1945 Retro-Hugo Winners

CoNZealand presented the 1945 Retro-Hugos today. The results included the first tie in the award’s history, for the Best Dramatic Presentation – Short Form Retro-Hugo. (The full voting stats are online, and Deputy Hugo Awards Administrator Nicholas Whyte has done a quick analysis here.)

In addition to the regular Hugos, which will be presented later this week, the WSFS Constitution permits Retrospective Hugo Awards to be presented by a Worldcon held an even multiple of 25 years after a year after 1939 at which no Hugo Awards were presented. Due to World War II, there was no Worldcon in 1945, and no Retro-Hugos have previously been given for sff published in the 1944 eligibility year.

The winners of the Retro Hugo Awards 1945 are:

Best Novel

  • “Shadow Over Mars” (The Nemesis from Terra) by Leigh Brackett (Startling Stories, Fall 1944)

Best Novella

  • “Killdozer!” by Theodore Sturgeon (Astounding Science Fiction , November 1944)

Best Novelette

  • “City” by Clifford D. Simak (Astounding Science Fiction , May 1944)

Best Short Story

  • “I, Rocket” by Ray Bradbury (Amazing Stories , May 1944)

Best Series

  • The Cthulhu Mythos by H. P. Lovecraft, August Derleth, and others

Best Related Work

  • “The Science-Fiction Field” by Leigh Brackett (Writer’s Digest, July 1944)

Best Graphic Story or Comic

  • Superman: “The Mysterious Mr. Mxyztplk” by Jerry Siegel,  Ira Yarbrough and Joe Shuster (Detective Comics, Inc.)

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form


  • The Canterville Ghost, screenplay by Edwin Harvey Blum from a story by Oscar Wilde, directed by Jules Dassin (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM))
  • The Curse of the Cat People, written by DeWitt Bodeen, directed by Gunther V. Fritsch and Robert Wise (RKO Radio Pictures)

Best Editor, Short Form

  • John W. Campbell, Jr.

Best Professional Artist

  • Margaret Brundage

Best Fanzine

  • Voice of the Imagi-Nation , edited by Forrest J Ackerman and Myrtle R. Douglas

Best Fan Writer

  • Fritz Leiber

Update 08/11/2020: Added Ira Yarbrough’s name to creators of Superman, per correction issued by Hugo Administrators.

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52 thoughts on “1945 Retro-Hugo Winners

  1. Best Novel: 2
    Best Novella: 3
    Novellete: 3
    Short: 4 (a weaker Bradbury imho)
    Graphic Story: 1
    Dramatic Presentation: 2+4


  2. I am VERY ESTATIC over Leigh Brackett’s two Hugo Awards!!!!!

    H.P. Lovecraft? Don’t get me started…

  3. Yeah. I had Killdozer in the top slot but nothing else I had at #1 won. “Desertion” is the non-winner I feel worst about (I had the minor Bradbury and the minor Asimov low on my short story ballot).

  4. Full stats here.

    My quick analysis here.

    521 votes cast, 120 at nominations.
    Tie in Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form! The first ever tie in the Retro Hugos.
    Close results also in Best Novelette (6 votes) and Best Fanzine (9 votes)
    Crushing first round victories for John W. Campbell and Margaret Brundage
    "City" wins Best Novelette despite fewer first preference votes than "No Woman Born"
    * "Old Man in New World", by Olaf Stapledon (Novella),
    * The Book of Thoth, by Aleister Crowley (Related Work)
    * Foundation by Isaac Asimov and Venus Equilateral by George O. Smith (Best Series)
    * The Best Dramatic Presentation Long Form category

    Won the award despite being last to qualify at nominations stage:
    * "I, Rocket" (Short Story)
    * "The Science-Fiction Field" by Leigh Brackett (Related Work)
    * The Canterville Ghost (Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form – tie)
    * Fritz Leiber (Best Fan Writer).

  5. Congratulations to the winners! Most of my favourites fell at various fences, but never mind, that’s life. (Must assemble some coherent thoughts about the detail stuff, it makes for interesting reading. I noticed, in the long lists, one nomination for David Langford in Retro Best Fan Writer… didn’t know Langford was that precocious.)

