Category: awards

The Retro Hugo Awards for 1941 at MidAmeriCon II

Next summer at MidAmeriCon II–the 74th World Science Fiction Convention–among the awards given out will be the Retro Hugo awards for 1941. The award will cover stories published in 1940. I have a particular interest in this award because a few years ago, when I was taking my Vacation in the Golden Age, I read, and wrote about, every story that appeared in Astounding Science Fiction from July 1939 – November 1942. That means that I read and commented on every story that appeared in 1940 issue of Astounding.

Many of these stories are likely unfamiliar to modern audiences who will be voting for the Retro Hugos, so I wanted to call attention to my Vacation in the Golden Age, specifically for 1940, in the chance that folks would want to read what I thought of the stories published that year. And if any of them pique your interest, you might look them up in a collection or anthology.

Here are the 12 issues of Astounding that appeared in 1940. Clicking on the issues will take you to my review of that issue. I comment not only on the stories, but on everything in the magazine, letters, editorials, and sometimes even the advertisements.

Astounding 1940

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Episode 7: Jan ’40 Episode 8: Feb ’40 Episode 9: Mar ’40
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Episode 10: Apr ’40 Episode 11: May ’40 Episode 12: Jun ’40
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Episode 13: Jul ’40 Episode 14: Aug ’40 Episode 15: Sep ’40
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Episode 16: Oct ’40 Episode 17: Nov ’40 Episode 18: Dec ’40

Unlike 1939, where from July – December Astounding published stories by 3 different women, there were no stories published by women in 1940, at least not in Astounding. That’s too bad, because in 1939, one of my favorite stories was “Greater Than Gods” by C.L. Moore.

There was still some excellent fiction published in the 1940 issues of Astounding. And if you are wondering what my particular favorites were, I’ll list them for you below, along with the issue in which they appeared, in case you want to read more about them.

My favorite stories for 1940

  1. “Final Blackout” by L. Ron Hubbard1 (April, May, June 1940)
  2. “Requiem” by Robert A. Heinlein (January 1940)
  3. “Cold” by Nat Schachner (March 1940)
  4. “The Stars Look Down” by Lester Del Rey (August 1940)
  5. “The Mosaic” by J. B. Ryan (July 1940)
  6. “If This Goes On–” by Robert A. Heinlein (February 1940)
  7. “Butyl and the Breather” by Theodore Sturgeon (October 1940)
  8. “Fog” by Robert Willey2 (December 1940)
  9. “One Was Stubborn” by Rene La Fayette3 (November 1940)

Of course, A. E. van Vogt’s famous novel Slan was serialized in Astounding in 1940 and you may note that it didn’t make my list of favorite stories. I suspect this one will be high on the list for other people, primarily because it is still fairly well known today. But while the first part of Slan was extraordinary, I think it got weaker with each subsequent part. Not true for another serial, like Final Blackout. This is just my opinion.

Astounding was not the only magazine publishing science fiction in 1940. There were others, including Unknown, John Campbell’s other magazine, and Amazing Stories. But it was a time when it was still possible to read just about everything published in the year.

It will be interesting to see how the voting turns out for the Retro Hugo because it is a 2016 audience voting for stories published generations earlier. At the very least, it would be fascinating to look at the results of the Retro Hugos for 1941 and compare them to Campbell’s analytical laboratory (for those stories that came from Astounding at least) to see how much our literary judgments align with fans from generations past.

  1. This was a decade before Hubbard published his infamous “Dianetics” essay in the May 1950 issue of Astounding.
  2. A pseudonym for science writer Willy Ley
  3. A pseudonym for L. Ron Hubbard

Awards Reflect the Society We Live In

One of my favorite classes in college was an elective class I took on History and Film taught by Carlos Cortés. The essence of the class was that films reflect the times in which they were made. As one example, we watched Henry V starring Lawrence Olivier, and followed that film with Henry V starring Kenneth Branagh. Olivier’s portrayal of Henry in the former film was strikingly different to Branagh’s “Harry the King” in the latter. Each film told the same story, using the same dialog, but the pictures we get of the two Henrys were very different. Those films tell us a lot about the times in which they were made.

When I read earlier today of a proposal for yet another genre award that, in part would allow judges to

Disqualify any work they find to have an emphasis on other than telling a good SF/F story.

I kind of rolled my eyes. Aside from the mechanics of ensuring that judges based their decision solely on an unmeasurable criterion (“The Judging Committee will use the quality of SF/F storytelling as their sole criterion.”) it ignores the fact that most awards reflect the society at the time the award is given.

