The New Hugo Winners, Isaac Asimov, Baen Books, 1989

US pbk (amazon.com) IntroductionThis volume followed ‘The Hugo Winners’ (1962), and four further volumes (The Hugo Winners Volume 2/3/4/5). As to why it was called ‘The New Hugo Winners’ rather than Hugo Winners Volume 6 is not absolutely clear, although in his introduction Asimov did point out that should the series become particularly long-lasting, readers may need help in differentiating between volume 125,874 and 125,873..

Scroll down, gentle reader, to find what treasures this volume contains.

1983 41st Convention. Baltimore.

Best Novella: Souls. Joanna Russ. Originally in F&SF Jan 1982.

The tale of Abbess Radegunde, a gifted child who travelled widely and is now quite unorthodox in her ways. A young boy who helps the Abbess tells of the time when Norsemen arrived at the abbey and the Abbess used her wiles and powers to prevent them sacking and pillaging.

But even her clever use of psychology can not prevent blood being spilled. However, the return of her people (starfarers) enable the true person within the Abbess to return home. A strong, vivid story.

Other nominees in this category were:

  • “Another Orphan”, John Kessel (F&SF Sep 82)
  • “Brainchild”, Joseph H. Delaney (Analog Jun 82)
  • “The Postman”, David Brin (Asimov’s Nov 82)
  • “To Leave a Mark”, Kim Stanley Robinson (F&SF Nov 82)
  • “Unsound Variations”, George R.R. Martin (Amazing Jan 82)

Best Novelette: Fire Watch. Connie Willis. Originally in Asimovs, February 1982.

A student finds his practicum thrust upon him at short notice: time travel back to the Second World War, to help St. Paul’s Cathedral survive the blitz.

Bartholemew struggles with some of the language and customs, finding it difficult to recall the facts poured into him prior to his trip. He develops a suspicion about one of the other men on Fire Watch, believing him to be a Nazi spy attempting to burn down the cathedral. The final night of his visit reveals the truth.

Other nominees in this category were:

  • “Aquila”, Somtow Sucharitkul (Asimov’s Jan 18 82)
  • “Nightlife”, Phyllis Eisenstein (F&SF Feb 82)
  • “Pawn’s Gambit”, Timothy Zahn (Analog Mar 29 82)
  • “Swarm”, Bruce Sterling (F&SF Apr 82)

Best Short Story: Melancholy Elephants. Spider Robinson.

An unlikely plot-line for an SF story: copyright legislation going through Congress. A young woman attempts to get a key Congressman on her side, arguing that to extent the copyright legislation would be a death to creativy, for there is only a finite number of musical notes, and of words. The development of computer systems has enabled new works of art to be checked against preceding works, resulting in less creativity.

Other nominees in this category were:

  • “The Boy Who Waterskied to Forever”, James Tiptree Jr (F&SF Oct 82)
  • “Ike at the Mike”, Howard Waldrop (Omni Jun 82)
  • “Spider Rose”, Bruce Sterling (F&SF Aug 82)
  • “Sur”, Ursula K. Le Guin (The New Yorker Feb 1 82; The Compass Rose (revised))

In retrospect the Russ and Willis are well-written and create a believable setting, without perhaps having that ‘special something’, and the Robinson short story does not offer much beyond the basic premise of the story – which would have been better placed perhaps in an editorial somewhere, rather than a story.

1984 42nd Convention. Anaheim.

Best Novella: Cascade Point. Timothy Zahn. Originally in Analog, December 1983.

Captain Paul Durriken has some reservations when he finds out that amongst the passengers on his tramp starmer are a psychiatrist who plans to treat a patient during the cascade points during the journey.

Space travel uses cascade points to traverse great distances, but most people elect to sleep during these transitions, rather than see the ghostly images of alternates to themselves which appear during the process. The captains reservations are well-placed, but for the wrong reasons. It transpires that the psychiatrist has some illicit metal in some of his equipment, which badly distorts the cascade point transitions. The ship ends up at its correct destination, but in alternate universe. The journey back is difficult and dangerous.

Other nominees in this category were:

  • “Hardfought”, Greg Bear (Asimov’s Feb 83) –
  • “Hurricane Claude”, Hilbert Schenck (F&SF Apr 83)
  • “In the Face of My Enemy”, Joseph H. Delaney (Analog Apr 83)
  • “Seeking”, David R. Palmer (Analog Feb 83)

Best Novelette: Blood Music. Greg Bear. Originally in Analog, June 1983.

One of the key stories from the 1980s IMHO.

Vergil Ulam has been experimenting with nano-technology – injecting medically applicable biochips into his bloodstream. The initial results are beneficial to him: his eyesight becomes 20-20, he is fitter and leaner.

But the consequences are far beyond his wildest dreams. The collective power of the microscopic beings in his veins is increasingly beyond his control, and when they being to start exploring further afield, his friend has to make a difficult choice. But by then the genie is very much out of the bottle, and Fermi’s theorem is shown to be true: there is no need to look outward for new universes to explore.