  6. Worth noting that Campbell’s victory in Editor Short was with 54.9% of the vote, down slightly from 56.8% last year. (Also worth noting that the category had 37.5% fewer voters.)

    The only categories where you needed double digit nominations to make the ballot were Novel and Novelette. (Short Story is an edge case here because of EPH.)

  7. @Goobergunch: It’s worth noting but that doesn’t erase the fact that it still happened.

    I’m fine with/enjoy most of the winners (especially Brackett getting two Hguos) but the Campbell/Lovecraft double header is a poor look. On one hand I do occasionally get annoyed with everyone calling for the eradication of the Retros (speaking for myself, it’s a fun excavation through the history of fandom), but on the other hand, Campbell and Lovecraft winning after all the hullabaloo about them recently pretty much proves the naysayers right. There might need to be a sincere reckoning on the future of the Retros.

  8. Desortation was a Highlight, I didn’t vote in series or Editors so kind of my fault, too.

  9. N: Here’s something that struck me about the ceremony. If the CoNZealand chairs thought they needed to introduce the awards by apologizing for the contemporary culture of the 1940s, which in effect they did, there was nobody forcing them to give Retro Hugos in the first place.

  10. Nuts. I was hoping for Doc Savage. Or The Shadow. Or even Captain Future. Oh, well. No doubt a deserving win.

  11. Count me among those who preferred Desertion to I, Rocket. And I preferred It Happened Tomorrow to the two ghost stories. But them’s the breaks — I can’t expect my tastes to be universal.

  12. Happy with most of these, disappointed “Desertion” didn’t win though.

    As for the Editor and Series winners, like it or not, Campbell’s Astounding was the best magazine in the field. 13 of 18 short fiction nominees came from Astounding and one of the six novels was serialized there. They didn’t publish themselves. I didn’t even bother voting for Editor.

    As for the Lovecraft win, I had de Grandin and Pellucidar ahead of Cthulhu, but when one series has had pastiches and parodies for decades (there’ve been Sherlock Holmes Cthulhu pastiches, at least one an award winner) the winner is basically a given. Life is hard.

    Further Deponent Saith Not.

  13. @Mike – decision to hold the Retros was made over a year ago. What might have seemed a sensible decision then might not have seemed such a good choice now. FWIW, the Hugo Admin team advised against it, but the chairs decided they’d like to see it. And I do understand the appeal. Right now there are still people who care – we heard from several family members of finalists. And there are readers alive who read it when it was contemporary. If we didn’t hold it this year, it would be irrelevant the next time it comes around.

    I did really love the way they did the ceremony, under the circumstances.

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  15. David Shallcross: One thing I’m glad about is that at least we’re not giving Hugos to Bradbury’s fanzine fiction this time.

  16. I really liked how the ceremony described all of the finalists—there are a lot of works on the Retro ballot that I just didn’t have the time and/or energy to read/watch and it is nice to have what we are honoring contextualized. A shame about the technical difficulties but I did go back and read the transcript and was thoroughly impressed.

    That being said, it is hard for me to square that we (as WSFS) are saying that Campbell or Lovecraft are award-worthy, the best X of 1945, but also trying to contextualize and criticize the works on the ballot via the ceremony. If we don’t think that the works of 1945 are worth celebrating, it seems to me that the correct result is to either not have Retro Hugos or to vote No Award where appropriate. (Campbell beat No Award 193–39; Cthulhu beat No Award 253–38. If anybody was actively campaigning for No Award in these categories I missed it.) (I didn’t vote in either category as I didn’t feel I had read enough for either to make an informed choice.) If somebody is reading the list of Retro Hugo winners, they won’t see caveats attached.

    I had a similar feeling at last year’s Retro Hugo ceremony where the presenters were criticizing Lovecraft during the Novella presentation; it would have been awkward if his novella had turned out to then be the winner.

    This also comes back to the problem of the Retro Hugos necessarily reflecting the tastes of the 2020 electorate, which obviously has different views than a hypothetical 1945 electorate but at the same time is probably unrepresentative of the greater Hugo electorate just judging from the disparity in voter counts. And of course a 2020 voter is going to know about all of the post-1944 work done in the Cthulhu Mythos, much of which is excellent even if Lovecraft probably wouldn’t like it very much.

