(Note: All of our posts and supplements for the 1941 Retro Hugo Awards can be found here in the index)
If you are a curmudgeonly, crotchety old fan like myself, you have eagerly sought out every resource, every blog, every jot and tittle that has anything even remotely associated with the history of our genre online. (If your are a COF and have not done so – get crackin!); there’s the ISFDB.org, the Science Fiction Encyclopedia, Phil Stephenson-Payne’s magazine image archive, Nosfere (a similar French site), sires devoted to Ace Doubles, The Winston SF series, Gnome Press, numerous other resources and of course websites devoted to individual authors, artists, publications, television shows, radio plays and more.
A few years ago blogger par excellence (honorary Crotchety Old Fan) and author Jamie Todd Rubin devoted a long series of posts to a project he called Vacation in the Golden Age. Jamie sat down and read every single issue of Astounding Stories from Campbell’s debut as author through 1942. He’s still got a few more years of vacation to get through, but don’t let that stop you.
When I began putting the resources for the 1941 Retro Hugo Awards together, I was determined that it be an exercise in completeness; rather than highlighting the well-worn standouts that everyone these days is at least name-check familiar with, I realized that 1940 was a year in which it would be possible to catalog EVERYTHING (or nearly so) the SF field had produced that year, affording Hugo Award voters an unprecedented opportunity to consider everything when making their choices.
I also realized that there were two impossibilities associated with this enterprise. The first impossibility was that any Hugo Award voter would be able to read, watch and listen to everything 1940 had to offer. Sadly, not everything from 1940 has found its way to the internet (yet). Some may never be available again (radio programs, early television programming, perhaps even a handful of stories).
The second impossibility was thinking that one person alone could complete this task. For this and the other impossible reason, I reached out to several folks who have written extensively on the Golden Age of SF and asked them if I could include their works as supplements to my own work here on Amazing Stories.
Jamie has taken the time (thank you!) to put together a post that links to all of his 1940 Golden Age Vacation posts, and you can find that here.
As is not atypical, Jamie offers up his personal faves and recommendations (which should not be read as anything other than they are: one person’s personal views on how they might vote, surrounded by additional information that dwarfs those personal picks in volume and that will be extremely useful to other voters in making them aware of what is eligible for nomination.
The reliance on other’s information, knowledge and experience regarding Golden Age SF is particularly useful and needful for 2016’s Retro Hugo Awards. As mentioned previously, many potential voters will find a lot of these works inaccessible; some because no one has access to them any more and some because it is the rare bird these days that will want – or be able to – acquire them. I’m not suggesting that voters make their picks based on third-hand knowledge. But I am suggesting that resources like Jamie’s reviews can aide in offering some focus for voters. Perhaps the review of a particular previously unfamiliar story will prompt a handful of fans to seek out a particular issue of Astounding (or anthologies that contain the work) and then make their decision based upon actual familiarity with that story.
My hope is that far more than a handful of Crotchety Old Fen will become interested in this material, seek it out and contribute by voting knowledgeably for the 1941 Retro Hugo Awards.
I encourage anyone who is familiar with the SF works of 1940 to bring their reviews, commentary and ruminations to our attention; we’re happy to include links in our index as well as publish guest posts by those so inclined.
You might also want to look at Alva Rogers’ book A REQUIEM FOR ASTOUNDING, published by Advent: it’s a book length look at the entire run of ASTOUNDING. Not as detailed in its reviews, but worth perusing. I don’t have a copy instantly to hand, but you should know about it.
I applaud Jamie Todd Rubin for the yeoman work he has done in his Golden Age project.
Jamie’s reviews are invaluable, because from 1939 to 1950 most of the worthwhile science fiction (especially the short works) was published in Astounding.
The trouble lies in the phrase “most of”.
For me, the most surprising, most innovative, and most memorable story of 1940 was (and is) Ross Rocklynne’s “Into the Darkness” (Astonishing Stories, June 1940). This will be eligible in the novelette category.
There are two other novelettes I can think of that did appear in Astounding that I’ve read and that are certainly worthy of mention: “Farewell to the Master”, by Harry Bates, and “The Roads Must Roll” by Robert A. Heinlein.
I didn’t particularly like “The Roads Must Roll”, but it is the only story from 1940 to be included in the Science Fiction Hall of Fame anthologies (edited by Robert Silverberg and Ben Bova, 1970 to 1973), and since those are the most definitive retrospective anthologies ever produced, “The Roads” can be regarded as the ranking story of that year.
I also looked at the Fantasy Hall of Fame (the 1998 one, not the similarly titled 1983 book), and found that “Fruit of Knowledge” (Unknown, October 1940) by C. L. Moore, also a novelette, was included. Since fantasy is included in the Hugo mix, it’s eligible. I’ve read it, but don’t remember it all that well.
And what about famous fantasy story by Jorge Luis Borges: “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius”?
That was first published in Spanish in 1940, but in English only in the 1960s, so I don’t know whether it qualifies. It seems to be a short story.
For the rest, I’ll have to read a lot more before I can make good, informed choices. The only novella of 1940 I can remember reading is Heinlein’s “Coventry”, which was good.
I haven’t read JTR’s first choice, which is a novel, but I did like his second choice, “Requiem”, which is a short story.
So, in sum, I have one firm choice—the Rocklynne story—but there’s a lot of homework to do in all the other categories!