The Twice-Invented Hugos

How the Hugo Awards were created by the Philadelphia Worldcon committee of 1953, skipped by the 1954 committee, then put back on track by Ben Jason and the Cleveland committee of 1955, is an oft-discussed bit of fanhistory.

We usually look at this with a powerful hindsight, focusing on how the advocates of a fledgling award overcame the potentially fatal indifference of the 1954 committee to preserve an important fannish tradition.

And that’s not wrong. However, like Lincoln’s success in preserving the Union, Clevention’s revival of the Hugo Awards resulted in something with many differences from the original.

The 1953 Hugo Awards had seven categories. Five of them were not repeated in 1955!

Only two of the 1955 Hugo Awards’ six categories were identical to those used the founding year — Best Novel and Best Professional Magazine.

Dropped were Best Cover Artist, Best Interior Illustrator, Excellence in Fact Articles, Best New SF Author or Artist and #1 Fan Personality.

The 1955 Hugos recognized three lengths of fiction (Novel, Novelette, Short Story) instead of just one, while settling for a single “professional artist” category rather than separate ones for covers and interiors. And a category recognizing fanzines took the place of one for an individual fan personality.

Clevention’s Hugo format heavily influenced future committees and the writers of the original WSFS Constitution (1962-1963).

Clevention also redesigned the Hugo Award trophy, though only out of necessity. Chairman Ben Jason wrote and asked Jack McKnight to reprise his role as maker of the little rockets. Getting no answer, he commissioned a pattern based on his own design. From then on, the Hugo no longer looked like the rocket on Bonestell’s cover for Willy Ley’s 1949 book, The Conquest of Space, but like the logo from the trunk lid of a 1955 Oldsmobile “Rocket 88.”

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4 thoughts on “The Twice-Invented Hugos

  1. You also have touched upon that subject, once or twice. How about a link from More Words, Deeper Hole?

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