. L. Sherred stories from this time frame, an enjoyable but slight very early Brunner story (later reprinted as half of an Ace Double and also as part of his collection Interstellar Empire as "The Space-Time Juggler"), and an important Blish story that I had missed (thanks to Gregory Feeley for reminding me of it) that became part of Cities in Flight. Note the two novellas from the somewhat obscure (but often interesting) Two Complete Science-Adventure Books.


"The Wall Around the World", by Theodore Cogswell (Beyond, September) RH

"Second Variety", by Philip K. Dick (Space Science Fiction, May) RH

"Four in One", by Damon Knight (Galaxy, February)

"Lot", by Ward Moore (F&SF, May)

"Mr. Costello, Hero", by Theodore Sturgeon (Galaxy, December)

Other possibilities:

"Earthman Come Home", by James Blish (Astounding, November) RH Winner

"Belief", by Isaac Asimov (Astounding, October)

"Sam Hall", by Poul Anderson (Astounding, August) RH

"The Adventure of the Misplaced Hound", by Poul Anderson and Gordon R. Dickson (Universe, December) RH

"Time is the Traitor", by Alfred Bester (F&SF, September)

"A Way of Thinking", by Theodore Sturgeon (E Pluribus Unicorn; Amazing, October-November)

"What Thin Partitions", by Mark Clifton and Alex Apostolides (Astounding, September)

"Hide! Hide! Witch", by Mark Clifton and Alex Apostolides (Astounding, December)

"A Little Knowledge", by Judith Merril (Science Fiction Quarterly, November)

"The Third Guest" aka "Macario", by B. Traven (Fantastic, March-April)

"Eye for Iniquity", by T. L. Sherred (Beyond, July)

This is one of those categories  where I had a hard time narrowing down to five nominees. "Earthman, Come Home", "Sam Hall", and "Time is the Traitor" could easily have made my list. I should add that it's a reasonable guess that back in 1954, at least one of those Clifton/Apostolides stories would have been nominated. In my Locus article, I chose "Four in One" as the winner -- and so did Richard A. Lupoff in his What If? anthology. My second choice would probably be the Cogswell story, "The Wall Around the World". 

Short Stories

"It's a Good Life", by Jerome Bixby (Star Science Fiction Stories No. 2) RH

"Common Time", by James Blish (Shadow of Tomorrow; Science Fiction Quarterly, August)

"The Nine Billion Names of God", by Arthur C. Clarke (Star Science Fiction Stories) RH winner

"Specialist", by Robert Sheckley (Galaxy, May)

"A Saucer of Loneliness", by Theodore Sturgeon (Galaxy, February; E Pluribus Unicorn) RH

"The Liberation of Earth", by "William Tenn" (Philip Klass) (Future, May)

Other possibilities:

"The Hypnoglyph", by "John Anthony" (John Ciardi) (F&SF, July)

"Disappearing Act", by Alfred Bester (Star Science Fiction Stories No. 2)

"Star Light, Star Bright", by Alfred Bester (F&SF, July) RH

"Testament of Andros", by James Blish (Future, January)

"Encounter in the Dawn" aka "Expedition to Earth" aka "Encounter at Dawn", by Arthur C. Clarke (Amazing, June-July)

"Impostor", by Philip K. Dick (Astounding, June)

"The Man With English", by H. L. Gold (Star Science Fiction Stories)

"A Bad Day for Sales", by Fritz Leiber (Galaxy, July; Shadow of Tomorrow)

"The Night He Cried", by Fritz Leiber (Star Science Fiction Stories)

"Crucifixus Etiam", by Walter M. Miller, Jr. (Astounding, February)

"All Cats are Gray", by "Andrew North" (Andre Norton) (Fantastic Universe, August-September)

"As Holy and Enchanted", by "Henderson Starke" (Kris Neville) (Avon Science Fiction and Fantasy Reader, April)

"The Ruum", by Arthur Porge (F&SF, October)

"Seventh Victim", by Robert Sheckley (Galaxy, April) RH

"Warm", by Robert Sheckley (Galaxy, June)

"The Altruists", by "Idris Seabright" (Margaret St. Clair) (F&SF, November)

"The World Well Lost", by Theodore Sturgeon (Galaxy, June; E Pluribus Unicorn)

"DP!", by Jack Vance (Avon Science Fiction and Fantasy Reader, April)

