1941 Retro Hugo Award Finalists

The finalists for the 1941 Retro Hugo Awards were announced on Tuesday, April 26.

There were 481 valid nominating ballots (475 electronic and 6 paper) received and counted from the members of Sasquan, MidAmeriCon II, and Worldcon 75.

BEST NOVEL (352 ballots)

  • Kallocain by Karin Boye (Bonnier)
  • Gray Lensman by E.E. “Doc” Smith (Astounding Science-Fiction, Jan 1940)
  • Slan by A.E. Van Vogt (Astounding Science-Fiction, Dec 1940)
  • The Ill-Made Knight by T.H. White (Collins)
  • The Reign of Wizardry by Jack Williamson (Unknown, Mar 1940)

BEST NOVELLA (318 ballots)

  • “The Mathematics of Magic” by L. Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt (Unknown, Aug 1940)
  • “The Roaring Trumpet” by L. Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt (Unknown, May 1940)
  • “Coventry” by Robert A. Heinlein (Astounding Science-Fiction, July 1940)
  • “If This Goes On…” by Robert A. Heinlein (Astounding Science-Fiction, Feb 1940)
  • “Magic, Inc.” by Robert A. Heinlein (Unknown, Sept 1940)

BEST NOVELETTE (310 ballots)

  • “Farewell to the Master” by Harry Bates (Astounding Science-Fiction, Oct 1940)
  • “Blowups Happen” by Robert A. Heinlein (Astounding Science-Fiction, Sept 1940)
  • “The Roads Must Roll” by Robert A. Heinlein (Astounding Science-Fiction, June 1940)
  • “It!” by Theodore Sturgeon (Unknown, Aug 1940)
  • “Darker Than You Think” by Jack Williamson (Unknown, Dec 1940)

BEST SHORT STORY (324 ballots)

  • “Strange Playfellow” (a.k.a. “Robbie”) by Isaac Asimov (Super Science Stories, Sept 1940)
  • “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius” by Jorge Luis Borges (Sur, 1940)
  • “Martian Quest” by Leigh Brackett (Astounding Science-Fiction, Feb 1940)
  • “The Stellar Legion” by Leigh Brackett (Planet Stories, Winter 1940)
  • “Requiem” by Robert A. Heinlein (Astounding Science-Fiction, Jan 1940)


  • Batman #1 (Detective Comics, Spring 1940)
  • Captain Marvel: “Introducing Captain Marvel” by Bill Parker and C. C. Beck (Whiz Comics #2, Feb 1940)
  • Flash Gordon: “The Ice Kingdom of Mongo” by Alex Raymond and Don Moore (King Features Syndicate, Apr 1940)
  • The Spectre: “The Spectre”/”The Spectre Strikes! ” by Jerry Siegel and Bernard Baily (More Fun Comics #52/53, Feb/Mar 1940)
  • The Origin of the Spirit by Will Eisner (Register and Tribune Syndicate, June 1940)


  • Dr. Cyclops written by Tom Kilpatrick, directed by Ernest B. Schoedsack (Paramount Pictures)
  • Fantasia written by Joe Grant and Dick Huemer, directed by Samuel Armstrong et al. (Walt Disney Productions, RKO Radio Pictures)
  • Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe written by George H. Plympton, Basil Dickey, and Barry Shipman, directed by Ford Beebe and Ray Taylor (Universal Pictures)
  • One Million B.C. written by Mickell Novack, George Baker, and Joseph Frickert, directed by Hal Roach and Hal Roach, Jr. (United Artists)
  • The Thief of Bagdad written by Lajos Bíró and Miles Malleson, directed by Michael Powell, Ludwig Berger, and Tim Whelan (London Films, United Artists)


  • Merrie Melodies: “A Wild Hare” written by Rich Hogan, directed by Tex Avery (Warner Bros.)
  • The Adventures of Superman: “The Baby from Krypton” written by George Ludlam, produced by Frank Chase (WOR)
  • The Invisible Man Returns written by Joe May, Kurt Siodmak, and Lester Cole, directed by Joe May (Universal Pictures)
  • Pinocchio written by Ted Sears et al., directed by Ben Sharpsteen and Hamilton Luske (Walt Disney Productions, RKO Radio Pictures)
  • Looney Tunes: “You Ought to Be in Pictures” written by Jack Miller, directed by Friz Freleng (Warner Bros.)

BEST EDITOR – SHORT FORM (183 ballots)

  • John W. Campbell
  • Dorothy McIlwraith
  • Raymond A. Palmer
  • Frederik Pohl
  • Mort Weisinger


  • Hannes Bok
  • Margaret Brundage
  • Edd Cartier
  • Virgil Finlay
  • Frank R. Paul
  • Hubert Rogers

Note: Category has 6 nominees due to a tie for 5th place.