Other nominees in this category were:

  • “Black Air”, Kim Stanley Robinson (F&SF Mar 83)
  • “The Monkey Treatment”, George R.R. Martin (F&SF Jul 83)
  • “The Sidon in the Mirror”, Connie Willis (Asimov’s Apr 83)
  • “Slow-Birds”, Ian Watson (F&SF Jun 83)

Best Short Story. Speech Sounds. Octavia E. Butler. Originally in Asimovs, December 1983.

A very classy short story. Humanity has been ravaged by a virus? which has taken away the power of speech and produced stroke-like symptoms in many. An ex-school teacher falls in with a bearded man who helps her escape an unpleasant bus journey. But having evidently found someone upon whom she can rely, a sudden burst of violence shatters that future. But the two young children whom she almost deserts can speak, as she can.

Other nominees in this category were:

  • “The Geometry of Narrative”, Hilbert Schenck (Analog Aug 83)
  • “The Peacemaker”, Gardner Dozois (Asimov’s Aug 83)
  • “Servant of the People”, Frederik Pohl (Analog Feb 83)
  • “Wong’s Lost and Found Emporium”, William F. Wu (Amazing May 83)

In retrospect: the Zahn story is a little to heavy on the technical detail, perhaps overlong, and reads more like a 1950s story than a 1980s story. For the 1980s the projected computing facilities on the spaceship or somewhat bizarre. Greg Bear’s nominated Hardfought is in my opinion, a far more satisfactory story (it won the Nebula award, and the Zahn story was not listed). Blood Music is a worthy winner in its category, against particularly strong competition in the shape of Connie Willis’ The Sidon in the Mirror, and Ian Watson’s Slow Birds. And Speech Sounds is a very worthy winner in its category.

1985 43rd Convention Melbourne.

Best Novella: Press Enter. John Varley. Originally in Asimovs, May 1984.

Some echoes of Blood Music, in the general theme of humanity being responsible for creating something which it cannot control.

Victor Apfel is a fucked-up Vietnam veteran, leading a quiet life. All that changes when his next door neighbour is found dead, slumped at his computer terminal.

Suicide would appear to be the obvious answer, but Victor Kluge is somewhat out of the ordinary. Lisa Foo is brought in to sort out the hacking activities which Kluge was involved in. Like Apfel, she too has old, deep scars.

Kluge, is transpires, had gone beyond normal hacking, to getting into some very deep waters, and those waters threaten to suck in Apfel and Foo.

Other nominees in this category were:

  • “Cyclops”, David Brin (Asimov’s Mar 84)
  • “Elementals”, Geoffrey A. Landis (Analog Dec 84)
  • “Summer Solstice”, Charles L. Harness (Analog Jun 84)
  • “Valentina”, Joseph H. Delaney & Marc Stiegler (Analog May 84)

Best Novelette: BloodChild. Octavia E. Butler. Originally in Asimovs, June 1984.

Butler follows up her Hugo-winning Speech Sounds from the year before with a story which is about as far different as you can possibly get. The former was a near-future story in which a virus has threatened the stability of society. This is a far-future story which looks at a disturbing symbiotic relationship between humans and the native race on a planet.

The terrans who landed on the planet are perfect hosts for the young of the native race, and a complex relationship between the two races has developed.

Other nominees in the category were:

  • “Blued Moon”, Connie Willis (Asimov’s Jan 84)
  • “The Lucky Strike”, Kim Stanley Robinson (Universe 14)
  • “The Man Who Painted the Dragon Griaule”, Lucius Shepard (F&SF Dec 84)
  • “Return to the Fold”, Timothy Zahn (Analog Sep 84)
  • “Silicon Muse”, Hilbert Schenck (Analog Sep 84)
  • “The Weigher”, Eric Vinicoff & Marcia Martin (Analog Oct 84)

Best Short Story: The Crystal Spheres. David Brin. Originally in Analog, January 1984.

The Greeks evidently believed that each of the planets in the solar system were encased in a crystal sphere, and Brin takes this as a starting point for a far-future humanity which shattered our own crystal sphere when first travelling outwards from Earth.

Humanity has struggled since then, as every habitable planet found in the galaxy has similarly been encases, but whilst it is possible to shatter the spheres from the inside, they cannot be broken from the outside.

The spheres have thus been acting as greenhouses/playpens, enabling the native life to develop at its own pace without interference or worse from spacefaring races.

Other nominees in this category were:

  • “The Aliens Who Knew, I Mean, Everything”, George Alec Effinger (F&SF Oct 84)
  • “Ridge Running”, Kim Stanley Robinson (F&SF Jan 84)
  • “Rory”, Steven Gould (Analog Apr 84)
  • “Salvador”, Lucius Shepard (F&SF Apr 84)
  • “Symphony for a Lost Traveler”, Lee Killough (Analog Mar 84)

In reptrospect: Press Enter and Bloodchild will be shoo-ins for future anthologies of the best of the 1980s.

Conclusion

Several very strong stories in the collection, some of which are absolute essentials for anyone wanting to read some of the best sf of the 1980s. Get yourselves over to Alibris and buy a copy for your bookshelves.

If you are looking for more information about Hugo Winners (and other Awards) then get yourself over to the Locus Index to Science Fiction Awards which I used to get the details of the nominees against which to put the winners in context.

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