Huett: The 1953 “Hugo Awards”

By Kim Huett: It is my usual practice when a topic of fannish interest comes up to wherever possible to go direct to sources. Usually this means having a quick rummage through my collection to see what it might reveal. In regards to the question of the 1953 Hugo awards handed out at the Sunday Evening Banquet (held September 6 between 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. in the main ballroom according to the program book) I turned to Fantasy Times. Whatever one thinks of James V. Taurasi (and opinions on that topic tend towards the colorful) it’s hard to deny that his newzine was the fanzine of record at the time.

[Kim sent scans from issues of Fantasy Times, excerpted below.] These selections from Fantasy Times add further evidence to the argument that the Fan Personality Award was voted on in exactly the same way and indeed on the same ballot as all the other awards. On the other hand Taurasi’s reportage on the convention doesn’t confirm that categories were dropped due to a shortage of votes. Instead he claims the problem was a matter of no clear winners which does seem every bit as likely as Warner’s lack of votes suggestion.

Fantasy Times, September 1953.

The winners of the Awards were: #1 Fan Personality: Forrest J Ackerman, who turned it down and gave it to Ken Slater of England. Bert Campbell will bring it back to England with him and present it to Slater.

There were no awards for short stories, novelettes or fan magazines, as there was no clear cut vote on these; too many named with too little vote for each.

It’s also interesting to note that even before the convention was held Lyle Kessler felt he had to issue a statement explaining the awards weren’t called the Hugos. He also seems to be capitulating on the topic and accepting the awards be called Hugos though I suppose you can’t call that an official naming.

Fantasy Times, August 2, 1953.

Lyle Kessler: There is no official name for the Awards themselves. It seems the word got around that they were to be called “Hugos” (after the father of science fiction, Hugo Gernsback). That isn’t so. If fans decide that “Hugos” are the proper name for the Awards they they shall be called “Hugos”.

I hope all this adds to your understanding of the matter.

[Thanks to Kim for sharing his research!]

5 thoughts on “Huett: The 1953 “Hugo Awards”

  1. As for how the awards came to be called the “Hugos”, here is some additional information by Bob Madle (from Mimosa 30) about the 1953 Worldcon:

    That worldcon was the one where the Hugo Awards were first presented. The idea for the Awards was the brainchild of one of our 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. But how were we going to do it? Money didn’t flow freely in those days. In the end we decided to make them ourselves. Milt Rothman suggested we use a rocket design based on a Chesley Bonestell cover for a Willy Ley book, and one of the club members, Jack McKnight, did the machining. But they almost didn’t get them done in time! Milt found out that the person who had originally been responsible for making the Awards had never even gotten started, so Jack stepped in and had to spend the entire convention in his machine shop.

  2. So who was Lyle Kessler, and why was he denying that the official name of the award was the Hugos?

  3. Lyle Kessler is listed as one of the chairmen of the of the publicity committee in the programme book of the 1953 worldcon.

  4. So then we might theorize that Madle ran with the name “Hugos” in his “Inside Science Fiction” column although the committee did not officially adopt it?

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