My 1941 Retro Hugo Awards Final Ballot

My votes for the 1941 Retro Hugo Awards.

The 1941 Retrospective Hugo Awards honor works originally published in 1940.

On the home front:  you can get an excellent idea of what Ray Palmer and Amazing Stories were all about with our The Best of Amazing Stories: The 1940 Anthology, published under the Amazing Stories Classics imprint by our licensee – Futures Past Editions.


There’s also an excellent series of free ebooks that cover the 1940 works that are in the Public Domain that can be found here, just in case you want to read beyond the ballot.

The short list looks like this:

Best Novel (352 nominating ballots)

  • Gray Lensman by E.E. “Doc” Smith (Astounding Science‐Fiction, Jan 1940)
  • The Ill‐Made Knight by T.H. White (Collins)
  • Kallocain by Karin Boye (Bonnier)
  • The Reign of Wizardry by Jack Williamson (Unknown, Mar 1940)
  • Slan by A.E. Van Vogt (Astounding Science‐Fiction, Dec 1940)


Best Novella (318 nominating ballots)

  • “Coventry” by Robert A. Heinlein (Astounding Science‐Fiction, July 1940)
  • “If This Goes On…” by Robert A. Heinlein (Astounding Science‐Fiction, Feb 1940)
  • “Magic, Inc.” by Robert A. Heinlein (Unknown, Sept 1940)
  • “The Mathematics of Magic” by L. Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt (Unknown, Aug 1940)
  • “The Roaring Trumpet” by L. Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt (Unknown, May 1940)


Best Novelette (310 nominating ballots)

  • “Blowups Happen” by Robert A. Heinlein (Astounding Science‐Fiction, Sept 1940)
  • “Darker Than You Think” by Jack Williamson (Unknown, Dec 1940)
  • “Farewell to the Master” by Harry Bates (Astounding Science‐Fiction, Oct 1940)
  • “It!” by Theodore Sturgeon (Unknown, Aug 1940)
  • “The Roads Must Roll” by Robert A. Heinlein (Astounding Science‐Fiction, June 1940)


Best Short Story (324 nominating ballots)

  • “Martian Quest” by Leigh Brackett (Astounding Science‐Fiction, Feb 1940)
  • “Requiem” by Robert A. Heinlein (Astounding Science‐Fiction, Jan 1940)
  • “Robbie” by Isaac Asimov (Super Science Stories, Sept 1940)
  • “The Stellar Legion” by Leigh Brackett (Planet Stories, Winter 1940)
  • “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius” by Jorge Luis Borges (Sur, 1940)


Best Related Work

  • Category dropped


Best Graphic Story (92 nominating ballots)

  • Batman #1 (Detective Comics, Spring 1940)
  • Captain Marvel: “Introducing Captain Marvel” by Bill Parker and C. C. Beck (Whiz Comics #2, Feb 1940)
  • Flash Gordon: “The Ice Kingdom of Mongo” by Alex Raymond and Don Moore (King Features Syndicate, Apr 1940)
  • The Origin of the Spirit by Will Eisner (Register and Tribune Syndicate, June 1940)
  • The Spectre: “The Spectre”/”The Spectre Strikes!” by Jerry Siegel and Bernard Baily (More Fun Comics #52/53, Feb/Mar 1940)


Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form (250 nominating ballots)

  • Dr. Cyclops written by Tom Kilpatrick, directed by Ernest B. Schoedsack (Paramount Pictures)
  • Fantasia written by Joe Grant and Dick Huemer, directed by Samuel Armstrong et al. (Walt Disney Productions, RKO Radio Pictures)
  • Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe written by George H. Plympton, Basil Dickey, and Barry Shipman, directed by Ford Beebe and Ray Taylor (Universal Pictures)
  • One Million B.C. written by Mickell Novack, George Baker, and Joseph Frickert, directed by Hal Roach and Hal Roach, Jr. (United Artists)
  • The Thief of Bagdad written by Lajos Bíró and Miles Malleson, directed by Michael Powell, Ludwig Berger, and Tim Whelan (London Films, United Artists)


Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form (123 nominating ballots)

  • The Adventures of Superman: “The Baby from Krypton” written by George Ludlam, produced by Frank Chase (WOR)
  • The Invisible Man Returns written by Joe May, Kurt Siodmak, and Lester Cole, directed by Joe May (Universal Pictures)
  • Looney Tunes: “You Ought to Be in Pictures” written by Jack Miller, directed by Friz Freleng (Warner Bros.)
  • Merrie Melodies: “A Wild Hare” written by Rich Hogan, directed by Tex Avery (Warner Bros.)
  • Pinocchio written by Ted Sears et al., directed by Ben Sharpsteen and Hamilton Luske (Walt Disney Productions, RKO Radio Pictures)


Best Editor, Short Form (183 nominating ballots)

  • John W. Campbell
  • Dorothy McIlwraith
  • Raymond A. Palmer
  • Frederik Pohl
  • Mort Weisinger


Best Editor, Long Form

  • Category dropped


Best Professional Artist (117 nominating ballots)

  • Hannes Bok
  • Margaret Brundage
  • Edd Cartier
  • Virgil Finlay
  • Frank R. Paul
  • Hubert Rogers

Note: Category has 6 finalists due to a tie for 5th place.


Best Semiprozine

  • Category dropped


Best Fanzine (63 nominating ballots)

  • Futuria Fantasia by Ray Bradbury
  • Le Zombie by Arthur Wilson “Bob” Tucker
  • Novacious by Forrest J Ackerman and Morojo
  • Spaceways by Harry Warner, Jr.
  • Voice of the Imagi‐Nation by Forrest J Ackerman and Morojo


Best Fancast

  • Category dropped


Best Fan Writer (70 nominating ballots)

  • Forrest J Ackerman
  • Ray Bradbury
  • H. P. Lovecraft
  • Bob Tucker
  • Harry Warner


Best Fan Artist

  • Category dropped


Lets get the easy ones out of the way first.  But first:

In addition to looking at quality, I consider it valid to include consideration of historical importance for the Retros.  We’re not just taking a look back and judging what was the best in 1940, we’re also able to look at both the impact these works and people have had over quite a time distance, and we’re able to judge whether we think history has treated them appropriately.  We have a chance to address the injustices of time, if such exist.  But quality always remains the top consideration, for me.

Best Professional Artist:

If we go here, we’ll find Amazing’s roundup of eligible work resources, including a cover gallery.

Naturally, I’m tempted to be partisan and stick Paul in the first slot, but my appreciation for SF art prevents me from doing so.  By 1940 Paul was past his heyday and others were doing more interesting work.  Likewise, I was tempted to place Margaret Brundage in the top slot for all of the fine work she’d done previously (she is well deserving of a Hugo), but her offerings in 1940 are limited and not her best.  Finlay was much better at interiors and Bok, well, Bok probably deserves to win any year he’s nominated, but, and Cartier is interesting with a generally different take than most, but

  1. Hubert Rogers (his covers for Astounding were Astounding)
  2. Margaret Brundage
  3. Virgil Finlay
  4. Hannes Bok
  5. Frank R. Paul

Best Editor, Short Form:

Which in this case really is a stand-in for “best magazine”.

(First issues of 1940 edited by their respective editors.)

Dorothy McIlwraith, who edited Weird Tales during a shining period for the magazine probably deserves to be number 1.  However, Weird Tales is not Science Fiction (per se), and was never really a favorite of mine, and I’m therefore not as familiar with it as I am with the others.  That’s thin, but we’re supposed to vote on the merits of things we’ve actually read.

For this category, I’m going to go partisan and place Ray Palmer first.  Not because he edited Amazing (in truth, he took it in directions most of us disapprove of) but because of what he did with Amazing.  Almost single-handedly, he took a bottom tier pulp and turned it into a rival for the behemoth that was Astounding;  Amazing’s circulation actually eclipsed Astounding for a brief period under Palmer’s reign.  I think it safe to say that without Ray, Amazing Stories would have faded into non-existence by the time WWII had ended.

