The 1973 Hugos get a whole volume to themselves. The volume contains all four winning stories, and I have cut and pasted summaries of stories which I have previously read. At some point in pico-time I shall read those I have yet so to do, and put summaries/reviews in to fill the blanks.
1973 31st Convention. Toronto.
Best Novella :
Ursula K Le Guin. The Word for World is Forest. (Again, Dangerous Visions)
Other nominees :
- Gene Wolfe. The Fifth Head of Cerberus. (Orbit 10)
- When I read this in Terry Carry’s choice of the year’s best SF I wrote:
Editor Carr picks this out as being the novella of the year, and puts it forward as a classic. I think time has shown Carr to have been correct.
Wolfe now stands head and shoulders over the vast majority of his contemporaries (and there are more than three decades of contemporaries!) and it is a rare treat to finally get round to reading such a classic. Carr points out the world-building, but for me it is the humanity in the story which particularly attracts. One of Wolfe’s techniques is to engage the reader with the protagonist by sticking rigidly to that character’s viewpoint throughout, and this story is no exception.
In a story redolent of Charles Dickens, we are acquainted with the early years of a young boy, unnamed, who is being raised with his twin brother, David, primarily by an AI housed in a robotic mechanism, known fondly by them as Mr Million. Their father is a mysterious person whom they see little, and there are further mysteries – the fate of the aborignals on the planet which the boys forebears, settlers from Earth, may or may not have made extinct.
The boy’s life changes when his presence is requested by his father on a nocturnal basis. His father names him ‘Number Five’ and carried out strange experiments, aided with hallucinogenic drugs.
As the story unfolds, various revelations unfold, some of which, such as the true nature of Mr Million and the emotion he feels at one point, are particularly striking.
As they boys grow older, their true nature is revealed (clones!) and a grimly gothic patricidal finale sees the young man imprisoned, only to return to the family home to follow in his father’s search for self-knowledge.
- Frederik Pohl. The Gold at the Starbow’s End. (Analog Mar 1972)
- Desperate times, desperate measures. A carefully selected ten person crew head for Planet Aleph, Alpha Centauri against a backdrop of rioting and political and economic difficulties. Their ten year journey is intended to give them lots of time to think and to stretch the limits of their minds. In fact there destination is not Aleph, but a more post-human destination. Are they humanity’s saviours?
- Joe Haldeman. Hero. (Analog Jun 1972)
- The first novella which formed the beginning of the novel ‘The Forever War’. Elite human troops are prepared for combat with the alien threat in truly inhospitable conditions. William Mandella survives the training and the first contact with the aliens, a brutal massacre of largely unarmed enemy.
- Jerry Pournelle. The Mercenary. (Analog Jul 1972)
Best Novelette :
Poul Anderson. Goat Song. (F&SF February 1972)
Far future in which mankind is controlled/governed by SUM, an AI. SUM offers life after death, but the protagonist, grief-stricken after the death of his love, petitions the Dark Queen, the representative of SUM on Earth, to recreate her. (Follows in many respects the Greek tale of Orpheus and Eurydice.)
- Harlan Ellison. Basilisk. Harlan Ellison (F&SF Aug 1972)
- Gardner Dozois. A Kingdom by the Sea. (Orbit 10)
- A slaughter-house worker, who jobs it is to despatch the cattle upon arrival, very quickly falls apart and becomes disconnected from the reality of his situation. The sense of disconnection again is one that appears in other stories, and the reader is very adeptly brought into the mind of Mason. Good writing once again. [Available on Fictionwise]
- James Tiptree Jr. Painwise. (F&SF Feb 1972)
- William Rotsler. Patron of the Arts. (Universe 2)
- A lengthy story, in which a new artform, the sensatron cube, enables those with the rarest of talents to create three dimensional ‘sculptures’ which have an emotional impact on the viewer, provides a wealthy art patron to have his beautiful wife immortalised. However, the artist’s model and the model find themselves drawn together. The story takes a surprising twist at the end, when artist and model appear to have disappeared into another dimension, leaving only the final piece of art for the patron to marvel at.
Best Short Story :
R.A. Lafferty. Eurema’s Dam. (‘New Dimensions 2)
Young Albert despairs of himself as being intellectually challenged. Everyone else is much brighter than he. But what the lacks in smarts he makes up in cunning, and his particularly unique ability is to create machines, far cleverer than himself, to do his bidding. But his track record in this department is not a good one, as whilst creations are invariably wonderful in their complexity and intelligence, they do not make him a happy or successful person. Until we reach the end of this blackly ironic tale, in which he finally sees the rest of the world as being there for the taking.
Frederik Pohl & C. M. Kornbluth. The Meeting. (F&SF Nov 1972)
Pohl finished this story on which he had made notes some fifteen years previously with the late Kornbluth. Harry Vladek and his wife have a son who is severely handicapped. Medical developments mean that a brain transplant is an option – will they take the healthy brain from a road traffic accident victim for their own son? But with the brain of another boy in the body of their son – will it be their son?
- James Tiptree Jr. And I Awoke and Found Me Here on the Cold Hill’s Side. (F&SF Mar 1972)
- Joanna Russ. When It Changed. (Again, Dangerous Visions)
- Robert Silverberg. When We Went to See the End of the World. (Universe 2)
- Against a backdrop of a society crumbling into crime and anarchy, the dinner party set swop notes of the latest de rigeur holiday destination : the end of the the world.
For those of you so inclined, there follows a list of links to other volumes which attempted to identify the best short stories of 1972 :
- 1973 Nebula Awards
- The Best Science Fiction of the Year #1 edited by Terry Carr, 1973
- The 1973 Annual World’s Best SF, edited by Donald A. Wollheim and Arthur Saha, 1972
- Best SF: 1972, edited by Harry Harrison and Brian Aldiss, 1972
- Best Science Fiction Stories of the Year, Second Annual Collection, edited by Lester Del Rey 1972