"Unready to Wear", by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. (Galaxy, April)

Long list of stories in this category! I included some more for secondary reasons -- I remain intrigued that the great poet and Dante translator John Ciardi was also an SF enthusiast (and a friend of Asimov's) who appeared in F&SF several times over the years. The Clarke story is the first iteration of the idea behind 2001. Robert Sheckley had an astonishing year, and probably three or four more stories could have been listed. I note that the three stories I do list come from consecutive issues of Galaxy

Note too the influence of Frederik Pohl as an editor. He published the first two volumes of his Star Science Fiction series of original anthologies, and also a excellent standalone original anthology (Shadow of Tomorrow). Also note that Sturgeon's collection E Pluribus Unicorn featured more or less simultaneous printings of three stories that also appeared in magazines. (I suspect perhaps Sturgeon had sold the stories to the magazines some time before, and publication was delayed enough that the book caught up!)

My choice for a winner in my Locus article was James Blish's "Common Time". I still think that's a good choice, though "A Saucer of Loneliness" is one of my very favorite Sturgeon stories and it would have been a good winner too. 

Saturday, June 11, 2022

Hugo Nomination Recommendations, 1957

This post will discuss potential Hugo nominees, and winners, published in 1956. According to present day rules, stories published in 1956 would have been eligible for the 1957 Hugos. However, there were no fiction Hugos in 1957. According to the rules in place for the 1956 Hugos, stories from June 1955 through June 1956 were eligible, and in fact the 1956 winners included two stories from 1956 (the novel winner, Double Star, and the novelette winner, "Exploration Team".) In the lists below, I've marked 1956 Hugo nominees with a *.

As ever, I'll mention Richard Lupoff's Hugo choice for 1956, from his anthology What If? Volume 1: "The Man Who Came Early", by Poul Anderson.


The Naked Sun, by Isaac Asimov

The Stars My Destination aka Tiger! Tiger!, by Alfred Bester

They Shall Have Stars, by James Blish

The City and the Stars, by Arthur C. Clarke

Double Star, by Robart A. Heinlein*

Under Pressure, by Frank Herbert

Other possibilies:

Star Ways, by Poul Anderson

The Death of Grass aka No Blade of Grass, by John Christopher

Nerves, by Lester Del Rey

The Man Who Japed, by Philip K. Dick

Pincher Martin, by William Golding

The Door Into Summer, by Robert A. Heinlein

The Last Battle, by C. S. Lewis

Plague Ship, by Andre Norton

The One Hundred and One Dalmatians, by Dodie Smith

To Live Forever aka Clarges, by Jack Vance

Actually this is quite a decent set of novels, and I stretched the nomination list to six, and actually the John Christopher and Jack Vance novels, and even The Door Into Summer, could have displaced a couple of my nominations. I list Pincher Martin, a novel I like a great deal, because it's technically fantasy (I won't say in what way because that might be a spoiler) but I think it's more usefully regarded as contemporary fiction. Dodie Smith's children's book is great fun, but only peripherally fantastical, though the sequel, The Starlight Barking, is explicitly SF. (Alas, I greatly dislike The Starlight Barking.) The City and the Stars, of course, is an extensively rewritten version of Clarke's first novel, Against the Fall of Night, but I sometimes prefer the earlier version. (And one might as well read both -- the differences are quite significant.)

Double Star won the Hugo in 1956, and I like it a lot; but -- and I don't think this will surprise anyone -- my easy, slam dunk, choice for the 1957 Hugo (had I had a chance to vote two years before I was born!) would be The Stars My Destination. (In reality, its eligibility rests on the technicality that the UK edition, Tiger! Tiger!, appeared in 1956. The US serialization, in Galaxy, didn't conclude until the January 1957 issue (which of course could be read in 1956) and the book appeared a couple of months later.)


"Bodyguard", by "Christopher Grimm" (H. L. Gold) (Galaxy, February)

"Envoy Extraordinary", by William Golding (Sometime, Never)

"Boy in Darkness", by Mervyn Peake (Sometime, Never)

"Plus X", by Eric Frank Russell (Astounding, June)

"The Ties of Earth", by James H. Schmitz (Galaxy, November 1955, January 1956)

"The Shores of Night", by Thomas N. Scortia (The Best Science-Fiction Stories and Novels: 1956)

"Consider Her Ways", by John Wyndham (Sometime, Never)

This list of potential novella winners is interesting to me. I list three from a single, quite remarkable, volume, Sometime, Never, which featured striking works by three British writers. The Scortia story seems to have appeared first in Ted Dikty's Best of the Year volume! 