Fiction, like film, reflects the society we live in

How many genre readers today bemoan the fact that Mark Clifton and Frank Riley’s novel They’d Rather Be Right actually won a Hugo award (in 1955). It might not meet our standards for a Hugo today, but it reflects the standards for the award that was given in 1955.

Had the Hugo existed in the mid-to-late 1930s, I have no doubt that E. E. “Doc” Smith’s Lensman stories would have one more of the awards to their name. We can discount the fact that “Galactic Patrol” lost the retro-Hugo for 1939 because it was a 2014 audience that voted.

Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan novels feel dated today because the Cold War is thing of the past. You can’t get away from the fact that an award reflects the society in which we live, because the definition of “good story telling” changes as society changes.

I have a feeling that most genre readers today would not consider Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series as the Best All-Time Series. But in 1966, Asimov was given a special Hugo for Best All-Time Series, beating out Edgar Rice Burroughs, Robert Heinlein, E. E. “Doc” Smith, and J. R. R. Tolkien. In 1966 that was how fans felt. Today, feelings have evolved, and not just because there is a half-century more fiction to consider. Fiction reflects the society we live in.

Genre awards are not unique in this respect

Derek Jeter never won an MVP award, but he is considered to be one of the greats of the game of baseball. Put together the number Jeter put in his career, with the intangibles he brought to the game, and its hard to believe he never won an MVP. Compare him to past winners, and it is even more remarkable.

But awards reflect the society we live in. Maybe Jeter would have won an MVP if he’d played for the Yankees in the 1960s. The criteria for Most Valuable Player changes with time. The same is true for most awards. Science fiction and fantasy films have been among the most popular and successful films for decades, but it wasn’t until 2004 that a fantasy film, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, took home an Oscar for Best Picture.

No award system is perfect. But one of the things I have always enjoyed about our genre awards is that they are a good reflection of the times at which the award was given. Look at the awards given in the late 1960 and compare them to the awards given in the late 1970s. They encapsulate a sea-change within the genre. It is good to see change. It means our genre is evolving along with the rest of society. As much as I enjoy Golden Age stories, I don’t want to see us mired in a nostalgia for the past. I want to see our genre moving forward toward bigger and better things.

What I have seen is that we are slowly, but steadily moving toward a place where our best stories reflect the diversity of the genre as it is made up today. We still have a lot of ground to cover. A new award that tries to filter out anything that isn’t good storytelling is a nonstarter. Such an award won’t give us better stories. It will simply provide another window into how our culture thinks about stories, how it classifies them, and ultimately, how part of that culture is desperate to cling to the past.

To my friends and fellow fans who might not be able to afford a Worldcon membership

Earlier today, Mary Robinette Kowal offered 10 (now 20) supporting (voting) memberships to the World Science Fiction Convention in 2015 to fans who might not otherwise be able to afford a supporting membership. The membership allows fans to vote for the Hugo Award, which is often considered to be the most prestigious award in science fiction.

I know that I have friends and fellow fans out there who can’t afford a supporting membership, and so, taking a page from Mary’s book, I am offering 5 supporting memberships for Worldcon for people who can’t otherwise afford one.

Part of the fun of the World Science Fiction Convention is being able to vote on your favorite works from the previous year, and that $40 supporting membership is difficult for some folks. If you can afford, it, I encourage you to get a supporting membership. If you can’t afford one, shoot me an email at feedback [at] jamietoddrubin [dot] com with your contact information. Also, because of the controversy surrounding the Hugo Awards this year, I want to be clear that for folks who get these supporting membership: please don’t feel constrained in your vote. Participation in the fan process is all that I am hoping for.

Next week, I’ll pick the 5 names randomly from the requests that I get, and buy the memberships through the Sasquan website on their behalf.

ETA (4/15): All 5 supporting memberships have been given out to folks making requests. As it turned out, I had exactly 5 requests for a membership through today, so that made things easy.

George R. R. Martin on Guilt by Association

From George R. R. Martin’s Not A Blog:

I do not believe in Guilt by Association, and that’s what we’d be doing if we vote against every name on the Puppy slates simply because they are on the slate. That was a classic weapon of the McCarthy Era: first you blacklist the communists, then you blacklist the people who defend the communists and the companies that hire them, then you blacklist the people who defend the people on the blacklist, and on and on, in ever widening circles. No. I won’t be part of that.

I completely agree.

To All the Hugo Award Winners: Thank You! You Saved Science Fiction for Me

Congratulations to all of the Hugo Award winners. You all saved science fiction for me. I had been slowly drifting away from the genre, in part because of new writing opportunities in other directions, but in part because I was frustrated by the lack of inclusion I saw, and the voices arguing for status quo. Those voices are not new in the genre, but the accumulated weight of their historical grinding was finally getting to me.