BEST FANZINE (63 ballots)

  • Futuria Fantasia by Ray Bradbury
  • Le Zombie by Arthur Wilson “Bob” Tucker
  • Novacious by Forrest J Ackerman and Morojo
  • Spaceways by Harry Warner, Jr.
  • Voice of the Imagi-Nation by Forrest J Ackerman and Morojo

BEST FAN WRITER (70 ballots)

  • Forrest J Ackerman
  • Ray Bradbury
  • H. P. Lovecraft
  • Arthur Wilson “Bob” Tucker
  • Harry Warner

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36 thoughts on “1941 Retro Hugo Award Finalists

  1. Literally the only thing I really care about this Hugo season is that “Tløn, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius” made the short-story finals.

  2. Well, I’m disappointed by The Invention of Morel not making it but I’m glad to see Borges too. I think those two were the only works I nominated here.

  3. As I said in the previous reality, my “this better be there” candidates showed up in Best Novel and Best Short, so will decline to Burn Down the Retro Hugos this year.

  4. I’m really happy that Kallocain managed to get onto the list.

    But I think it’s a pity that “Futurian War Digest” didn’t get onto the Best Fanzine category. Not because it was among the best, but because it was the pulp paper that kept British fandom together during the Second World War.

  5. I’m not usually into the Retro Hugos, but I’m intrigued by a few of these. Slan, for example, has been in the back of my mind to read at some point. (I know, I should’ve read it at some point.)

    Hmm, it looks like we have a full house in Best Novella (3 Heinleins and 2 de Camp + Pratts); what’s that worth? 😉

  6. I’m going to need to take a day to feel disappointed that The Wheel of If didn’t make the cut.

  7. Anyone got any idea what fan writing the four years dead ghost of H.P.Lovecraft was doing in 1941?

  8. @NickPheas I tweeted about that yesterday, too. How in the world does THAT work?

  9. @NickPheas: can’t keep a good man down, you know.

    Anyone know what happened to the Best Related Work category? Believe it or not, I had ideas over that one – and I’m pretty sure I saw suggestions from other quarters, too. Were there just not enough loonies – err, I mean enthusiasts – like me to make up a realistic set of finalists?

  10. The part that’s relevant here copied from another thread:

    Almost everything I nominated made it. I’m bummed there’s no Leiber on the ballot, but I forgot to nominate the Borges, so that’s a wash. I still think Captain America #1 was eligible and I wonder if it was disqualified. I was pretty sure I’d be the only vote for the year’s run of Krazy Kat.

    The one thing that does really bug me is that the one eligible Heinlein story of any merit not on the ballot is “Let There Be Light!”. It’s the one from that year which is Heinlein at his Sexy Socialist best, the central theme of which, I grant you, he repudiated in Friday, even to the extent of making Dr. Lyle Martin into a Ginny knockoff. Speaking as a Sexy (I think) Socialist (I’m sure) myself, that’s very disappointing. I’m also disappointed to see I got the year of “Logic of Empire” wrong when I nominated. I console myself with the fact that the ISFDB database is missing one of Heinlein’s short stories, so I’m apparently not totally braindead yet.

    ETA: Or maybe I am braindead. Note the strikethrough above.

  11. I figured Heinlein repudiated “Let There Be Light” because the heroine was a disguised Leslyn Heinlein …

  12. They appear to be pretty unexceptionable shortlists. The Asimov story is fairly weak (Asimov hadn’t really got into his stride in 1940, possibly as he was only 20 years old.) Pity not to see Leiber’s “The Bleak Shore” or van Vogt’s “Vault of the Beast”. L. Ron Hubbard plainly doesn’t cut it with modern voters.

    But “Darker Than You Think” is surely in the wrong category. I haven’t done a word count, but it takes up more pages in UNKNOWN than either of the de Camp and Pratt stories which are (correctly) classed as novellas.

    And while I’m being picky, the Heinlein novella should properly be “The Devil Makes the Law”. I don’t know if there were any revisions prior to its being reissued as “Magic, Inc”.

  13. @Jon Meltzer: It’s hard to tease out whether Heinlein’s politics or Heinlein’s choice of wives are responsible for some of his changes over the years. The repeated purges of his personal papers by him and Ginny didn’t help any. Neither did their delaying games of footsie with prospective biographers. The least of the differences between the Douglas-Martin sunscreens and the Shipstone batteries is the technical one, though even it is a telling difference. The sunscreens are utopian, virtually free power, like Jack Williamson’s Fifth Freedom in the SeeTee books; the Shipstones are tools of power accumulation for the greedy and corrupt, not unlike the One Ring.

    That he gave both ideas equally respectful treatment over the years speaks to the duality of the Heinlein thing. The most generous interpretation I can give it is that his craving for space was the one constant in his career, from beginning to end, like his doppelgänger in John Barnes’ Patton’s Spaceship, but there are others.

  14. @Malcolm Edwards:

    And while I’m being picky, the Heinlein novella should properly be “The Devil Makes the Law”.

