A Hugo voting scandal from 1960

I am grateful to David Langford for putting me on the track of an open letter from Dirce S. Archer, the Chair of Pittcon, the 1960 Worldcon, addressing allegations about the 1960 Hugos. Specifically the letter denies allegations that votes for Fanac, one of the Best Fanzine finalists, had been destroyed; but then goes on to state that 78 identical ballots from England had been disqualified. The letter was published in the April 1962 issue of the fanzine Axe, edited by Larry and Noreen Shaw, which is why Dave flagged it up, as it’s exactly 60 years ago this month.


It has been reported to me that a certain individual is now claiming that FANAC won PITTCON’s fanzine Hugo, and that he and Lynn Hickmanwitnessed” an occasion when a stack of ballots naming FANAC were destroyed “on the grounds that the handwriting is similar”. This story, the last in a series of vengeful attacks upon our group, is entirely and totally false and with no basis whatsoever.

1) I have never met this man to my knowledge and do not even know what he looks like.

2) Lynn Hickman was not in Pittsburgh at any time during the year prior to the convention and, since ballots must be counted weeks before a convention so Hugo plates can be engraved, he could not have been present at a ballot counting session. Lynn’s character is such that it is not even necessary to check as to whether he had any part in this malicious gossip. [While we agree entirely about Lynn’s character, a convenient opportunity allowed us to check with him, and he confirms these statements completely.-Larry & Noreen Shaw]

3) Even PITTCON committee members’ wives and husbands were excluded at ballot counting sessions–as at all business meetings. It would be ridiculous to share knowledge of the most carefully guarded secret of any convention, the ballot results, with outsiders!

4) FANAC, although tops in nominations, did not win a Hugo. In fact until the last seven days before the deadline SF TIMES was leading and we expected it to win. In the last seven days four of the five nominees changed places. [NW adds: the actual winner was Cry of the Nameless, edited by F. M. Busby, Elinor Busby, Burnett Toskey and Wally Weber.]

PITTCON did toss out some nominations but with excellent reason. We received 78 ballots–packaged, not sent separately–each nominating the same novel, short story and publisher, with an accompanying’ letter saying, “These are all bona fide nominations, as are attested by the individual names and addresses”. They nominated a single author (author of the novel and short story) totally unknown to our committee, whose stories appeared in an obscure British publication (not Nova Publications) which was nominated for best magazine.

Surely no one could expect us to believe that one English village of something under 7,000 population contains upwards of 60 bona fide fans, many with identical handwriting, seven with identical addresses and last name (the author’s) and ALL with identical nominations!

It was our belief that duty required we discard these obvious attempts to stuff the ballot box. We would do the same thing again under such circumstances.

I trust, for his own sake, the fertile imagination of this individual will be kept under control in the future. We deplore legal action and have ignored previous slander, but there is a point of no return in these matters. We could and would take steps.

Dirce S. Archer
Chairman, PITTCON

In those days the Hugos were much less formalised than they are now. It was only the seventh time that they had been run; it was only the second time that there had been a nominating round (introduced in 1959); non-members could both nominate and vote. Here is the 1960 nominating ballot:

“PITTCON” – 1960


We think the Detention Committee established the fairest and most practical basis for awarding the science fiction/fantasy world’s annual marks of achievement–the “Hugos,” named in honor of science fiction’s patron saint, Hugo Gernsback.

The 1960 “Hugos” will therefore be awarded for the best science fiction or fantasy books, stories and artwork published during 1959, or in a magazine bearing a 1959 date. This means that stories in the January 1959 issues are eligible, even though they were on the newsstands in 1958. By the same token, stories in the January 1960 issues are not eligible, even though they were on sale in 1959. The date on the issue determines a magazine’s eligibility; the copyright date decides for hardbound and paperback books.

Voting will take place in two steps. Fandom as a whole is asked to nominate its choice in each of the six categories for which “Hugos” will be awarded. Use the ballot on this page or make up your own. You can list 1st and 2nd choices in each category, and the vote will be weighted accordingly. All nominations must be postmarked on or before May 1, 1960.

The stories, artists, and magazines getting the greatest number of nominations will be listed on a second Awards Ballot. Your votes on that ballot determine who gets the “Hugos,” If there is no majority in any category, there will be no award for that category.

Interesting to note that dating eligibility questions were already an issue back then. Also interesting that only two nominations in each category were allowed. I wonder what the weighting system was between first and second preferences? And what does ”no majority” mean?

Going back to the 78 disallowed ballots, Rob Hansen reports that they would all have benefitted Lionel Fanthorpe, then a 25-year-old teacher, now a retired vicar and author of 250 books. In 1959, according to ISFDB, he had published 12 novels and 20 shorter pieces, four of each under the name “R.L. Fanthorpe” and the rest under various pseudonyms; it’s not known which of these were featured on the controversial ballots. Most of his short fiction was published in Supernatural Stories, edited by “John S. Manning” (a pseudonym for Sam Assael and Maurice Nahum), so presumably that was the magazine named on the 78 ballots. (Please don’t anyone take this as an excuse to hassle the 87-year-old Rev. Fanthorpe about events of six decades ago; there is no evidence that he himself was directly involved.)

The result was that the rules were changed to restrict Hugo voting to members of the seated Worldcon, from 1961 onwards. Nominating, however, remained open to all until the late 1970s, when it too was restricted to the members of the seated Worldcon; that has since been expanded to include members of the previous Worldcon, and at one point also members of the following year’s Worldcon. Poul Anderson translated L. Sprague de Camp’s record of the 1960 WSFS Business Meeting discussion into a fictional dialect of English all of whose words are derived from Germanic roots:

 __Polling for Meeds__: The workly polling for morrowish “Hugin” meeds, but not outnamings for the meeds, shall be inheld to betaled dealsmen of the World Knowledge Sagas Forgathering at which the meeds will be made. (LOOK WELL: This forsetting is binding on the 1961 Forgathering. It was eyesightly the hencelook of the foresetting that “betaled deals-men” be bethought those who have betaled the –D–2.00 waybefore inwriting gild — –D–1.00 in the falling of overseas dealsmen. Otherwise the polling could not find stead save at the Forgathering itself, and it would be unmightly for the meeds to be readied and incut in time for forth-giving.)

As a Hugo Administrator I myself haven’t seen anything quite on that scale, but if and when it should ever happen to come up, I would allow one of the duplicate nominations to stand – the WSFS Constitution states clearly that “No person may cast more than one vote on any issue or more than one ballot in any election”, but doesn’t allow administrators to punitively disallow all of them.