The 1941 Retro Hugo Awards (Part 7 Novels)

All of our 1941 Retro Hugo Award coverage is indexed here.

I have to confess that I’ve got a fair amount of reading to do in order to get everything “novel” under my belt from 1940.  I’ve read a few of the more recognizable stories – the Heinlein, the van Vogt, some of the Hamilton, Smith’s epic, the Wellman.  My Hubbard reads have been conflicted by my desire to not fund a certain non-church, but if there is any year that could possible justify breaking that embargo, 1940 is it:  Final Blackout is generally considered both a golden age classic and perhaps the best story Hubbard turned out.  Typewriter In the Sky is an early example of alternate realities and the “author as god” concept.

Absent the reading I still need to do, I think the stand-outs in this list are Slan, Gray Lensman and If This Goes On… (though I’ve only read that in the fix-up Revolt in 2100).

I can see a fair number of folks looking to the Oz story;  Brer Rabbit for the fact that the rabbit’s tactics have been employed in SF tales almost from the beginning; Captain Future – although beloved by many, these novels remain firmly in the pulp era and I doubt that any discerning audience today will do anything but give them short shrift;  the same could be said for Lensman, but there’s more nostalgia associated with Smith than there seems to be for Hamilton…and far more associated with Jack Williamson, but his inclusion will depend, I think, on the quality of the Weird Tales story included here.

This is not presented as a complete and comprehensive list of all of the novel length SF/F/H published in 1940.  The magazine indexes were used, as were google searches for “novels published in 1940 and the WorldCat database.  Suggestions and additions will be gratefully received.

amazing_stories_194003Black World Raymond A. Palmer

brer rabbitBrer Rabbit Again Agnes Murray Iverach; Joel Chandler Harris; G M Richardson

calling capt futureCalling Captain Future  by Edmond Hamilton

captain futures challengeCaptain Future’s Challenge  by Edmond Hamilton

space emporerCaptain Future and the Space Emperor by Edmond Hamilton

Final_blackoutFinal Blackout by L. Ron Hubbard

gary-lensman-gnome-front2Gray Lensman  by Edward E. Smith

if this goes onIf This Goes On …by Robert A. Heinlein

indigestible tritonThe Indigestible Triton by L. Ron Hubbard

weird_tales_194001A Million Years in the Future by Thomas P. Kelley

kneews of the godsOn the Knees of the Gods by J. Allan Dunn

wizardry williamsonThe Reign of Wizardry by Jack Williamson

slanSlan by A. E. van Vogt

spark of allahThe Spark of Allah by Marian O’Hearn

sons of delugeSons of the Deluge by Nelson S. Bond

time travelThe Time-Wise Guy by Ralph Milne Farley

unknown_194010The Tommyknocker by Thomas Calvert McClary

Haffner Press' Collection is a great source for all of Hamilton's works
Haffner Press’ Collection is a great source for all of Hamilton’s works

The Triumph of Captain Future by Edmond Hamilton
typewriterTypewriter in the Sky by L. Ron Hubbard

FuturesPast Editions is Amazing Stories licensee and publishes a number of anthologies, collections and novels from Amazing’s early days. They will soon be releasing The Best of Amazing Stories, the 1940 Collection.

West Point 3000 A.D. by Manly Wade Wellman

Wonder_city_coverThe Wonder City of Oz by L. Frank Baum

As an added bonus(?), an episode of Captain Future anime

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  1. My bad, The Phil Nowlan was in FANTASTIC ADVENTURES, not AMAZING.. I think Bob Roehm’s right, and the prize’ll probably go to “Slan”, it’s the only full novel by a Campbell Golden Age author on the list. Steve, thanks for the criteria notes. I hope the discussion here will widen before whatever the end-date is on which the Retro Hugos will be decided.

  2. -um-, Steve, I thought I’d mentioned a dozen suggestions “to make this listing better” — although, as you may consider some of then to be novellas, I’ll have to wait to see if any appear when you list those. My query, too abruptly expressed, concerned the selection criteria: why stories / authors that had little impact at the time, or little subsequent influence on the field? Certainly Ray Palmer had an influence (Shaver Mystery anyone?), but Nelson S. Bond or Ralph Milne Farley? Of more interest from AMAZING that year would have been “The Prince of Mars Returns” — Buck Rogers author Philip Francis Nowlan’s trying his hand at an Edgar-Rice-Burroughs-style Mars novel. (The book form of Burroughs’s own “Synthetic Men of Mars” also appeared in 1940.) Another consideration: a lot of of your suggestions are completely unavailable to present day readers, who would, therefore, be unable to offer any informed opinions regarding their Retro Hugo worthiness. A lot of my mentions have e-book editions readers can access in order to form their own conclusions. I was also surprised STARTLING STORIES, with its novel-every-issue format, was so slighted. An e-boook of its best 1940 novel, Wellman’s “Twice in Time”, just went up on Amazon on September 15.

