The year is 1939

Well, not quite. You see, what we need to remember about the Hugo Awards is that each award year looks back at those works published the year prior. For instance, the winners awarded a 2019 Hugo published back during the 2018 cycle. So, while our first award year is 1939, we need to consider those events from 1938.

1938 back when a dime could buy you a loaf of bread or a gallon of gas. A year in which Orson Welles’ infamous radio drama, The War of the Worlds, terrified audiences nationwide. The Man of Steel makes his first appearance, as a young princess and her seven friends began a global empire. 1938 also saw advancements in nuclear fission with Enrico Fermi receiving the Nobel Prize in Physics. This technology would play a crucial role in the coming conflicts staring in 1939, the beginning of World War II.

1939 Retro Hugo Award Trophy
Photo: Kevin Standlee

Now, let’s jump 75 years into the future, to 2014. It was at Loncon 3 in London that the 1939 Retro-Hugo Awards happened. Remember, starting in 1996, members of Worldcon could introduce measures to award Retro-Hugos for those works published in the years before the award’s inception, 1953. At Loncon 3, members awarded trophies across nine categories. In the coming month, we will look at four of those winners:

  • Best Short Story: “How We Went to Mars” by Arthur C. Clarke
  • Best Novelette: “Rule 18” by Clifford C. Simak
  • Best Novella: “Who Goes There?” by Don A. Stuart [John W. Campbell]
  • Best NovelThe Sword in the Stone by T. H. White

The remaining five categories pertain to those I don’t intend to cover on this blog. You can find those winners under the 1939 Retro-Hugo Awards page on the official site (link included to the left).

The remainder of this month we’ll look at our four award-winning works, the authors who wrote them, and the publishers (or the publications) that published them. We begin this Wednesday with a look at our first author, winner of “Best Short Story,” Arthur C Clarke (a name we’ll see again).

Until next time!


A special thanks to The People History who’s site provided me a concise list of events from 1938. Without them, you’d have to rely on my memories from grade school, and no one should have to suffer that pain. A link to their site will now feature in my Blogroll to the left.

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