I served as Nebula Awards Commissioner this last year, and while I was pleased with the results of the awards, some of the campaigning I saw turned me off to the notion of awards in general. It wasn’t rampant, but it was there. I know that campaigning happens, but for me, it makes the awards seem more like baseball’s All-Star game. I guess I was in the unenviable position of seeing how the sausage was made, and didn’t like what I saw.

The Hugo Awards, with their associated controversies this year, had the potential to do a lot of harm to the genre. But these awards are voted on by fans, and the fans voices were loud and clear this year. The result was an incredible slate of winners that not only represent the best the genre has to offer, but that restored my faith in the fans, writers, and the genre itself.

Sometimes when I watch a movie or TV show, I’ll sit there and think, “Wow! I wish I was a [doctor | lawyer | baseball player | Superman].” The drama draws me in and I want to be just like the person I see on the big screen. Yesterday, as award after award was announced, I kept thinking to myself, “Gosh, I want to be a science fiction writer just like them!” That was when I knew that this year’s Hugo Awards saved science fiction for me.

A few notes on some of the specific awards and winners:

Ann Leckie for Ancillary Justice

In Chicago in 2012, I sat at the hotel bar one evening with a bunch of people coming and going, including a quite a few SFWA board members. Ann was one of them, and she and I were among the last people at the table that evening. I’ve grown pretty disciplined about talking about the stories that I’m working on, while I’m working on them, but I lose that discipline around other writers, sometimes, and Ann is particularly easy to talk to. I think I remember her telling me that she was working on her first novel–the novel that turned out to be Ancillary Justice.

Ancillary Justice has gone on to do something no other science fiction novel has, to my knowledge, done before: it has won the Hugo, Nebula, Clarke, BSFA, and Locus Award for best novel all in the same year. Originally, I likened this to a baseball player hitting for the cycle, but I realize more and more, that an achievement like this is much more like a pitcher throwing a perfect game. I think there is a spot in the Science Fiction Hall of Fame waiting for Ann to fill it.

Charles Stross for “Equoid”

I met Charles Stross at Boskone in 2008. We spoke only briefly, but I learned we had a few things in common: he was pharmacist for a time, and I worked in a pharmacy. He also did some system administration, and so had I. We also had similar thoughts on DRM, or the lack thereof.

Stross has been one of those writers that challenges me. He writes far above my head on topics that I barely have a grasp upon, but I think that is a good thing. He sets the bar very high for other writers. I also admire his work ethic, which, at least from what he exposes on his blog, demonstrates that even for the best writers out there, writing is hard work. None of us phone it in. Few of us could get away with that. Stross’s writing reflects his work ethic, and it is no surprise that so many people like it.

Mary Robinette Kowal for “The Lady Astronaut of Mars”

I first worked with Mary when she was SFWA’s secretary, helping out with various technical work as a volunteer. The most time I spent with her was when I gave her a ride from Boston’s Logan airport to Readercon’s hotel several years back. Mary is one of the nicest people in science fiction. Up-and-coming writers would be hard pressed to find a better model to emulated on panels. And, of course, she is a brilliant writer, and her win for “The Lady Astronaut of Mars” is greatly deserved.

John Chu for “The Water That Falls on You From Nowhere”

I don’t think I’ve ever met John Chu in person, but his story, which completed’s sweep of the short fiction awards, is fantastic, and his “little story that could” speech last night was a highlight of the acceptance speeches.

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Award Season FAQ

It’s award season, with the Hugo Awards now open for nomination, and the Nebula Awards now halfway through its nomination period. I’ve been asked a few times about my own stories, so let me say two things about my stories and the awards:

  1. I don’t promote my own stories during award season. My own philosophy, which I apply solely to myself and my stories, is that if the stories don’t create enough buzz on their own they are not worth nominating. Because of this, I don’t create buzz on their behalf. I realize that some might view this as strange behavior, but it’s how I feel. I will happily sing the praises of other people’s stories that I’ve read. But I want my own stories to be good enough to create their own buzz.
  2. My stories published in 2013 are not eligible for the Nebula awards. I am the Nebula Award commissioner this year and that makes my stories ineligible for that award.

Happy nominating, everyone!

(ETA 1/7: If you are simply looking for what I’ve published, can’t recall a title, or something like that, I do have a bibliography page.)

Nebula Nominations are Open Today for SFWA Members

Active and associate members of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America can begin nominating works for the 2013 Nebula Awards today. The nomination ballots will be open until February 15. To make your nominations, you can use this link:

Members will receive an email with your login information, if you don’t already have it.