    That’s the title I nominated it under. I’ll have to dig out the concordance to check the revision history, though I suspect I know the story well enough that I could spot any revisions by getting out the original pulp and reading it. I think when the wife moved out, she left all the Heinlein, including that, which was a Christmas gift for her.

    And I, too, nominated “The Bleak Short”, and am sorry not to see it on the ballot.

  15. I’m glad to see the Borges; nominating that was the main reason I sent in a retro Hugo nominating ballot.

    Am I correct that this is the first time a non-English work has made the ballot (regular or retro) based on the year of original rather than translated publication?

  16. Why is Batman listed without any creators? Surely that’s the worst possible resolution to the question of whether to put Kane or Finger first…

  17. I pride myself on being obscure, but I’ve never heard of Kallocain by Karin Boye (Bonnier). I’ve never heard of the work or the author.

    I was expecting to vote for Typewriter in the Sky, but it obviously didn’t make the ballot.

  18. Many of you may not be aware that Bill Rotsler is still eligible for the fan artist Hugo years after he has died. He was so prolific during his lifetime, that there are still new Rotsler illos appearing. I imagine something similar must be the case with Lovecraft. He was a prolific amateur publisher and letter writer. If one of his letters was originally published in 1940, he is eligible.

  19. After the nominations closed, I thought of one possibility for best related work. S. J. Perlman wrote a parody of Captain Future and the Space Emperor titled Captain Future, Block That Kick. It appeared in the New Yorker in 1940.

  20. @Vicki Rosenzweig: There are two this year, and the other is listed first 🙂

    @Milt Stevens: Kallocain is one of the true classics of dystopian literature, right up there with Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, George Orwell’s 1984, or Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. She was and is one of Sweden’s most celebrated poets, one of those that just about every Swede can quote a few lines from.

  21. Malcolm Edwards: van Vogt’s “Vault of the Beast”

    Mentioning the story reminds me how important it was considered in the development of sf at the time I started reading in the late 1960s. Van Vogt’s fiction, generally, does not seem to have weathered the years. Yet it was just 20 years ago Van Vogt was recognized with a special committee award at L.A.con III, and Harlan Ellison was the presenter.

  22. My own thoughts on Kallocain were that it would have been a classic of dystopian literature if it had been finished properly – the cop-out “Rocks fall, everybody dies” ending cuts short a very interesting developing situation. Frankly, I found it deeply, deeply unsatisfying. Effectively, it’s half of a very good book, and that annoys me.

  23. Some of Lovecraft’s poems were being published in fanzines in 1941. One example is “Nostalgia” in issue #2 of Larry Farsace’s fanzine STARS. Other 1941 contributions were published in COSMIC TALES (see http://zinewiki.com/Cosmic_Tales).

  24. Correction. It appears that “Nostalgia” was written in 1930, but I’m not sure when it was actually published. It’s possible that the Hugo administrators may need to make an amendment to that category, but I think the COSMIC TALES contribution qualifies him.

  25. @Michael Kingsley, just a reminder that eligible works should have been published in 1940, not 1941, just as the 2016 Hugos are for 2015 works. Not to say that Lovecraft didn’t have fannish work published in 1940, too.

  26. I totes nailed it in Novella, Novelette and BDP Long, at least 4/5. But now this means I have to decide, urk.

    But there should have been some CL Moore, dammit. I reread her stuff and wow. Bob Tucker was a friendly acquaintance of mine for a number of years and so I’m glad to see him on the ballot so many times. Smooooooth.

    As Andrew said, these are the Hugos that matter this year.

    I’m going to enjoy reading some of the stuff I haven’t before.

  27. Some really good choices here. Though I’m disappointed that Captain Future did not make it, because it was one of the works that were responsible (albeit in a roundabout way via an anime adaptation in the late 1970s) for getting me into SF in the first place.

  28. Wow, pretty good selection from about 350 ballots (judging by Best Novel). I didn’t nail any category on my ballot. The closest I came was Pro Artist with five matching picks, but Haha, says the shortlist, we have a tie in that category so you only get 5/6!


    @Malcolm Edwards:

    But “Darker Than You Think” is surely in the wrong category. I haven’t done a word count, but it takes up more pages in UNKNOWN than either of the de Camp and Pratt stories which are (correctly) classed as novellas.

    That’s what I thought, too! I nominated it under Novella, not Novelette. It’s rather long.


    @Steve Wright:

    Anyone know what happened to the Best Related Work category? Believe it or not, I had ideas over that one – and I’m pretty sure I saw suggestions from other quarters, too. Were there just not enough loonies – err, I mean enthusiasts – like me to make up a realistic set of finalists?

    Probably not enough nominating ballots. I did manage to come up with three related works for my ballot, but it was a bit tricky. Most other categories I could fill up after research and reading. That one I couldn’t.

    After a side-by-side with my ballot, there are other missing categories besides Related Work that apparently didn’t make the cut: Semiprozine, BE:LF, Fan Artist, and Fancast (not surprising). The least-nominated category we have announced up there is Fanzine with 63 nominating ballots.

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