The Retro-Hugo Awards

1939 Retro Hugos

The award categories, and their definitions, are set out in the WSFS Constitution.

An Introduction to the 1939 Retro-Hugo Awards

1939 was an auspicious year among science fiction enthusiasts. On 2 July roughly 200 of them got together in New York City to hold the World Science Fiction Convention. The convention was hosted at Caravan Hall on East 59th Street in Manhattan, and the initiation of the event was at least partly due to its slightly larger cousin, the 1939-1940 World’s Fair being held in Queens. While it was conceived as a one-time event, it triggered another convention the following year in Chicago, then one in Denver, and that started a tradition that carries through to this day. While the intervening years have changed the scale of the event and sent it all over the globe, the scope is still the same today as it was at the beginning: to allow a community to gather together to celebrate their shared love of science fiction and fantasy.

Part of the tradition of that celebration now is the awarding of the Hugos, to recognise the best in science fiction, fantasy, and fandom from the prior year. From their inception in 1953, the Hugo Awards have grown to be the most prestigious awards in the genre. As host of the 2014 Worldcon, Loncon 3 will be hosting the Hugo Awards for the best work in 2013. As Loncon 3 marks the 75th anniversary of that first convention in 1939, we will also be hosting a Retrospective Hugo Award process for the best work of 1938.

The Retro-Hugos will use the same rules and categories as the current awards. There will be parallel nominating and voting processes. The eligibility for nomination and voting is identical – if you can nominate or vote for the 2014 awards, you can nominate or vote for the 1939 awards.

These awards will celebrate the science fiction that attendees would have known at the time of the very first Worldcon, held in New York 75 years before Loncon 3. You may have a concern that you’re not fully aware of the eligible works for 1938, and Loncon 3 wants to make sure that nominators have access to relevant information across the categories. At the 2013 Worldcon we therefore published a booklet containing articles intended to provide a sample of the eligible people and works for the year. A version of that initial booklet, with longer versions of some articles than we were able to include in the printed publication, is available for download here.

The Retro-Hugo booklet contains a very recent article by the late Frederik Pohl. We were very pleased to be able to include such a piece from someone who not only made such a significant and lifelong contribution to the science fiction community, but who was able to share with us a personal retrospective of what that community was like in 1938. We were all the more saddened to learn of his death.

We have also set out updated copies of the articles on pages on this site for the relevant categories, along with summary lists of people and works Loncon 3 understands to be eligible. The Business Meeting at LoneStarCon 3 decided not to grant extended eligibility of works first published or distributed before 1938; however, where an English translation of a work previously published in another language was first published in 1938, that will be eligible for the Retro-Hugo Awards. These decisions are reflected in the relevant pages on this site for specific categories of the 1939 Retro-Hugo awards.

These pages will be updated as more information becomes available, so be sure to check back a few times to see if new items have been found for your consideration. This material is intended as an aid to you, the nominator: we wouldn’t claim that it’s comprehensive in detailing every eligible person or work, but we’re aiming to cover as much as possible.

As you read through, you’ll likely find yourself familiar with a surprising amount of them. As a diligent nominator, you have until nominations close to become as familiar with the rest as you consider necessary. If you’re not comfortable joining in, that’s fine; you don’t need to participate in the 1939 process to have your 2014 nominations/votes counted (and vice versa, should you feel so inclined).

Please enjoy the guides we’ve prepared, and we look forward to your assistance in helping us celebrate the best in our field at the time our Worldcon traditions got started.

Dave McCarty, Loncon 3 Hugo Award Administrator