The Hugo Award for short stories was established in 1955. Occasionally, a story from before the awards is recognized with a retro award. Here are some Retro Hugo and Hugo Winners for short story and novelette.
• Retro Hugo Award Winners •
“How We Went to Mars” by Arthur C. Clarke (1939)
The president of a rocket society addresses the accusations that have been made against his group. They worked up from unmanned test rockets to a passenger carrying spaceship. They didn’t intend to go very far on their first flight, but an incident changed their plans. They ended up landing on Mars.
This humorous story can be read in the preview of The Collected Stories of Arthur C. Clarke.
“To Serve Man” by Damon Knight (1951)
Earth is visited by the Kanamit, a half pig and half human alien race. They bring gifts—ways of increasing food production, power generation, and other helpful things. Some people question their altruism, so the Kanamit are subjected to a lie-detector.
This story can be read in the preview of The Best of Damon Knight. (35% into preview)
“The Nine Billion Names of God” by Arthur C. Clarke (1954)
A group of Tibetan monks believe that the universe will end when all the possible names of God are written down. By hand it will take another 15,000 years to finish the job, so they get a computer that can print all the possible letter combinations in three months.
• Hugo Award Winners •
“The Star” by Arthur C. Clarke (1956)
The narrator, a Jesuit astrophysicist, didn’t believe that anything in space could affect his faith. He is part of a crew returning to Earth after a mission that has yielded data—soon to be revealed to everyone—that caused his faith to be shaken.
“Flowers for Algernon” by Daniel Keyes (1960)
A man with an IQ of 68, Charlie, undergoes a procedure to vastly increase his intelligence. It’s been used successfully on a mouse, Algernon. Charlie keeps a diary of his progress and personal interactions.
‘”Repent, Harlequin!” Said the Ticktockman’ by Harlan Ellison (1966)
The Ones Who Keep The Machine Functioning Smoothly become aware of a disruption, the Harlequin, a man who pulls pranks that throw off their carefully planned schedule. This rebel is becoming a hero to some; they need to find out who he is. Being on time is of the utmost importance—it can even affect how long someone lives.
“I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream” by Harlan Ellison (1968)
There are only five humans left alive—four men and one woman. They’re being held in a underground complex by AM, a supercomputer. It makes life miserable for the group, but won’t allow them to die. They haven’t been provided with any food for days. One of the men hallucinates about canned goods in the ice caverns. They suspect AM is merely playing a cruel trick on them. In their desperation, they set out for the caverns.
“The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas” by Ursula K. Le Guin (1974)
The citizens of Omelas are happy, but the narrator is vague as to what exactly they have which makes them so. However, the people’s happiness depends on one thing, which all the citizens are aware of.
“The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas” is the third story in the Amazon preview of The Penguin Book of the Modern American Short Story.
“Speech Sounds” by Octavia E. Butler (1984)
Rye is on a bus heading for Pasadena. She might have a brother there who’s still alive. Two passengers, young men, start getting hostile. When one inadvertently falls into the other, a fight breaks out. This leads to further hostilities. The driver stops the bus. There is lots of grunting and other sounds and many gestures, but no one talks.
“A Walk in the Sun” by Geoffrey A. Landis (1992)
Trish is the only survivor of a crash landing on the moon. She has enough supplies for a while, but her radio signal is blocked by a mountain. On the mountaintop, there will be a short window for a signal to get through.
“The Dog Said Bow-Wow” by Michael Swanwick (2002)
A highly enhanced and modified dog, Surplus, arrives in England. He’s met by Darger, a man who has a business proposition for him. Over drinks, Darger lays out his plan, which involves an intricately carved box. After coming to an agreement, they set out for Buckingham Labyrinth.
This story can be read in the preview of the anthology Future Crimes. (20% into preview)
“Hell is the Absence of God” by Ted Chiang (novelette, 2002)
Neil Fisk grieves deeply after the death of his wife, Sarah, and it makes him reexamine his relationship with God. Sarah died as an unintended consequence of an angelic visitation that effected four miraculous cures while also causing eight casualties. Her soul was seen ascending to heaven. Neil copes with the aftermath by attending group meetings. His journey becomes intertwined with two others who’ve had visitations.
This story can be read in the preview of Starlight 3. (14% in)
“A Study in Emerald” by Neil Gaiman (2004)
The narrator, who is looking for a roommate, meets a man who deduces he has just been tortured in Afghanistan. They agree to share accommodations in Baker Street. The narrator’s roommate is a consulting detective. He is visited by Inspector Lastrade of Scotland Yard.
“The Paper Menagerie” by Ken Liu (2012)
The narrator, Jack, remembers when he was a young boy. His mother folded origami animals for him. She was able to breathe life into them. His mother was a mail-order bride from China. As Jack grows up, he draws away from his mother, preferring American toys and food. He won’t answer her if she speaks Chinese. He’s embarrassed by his mom.
“Cat Pictures Please” by Naomi Kritzer (2016)
A search engine programmed in California develops AI. It’s not evil; it wants to help people. It looks for a moral code to guide its actions. Due to all the information about people this AI has, it knows what people want and need. Other than this desire, the AI has a particular fondness for cat pictures. It decides to start by selecting just one person to assist. It uses its algorithms to get the appropriate information in front of her.
Read “Cat Pictures Please”