Potential Hugo nominess from 1950 (1951 Worldcon)
As noted, I'm planning to finish up my posts on potential Hugo nominees for 1950s Worldcons, including those that didn't award Hugos. This is a case (as with 1954) where stories from the eligibility year (i.e. 1950) had a shot at Retro-Hugos, as Milliennium Philcon, the 2001 Worldcon, chose to award them. (Appropriate, I suppose, as the 1953 Philcon originated the Hugo Awards.) And in fact I wrote a post back in 2001 giving my recommendations for Retro Hugos that year. This appeared in SF Site here. I am bemused to find that my recommendations from back then are almost exactly the same as I came up with surveying 1950s SF just now.
The 1951 Worldcon was Nolacon I, in New Orleans, the ninth World Science Fiction Convention. As I said, they gave no Hugo awards. This was the first year of the International Fantasy Awards, and both were given to books published in 1949: fiction went to George Stewart's, Earth Abides (surely a strong choice) and non-fiction to The Conquest of Space, by Willy Ley and Chesley Bonestell.
The Retro Hugos in 2001 ended up going to Robert A. Heinlein twice (Best Novel to Farmer in the Sky, Best Novella to "The Man Who Sold the Moon") and to C. M. Kornbluth's "The Little Black Bad" for Best Novelette plus Damon Knight's "To Serve Man" for Best Short Story. "To Serve Man", along with the best artist award to Kelly Freas, serve to illustrate two key problems with Retro Hugos -- one, that a story will get the award because people remember it due to its later adaptation (the award to "To Serve Man" ought to have been retitled "Best Twilight Zone Episode"); snd two, that a writer or artist will get an award because they gained (and deserved) fame for later work, as with Kelly Freas, whose only 1950 painting was his first pro work, and who at that time was far less accomplished than the likes of Virgil Finlay and Edd Cartier (to say nothing of the likes of Chesley Bonestell, Hubert Rogers, and Earle Bergey.) Anyway, I'll highlight the Retro Hugo nominees below with a bolded RH.
Needle, by Hal Clement
Shadow on the Hearth, by Judith Merril
Gormenghast, by Mervyn Peake
"Time Quarry" aka Time and Again aka First He Died, by Clifford D. Simak
The Dreaming Jewels aka The Synthetic Man, by Theodore Sturgeon (RH nominee as novella)
Pebble in the Sky, by Isaac Asimov (RH nominee)
"... and Now You Don't", by Isaac Asimov (RH nominee as novella)
The Castle of Iron, by L. Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt
"You're All Alone", by Fritz Leiber
Wine of the Dreamers, by John D. McDonald
First Lensman, by Edward E. "Doc" Smith (RH nominee)
The Dying Earth, by Jack Vance (RH nominee)
The Five Gold Bands aka The Space Pirate aka The Rapparee, by Jack Vance
The Wizard of Linn, by A. E. Van Vogt
Farmer in the Sky, by Robert A. Heinlein (RH winner)
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, by C. S. Lewis (RH nominee)
I've made some choices in delineating between "Other Possibilities" and my nomination list that might not have been made by voters back then: I didn't list "... And Now You Don't" partly because we now know it as the second part of Second Foundation. I consider The Dying Earth more of a story collection. I prefer the expanded version of "You're All Alone", The Sinful Ones, which I mentioned in my post for that year. I left off the two YA novels -- for one thing, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is novella length; but more to the point, though I like both books, neither are among the author's best. And, finally, I think First Lensman (the only Lensmen book I've read) is truly dire. Had I read it when I was 12, perhaps I'd think differently. The Five Gold Bands is minor early Vance, but kind of fun. The Wizard of Linn is actually almost good for a Van Vogt novel, which naturally means that people who "get" Van Vogt don't like it much! The Castle of Iron, by the way, first appeared in Unknown in 1941, but the book version is much expanded. And I didn't even mention I, Robot or The Martian Chronicles, arguably the two most important SF books from 1950 -- but I consider them both story collections.
