The Hugo Awards! Nothing does the heart of a sci-fi, horror, fantasy fan more good than to see his favorite author or movie win a Hugo or look on past glories of Hugos gone by. Personally, as I looked through the winners old and new, I began to reflect on how much many of the winners and nominees affected my life and influenced my thought. I felt I had to get this down of digital paper for my own benefit. There may be other authors and movies you as a reader hold dear, but these are the ones that stick out to me.
1950s (Including 1960 because the Hugos are one year after the fact)
The 1950s Hugo Awards are interesting. The fact is not a lot of them exist and many are what are called retro Hugos. That is they were given in future Hugo ceremonies looking back. The 1950s winners have without a doubt several important influences on me.
1. Novel: Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury 1953 (1954 retro winner) – I believe this is the first sci-fi book I ever read. I was eight (about 1977) and I got a copy at a yard sale. I devoured it and read it over and over.
2. Movie: War of the Worlds 1953 – (1954 retro winner) This is by far one of my favorite classic sci-fi movies. It simply is great and for the time had some of the best special effects. I watched it as a young boy and it introduced me to a guy named H.G. Wells.
3. Novel: Starship Troopers – Robert Heinlein 1959 – (1960 Hugo Winner) – This is the first Robert Heinlein novel I ever read. It was 1990 and I was in Bible College (1989-1993) and a friend loaned me the book. I was hooked and went on to read Space Cadet and about 7 other Heinlein books. Heinlein was in my blood after that.
4. Dramatic Presentation: Twilight Zone – original TV series (1960 Hugo Winner). When I was a teen (1982 to 1989), I devoured this show every time it was on as a rerun on some cable channel. As a Hugo it would go on for two more years as a winner. Its influence is still felt today.
1960s (including 1970)
The Golden Age of the Hugo Awards. Nuff said.
1. Novel: Deathworld – Harry Harrison 1960 (1961 nominee) – I consider this the greatest miss of the Hugos. I read this series in Bible college as well and when I looked at the Hugo list and saw this lost to a novel I had never heard of — A Canticle for Leibowitz, I laughed. Harry Harrison was a genius. I certainly didn’t agree with his politics but I sure felt challenged and entertained by his works.
2. Novel: Stranger in a Strange Land – Robert Heinlein 1961 (1962 Hugo winner) My nominee for greatest Robert Heinlein novel and greatest science fiction work of all time. The 1990 reprint with all the edited parts back in enhanced and improved what I had considered not improvable. I read this book again in 2007 during a crisis of faith and it reminded me of the issues I was facing. It changed the ways I thought about faith and had much more meaning to me that time than all the previous times I read it. Heinlein’s magnum opus.
3. Novel: Dune by Frank Herbert 1965 (1966 Hugo Winner). Frank Herbert’s Dune influenced me in seeing science fiction in a broader light. One of my books during my teen years, it stayed with me.
4. Novel: The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein 1965 (1967 winner, 1966 nominee). Odd this book, it was nominated for two years straight. I think people were dreaming of the wonders presented in this book when the Apollo missions were on. It was the fictional backdrop and influence for that generation’s reaching to the stars.
5. Dramatic Presentation: Star Trek – original series (1966 Hugo winner -“The Menagerie”). The original season of Star Trek had three episodes nominated. One of them won. Over the next three years many more episodes would be nominated but this was the first year. I am not a big fan of Gene Roddenberry, but I love the original cast of this show. The characters are well done and some of the science fiction themes are still classic and used to this day.
6. Three Movies: Fantastic Voyage (1966 nominee) Fahrenheit 451 (1966 nominee) and 2001: A Space Odyssey (1969 winner). All deserve some note in that as a young boy I watched them all on television. Fantastic Voyage was without a doubt very influential on my thinking about the possibilities of physics and their relationship to biology. 2001 was the first time I looked seriously at the idea of space travel for the future. I almost became an aerospace engineer because of it.
7. The 1969 Apollo XI Mission Coverage (1970 Hugo winner); Science fiction for decades; landing on the moon became a fact. Being born in 1969 about four months before Neil Armstrong put his foot on the moon, I have never known a world where it was not possible to put a man on the moon. My only issue has been, why haven’t we been back?
I was not alive for most of these, but it is interesting how much of this touched me later as I was growing up and even to the present day. One thing to note as the decades turn is how the novels of these eras give way to movies as influences on my thinking. These were the decades of writing science fiction and fantasy, the decades of the 70s and 80s will be the attempt to put them on film.
Part 2: 70s and 80s