Instant Analysis of Retro Hugo Vote

Orson Welles’ radio production of The War of the Worlds commanded the largest margin of victory of any 1939 Retro Hugo winner, 687 votes.

The infamous Halloween broadcast (based on a novel by that other Wells) was one of two first-ballot winners, reports Loncon 3. The other, John W. Campbell, Jr., took the Best Professional Editor – Short Form category with a 580 vote margin, in the process continuing his unique dominance of the Retro Hugos: Campbell has won the editor category every time the Retros have been given (1996, 2001, 2004 and 2014).

War of the Worlds recorded its own unique achievement – this is the second production to win the Best Dramatic Presentation Retro Hugo. Wells’ story won another for the 1953 movie (in 2004).

Retro Hugos exist to honor and draw attention to science fiction’s past. On that count Loncon 3 has already succeeded nobly.

But they always spark social media lightning. Some feel the awards are a failure unless voters ratify the views of nominees held by fans in Ye Olde Days. Others judge the outcome by how closely the winners reflect contemporary social values.

This year, the contrasting fates of two nominees reputed among the best sf stories of all time (each appears in a SFWA Hall of Fame collection) should keep everyone frothing, at least for the rest of today’s news cycle.

“Who Goes There” by Don A. Stuart (the pseudonym of John W. Campbell, Jr.), a novella included in The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume Two, blew away Anthem, notwithstanding the Libertarian Futurist Society’s official endorsement of Ayn Rand’s story for the award.

But “Helen O’Loy” by Lester Del Rey, a short story voted into The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume One, 1929–1964, ran second to Arthur C. Clarke’s fanzine story “How We Went To Mars.” However, it’s hard to argue an ideological reason for the loss (despite the story being about a robot woman in a traditional marriage) when you see amateur fanzine stories by Clarke and Ray Bradbury (“Hollerbochen’s Dilemma”) bracketing it in first and third. The power of name recognition seems a more logical explanation.

Incidentally, Vox Day recommended that his readers vote for the Bradbury story. Does the defeat of two stories endorsed by different political activists forecast anything about the regular Hugo results coming later this weekend?

And speaking of Vox Day, with so much discussion about the tactics of voting No Award in the regular Hugo race, it’s interesting to see that option played no important role in the Retro Hugos. Will that trend continue? (Don’t bet the farm…)

Top writers like Clarke and Bradbury understandably have a great following. Each won Retro Hugos in 2004, Clarke for “The Nine Billion Names of God” and Bradbury for Fahrenheit 451. Other repeaters among the 2014 Retro Hugo winners besides those aleady named are artist Virgil Finlay and Imagination! by Ackerman and company.

On the other hand, Ackerman and Bob Tucker both failed to repeat in the Best Fan Writer Retro Hugo category, which was won by Ray Bradbury – a result that would have shocked all of fandom if the award had actually been given in 1939.

Loncon 3 published the nominating vote count in its report. The two works receiving the most nominations overall were The Sword in the Stone (114) and The War of the Worlds (112).

The Hugo administrator also identified items receiving enough votes to have made the final ballot that he ruled ineligible: J.R.R. Tolkien’s novel The Hobbit and two Lovecraft short stories, because all were published prior to 1938; and Forrest J Ackerman, expelled as a Best Professional Editor – Short Form nominee because he had no pro editing credits that year. (Nor any that I’m aware of until Famous Monsters began publishing in 1958 – though if I’m wrong, we’ll be hearing about that in five, four, three….)


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10 thoughts on “Instant Analysis of Retro Hugo Vote

  1. What I find astonishing is that “Rule 18” by Simak won in its category when it is basically unavailable. Where did the 589 people who ranked it find it to read it? (For that matter, what about the 413 people who ranked R.U.R.?) Then again, when 153 voters out of 812 in the Fan Editor ranked Bradbury first and the others not at all, which sort of cements the notion of name recognition…

  2. Over the years hearing Ray and 4E tell it, Ray should have been given the ‘BEST 19 year old pest award.’

  3. I don’t see how 4E could be a “best professional” anything until he was editor of Famous Monsters. At that point he was un disputably a professional (and an editor), but also best … possibly because there were no other Hollywood monster movie picture magazines at the time. Even if there were, it could not have been a hard medium to excel in.

  4. There was a lot of talk about Orbit not including the full text of their novels in the Hugo Packet, but looking at the results for the Retro Hugos, that isn’t an issue.

    The winning Short Story (Clarke), Novelette (Simak), Novella (Who Goes There), Novel (White), Fan Writer (Bradbury), and Fanzine (Imagination) were not included in the Hugo Voters Packet. The winning artist and Dramatic Presentation only included links to the winners.

    And, as noted, one of the winners was essentially unavailable.

  5. Does the defeat of two stories endorsed by different political activists forecast anything about the regular Hugo results coming later this weekend?

    That’s a lopsided question, Mike. The missing side would be Does the victory of three stories endorsed by one political activist forecast anything about the regulars, either?

  6. As for numbers, the voting doesn’t tell if members of older active fandom voted in larger numbers than the neofans. I’d say that would be pushing the border of privacy, even if we really want to know..

  7. My suspicion is that the Retro-Hugos are in general voted on by older fans, but given that these were for 1938, I doubt that more than one or two could even remember the original broadcast.

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