My choice for a winner is Gormenghast, which wouldn't have gotten a sniff from fans in 1950. Needle -- a significantly expanded version of the 1949 two-part Astounding serial -- would be a good choice, as would the Sturgeon. But Gormenghast is clearly the one that has lasted the most.
"Flight to Forever", by Poul Anderson (Super Science Stories, Nomvember) (RH nominee)
"There Shall Be No Darkness", by James Blish (Thrilling Wonder Stories, April)
"The Man Who Sold the Moon", by Robert A. Heinlein (The Man Who Sold the Moon) (RH winner)
"Paradise Street", by "Lawrence O'Donnell" (C. L. Moore) (Astounding, September)
"Guyal of Sfere", by Jack Vance (The Dying Earth)
"The Rocketeers Have Shaggy Ears", by Keith Bennett (Planet Stories, Spring)
"Citadel of Lost Ages", by Leigh Brackett (Thrilling Wonder Stories, December)
"The Rebel of Valkyr", by Alfred Coppel (Planet Stories, Fall)
"Last Enemy", by H. Beam Piper (Astounding, August) (RH nominee)
"Chateau D'If" aka "New Bodies for Old", by Jack Vance (Thrilling Wonder Stories, August)
I don't really have a strong dispute with the choice to award the Retro Hugo to "The Man Who Stole the Moon", but my personal choice is pretty clear: "Guyal of Sfere", the final story of The Dying Earth, with one of my favorite last lines of all time: "Together they looked up at the bright stars. What shall we do?" "Paradise Street" is a very fine "space western". I attribute it to Moore solely, which seems the standard view, but as with most "Lawrence O'Donnell" stories there's a possibility that Kuttner contributed as well.
I kind of struggled to fill out the other two spots on my fake nomination "ballot", and the Piper or the Brackett, at least, could have replaced the Blish or Anderson. (Or, indeed, I might have chosen The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardobe, as I did in my 2001 article.) I include the Keith Bennett story mainly for the title! The Alfred Coppel story is great fun, complete with horses in starship holds. Coppel later expanded it into a four book YA series, beginning with The Rebel of Rhada (1968), under the pseudonym Robert Cham Gilman.
The Retro Hugo nominees were curious -- besides "Last Enemy" and "The Man Who Sold the Moon" they were "... And Now You Don't", "The Dreaming Jewels", and L. Ron Hubbard's disgusting "To the Stars". "... And Now You Don't" -- a three part serial! -- and "The Dreaming Jewels" are both definitely novel length, and I think they should have been disqualified. (Indeed, I complained at the time, but didn't know how to bring it directly to the attention of the Hugo administrator.) "To the Stars" was a two-part serial, and is probably a bit shorter than 40,000 words, so it was eligible. (It was later expanded and published in book form as Return to Tomorrow.) I've discussed it before -- it's a morally vile piece of work. "The Man Who Sold the Moon" is also long enough at some 36,000 words it could have been called a novel.
"Okie", by James Blish (Astounding, April) (RH nominee)
"The New Reality", by Charles Harness (Thrilling Wonder Stories, December)
"The Little Black Bag", by C. M. Kornbluth (Astounding, July) (RH winner)
"Scanners Live in Vain", by "Cordwainer Smith" (Paul M. A. Linebarger) (Fantasy Book #6) (RH nominee)
"Contagion", by Katherine MacLean (Galaxy, October)
"The Second Night of Summer", by James H. Schmitz (Galaxy, December)
"The Star Beast", by Poul Anderson (Super Science Stories, September)
"The Helping Hand", by Poul Anderson (Astounding, May) (RH nominee)
"Evitable Conflict", by Isaac Asimov (Astounding, June)
"Bindlestiff", by James Blish (Astounding, December)
"The Dancing Girl of Ganymede", by Leigh Brackett (Galaxy, October)
"Enchanted Forest", by Fritz Leiber (Astounding, October)
"Dear Devil", by Eric Frank Russell (Other Worlds, May) (RH nominee)
"The Stars are the Styx", by Theodore Sturgeon (Galaxy, October)
"Not to be Opened --", by "Roger Flint Young" (Peter Grainger) (Astounding, January)
Well, sometimes there's no debate about my vote! "Scanners Live in Vain" is clearly the greatest story here. (See my Black Gate piece about it: The Timeless Strangeness of Scanners Live in Vain). Having said that, this whole short list strikes me as very strong. There's another SF Hall of Fame story, "The Little Black Bag". There's the first story in what became Cities in Flight. There's the best of Katherine MacLean's early work; and one of James Schmitz's very best pieces. And Harness' "The New Reality" is really pretty cool, and it is one of the best iterations of a very clichéd SF idea.