If there was a separate novella category at that time, I suspect "Plus X" would have won. My choice would have been ... I don't know! Maybe "Consider Her Ways"? Maybe "Bodyguard", a now obscure story that I quite liked. Maybe "The Ties of Earth", a very unusual departure for James Schmitz -- not really a great story, kind of a mess, but -- interesting.


"The Man Who Came Early", by Poul Anderson (F&SF, June)

"The Dead Past", by Isaac Asimov (Astounding, April)

"A Time to Survive" aka "Seeding Program", by James Blish (F&SF, February)

"Brightside Crossing", by Alan E. Nourse (Galaxy, January)*

"And Now the News ...", by Theodore Sturgeon (F&SF, September)

Other possibilies:

"Non-Stop", by Brian W. Aldiss (Science Fantasy, February)

"A Gun for Dinosaur", by L. Sprague de Camp (Galaxy, March)*

"The Minority Report", by Philip K. Dick (Fantastic Universe, January)

"Volpla", by Wyman Guin (Galaxy, May)

"Exploration Team", by Murray Leinster (Astounding, March)*

"Stranger Station", by Damon Knight (F&SF, September)

"The Man Who Ate the World", by Frederik Pohl (Galaxy, November)

"Legwork", by Eric Frank Russell (Astounding, April)*

"So Bright the Vision", by Clifford D. Simak (Fantastic Universe, August)

"The Skills of Xanadu", by Theodore Sturgeon (Galaxy, July)

The nomination list I give has to be one of the greatest possible sets of five novelettes in a single year. How to choose even one? Especially between the three best, three of the truly best stories in SF history: "The Man Who Came Early", "The Dead Past", and "And Now the News ...". In 1956 "Exploration Team" won -- and it's a nice enough story, and something in me is glad Murray Leinster (Will Jenkins) won a Hugo -- but how in the world could the voters have picked it over "The Dead Past"? (I would guess "The Man Who Came Early" was considered a short story, and "And Now the News ..." was too late in the year. Of the others listed, at least "Stranger Station" and "The Minority Report" could easily have made my nomination list.

My winner? ... Gosh, any of those top three would be good. I'll go with "And Now the News ..." today -- might choose either "The Dead Past" or "The Man Who Came Early" tomorrow.

Short Story:

"The Last Question", by Isaac Asimov (Science Fiction Quarterly, November)

"A Work of Art" aka "Art-Work", by James Blish (Science Fiction Stories, July)

"Prima Belladonna", by J. G. Ballard (Science Fantasy, December)

"The Anything Box", by Zenna Henderson (F&SF, October)

"The Country of the Kind", by Damon Knight (F&SF. February)

"Honorable Opponent", by Clifford D. Simak (Galaxy, August)

Other possibilies:

"Junior", by Robert Abernathy (Galaxy, January)*

"Tomb Tapper", by James Blish (Astounding, July)

"Escapement", by J. G. Ballard (New Worlds, December)

"Silent Brother", by Algis Budrys (Astounding, February)

I think the clear winner here is "The Country of the Kind". "The Last Question" is a story lots of people love, but for me it's just a gimmick story. "The Anything Box" might be number 2 on my list.

In 1957, with just two categories, "The Man Who Came Early" might have been a short story, and it would get my vote -- and if I cop out and claim "And Now the News ..." isn't really SF, then I can give the Novelette (in those days, typically, "story over 10,000 words") award to "The Dead Past". How's that for waffling?

Saturday, June 4, 2022

Hugo Nomination Recommendations, 1956

 Potential Hugo Awards for 1955 Stories (1956 Hugos)

I admit now -- this has become a project for me, to go through most years of the 1950s and figure out what my choices for potential Hugo nominations for fiction might be. I think the years from 1952 to 1957 are interesting years to study, because for a variety of reasons, the Hugo nominations for those years are either unknown, nonexistent, or inconsistent. This is due to three factors -- the Hugos were just getting started, and so in some years there were no Hugos, or no fiction Hugos. The Hugo rules were wildly inconsistent, especially as to time of eligibility, so the Hugos (and the nomination list, in the one year it is known) might have first appeared in the year of the Worldcon, the year prior (as is now standard) or even before then. That all adds up to some years with no Hugos, and some with multiple. 1959 was the first year in which the rules were codified as to year of elibigility (the calendar year before the Worldcon) and as to beginning with a list of nominees for the voter to choose from. In the end I decided to cover all the years in the 1950s, plus 1949.