    The only real solution to low Retro Hugo turnout, if we want to keep the Retro Hugos, is to encourage more voting in them, and while I appreciate the effort that people like Cora have put in on this front, I’m always going to prioritize works by living people during the Hugo reading period.

    Ah well, at least this will not be an issue next year.

  17. Goobergunch: That being said, it is hard for me to square that we (as WSFS) are saying that Campbell or Lovecraft are award-worthy, the best X of 1945, but also trying to contextualize and criticize the works on the ballot via the ceremony. If we don’t think that the works of 1945 are worth celebrating, it seems to me that the correct result is to either not have Retro Hugos or to vote No Award where appropriate.

    What you say makes a lot of sense to me. And I’d like to extend my earlier comment.

    While it was never really expected that the Retro Hugo winners would reflect the opinions of fans at the time (and this was, in fact, one of the criticisms of the original proposal, that current-day voters would fail to mark what First Fandom thought were the right answers to this quiz, but that was never the goal in mind), the present-day electorate is heavily salted with geezers like me who know that 1944 is when Astounding was the best prozine — all you have to do is look at the fiction ASF and the other prozines published — so who else in all honesty can we be expected to vote for? If in 2020 Campbell’s many documented failings make him a distasteful Hugo choice, the decision should have been not to run these optional awards, not apologize for him winning, and not to orchestrate a vote for somebody else who didn’t do the quality of work Campbell did in 1944.

  18. I No Awarded Campbell.

    I put Raymond Palmer in #1 because I always thought that he didn’t get the recognition he deserved. Amazing Stories wasn’t a bad ‘zine at all, not as legendary as Astounding.

    When I wrote about Palmer on my old blog some years ago, I got some comments about his belief in flying saucers and the hollow earth, but that’s really not any worse than Campbell’s belief in the inherent superiority of white people (which he wrote many editorials about) or his belief that tobacco smoking was actually better for your health than not (which he also editorialized about), nor his belief in ESP, or his early support of Dianetics…

    So to answer your question, Mike, Palmer is who you could have voted for.

  19. Actually, I don’t agree that Astounding was the best magazine of 1944. True, John W. Campbell for all his faults was a fine editor, he discovered a lot of great writers and published some true classics.

    However, having looked at the actual magazines (or scans thereof), I saw that while Astounding published some great stories in 1944 (the City stories – and yes, “Desertion” was robbed, “No Woman Born”, “The Children’s Hour”, which finished unfairly low, “Far Centaurus”, “When the Bough Breaks”, etc…), but Campbell also published a lot of dross, though the dross is largely and deservedly forgotten these days. One of those dross works – “Trog” by Murray Leinster – even made the ballot. And I’ve noticed that while Astounding had a lot of classic stories, some of which (the two Foundation stories) don’t hold up all that well, the bad Astounding stories truly were bad. Whereas even the lesser stories in Weird Tales and Planet Stories were always at the very least entertaining.

    In general – and I reviewed more than 30 stories from 1944 – I found that Weird Tales had the highest overall quality and so I voted Dorothy McIlwraith in first place. I had Campbell in third or fourth place. I didn’t vote for Cthulhu in first place either – but for Captain Future, who was one of my SF entry drugs, The Shadow, Doc Savage and Pellucidar. I also didn’t vote for Voice of the Imagi-Nation, because I found most of the other zines better.

    I do think that the Retro Hugo Recommendation Spreadsheet and Retro Reviews did have an impact – e.g. I doubt that Fritz Leiber would have won best fan writer, if I hadn’t come across his work in The Acolyte and put his name in the spreadsheet. Hampus very likely put “The Wind on the Moon” on the ballot, because he raved about the book. If I dig into the nomination statistics that Nicolas Whyte put up, I note that “Ride the El to Doom” by Allison V. Harding got four nominations and “The Day the World Stood Still”, also by Harding got three. Would this have happened, if I hadn’t reviewed and raved about “Ride the El to Doom” and Steve J. Wright hadn’t reviewed “The Day the World Stood Still”? Though I suspect I would have had to apologise to the Hugo admins, if Harding whose true identity is still not fully known had won and they had to track down her estate.

