Monday, 12 June 2017

1947 Hugos Part Two: The Short Stories

This is our second blog post about the 1947 Retro Hugo awards. The first part on the novels was published last week.  

While the 200-some Worldcon attendees in Philadelphia might have few novels to  consider, 1946
Influential British SF mag
New Worlds hit the stands
over the summer of 1946
(Image via Wikipedia)
had been a spectacular year for short fiction.

Perhaps because of the shorter publishing turnaround times, the post-war fiction boom gave short fiction a massive boost.

There were only ten pulp magazines specializing in science fiction, after the war-time restrictions had forced many of them out of business, but the few that remained were starting to recover and to publish more frequently. In 1946, the magazines Astounding and Amazing Stories had returned to monthly publication, and with that, were attracting new writers. That summer in the U.K., the magazine New Worlds was launched, and would go on to become a major force over the next 20 years.

Home from the war


Shortly after being demobilized from the British Air Force, Arthur C. Clark had his first byline, sold to John W. Campbell’s Astounding Science Fiction. The story, “Loophole,” published in April, and later stories that year showed promise, but have aged poorly. They are unlikely Hugo Nominees, unless buoyed by a wave of nostalgia.

Although Isaac Asimov only published one short story, “Evidence” it is clearly a high point in his  
Isaac Asimov's letter to Orson Wells
can be seen at Indiana University's
Lilly Library in Bloomington
.
It has not been made available online.
(Image via wellesnet.com)  
robot stories. Dealing with the trial of someone accused of being a robot imposter, this story was famously optioned by Orson Welles, and might have become the legendary director’s follow-up to Citizen Kane. Asimov’s enthusiastic letter to Welles is well-worth reading, as is the story.

One of the most poetic works to hit the newsstands that year was Clifford D. Simak’s “Hobbies.” It’s an elegiac tale of the last, dwindling city of humans amusing themselves to death as robots and intelligent genetically engineered dogs begin building their own civilization. It deserves serious consideration, not only for the richness of the language, but for its interesting musings on a post-scarcity society.

The Twilight Zone-esque twist ending of "Vintage Season" by Catherine L. Moore shouldn’t be spoiled. But this moody and affecting time travel story might just be the high point of her writing career. It’s dark, and slightly funny, and has inspired many imitators. The alienness — and humanity — of her time travelling visitors from the future is memorable, as is the sorrowfulness of the story.

Astounding Science Fiction
had an astonishing year.
The March edition included
"A Logic Named Joe."
(Image via Amazon.com)
With the virtue of hindsight, Murray Leinster seems like Nostradamus with the story “A Logic Named Joe.” He predicts with eerie accuracy a network of home computers that everyday Americans use to look up sports scores, watch TV on demand, and make Skype calls. The plot — which involves a home computer (a “logic”) waking up and causing chaos — is fairly simple, but interesting for the time. Unfortunately, the prose style — a first-person vernacular patter — has not aged well, and may turn off some Hugo voters.

Having just re-read these stories — and a few other strong short stories from 1946 — in preparation for this blog post, it’s hard to pick between them for the retro Hugo. It probably comes down to "Vintage Season" or "A Logic Named Joe." But this is one year where any of a dozen stories could legitimately win without raising an eyebrow.


1946 was a great year for short fiction.

2 comments:

  1. Consider me intrigued. I'm going to read The Best of C. L. Moore to find out what exactly "Vintage Season" is.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Don't bother with the movie Timescape that was based on the story.

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