I am just going to come right out and say it: the 1960s had better Hugo Winner than the 1950s. Much better. Only Albert Bester’s The Demolished Man holds up to the best books of the 60s. In sci-fi terms, the 1960s was light years ahead of the 1950s.
The 1950s is supposed to be “The Golden Age of Science Fiction” where the science fiction moved from the pulp of the 1920s to the 1940s to the more literary work that would start in the 1960s. It was an awkward transition and it’s not for the pulpy elements. I love pulp science fiction and fantasy. I have read and adored all eleven Martian books by Edgar Rice Burroughs and am a huge fan of H.P. Lovecraft and Robert Howard. If you want to experience the best of pulp go read those authors and forget most of the Hugo Winners of the 1950s, except for The Demolished Man.
But enough of that; this is about the 60s, not the 50s. And if the 60s Hugo Winners are any indication of what I will be reading in the 70s and beyond I am excited. While I did not like every book, there were many that wonderful ones with some I expected to be good others and others came out of nowhere.
Most of the books I expected to be good were very good such as Dune, Starship Troopers, The Moon is A Harsh Mistress, The Man in the High Castle, and A Canticle for Leibowitz. But I knew about these books and the expectation that I would enjoy them did not give me the same joy as when I found something truly unexpected that I loved. For this decade it was two Roger Zelazny novels, This Immortal and Lord of Light, and Clifford Simak’s Way Station. Unlike the other novels mentioned above, I knew virtually nothing about either author, had never read their work, or even known someone who had read their work. Finding novels that take me by surprise like that is one of the man reasons I started this project. So if I have to suffer through some duds like the Wanderer or Strange in a Strange Land it is worth to find fresh and original works.
Stranger in a Strange Land was my biggest disappointment this decade. I liked the other three Heinlein books I have read but this one did not click with me. What is so disappointing is that my sister-in-law and one of my other brother’s girlfriend told me how much they loved the book and were excited that I was going to read it. Sorry, ladies, it just didn’t do it for me. I did not grok it.
The 1960s where a good decade for science fiction and I am pumped to find what the 1970s has in store. Stay tuned for The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. LeGuin, the first woman to win the Hugo.