    That said, I’m also a little frustrated because I started the spreadsheet and Retro Reviews because I wanted to make the Retro Hugos better and also make it easier for voters/nominators to make informed choices and point them at good works that might be overlooked. I had a lot of fun, too, and discovered stories I might never have read otherwise. It wasn’t just me either. N helped to track down elusive dramatic presentation and related work finalists. Steve J. Wright, Paul Fraser, Don Briago and others reviewed lots of stories, novels and whole magazines.

    So in short, several of us got together to put the information out there about what is eligible (obviously not Dave Langford 9 years before he was born), what is worth checking out and shared our thoughts on the finalists. If the voters and nominators don’t pay attention to this in sufficient numbers, there’s little we can do about it.

    As for the people complaining about Retro Hugos for Campbell, Cthulhu and Forrest J. Ackerman, did you nominate and vote? Did you point out better choices? Did you point people to unjustly forgotten authors/editors/fan writers? If not, then don’t complain.

  20. @FontFolly
    I didn’t No Award Campbell, though I understand everybody who did. However, I ranked Dorothy McIlwraith of Weird Tales, Wilbur S. Peacock of Planet Stories and Raymond Palmer of Amazing (who wouldn’t even publish the first Shaver mystery until the following year) above Campbell. I would have ranked Mary Gnaedinger above Campbell, too, if Famous Fantastic Mysteries hadn’t published only reprints in 1944 (which I suspect the majority of the people who voted her in third place didn’t know).

  21. FontFolly: So to answer your question, Mike, Palmer is who you could have voted for.

    Yeah, no. Cora supposes it makes a difference that he didn’t publish Shaver mystery stories til later than 1944, which is the reason he didn’t earn a lasting positive reputation in the field. Palmer had a lot of noteworthy accomplishments in his stfnal resume up til then, it could have gone differently for him.

    Much time has passed, so it’s easier than ever to find people who (1) never heard of the Shaver mystery, and (2) didn’t spend years hearing from their fellow fans how they cringed at the idea people thought that stuff represented Science Fiction. Or even (3) figure whatever harm the Shaver mystery did to the genre decades ago is insignificant compared to giving another award to Campbell this year.

    This discussion made me curious about the Retro Hugo voting in the Editor – Short Form category. Although Palmer finished behind No Award on the basis of first-place votes, and finished fourth overall, there still were 76 voters who ranked him somewhere on the ballot, as opposed to leaving him off altogether (which is how most voters dealt with finalists Friend and Peacock). For Palmer advocates that has to be regarded a good sign — it’s easier to move up if people already vote for you somewhere.

  22. Peacock finishing in last place is unfair, because Planet Stories did good work and the stories I read were always at the very least entertaining. Some of them were very good indeed.

    As for Oscar J. Friend, Startling Stories, Thrilling Wonder Stories and Captain Future were more of a mixed bag and more juvenile, but there were some good stories in both such as “The Veil of Astrellar” by Leigh Brackett and “A God Named Kroo” by Henry Kuttner. Besides, Oscar J. Friend published the Best Novel winner “Shadow Over Mars” in Thrilling Wonder Stories.

    I suspect Planet, Startling and Thrilling suffer from their reputation as lower end mags with lurid covers, even if the actual content (and covers) was pretty good.

  23. Cora: In general – and I reviewed more than 30 stories from 1944 – I found that Weird Tales had the highest overall quality and so I voted Dorothy McIlwraith in first place.

    Your review is why McIlraith was in my #2 spot.

    Planet Stories, Amazing Stories, and Weird Tales were all printing at least as much good material as Astounding Stories was during that decade.

    So, yeah, I also definitely do not agree that Astounding was objectively the best ‘zine at the time.

    I didn’t No Award Campbell just because he was a racist and chauvinist and fascist… but also because he printed a lot of dross, and even worse, pushed writers to rewrite stories to adhere to his political beliefs. That’s not being a good editor.

  24. I have to concur with Cora Buhlert on the Best Editor thing – like her, I spent a lot of time reading and reviewing stories from 1944, and, like her, I found Weird Tales to be consistently good in a way which Astounding, well, wasn’t. True, several all-time classics appeared in Astounding in 1944… but so did a lot of not-classic-at-all material. Meanwhile, Dorothy McIlwraith was building on Farnsworth Wright’s legacy and fostering some important new talent at the time; her contributions deserve to be acknowledged.

