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.
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.
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.
|LibraryThing users||Goodreads users||notes|
|The Ill-Made Knight, by T.H. White||10477||73526||in "The Once and Future King"|
|Slan, by A. E. van Vogt||1108||2558|
|Gray Lensman, by E.E. "Doc" Smith||921||2232|
|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|
|Lightning in the Night, by Fred Allhoff||13||8|
|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.