I don’t ordinarily make these announcements here, but I do so today for 2 reasons:

1. I am the Nebula Award Commissioner for 2013, which means I am in charge of overseeing the process and making sure it runs as smoothly as it can.

2. Because of #1, fiction that I have published in 2013 is not eligible for nomination this year.

I didn’t actually expect any of my stories would be nominated this year, but in the event that they find their way onto a nomination ballot, they will have to be removed.

If you are an active or associate member of SFWA, I urge you to review the Nebula Award rules before making your nominations. A quick review of the rules helps to avoid mistakes and errors on the nomination ballot.  If you have any questions about the Nebula Award nominations this year, you can contact me, in my capacity as Nebula Award Commissioner at nac [at] sfwa [dot] org.

The Hugo Award-Winning SF Signal!

I’m still catching up on a few posts I’ve wanted to write since heading home from Chicon. I realize I haven’t yet got to say how thrilled I was when SF Signal won the Hugo Award for Best Fanzine. It was a highlight of the convention to see John DeNardo take the stage and accept the award.

I have been extraordinarily fortunate to be affiliated with SF Signal over the last several years. I sometimes feel like it has been entirely to my benefit. I remember noting sometime in 2008 that a blog post I had written had been picked up by SF Signal’s “Tidbits” and I was so excited by that, I think I talked about nothing else all day. I turn to SF Signal each morning to see what’s happening in the world of science fiction and I’m never disappointed.

And I probably owe a large part of my blog audience to SF Signal. More than a year ago, John got in touch with me to tell me that he liked the posts I wrote on science fiction, and asked if I’d like to write a column for them. That became the Wayward Time Traveler column, which I wrote for nearly a year and which I had a blast doing. It was a difficult, sad, decision to have to stop doing that column–with two kids and other obligations, it just became too much for me. But that column, and the other opportunities the John and the SF Signal folks gave me, lead to one of two big, sustained spikes in my audience here at this blog and so I am indebted to SF Signal not just for the opportunities they have given me, but also for the audience.

The best part of my affiliation with SF Signal, however, has been the friends I have made. This includes, of course, John DeNardo and Patrick Hester. It also includes people like Paul Weimer and Fred Kiesche and several others. Chatting with these folks online is like having a mini-convention. They are some of the biggest fans I know, but they are also among the nicest people I’ve met in science fiction.

What is remarkable about SF Signal is the scope of the genre that it embraces. Not just science fiction, but fantasy and horror. And not just written science fiction (my particular favorite), but movies, television, podcasts, art, music and gaming. Whatever your interest in the uber-genre, SF Signal has managed to cover it. Their tidbits keep you up-to-date. Their mind-melds provides a wide cross-section of viewpoints on countless topics. They have fantastic interviews. They point you to places you can find free fiction online. They highlight new writers and artists. They encourage burgeoning bloggers. They plug their contributors, but are remarkably humble about themselves. They reach out into every part of the science fiction/fantasy/horror genre and they are always a good fit.

I am just so thrilled that SF Signal won a Hugo Award and it was a pleasure to finally get to meet John and Patrick and others affiliated with SF Signal in person in Chicago.

Nebula Award Weekend Day 3: Or, where I gave a Nebula to Geoff Ryman, accepted one for Ken Liu, and got to meet Neil Gaiman

Yes, it says Day 3. I have temporarily skipped Day 2 in order to get today’s incredible events down on record before sleep wipes the cream away. Day 2 will come later. It is all very “Repent Harlequin!”-esque.

The day began with me heading off to the Hyatt in Crystal City at about 9am and, once there, attempting to find Alethea Kontis to get my badge back from her. She’d asked to borrow it for who knows what nameless purposes and I’d agreed. At any rate, I eventually found her and we then grabbed a quick breakfast in order to energize for the morning.

I ran into Bud Sparhawk while waiting for Alethea. I’d incautiously told him how terrific I think his blog is because the frustrations he expresses there (writerly frustration, mind you) are the very same kind of frustrations that go through my head an I was enormously relieved to know that I wasn’t the only one. I can’t do it justice. Just go over and read his blog yourself.

I know, I know, you want to here about the Nebula part and the Ken Liu part, and the Neil Gaiman part, but you’ll just have to be patient.

The first scheduled event of the morning for me was the SFWA Business Meeting, which, as an active member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of American, I felt obliged to attend. I wanted to get there early to ensure a decent seat. But the room was occupied by another event. Standing outside the room, however, was John Scalzi, and for about 15 minutes, I got to chat with him, just the two of us, and it was very, very cool.