    Frankly, I thought McIlwraith did a better job than Campbell in 1944, and I voted accordingly. Fandom-as-a-whole disagrees, and that’s fine, I can accept the results of a popular vote… but I still think I’m right. A lot of what we “know” about 1940s SF turns out, when you spend some time with the source material, to be stuff we remember, sometimes imperfectly. SF/F turns out to be noticeably more diverse than we seem to remember it, for a start – forgotten women writers keep on turning up (like Allison V. Harding, whom Cora mentions, and who was pretty good); there’s a lot of boundary-blurring genre and subgenre stuff (the sort of thing we’d call “slipstream” today; many things people think of as “typical” of pulp SF were, actually, distinctly in the minority (“hard” SF based on current scientific knowledge being one of them!).

  25. Y’know, if the rationalization for some people voting for John W. Campbell over Raymond Palmer is that Palmer published a lot of pseudoscience later in is career… that means you’re ignoring more than three decades of Campbell’s advocacy of crackpot pseudoscience.

    Campbell was pushing Joseph Rhines’ theories about ESP in the 1930s… Not to mention Dianetics in the late forties, and the Dean Drive and the Hieronymus machine. And somehow those are all less cringeworthy than the Shaver mysteries? Really?

    To steal a phrase from Steve Wright (and not at all to claim to be speaking for him): a lot of what people—even otherwise very well-informed fans and scholars of the genre—know about Campbell, is stuff we remember very imperfectly.

  26. Wonderful to see Brundage and Brackett get the nod!

    I don’t EVER expect to see Palmer win Best Editor, although I do expect to see him on the ballot (who else?). Loncon 3 was nice enough to send me his finalist certificate and I have it framed and displayed on my office wall – but that doesn’t mean I vote for him in first place. (My top two this time around were McIlwraith and Gnaedinger); as Mike said, his fannish resume was a sterling one until he went the Shaver/UFO/pseudo-scientific claptrap direction, and Fandom was not happy at all (despite the fact that doing so increased the magazine’s circulation to levels it had not seen since its opening year).

    For those interested, we publish a facsimile edition of the May 1944 issue of Amazing Stories that features I, Rocket and we republished the story on the website, with an introduction by JM Stine; its available now and will also be republished today at 11 am est.

    Congratulations to all of the winners!

  27. Probably time to stop this award. There are a lot of finalists getting there on a handful of nominations and some winners being chosen on name or novel recognition rather than for the work (this year Bradbury, City, and, I guess, Leiber).
    Looking at the top half of the stats (I don’t know enough about the fan/film stuff`), the nomination round alone looks like it would have provided a better set of winners (with the exception of Brundage maybe, but this was a weak year for her whereas Timmins was steadily improving).

  28. I learned from reading I have to say thank you to Hampus. I really liked The Wind on the Moon. Thanks Hampus.
    I disagree that City was only chosen on Namereconition. While I had it on 3, it was a strong story in a strong field.

  29. The Retro-Hugos as a concept to fill in the Hugos for the missing years in the 1950’s was a good idea. I voted for those enthusiastically.

    I’ve been less enthusiastic about the concept of these (in practice) “Before the Hugos Hugos” and the Campbell and Lovecraft wins are crystallizing that more for me, I think.

  30. Cora thanks for all your work. It helped me with my nomination and final ballot.

    I was kind of surprised Arena did not win. I would figure that would have more recognition since it was the basis of an iconic Star Trek episode.

    Campbell dominated SF until Anthony Boucher started F&SF. Though I did not vote him first in 1944 (last year) since in my research , I found out Donald Wollheim got a book published in 1943 which was a rarity at the time. I did vote Dorothy McIlwraith number 2. I always feel Weird Tales is more Horror/Fantasy than SF, but I nominated 2 of Alison Harding stories and a Dorothy Quick story because of your reviews.

    I do hope we continue and close the loop with Hugo-less years. I think there will be some interesting stuff in the late 40s.