Of course I'm interested in stories from all years ... which do I think are the best? Which do I think were missed, and which were maybe ahead of their time? One project that explored this question pretty well through the year 2000 was Jo Walton's An Informal History of the Hugos. This began as a series of posts for Tor.com, and a number of us contributed further suggestions in the comments. For myself, I began rigorously commenting on my choices for the best short fiction (and often also novels) of each year -- beginning with 1958! So this latter day effort is sort of filling in what I missed back then! (I do very much recommend that anyone interested in SF history, and Hugo Awards history, should buy Jo's book!) I note, by the way, that I am not second-guessing the voters from that period -- they voted for the stories they liked best. My choices are a) idiosyncratically mine; and b) reflect both cultural changes in the ensuing decades, and also increased visibility to certain stories (typically from other countries, or from non-SF sources) that likely were simply not noticed by voters in that period.

I should emphasize that I am standing on the shoulders of giants here -- not just Jo Walton, but also Richard A. Lupoff, who published three excellent anthologies called What If?, selecting a single Hugo-winning story from each "Hugo year" (including the "missing years" such as 1954) between 1952 and 1973 (that is, Worldcons from 1953 through 1974) that in his view should have won a Hugo. I read those anthologies with delight, and I agree with almost all of Lupoff's suggestions for alternate Hugos, even if in some cases I'd slightly prefer another choice. His choice from 1955 is "One Ordinary Day, with Peanuts", by Shirley Jackson, a choice I certainly endorse (as noted below), even as I acknowledge that the actual short story winner, "The Star", is one of the really good Hugo winners.

So, here is my selection of potential nominees for the 1956 Hugo Awards, had they been done according to present day rules! There actually was a set of potential nominees presented by the convention committee that year -- it's not clear whether the committee made those suggestions, or whether they were a result of some sort of poll. Even so, the eligibility period was explicitly stated to be from June 1955 through June 1956 ... but the nominees in the end included a story from 1954 (and that an outstanding one, Algis Budrys' "The End of Summer"), and several from 1956 -- the novel winner (Robert A. Heinlein's Double Star); the novelette winner ("Exploration Team", by Murray Leinster, plus novelettes "Legwork", by Eric Frank Russell, "Brightside Crossing", by Alan E. Nourse, "A Gun for Dinosaur", by L. Sprague de Camp, and "The Assistant Self", by F. L. Wallace; and one short story, "The Dragon", by Ray Bradbury. My list will consist only of stories from 1955 (those on the 1956 Hugos nomination list will be indicated with an asterisk.) 

I'll note as well that two of the 1955 Hugo winners actually were published in 1955 ("The Darfsteller" and "Allamagoosa") so in that sense short fiction from 1955 (at least the first half) did get a fair shake at the Hugos!


I have to think that if I'd been a Hugo voter in 1956 and I was presented with the nomination list below, 1955 only (that is, no Double Star, an awfully worthy winner except it's from 1956), I'd have voted for The End of Eternity, which has long been my favorite Asimov novel. That said, from a certain historical viewpoint, it's easy to see now that the best (or at least most significant) SF/Fantasy novel from 1956 was The Return of the King.

The End of Eternity
, by Isaac Asimov*

Earthman, Come Home, James Blish

The Long Tomorrow, by Leigh Brackett*

Tunnel in the Sky, by Robert A. Heinlein

The Return of the King, by J. R. R. Tolkien

Other possibilities:

No World of Their Own aka The Long Way Home, by Poul Anderson

Solar Lottery, by Philip K. Dick

Earthlight, Arthur C. Clarke

A World of Difference, Robert Conquest

Hell's Pavement, Damon Knight

Not This August, by C. M. Kornbluth*

The Magician's Nephew, by C. S. Lewis

Preferred Risk, by "Edson McCann" (Lester Del Rey and Frederik Pohl)

Star Guard, by Andre Norton

Call Him Dead aka Three to Conquer, by Eric Frank Russell*

The Green Queen aka Mistress of Viridis, by Margaret St. Clair

Revolt on Alpha C, by Robert Silverberg (listed only because it was one of the first SF books I read, in the Scholastic edition, borrowed from my library back when I was 10 or so. It's not actually very good, and it's also only novella length.)