Then there was the SFWA meeting, in which I was made fun of for taking notes, but hey, at least I can now recall what went on in the meeting. That much is probably of little or no interest here. But…

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Congratulations to all of the Hugo nominees!

I spent a quiet weekend with the family and wasn’t online much. That said, I did manage to see that the Hugo nominees for 2012 were announced. I’ve seen various comparisons to the Hugos made. Some liken them to the People’s Choice awards; others to the Oscars. In prestige, they are among the tops awards in science fiction because they are voted on by the fans; the people who pay out good money to read the books and stories and blogs and listen to the podcasts. I think these are fair comparisons. In some ways, the Hugos also remind me of baseball’s All Star nominations. They are all around fun and this year we are fortunate to have such a great list of nominees on the final ballot.

I’ve been focusing on short fiction this year, so I have not read any of the novels that were nominated (although I’ve made it about 1/5th of the way through A Dance With Dragons). I have read much of the short fiction on the list and it is all deserving of nomination.

I was delighted to see Apex magazine and Lightspeed get a nomination for best semiprozine.

I am especially glad to see SF Signal get not one but two Hugo nominations: one for best fanzine and the other for best fancast. John DeNardo and his folks do a wonderful job over at SF Signal and it is really deserving of both nominations.

There is always some debate attached to awards in science fiction, but for me, the Hugos remind me that science fiction is a fun genre. They bring out the fan in me and you can bet I’ll be eagerly awaiting the results of this outstanding ballot later this year.

Congratulations to all the nominees this year!

Nebula award reading

It looks like a fair amount of my short fiction reading this month will be taken up by Nebula award reading. Voting must take place by the end of the month and I am determined, this year, to have read all of the short fiction on the ballot. When I first glanced at the ballot, I thought I’d read a fair amount of what was one it, but as luck would have it, I really haven’t. I didn’t start my attempt to read one piece of short fiction each day until last September, so most stuff that appeared in the magazines since then, I’ve read. But it gets a lot more sketchy pre-September. I’ve only read one of the short story nominees so far, Adam-Troy Castro’s “Her Husband’s Hands.” I haven’t read any of the novelettes on the ballot, and I’ve read two of the novellas, Kij Johnson’s “The Man Who Bridged the Mist” and Ken Liu’s “The Man Who Ended History: A Documentary.” I also tend to miss stuff in original anthologies. By my count, I have 17 pieces of Nebula-nominated short fiction to read this month.

Thankfully, the good folks at SFWA have made electronic versions of all of these stories (as well as the novels on the ballot) available to members. This morning, I grabbed what I didn’t already have and loaded them up on the Kindle App on my iPad. I plan to work my way through them, beginning with the short stories and working up through the novellas that I haven’t yet read. This is an incredibly convenient way to get these stories read. I love that I can get them all onto my iPad without having to carry around a ton of books and magazines in my backpack.

Of the novels on the final ballot, I’ve only read Jack McDevitt’s Firebird. If I have time, I’d like to read Jo Walton’s Among Others because I’ve heard good things about it.

Next year, I expect I’ll be in somewhat better shape come March, as I have been pretty good at keeping up with the stories being published in the magazines. I still generally don’t pick up the original anthologies that come out, but I still think that will mean less last-minute reading next time around than I have this time.

Congratulations to the Nebula award nominees

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America released the Nebula Award ballot for 2011 this morning and skimming through the list, it looks to be a good one. I’ve managed to read much of the nominated short fiction already. I’ve only read one of the novels on the list. In terms of short fiction, it looks to me like the Novella category is the toughest one this year. So much excellent stuff in that category. I’m very much looking forward to attending the award ceremony in May. (It is particularly convenient that it is being held 5 miles from my house and virtually across the street from my office.)

For those who missed the list of nominees, here they are. Congratulations to them all:




Short Story

Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation

  • Attack the Block, Joe Cornish (writer/director) (Optimum Releasing; Screen Gems)
  • Captain America: The First Avenger, Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely (writers), Joe Johnston (director) (Paramount)
  • Doctor Who: “The Doctor’s Wife,” Neil Gaiman (writer), Richard Clark (director) (BBC Wales)
  • Hugo, John Logan (writer), Martin Scorsese (director) (Paramount)
  • Midnight in Paris, Woody Allen (writer/director) (Sony)
  • Source Code, Ben Ripley (writer), Duncan Jones (director) (Summit)
  • The Adjustment Bureau, George Nolfi (writer/director) (Universal)

 Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and FantasyBook