When Bob Madle Named
The Hugos

Willy Ley accepts his 1953 Hugo. Olga, his wife, is seated at right.

By Mike Glyer: It’s Bob Madle’s 100th birthday tomorrow, when File 770 will have more to say about his days in fandom. One contribution I’d like to discuss right now is his naming of the Hugo Awards, first conceived in 1953.

As Madle told the story in ”A Personal Sense of Wonder (Part 2)” (Mimosa #30, 2003)

The idea for the Awards was the brainchild of one of our [Philadelphia] club members, Hal Lynch. He came running over to my house one night, and said, “Hey, Bob, I’ve got a great idea! Why don’t we give awards for things like Best Novel and Best Magazine — sort of like the Oscars.”

And I said, “Gee, that’s great! We could call them the ‘Hugos’.” At the time I was writing a column, “Inside Science Fiction” for Robert Lowndes, and I used that to play up the idea of the Hugos before the convention.

Here’s a scan of the Philcon II segment of his column in the October 1953 issue of Dynamic Science Fiction (a quarterly publication which went on sale August 1, 1953, a month before the Worldcon. The October cover date was when it would be taken off sale.)

Harry Warner Jr.’s history of fandom in the Fifties, A Wealth of Fable (1996) confirmed Madle’s claim to have coined the nickname.

Dick Eney’s Fancyclopedia 2 (1959), produced only a few years after the awards were created, also credited Madle with attaching the name to the awards. You can tell from how Eney annotated the entry. He explained in the front matter:

A name in parentheses after a word or phrase to be defined is the originator of the term, or of its use in fandom; where this is followed by a colon and a second name, the second is the person who had most to do with making it a part of fandom’s vocabulary. 

The entry for “Hugo” displays Madle’s name in parentheses, identifying him as the originator.

Madle came up with the nickname, however, there was some resistance to overcome before it became universal. An item in Fantasy Times #184 (August 1953), published a couple of weeks after Madle’s column hit the newsstands, shows the committee was denying the “Hugo” name, trying to control the spin about what people should call their brand new Science Fiction Achievement Awards before they had even been given for the first time:

Fans obviously liked the suggestion. Not only did Madle’s nickname for the awards gain immediate currency, by the second time the awards were given (1955) the convention committee was using the nickname, too.

5 thoughts on “When Bob Madle Named
The Hugos

  1. Wow. Just…wow! How could I have missed the fact that Bob named the “Hugos”? And to top it, one of our Great Founders of Fandom is STILL with us. May the Marvelous Moniker Making Madle march forth into a glorious Century 2!!

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