The Chrysalids aka Re-Birth, by John Wyndham


Part of me wants to vote for "The [Widget], the [Wadget], and Boff", which is heartbreaking, and for the first half bids fair to be one of the greatest SF stories of all time, but which unfortunately can't quite find its way to a great ending. Instead, I think I'd go with the story that actually won the 1955 Hugo (instead of 1956, that is) ... "The Darfsteller".

"The Snows of Ganymede", by Poul Anderson (Startling, Winter)

"Father", by Philip Jose Farmer (F&SF, July)

"The Darfsteller", by Walter M. Miller, Jr. (Astounding, January)

"Time Crime", by H. Beam Piper (Astounding, February and March)

"The [Widget], the [Wadget], and Boff", by Theodore Sturgeon (F&SF, November and December)

"The Gift of Gab", by Jack Vance (Astounding, September)


For me, the choice here is pretty easy: "The Earth Quarter", by Damon Knight. It's close to novella length, and was later expanded as an Ace Double called The Sun Saboteurs, which is actually a long novella, and which seems to be the version later reprinted in Knight's collections (under the much better original title.) But I prefer the original version, one of the best of Damon Knight's stories. The Miller and Pohl stories are both very strong, mind you, and indeed this whole list is excellent.

"The Earth Quarter", by Damon Knight (If, January)

"Home There's No Returning", by Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore (No Boundaries)*

"Two Handed Engine", by Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore (F&SF, August)

"A Canticle for Leibowitz", by Walter M. Miller, Jr. (F&SF, April)

"The Tunnel Under the World", by Frederik Pohl (Galaxy, January)

"Who?" aka "Bulkhead", by Theodore Sturgeon (Galaxy, March)*

Other possibilities:

"Delenda Est", by Poul Anderson (F&SF, December)

"Sense from Thought Divide", by Mark Clifton (Astounding, March)

"The Cave of Night", by James Gunn (Galaxy, February)

"Pottage", by Zenna Henderson (F&SF, September)

"Stream of Consciousness", by Roy Hutchins (Beyond #10)

"Grandpa", by James H. Schmitz (Astounding, February)

Short Stories:

I love this six story nomination list, and a big part of me would like to vote for either "Watershed" or "One Ordinary Day, with Peanuts", two really great stories. But it's hard to argue with "The Star", a profoundly affecting Hugo winner.

"Dreaming is a Private Thing", by Isaac Asimov (F&SF, December)

"The Star", by Arthur C. Clarke (Infinity, November)*

"Watershed", by James Blish (If, May)

"One Ordinary Day, with Peanuts", by Shirley Jackson (F&SF, January)

"The Game of Rat and Dragon", by "Cordwainer Smith" (Paul A. Linebarger) (Galaxy, October)*

"The Discovery of Morniel Mathaway", by "William Tenn" (Philip Klass) (Galaxy, October)

Other possibilities:

"Junior", by Robert Abernathy (Galaxy, January)

"The Bone That Seeks", by "John Anthony" (John Ciardi) (F&SF, March)

"King of the Hill", by James Blish (Infinity, November)*

"Nobody Bothers Gus", by Algis Budrys (Astounding, November)*

"The Golem", by Avram Davidson (F&SF, March)

"Judgment Day", by L. Sprague de Camp (Astounding, August)

"The Strange Children", by Elisabeth Sanxay Holding (F&SF, August)

"The Hoofer", by Walter M. Miller, Jr. (Fantastic Universe, September)

"Allamagoosa", by Eric Frank Russell (Astounding, May)

"Spy Story" aka "Citizen in Space", by Robert Sheckley (Playboy, September)*

"A Ticket to Tranai", by Robert Sheckley (Galaxy, October)

"The Vilbar Party", by Evelyn E. Smith (Fantastic Universe, July)

"Bright Segment", by Theodore Sturgeon (Caviar)

"Twink", by Theodore Sturgeon (Galaxy, September)*

"End as a World", by F. L. Wallace (Galaxy, September)*