One Bad Hugo?

Sam Jordison’s exploration of past Hugo winners for The Guardian‘s Book Blog has reached 1965:

Fritz Leiber’s The Wanderer, the 1965 winner, doesn’t just seem weak in comparison. This book is crap by any standard. It’s worse even than The Big Time, the last Leiber book I had the misfortune to encounter – and that’s saying something.

Oh dear.

10 thoughts on “One Bad Hugo?

  1. Hugo, not Hug (first line).

    And does this mean he felt it was worse that They’d Rather Be Right?

  2. Hi Steven,

    Not worse, no. I think the universe would have collapsed if someone had managed to write something worse than that. It wasn’t good though… So bad I still feel like my brain is infected with it. Luckily, Dune is next up in the series.

  3. Do please mention They’d Rather Be Right on my blog btw… It would be interesting to canvass opinions on the worst Hugos there…

  4. After reading this, I did go over and read what Sam had to say about TRBR. I haven’t read it in at least two decades and have no plans to re-read it.

    I will note that in the comments to that, one of the commenters claimed Clevention had a membership of 38, which elided the 0 at the end, thus 380.

    Since the second Cleveland Worldcon gave us a tie for Dune and This Immortal, they sort of made up for TRBR.

  5. I’ll admit to being a bit leery about this — Leiber was up against Edgar Pangborn, John Brunner, and Cordwainer Smith that year, so there was some competition. But assessing the worst hugo winner today for an award 40 years ago is awfully problematic.

    Saying that it’s the worst read TODAY of any of the past Hugo winners, that I can buy. A few books hold up over the years — Dickens, some FitzGerald, etc. But most don’t. Even Heinlein juveniles, which have been in print for much of the past 50 years are just not apropos to a modern young audience because they’ve aged badly. That it’s held up incredibly badly over the years — whether in style or substance — that’s a reasonable claim.

    And it’s worth remembering that the Hugo is for the Reader’s Choice for the best novel — which means that it was the most enjoyed book that year (at least of those nominated). Consider 2001, when Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire won. Considered objectively, it is not the best of the novels. But the Hugo is a subjective award, based on the enjoyment of the readers, not based on some ethereal standard of quality. Especially of a standard that’s inevitably going to be different today than it was 45 years ago.

  6. @ Brent Kellmer:

    Those are really interesting points and it’s a debate worth having, for sure.

    Could I poach you from Cheryl’s blog and ask you to post the same on my piece on Leiber?? I’m keen to see them raised there especially as I’m hoping the blogs will form an interesting archive of contemporary thought about the Hugos… And often the best thought comes below the line rather than above… if you see what I mean… Plus, I want the attention!

  7. I should add here that we are very lucky to have a major national newspaper discussing science fiction so frequently. If we want to see that continue, it helps to provide Sam’s posts with plenty of comments so that the Guardian folks know we are out there.

  8. _The Big Time_. Hmmm. I remember reading it, found it okay in some places and mediocre in others, but it didn’t stop me from reading other Leiber, even if it was his Newhon fantasy stuff.

    As far as _TRBR_ is concerned, good luck even _finding_ a copy in order to check out its supposed dreadfulness. I’ve never seen it in a reprinted edition, and I’ve never actively looked for a book that bad in a library so I guess I’ll continue to go on Steven’s (and other people’s) word and consider it grotesque.

  9. “As far as _TRBR_ is concerned, good luck even _finding_ a copy in order to check out its supposed dreadfulness. I’ve never seen it in a reprinted edition,”

    Here come bibliographic madness:

    TRBR has also been reprinted as “The Forever Machine” – that was the title used in the most recent reprint I know of: Carrol & Graf, 1992 (it was also the title used in the 1958 Galaxy pb reissue).

    Astounding SF, Aug-Nov 1954
    (Interestingly, the Aug issue also has Tom Godwin’s “The Cold Equations” and the Sept issue has Fred Brown’s “Martians, Go Home”.)
    Gnome Press (hc), 1957
    Galaxy Novel (pb) as “The Forever Machine”
    SFBC/Doubleday (hc) 1981
    Easton Press (hc), 1990 (& it’s leather bound!)
    Carrol & Graf, (pb) 1992 as “The Forever Macine”

    Also, your local library can be of help. A search of shows a fair number of copies in the US & CA.

    And here is a fairly balanced review by Paul Di Filippo

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