Fred Pohl was editing Astonishing Stories that survived on “gifts” from his Futurian friends and he did amazing things with virtually no budget, but there’s no doubt that the best of Fred’s work (as an editor) was still ahead of him.

Mort Weisinger was almost at the end of his run as editor of Thrilling Wonder Stories in 1940.  The magazine and its fiction had seen better days.

Campbell?  He needs to step aside, at least once.

  1. Raymond A. Palmer
  2. Dorothy McIlwraith
  3. Mort Weisinger
  4. Frederik Pohl
  5. John W. Campbell, Jr.

Best Novel

For me, there’s really only two contenders:  Gray Lensman and Slan.

Laugh all you want, but I loved Smith’s Skylark series (even Skylark DuQuesne!), but was not as thrilled with the Lensman series;  perhaps I’d shed my affection for pulp era space opera by the time I’d gotten around to reading it (at, mmm, 12).

Slan on the other hand…I’ve re-read that any number of times.  For me, Slan is THE coming of age story, for Fans.  Jommy Cross will always be a hero of mine.

  1. Slan
  2. Gray Lensman
  3. The Reign of Wizardry
  4. The Ill-Made Knight
  5. Kallocain (which can be read here in English translation)

Best Short Story

It comes down to two seminal, Campbell-era tales for me – Robbie by Asimov and Requiem by Heinlein.  Despite my great desire to give the top slot to the first-ever Robot tale, my heart belongs to Requiem, hands down.  D.D. Harriman’s determination has been a guide post for me for most of my life.

I don’t much care for Borges (yes, I know that’s a down-grade for me), but I do love me some Brackett, so

  1. Requiem
  2. Robbie
  3. The Stellar Legion
  4. Martian Quest
  5. Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius

From here on out I’m going to favor votes over commentary.

Best Novelette

  1. It!
  2. Farewell to the Master
  3. Darker Than You Think
  4. Blowups Happen
  5. The Roads Must Roll

Sturgeon deserves as much recognition as we can give him.  Farewell to the Master would be reinterpreted 11 years later as one of my favorite movies of all time (The Day the Earth Stood Still); Darker Than You Think is a genuine classic.

The Heinleins?  Proof positive that partisanship is not ubiquitous.  I’ve read both any number of times and they’re just not his best.

Best Novella

  1. The Roaring Trumpet
  2. The Mathematics of Magic
  3. Coventry
  4. If This Goes On…
  5. Magic, Inc.

The Incomplete Enchanter is fabulous and influenced a lot of future works by many others.  The stories that make up that series are foundational for the genre.

I love me some Revolt in 2100, the 2nd American Revolution is a nifty concept (and Nehemiah Scudder is a perpetual bogeyman of the religious far right even today), but it’s gotten dated.  Magic never thrilled me.

I’ll cover the remainder tomorrow.

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  1. Gladwyn – that’s a rather uncharitable thing to suggest about me.

    I read him ages ago and he was “not my thing”; fantasy and magical realism are generally “not my thing”.

    But suggesting that I didn’t like it because I couldn’t understand it goes a step too far.

    1. You cannot tag the borgean universe as fantasy and magical realism. The magical realism born with the “boom”, with authors like Vargas Llosa or García Márquez, Borges created his world years before that people read something about literature. This is why I said that you couldn’t undertand and didn’t like.

      Borges read the works of Bradbury, Lovecraft, Poe, Hawthorne and more. His literature was universal, the magical realism is nationalist and ridiculous.

      Sorry, you need to read more Borge, you don’t know anything and your comments are based on prejudices.

      Read more about latin american literature, pls.

  2. Borges is more than sci fi, his literature is complex is not for simplistic minds.

    Maybe, read his works in english is not the same that read his work in spanish, there is an essence.

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