1971 BDP: No Award Really Did “Win”

David Klaus commented that Wikipedia’s entry about Jefferson Starship’s album “Blows Against the Empire”, nominated for the 1971 Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo, makes the claim:

Although the album garnered the most votes for the award, no award was given in 1971 for this category.

The article gives no cross-reference. That outcome should have been impossible under the 1971 rules (or today’s) where voters must rank “No Award” along with the nominated works. I wondered if the statement had a basis in reality or if it was sheer nonsense? Fortunately, the person best able to answer the question was easy to find: Tony Lewis. He replied:

Mike, I was chair [of Noreascon, the 1971 Worldcon] and also Hugo administrator. I ruled that Jefferson Starship’s Blows Against the Empire was eligible. Some people disagreed because it was a record (remember them) and thus not been performed on tv, film, or radio. I told them it had been played publicly. Another argument was that it was just singing with brief narrative threads to connect them; well, that’s Grand Opera also.

It received the largest number of votes for actual items in that category but No Award received a majority of the votes–I seem to remember that that happened on the first round.

The statement in Wikipedia might be considered true in some sense but it is certainly incomplete and misleading.

Thanks Tony. Add me to the list of people who are glad you broke down the walls in the Best Dramatic category. A friend of mine played the album for me in 1970 and when I saw it on the Hugo ballot I remember thinking it was exciting that sf music could compete for the award.

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7 thoughts on “1971 BDP: No Award Really Did “Win”

  1. I have such fond memories of the album – rock ‘n’ roll and SF.

    And for those who haven’t heard it, two samples:

    (gad, what a voice Grace Slick had)

    “Have You Seen The Stars Tonite”
    (Now, that’s a skiffy song!)

    FWIW, the other nominees were:
    Colossus: The Forbin Project
    “Don’t Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me the Pliers” (recording)
    Hauser’s Memory (TV drama)
    No Blade of Grass

    Imagine that: two albums on the same ballot.

  2. And a postscript to the above.

    It looks like the change to this:

    “Although the album garnered the most votes for the award, no award was given in 1971 for this category. ”

    occurred on “00:29, 15 November 2007”

  3. I see that Steve Silver has now fixed the entry to clear up the confusion, citing your post as the authority.

    I think — and I wrote this elsewhere — what whoever wrote the earlier version was thinking was that “No Award” isn’t a “nominee,” so while NA had the most votes, Blows was the “nominee” with the most votes. Of course, for counting purposes, NA is a nominee, but I expect that in common usage, most people don’t consider it when they refer to “nominees.”

    And I seem to recall that there was at least one Hugo Ceremony where they insisted on naming No Award while listing off the nominees in each category, and thinking at the time how silly it sounded.

  4. Kevin, I’m sure you’re right: that what the earlier wording meant is that it was the substantive nominee with the most votes. (The fact that it sounds silly to name “No Award” along with the nominees is further emphasis that “No Award” isn’t a substantive nominee.)

    I don’t think Steve’s revised wording is very elegant, but it is at least accurate.

  5. As can be seen here, the person who made the edit in 2007 stating that “the album garnered the most votes for the award” was actually correcting someone else’s claim that Blows Against the Empire had won. Hence, this was more likely an example of awkward writing than an attempt to mislead.

  6. Tangentially, I’ve never quite understood how “hippies” got canonized as “sex, drugs, and rock & roll”, when it was “sex, drugs, rock & roll, and science fiction”.
    Blows against the Empire gives “Thanks to Kurt Vonnegut, Robert Heinlein, Michael Cooney, Jean Genet, Mike Lipskin, Buckminster Fuller, Theodore Sturgeon, A. A. Milne, John Lear and The Bear”; the title track on Jefferson Airplane’s Crown of Creation is a paragraph from Wyndham’s The Crysalids set to music . . .

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