    1. I’ll be adding your suggestions along with others. The selection criter was based on the available information, primarily the database. I made the assumption that serialized works would fall within the length requirements for Novel; there are no “novels” listed in the DB; all other works are identified as either “novelettes”, “novellas”, “short story” or “short fiction”. Not having access to most of these works, I am unable to do word counts.
      I figure that all of the Retro Hugo posts are starting points, not definitive.

  3. Query: Why Manly Wade Wellman’s “West Point, : 3000 A.D.” and not the same author’s far superior “Twice in Time” from the May 1940 STARTLING STORIES? And, if you’re going by cover date (else Grey Lensman would not be included), why not Edmond Hamilton’s “The Three Planeteers” (STARLING, Jan 1940) over any of his suggested Captain Future novels? (I think Hamilton someplace said it wasn’t until around his sixth Future novel that he was being paid enough to second-draft what he wrote.) While we’re still at STARTLING, how ’bout Henry Kuttner’s utterly insane “When New York Vanished”(March) or his slightly-more-controlled “A Million Years to Conquer” (aka “The Creature From Beyond Infinity”)(Nov)?

  4. What a travesty! Out of all the novels published in UNKNOWN in the 1940, the best that could be suggested include “On the Knees of the Gods”, “The Spark of Allah”, and “The Tommyknocker”? In 1940 UNKNOWN published Hubbard’s “Death’s Deputy” (Jan) and “Fear” (Jul), both stronger stories than “The Indigestible Triton”; two de Camp and Pratt Harold Shea “novels” (“The Roaring Trumpet” ([May] and “The Mathematics of Magic”[Aug]–two-thirds of The Incomplete Enchanter), not to mention de Camp’s solo alternative-words “novel” “The Wheels of If”(Oct). It had Heinlein’s “The Devil Makes the Law” (aka “Magic, Inc)(Sept) and the original version of Williamson’s “Darker Than You Think”(Dec); not to mention Norvell Page’s “But Without Horns”, an inside-out recasting of THE SPIDER novels he was then writing as “Grant Stockbridge”.

    (Although the magazine listed most of what I mention as “novels”, they may be more properly categorized a “novellas”. However, if you can not find word-count novels at their level to represent UNKNOWN, they should not be nominated. The only word-count novel from the magazine you properly nominate is “Typewriter in the Sky:”.)

    As for Gray Lensman — it was the best-received of the Lensman novels at the time of its serialization. (Ray Bradbury’s LoC enthused “‘Gray Lensman’ promises to be [Smith’s] greatest. Gad, but the man can toss the words around..”) The effort Smith put into his work, particularly the Lensman novels, the effects he achieved, and his place in sf history are long overdue for a reassessment. A Retro Hugo could be the first step in that direction.

  5. Hi! I’d like to suggest two classic SFF novels which are not on the above list.

    1) “The Ill-Made Knight” by T. H. White. Now generally better known as part of the White’s collected Arthurian stories, “The Once and Future King”, but it was published as a separate novel in 1940 before TOaFK existed. It is a classic of early fantasy literature and still much-beloved today. While individual editions of “The Ill-Made Knight” are rare now, TOaFK, which contains it, is easy to find.

    2) “Kallocain” by Karin Boye. While not the most well-known work in the U.S., this 1940 book is a giant of the SF genre often compared to Brave New World (and more than a few think Kallocain is the better of the two), or to 1984. Kallocain was Boye’s last work before her death at age 40. There appears to be a full English translation available on the web here:

    Here’s an excerpt from the Wikipedia description: “Kallocain is a classic 1940 Swedish dystopian novel which envisions a future of drab terror … An important aspect of the novel is the relationships and connections between the various characters, such as the marriage of the main character [Leo Kall] and his wife Linda Kall, and the feelings of jealousy and suspicion that may arise in a society with heavy surveillance and legal uncertainty … Both Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and Boye’s Kallocain are drug dystopias, or societies in which pharmacology is used to suppress opposition to authority.”

  6. I haven’t read many of the obscure novels from the year, but the nominees you list are plenty impressive. I’d have to give the nod to “Slan,” which I first read at age 12 and have re-read twice. “Final Blackout” is terrific and prescient, and I wouldn’t dispute its coming out on top.

    “If This Goes on” is excellent, but it’s really a novella, not a novel, as is L. Sprague de Camp’s top-notch “The Wheels of If.”. I can imagine “Gray Lensman” getting some support, but I’ve never been a Doc Smith fan and haven’t read it.

    Williamson’s “The Reign of Wizardry” is fine, but it’s far from his best work.

    While I scorn the scam L. Ron Hubbard founded, his pre-Scientology stories are almost always a lot of fun. He truly was one of the masters of the Golden Age, and I urge you to read “Typewriter in the Sky,” “Slaves of Sleep” and “Death’s Deputy.” If you buy used copies, you won’t be sending royalties to places you don’t want your money to go.

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