1941 Retro Hugo Awards: Eligible novels, ranked by popularity

This entry has been updated.

Thanks to Meredith and Steve Davidson, and the SF Encyclopedia, I've compiled a list of novels eligible for the 1941 Retro Hugo Awards which will be presented at next year's Worldcon (MidAmeriCon II in Kansas City, Missouri). My aim is basically to help myself (and others) make an informed nomination, recognising that books which are relatively obscure now are unlikely to make it through the process to the award ceremony. What, then, are the least obscure SF novels of 1940, and the most likely to receive the favour of Hugo voters?

As is my wont, I've ranked them by popularity on Goodreads and LibraryThing, with a couple of tweaks: several of the top works are now much more easily available as parts of larger books than as standalone works, and while I ranked all the books mentioned by Meredith and Steve Davidson, I was a bit more selective in what I took from the later comments to their posts and from the SF Encyclopedia. The full table is further down this post; the top seven, with links to the Wikipedia article about each book, are as follows.

1) The Ill-Made Knight, by T.H. White, these days available as the third part of The Once and Future King. This is the part of the story which centres on Lancelot's travails with Arthur, Guinevere and Elaine. It must be decades since I last read it, but it sticks in my mind pretty vividly.

2) The Invention of Morel, by Adolfo Bioy Casares. I'm not sure if this qualifies as a novel by length – a number of sources describe it as a novella, and the available editions are only 100 pages long. It gets rave reviews from those who have read it, including the author's close friend Jorge Luis Borges (whose own "Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius" was also published in 1940). Update: I'm pretty sure that this is a novella. The English translation has 350-400 words per page, and of the 100 pages, several are taken up by Borges' introduction and several more by illustrations. So it's unlikely to be be over 40,000 words, and the same probably goes for the original Spanish text.

3) If This Goes On—, by Robert A. Heinlein, these days available as the first part of Revolt in 2100. This was Heinlein's first published novel, about the overthrow of a religious theocracy in the United States, which feels uncomfortably closer to plausibility today than it did when I first read it in my teens. Update: Alas, it's pretty clear – as pointed out in comments below – that the 1940 text at 33,800 words is well below the cutoff point for novels, so this too is a novella.

4) Slan, by A.E. van Vogt. I actually can't remember if I have read this, but of all the books on the list it was probably the most influential on the genre.

5) Gray Lensman, by E.E. "Doc" Smith. I gave up on Smith's classic series before reaching this one, but there is a view (which I am not in a position to contest) that this is the best of them.

6) The Incomplete Enchanter, by L. Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt, these days available as the first two parts of The Compleat Enchanter and in various other collections. Although The Incomplete Enchanter was first published as a book in 1941, it compiles two stories published in Unknown in 1940 and is thus eligible. Two scientists explore the worlds of Norse mythology and Spenser's The Faerie Queene. Update: On reflection, I'm convinced by the argument made in comments below that the novel as such was published in 1941 rather than 1940; and the two constituent novellas should be considered individually but not jointly eligible.

7) Kallocain, by Karin Boye. Of the 42 novels on my long list, three are by women, and the other two are pretty obscure. This on the other hand is a classic of Swedish literature, a totaliarian dystopia.

The next two novels on the list are by L. Ron Hubbard, which will not count in their favour, and the rest are orders of magnitude more obscure. So I think it's pretty likely that the five Best Novel finalists for the 1941 Retro Hugos will be five of the seven on the above list. And while it would be great to see the voters reach beyond the usual boundaries of Anglo-American genre to include Bioy or Boye, I'm not really counting on it. Update: I've now reduced the top seven to a top four.

Full table:

LibraryThing users Goodreads users notes
The Ill-Made Knight, by T.H. White 10477 73526 in "The Once and Future King"
The Invention of Morel, by Adolfo Bioy Casares 1270 7949
If This Goes On— , by Robert A. Heinlein 1452 3668 in "Revolt in 2100"
Slan, by A. E. van Vogt 1108 2558
Gray Lensman, by E.E. "Doc" Smith 921 2232
The Incomplete Enchanter, by L. Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt 504 1836 in "The Compleat Enchanter"
Kallocain, by Karin Boye 411 1766
Fear, by L. Ron Hubbard 262 899
Final Blackout , by L. Ron Hubbard 179 353
The Trojan Horse, by Hammond Innes 81 63
Typewriter in the Sky, by L. Ron Hubbard 46 106
A Million Years to Conquer / The Creature from Beyond Infinity, by Henry Kuttner 47 56
Twice in Time, by Manly Wade Wellman 88 25
The Wonder City of Oz, by L. Frank Baum 44 43
The Reign of Wizardry, by Jack Williamson 75 21
Captain Future and the Space Emperor, by Edmond Hamilton 28 40
Calling Captain Future, by Edmond Hamilton 26 36
The Triumph of Captain Future, by Edmond Hamilton 22 22
Captain Future’s Challenge, by Edmond Hamilton 23 14
Death's Deputy, by L. Ron Hubbard 16 18
Jongor of Lost Land, by Robert Moore Williams 17 8
Lightning in the Night, by Fred Allhoff 13 8
Babes in the Darkling Wood, by H.G. Wells 13 4
The Flying Visit, by Peter Fleming 8 3
The Devil and the Doctor, by David H. Keller 5 4
The Last Man aka No Other Man, by Alfred Noyes 6 2
The First To Awaken, by Granville Hicks 3 1
The Indigestible Triton, by L. Ron Hubbard 1 2
All Aboard for Ararat, by H. G. Wells 9 0
The Man Who Went Back, by Warwick Deeping 9 0
And No Man's Wit, by Rose Macaulay 6 0
The Twenty-Fifth Hour , by Herbert Best 5 0
Black World , by Raymond A. Palmer 3 0
Lost World of the Colorado, by Jack Heming 2 0
Death Over London, by Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson 0 1
West Point 3000 A.D., by Manly Wade Wellman 1 0
A Million Years in the Future, by Thomas P. Kelley 0 0
On the Knees of the Gods, by J. Allan Dunn 0 0
The Spark of Allah, by Marian O’Hearn 0 0
Sons of the Deluge, by Nelson S. Bond 0 0
The Time-Wise Guy, by Ralph Milne Farley 0 0
The Tommyknocker, by Thomas Calvert McClary 0 0

(For completeness, I should note that Meredith also listed Synthetic Men of Mars, by Edgar Rice Burroughs, but as far as I can tell that was published in 1939; and Steve Davidson listed Brer Rabbit Again, but as far as I can tell that was published in 1963.)

Edited to add: H.G. Wells' Babes in the Darkling Wood is enjoyable but not sf. Jongor of Lost Land is a novella, and also a cheap Tarzan ripoff.

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