And there are very good additional stories -- another Cities in Flight section from Blish, for example. The last story from I, Robot. A strong story from Sturgeon. A very highly regarded Eric Frank Russell story. A good early Anderson story. And Roger Flint Young's story is kind of interesting too -- very Campbellian but a bit unusual.
"The Fox and the Forest" aka "Escape", by Ray Bradbury (Argosy, September 1950)
"The Veldt" aka "The World the Children Made", by Ray Bradbury (Saturday Evening Post, September 23)
"Ylla" aka "I'll Not Look for Wine", by Ray Bradbury (MacLean's, January)
"Usher II" aka "Carnival of Madness" aka "The Second House of Usher", by Ray Bradbury (Thrilling Wonder Stories, April)
"There Will Come Soft Rains", by Ray Bradbury (Collier's, May 6)
"Coming Attraction", by Fritz Leiber (Galaxy, November) (RH nominee)
"Spectator Sport", by John D. McDonald (Thrilling Wonder Stories, February)
"Green Patches" aka "Misbegotten Missionary", by Isaac Asimov (Galaxy, November)
"Oddy and Id", by Alfred Bester (Astounding, August)
"The Gnurrs Come From the Voodvork Out", by R. Bretnor (F&SF, Winter-Spring) (RH nominee)
"A Subway Named Mobius", by A. J. Deutsch (Astounding, December) (RH nominee)
"Friday the Nineteenth", by Elisabeth Sanxay Holding (F&SF, Summer)
"To Serve Man", by Damon Knight (Galaxy, November) (RH winner)
"The Silly Season", by C. M. Kornbluth (F&SF, Fall)
"The Xi Effect", by "Philip Latham" (R. S. Richardson) (Astounding, January)
"Nice Girl with Five Husbands", by Fritz Leiber (Galaxy, April)
"The Ship Sails at Midnight", by Fritz Leiber (Fantastic Adventures, September)
"Born of Man and Woman", by Richard Matheson (F&SF, Summer) (RH nominee)
"Liane the Wayfarer", by Jack Vance (The Dying Earth)
"Report on the Barnhouse Effect", by Kurt Vonnegut (Collier's, February 11)
Oh my gosh, what a year Ray Bradbury had! We forget sometimes how good he was! He was only this good for perhaps a decade, beginning in about 1946, but for that time he was brilliant. And that list of five stories up there is amazing, as good a set of short stories as any SF writer has ever published in a single year. (And I could have added at least one more, "The Long Rain".) Which is the best? It's hard to pick! "Ylla" is wonderful". So too is "The Fox and the Forest". And "The Veldt"! And is any single Bradbury story remembered more than "There Will Come Soft Rains"?
And for all that, I think the greatest SF story of 1950 was Leiber's searing "Coming Attraction". (Leiber had a darn good year too.) Really, in this company it's astonishing, and disheartening, that the Retro Hugo voters picked a story because they remembered the Twilight Zone episode and the gimmicky pun conclusion.
In the other possibilities I'd like to highlight "Friday the Nineteenth", a really nicely done urban fantasy by the great crime writer Elisabeth Sanxay Holding. The two SF Hall of Fame stories here are "Coming Attraction" and "Born of Man and Woman".