Peter Graham is often quoted as saying that the Golden Age of Science Fiction is 12. I was reminded of this quote last year while reading Jo Walton’s An Informal History of the Hugo Awards (Tor Books) when Rich Horton commented that based on Graham’s statement, for him, the Golden Age of Science Fiction was 1972. It got me thinking about what science fiction (and fantasy) looked like the year I turned twelve and so this year, I’ll be looking at the year 1979 through a lens of the works and people who won science fiction awards in 1980, ostensibly for works that were published in 1979. I’ve also invited Rich to join me on the journey and he’ll be posting articles looking at the 1973 award year.
The Best Nonfiction category was not one of the original Hugo categories in 1953, and since its introduction in 1980, when Nicholls won the inaugural award, it has been something of a Frankenstein category, a place where anything that doesn’t clearly fit into another category has been placed. This has resulted in books, websites, comics, podcasts, and music all going up against each other in a chaotic mélange. At various times, the category has been for Related Work, Related Book, and Nonfiction. While the award has not been well defined, it has been a constant on the Hugo ballots since its introduction in 1980. Not only did Peter Nicholls win that first award for The Science Fiction Encyclopedia, he won it a second time for the 1994 expansion with John Clute, The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction as well as in 2012 for the web-based The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, Third Edition, with Clute, David Langford, and Graham Sleight. In 1980, the Hugo Award was presented at Noreascon Two in Boston, Massachusetts on August 31.
The Locus Awards were established in 1972 and presented by Locus Magazine based on a poll of its readers. In more recent years, the poll has been opened up to on-line readers, although subscribers’ votes have been given extra weight. At various times the award has been presented at Westercon and, more recently, at a weekend sponsored by Locus at the Science Fiction Museum (now MoPop) in Seattle. The Best Related Non-Fiction Book category has gone by several different names over the years. It was presented as a one-off award in 1976, when James E. Gunn won it for Alternate Worlds: The Illustrated History of Science Fiction. It was reintroduced in 1979 and given to Frederik Pohl for The Way the Future Was. Some form of the award has been presented every years since then. In 1980, Peter Nicholls won the award for The Science Fiction Encyclopedia. In 1980, the Locus Poll received 854 responses.
The Pilgrim Award was established in 1970 by the Science Fiction Research Association. Named for J.O. Bailey’s book Pilgrims through Space and Time, the first award was presented to Bailey and recognizes individuals who have devoted their lives to science fiction research and scholarship. The 1980 award was presented at the SFRA Annual Conference held from June 18-21 on Staten Island. Australian author Peter Nicholls (1939-2018) received the award in 1980, the same year that his landmark The Science Fiction Encyclopedia won the Hugo Award for Best Nonfiction and the Locus Award for Best Reference Book.