The Hugo Nominations are out! I realize that awards are all inherently flawed, but I still like having something that forces me to pay attention to what’s current in the world of science fiction. If I didn’t have it, I’d just tend to sink backwards into the past and read stuff from decades ago.
Which brings me to the Retro Hugos! This year, in addition to rewarding the best (or what the voters liked the most) of 2013, there’s a round of awards for the best work of 1938. Let’s take a look at what actually got nominated in two categories: Novel and Fanzine.
I still think that T.H. White’s The Sword in the Stone is going to win easily, because it’s the most famous. And Worldcon is in London, which seems like a good venue for this particular book. But it’s not the only British option; there’s also C.S. Lewis’s Out of the Silent Planet, which is the first book of his Space Trilogy. I’m reading it right now, because I don’t remember anything about it from reading it as a tiny child, except that I hated it. I was so excited, too, because I loved both Narnia and science fiction. Perhaps as an adult, I will be more accepting of its style.
There are also a pair of books from largely forgotten series. E.E. “Doc” Smith’s Lensman books were huge in the 1930s, but they’re not much mentioned these days. Galactic Patrol was the third Lensman book, but it contains the stories that were written first. IT should be some high-quality space opera, I expect. Carson of Venus, by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Burroughs created Tarzan (of whom everyone has heard) and the John Carter/Mars series (of which many people have heard), but he also did this Venus series. That’s all I know about it, unless you count the fact that used book stores tend not to have any of the Venus books. I don’t know anything about Jack Williamson’s The Legion of Time, and I look forward to reading it.
This is my favorite category, because fanzines in 1938 were really fanzines. An essential part of fandom was having access to a teeny printing press. And everyone did it. If you were into science fiction in 1938, you had a zine, and you contributed to your friends’ zines, and you subscribed to zines from around the world. It all sounds terribly romantic until you learn how much work it was to make one of these things. Let’s just there wasn’t a spellchecker on manual typewriters.
Fantascience Digest was edited by Robert A. Madle, and in 1938, it featured Don Wollheim, Sam Moskowitz, Jack Speer, Henry Kuttner, John W. Campbell, E.E. “Doc” Smith, and Harry Warner, Jr., among others.
Fantasy News was edited by James Taurasi (who I forgot to list in the Fantascience Digest contributors). According to Zinewiki, it claimed to have the largest circulation. There’s no way of knowing if that’s true, but it might be. It was apparently a weekly!
Imagination! was the LASFS (Los Angeles Science Fiction Society) newsletter, edited by Forrest J Ackerman, Morojo, and T. Bruce Yerke. Ackerman was possibly the biggest science fiction fan in the world. I met him once in his bungalow full of amazing stuff. Morojo was Myrtle R. Douglas, a very important early fan, and I’d like to point out that she was a woman. A woman science fiction fan! “Morojo” came from her initials in Esperanto, because this is back when a universal language was going to solve war. Imagination! had Ray Bradbury’s first published writing (“Hollerbochen’s Dilemma,” nominated in the Best Short Story category) and covers by Hannes Bok and Ray Harryhausen.
Novae Terrae is from England, which didn’t stop it from having things by Forrest J Ackerman in it. It also had Arthur C. Clarke, but that’s to be expected. Novae Terrae eventually became the magazine New Worlds, which Michael Moorcock edited. It’s important to 1960s British science fiction, but we’re decades before that.
Tomorrow is a British fanzine that’s just gorgeous. Man, that’s pretty. Compare it to Novae Terrae, which has a much more 1938 look. I don’t know much about Tomorrow, but I appreciate the hard work of whoever scanned it in for me to read.