  31. I agree that part of the problem here is that received wisdom about the golden age or any kind of past SFF is often very simplified or just plain wrong. This doesn’t just apply to the golden age, just take the received wisdom that SFF in the 1970s was boring and stale, until the cyberpunks came along and shook everything up. Pity about all those feminist SFF writers of the 1970s who were erased.

    With regard to the so-called golden age, what we now call Campbellian SFF was not nearly as dominant as received wisdom would make it appear and even Campbell himself published a lot of stories that were not very Campbellian. The much derided pulp science fiction published in the likes of Planet Stories, Startling Stories or Thrilling Wonder Stories was actually pretty good, often aged better than the hard SF of the same period and occasionally makes interesting political points. Then we have a lot of fantasy, horror and slipstreams works, which are ignored altogether, unless they involve Cthulhu, we have subgenres making an appearance decades before they even had a name. Finally, the golden age was a lot less straight, white and male than received wisdom would have us believe.

    I do think that “City” the novelette won partly on name recognition, even though it is a good story. However, it’s not the best “City” story of 1944 – that would be “Desertion” – or even the best “City” novelette of 1944 – that would be “Census”. However, “City” is the story that gave its name to the series/fix-up novel.

    @Juan Sanmiguel
    I’m glad that my spreadsheet and review helped you. And believe me, I was thrilled to see Allison V. Harding and Dorothy Quick on the longlist as well as things like Harold Wakefield’s series on forgotten fantasists, who was basically doing in 1944 for late 19th and early 20th century authors what Paul Fraser, Steve J. Wright, myself and others are doing for the 1940s.

  32. “Huddling Place” made the The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume One so I had expected it to do a bit better in the Retros.

  33. As for the Lovecraft win, I had de Grandin and Pellucidar ahead of Cthulhu, but when one series has had pastiches and parodies for decades (there’ve been Sherlock Holmes Cthulhu pastiches, at least one an award winner) the winner is basically a given.

    The unlimited range of best-body-of-work awards has been a peeve of mine at least as far back as 2001, when Silverberg was overheard wondering what fan writing he’d been awarded for and even Freas (who’d been a greedy pig about current-time Hugos) admitted he’d done little or nothing in-genre in 1950.

    Paul Fraser: IMO the time to stop the award was 19 years ago (see above), if not 26 years ago when it was passed. But the majority of business-meeting geeks thought it was a good idea and concoms thought likewise (I argued against it for 2004, but people put up highly-debatable claims about the award promoting the learning of genre history and the concom agreed) and IIRC there hasn’t been a serious effort to shut them down. Fortunately we only have a few more years to fill.

    wrt who was publishing good short work vs drek: I wonder what fraction of stories in early anthologies came from each of those magazines? In Healey&McComas’s Adventures in Time and Space (1946) there are 31 from Astounding, 1 from Unknown (also ed. Campbell), and 1 each from Amazing, Planet Stories, and a UK collection. This may be too close in time (the stories were originally published as much as 12 years before), but is unlikely to be biased towards Astounding‘s style given that McComas co-founded The Magazine of Fantasy (shortly to become F&SF) a few years later. The other co-founder’s signature anthology (Boucher’s 2-volume Treasury, 1959) has mostly stories from the 1950’s.

  34. FontFolly: Y’know, if the rationalization for some people voting for John W. Campbell over Raymond Palmer is that Palmer published a lot of pseudoscience later in is career… that means you’re ignoring more than three decades of Campbell’s advocacy of crackpot pseudoscience.

    If this is an argument, you win. Everybody knew and discussed these things about Campbell even when he was alive and still working. People moved on, started voting Hugos to Galaxy an IF.

    Yet at the time this was not judged to have retroactively erased Campbell’s contribution to changing the tenor of what SF had been in early Thirties to — oh, for want of a better word, let’s say — more rigorous style of storytelling that contemporary fans respected much more. Those who entered the sff/fan culture where those views prevailed tended to absorb them. The fanhistorical paradigm was that Palmer damaged the genre, whereas Campbell put it on the right road. However, I also think it should not be underestimated that Campbell (who I never personally met) is described as a dominant and challenging personality that loved interacting/arguing with anybody, someone who went to conventions where people tended to be in the paradoxical position of feeling flattered by that and annoyed by some of his arguments. Once Campbell the person was subtracted there was nothing to sustain the tolerance for his inconsistencies and objectionable ideas except the habit that had been created of doing so, which proved so powerful that it’s only recently any leaders have emerged to demand an accounting.

