The Greatest S-F Novel of 1943

By John Hertz:  We’re doing Retrospective Hugos this year.

I say “this year” because we don’t always do them.  The current Hugo Awards will be done as always, the 2019 Hugos for what appeared in 2018.

Dublin2019, the 77th World Science Fiction Convention, will administer both.  You can look it all up here.

There was no Worldcon in 1944.  These will be the 1944 Hugo Awards, for what appeared in 1943.

Great things happened in our field then.  This is our moment to applaud them.

Science fiction and fantasy are both eligible.  Theoretically they’re distinct; practically the distinction isn’t always so plain; some authors blur it, sometimes on purpose.  Heinlein may have started us saying speculative fiction.

It could be argued there’s a sense in which science fiction includes fantasy (science fiction is knowledge fiction), another in which fantasy includes science fiction.  But we digress.

If, as of 31 Dec 18, 11:59 p.m. Pacific Standard Time, you had an Attending or Supporting Membership in the 76th or 77th Worldcon (or both), you may nominate.

In any category you may propose up to five nominees.  Those with enough nominations will be finalists when we vote later.

You’re nominating for what will be voted the best.  What best is you decide for yourself.

For 1943 novels there’s already talk of Ravaged (Barjavel; English tr. Ashes, Ashes), Conjure Wife (Leiber), Perelandra (Lewis), The Case of Charles Dexter Ward (Lovecraft), Earth’s Last Citadel (Moore & Kuttner), Mary Poppins Opens the Door (Travers), The Book of Ptath (Van Vogt).

You’ll expect me to call your attention to The Glass Bead Game (Hesse; also tr. as Magister Ludi – Latin, “master of the game”, a title the protagonist receives).  And I do.

It was one of the Classics of S-F we discussed at Conagerie (Westercon LV; West Coast Science Fantasy Conference); also at Lonestarcon III (71st Worldcon), where I said

The first and for fifty years the only Nobel Prize s-f novel, the author’s last and crowning work, one of the rare s-f masterpieces from outside our field, a satire, a story, a character study, poetic even in translation, we hope not prophetic, searchingly profound.

An 800-word note by me appeared in YHOS (Your Humble and Obedient Servant) 59, reprinted in The Drink Tank 352, and here. It ends with a Jane Austen and Jack Benny joke no one’s ever asked me about, maybe because everyone’s gotten it or because no one’s read that far.  My address is public, 236 S. Coronado St., No. 409, Los Angeles, CA 90057, U.S.A.

The Glass Bead Game only to some extent reflects my own opinions of life, the universe, and everything.  But I don’t read books to be agreed with.  It’s a towering achievement in world literature.

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17 thoughts on “The Greatest S-F Novel of 1943

  1. I noticed on James’ list that The Little Prince was published in 1943. I’m not sure of the correct category – ISFDB lists it as “NOVEL [juvenile]”, Wikipedia calls it a novella, while some sites gives a word count of 16500 which makes it a novelette in Hugo terms.

  2. A fine radio version of “The Little Prince” can be found at Archive, narrated by Raymond Burr, with Richard Beals as the Prince (and Hans Conried in another role).

    Even if you’re not into that, look at the link anyway. There’s some nice SFF to be found, including “The Green Hills of Earth,” “Brave New World,” “The Legend of Jimmy Blue Eyes” (a Faust tale starring Jimmie Dodd, with William Conrad a knockout as the rhyming narrator), “King of the Cats,” “The Space Merchants” (in three parts), “The Celestial Omnibus,” and “Report on the We-Uns” (which I found funny almost a half century ago, but which is so excruciatingly arch now I can’t take it). There’s also “The Record Collectors,” which takes satiric aim at a sort of fandom, and a visit to Joe Miller’s Jest-Book.

    (One of the record collectors raises giant frogs. Why, that’s almost a Bradbury reference!)

  3. As I recall, Le Petit Prince was heavily illustrated; I’m not sure if it was illustrated enough to put it into Graphic Novel territory.

  4. Another possible for this year is The Magic Faraway Tree… does it seem too strange, getting Enid Blyton a Hugo? Perhaps, perhaps not – but, both for this one and The Little Prince, are they doing a Retro Lodestar?