    But knocking down Campbell is a different thing than trying to convince people Palmer was a better editor.

  35. Personally, I’ve found digging into the history of SF an interesting, and at times eye-opening, experience… anyone who’s read my reviews (hey, it might happen!) can see where I’ve learned as I’ve gone along, warming up to some things (like John Thunstone, or Mandrake the Magician) while remaining resolutely un-warmed to others. I’ve discovered talented early writers who were unknown to me before; I’ve also found out which well-remembered giants of the genre turn out to have feet of clay. (Like discovering some people were terrible racists… or that, on average, the science in Astounding stories is about as hard as a blancmange.) I’ve revisited old favourites and seen whether or not they stood the test of time….

    Now, of course, I could do all of this without any awards hanging off it. And, yeah, it’s a bit dispiriting when my carefully researched and deeply considered first-place vote for Dorothy McIlwraith is immediately neutralized by half a dozen people saying “Oh, yeah, John Campbell, he’s famous, never heard of the rest of ’em”. But I don’t think that’s a good reason to give up on the Retro Hugos. Given a choice between “trying to engage, exhort, edify and persuade” and “giving it up as a bad job”, I will take the more quixotic option. Maybe it’s a character flaw.

    It’s worth remembering, I think, that the Retros do give us a chance to – retrospectively – honour some important works and figures in the genre that didn’t get such recognition at the time. Possibly it’s less obvious, this year, with people’s minds in 1944 being very much occupied with other things (it took some research even to find six credible nominees in some categories!) – but there are some significant milestones in SF and fantasy coming up in the immediate post-war years, and it wouldn’t be a bad thing to honour them. (They’re not all problematic….)

    The Retros are inherently limited, in any case. Barring rules changes, there are only seven more years they can be awarded for (and two of them won’t be possible until 2040 and 2042, by which time we may well all have other stuff to worry about.) Speaking purely personally, I’m enjoying the project and would like to see it continue. YMMV.

  36. Two unrepentant outspoken notorious bigots and a lifelong sexual predator make for a grim victory podium, I must say .

  37. Plus Margaret Brundage, one of the few women artists of the era, who was also a political activist, taught black children in Chicago and was very likely LGBTQ, and Leigh Brackett, one of the not so few women writers of the golden age, who went unrecognised during her lifetime (she did win a posthumous Hugo for The Empire Strikes Back) and won with an explicitly anti-capitalist and anti-colonialist novel as well as an essay which contains a few jabs against one of said bigots.

    I don’t think anybody has any objections to Ray Bradbury, Clifford D. Simak, Fritz Leiber, Theodore Sturgeon, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster and two pretty good movies either. So celebrate them and ignore Campbell, Ackerman and Cthulhu.

  38. @Cora
    Hear! Hear! I don’t personally participate in the Retro Hugo process because I have too much on my plate with the current Hugos. But it’s things like this that make me think they still have value. Plus I know how much those who do really dig into them enjoy it. And I appreciate it.

  39. The con has the discretion to award or not award Retro-Hugos, so that is their decision to make. But given that they made the decision to award them, it looks like the voters made their decision based on “achievement in science fiction”, which is exactly what one looks for from voters. Any argument that Campbell or Lovecraft should have been ranked lower because of their personal failings is, it seems to me, justification for voting in the regular Hugo awards for reasons unrelated to the merit of the work. Which probably isn’t good.

  40. @Steve Wright:

    it’s a bit dispiriting when my carefully researched and deeply considered first-place vote for Dorothy McIlwraith is immediately neutralized by half a dozen people saying “Oh, yeah, John Campbell, he’s famous, never heard of the rest of ’em”.

    citation? (Creebing about one’s choices losing has a long history; that doesn’t make it any more plausible.)

  41. Pingback: Some Thoughts on the 1945 Retro Hugo Winners | Cora Buhlert

  42. Mike: I am sorry that I misunderstood your Palmer comments.

    And also sorry that I didn’t point out that I am actually quite happy with several of the winners in other categories.

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