  5. Here is my personal best novel longlist for 1943:

    The Star of Dread by Edmond Hamilton, Captain Future
    Magic Moon by Edmond Hamilton, Captain Future
    Judgment Night by C.L. Moore, Astounding Science Fiction
    Earth’s Last Citadel by C.L. Moore and Henry Kuttner, Argosy
    Conjure Wife by Fritz Leiber, Unknown Worlds
    Gather, Darkness by Fritz Leiber, Astounding Science Fiction
    Das Glasperlenspiel (The Glass Bead Game) by Hermann Hesse
    Secret City of Crime by Grant Stockbridge a.k.a. Norvell Page, The Spider
    The Case of Charles Dexter Ward by H.P. Lovecraft, Beyond the Wall of Sleep

    The two Leiber novels are excellent IMO, plus there is also “Thieves House”, a great early Fafhrd and Gray Mouser story, eligible for best novelette and “The Mutant’s Brother”, a neato telepathic villain story in best short story.

    Henry Kuttner and C.L. Moore, together or apart, also had a great year in 1943 with Judgment Night, Earth’s Last Citadel, “Clash by Night” for best novella, “Mimsy Were the Borogroves” in novelette and plenty of short stories.

    I don’t expect anybody to share my love for Captain Future and The Spider, but they’re enjoyable pulpy fun and I’m a big fan of both. Besides, this may well be our last chance to honour Norvell Page before we lost him forever to writing press releases about nuclear bombs. If vintage hero pulp is your thing, there are also several Doc Savage novels by Lester Dent on offer in 1943, though I haven’t researched them yet.

    And of course, The Spider, Doc Savage, Captain Future, The Shadow and G-8 and His Battle Aces are all possibilities for best series, which didn’t get enough viable nominations last year, more the pity. Mary Poppins might well be eligible, too, though someone who’s better aquainted with the books than me will have to determine that. Fafhrd and Gray Mouser are not yet eligible based on total wordcount and won’t be until sometime in the 1960s, more the pity.

    I have Le Petit Prince/The Little Prince on my longlist, but as a novella, because it’s definitely too short to be a novel. Graphic story is also a possibility. I’ll probably nominate it as a novella, because I only have three novellas on my retro Hugo longlist (the other two are Clash by Night by Kuttner and Moore and One Way Trip by Anthony Boucher, BTW) so far, but six novelettes.

  6. Another possible for this year is The Magic Faraway Tree… does it seem too strange, getting Enid Blyton a Hugo? Perhaps, perhaps not – but, both for this one and The Little Prince, are they doing a Retro Lodestar?

    A retro Lodestar would be nice, but last year they had neither a Retro Lodestar nor a Retro Campbell, since both are not Hugos. Though with The Magic Faraway Tree, The Little Prince, if you want to put it there (it’s never been viewed as a pure children’s book in Europe) and the Mary Poppins book, we’d have a nice set of potential finalists.

  7. John: The first and for fifty years the only Nobel Prize s-f novel is a bit strong; the Nobel Prize is for a body of work, not an individual novel. OTOH, I’ve never read any Hesse, so maybe I should try this.

  8. Hermann Hesse may have been the first occasional SF writer to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, but there were at least two fantasy writers who preceded him, Selma Lagerlöf and Maurice Maeterlinck.

  9. Selma Lagerlöf didn’t write any SF that I can remember, she did write fantasy though (for childrens fantasy, we usually call it Saga though).

  10. Nobel Prize-winning writers of sf include:

    1907: Rudyard Kipling
    1946: Herman Hesse
    2007: Doris Lessing
    2017: Kazuo Ishiguro

    Probably others I’m forgetting, but Kipling wrote enough sf to fill a small anthology.

  11. Rule 3.2.1 seems clear:

    Unless otherwise specified*, Hugo Awards are given for work in the field of science fiction or fantasy appearing for the first time during the previous calendar year.

    — but the question of how many changes/additions make a book a different work from a magazine publication isn’t discussed. (There will almost certainly be changes, as editors have tastes and copyeditors make mistakes.) If you’ve been following all of this blog for a while you may have noticed that some of the most experienced people tend to yield to nominators’ preferences unless there’s a clear case against those preferences — but each year has its own award manager, so Dublin’s may have a judgment call that IME would be nontrivial to overrule.

    (*) The exceptions as I read them are mostly mechanical, e.g. if the first publication was not in English or (by a vote of the WSFS meeting) whether the first publication was so ~obscure that a more-widespread publication sets the date of eligibility.

  12. Steve Wright on January 23, 2019 at 4:38 pm said:

    Another possible for this year is The Magic Faraway Tree… does it seem too strange, getting Enid Blyton a Hugo? Perhaps, perhaps not – but, both for this one and The Little Prince, are they doing a Retro Lodestar?

    Neither the Lodestar nor the Campbell are listed on the 1944 Retro Hugo Nomination ballot on the Dublin in 2019 web site. (I just checked.) This makes sense as they are Not A Hugo ™.

    Best Art Book is listed as a special category.

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