The 1954 Hugo Awards

The Elves, Gnomes and Little Men’s Science Fiction, Chowder and Marching Society would you believe?

In Rich Coad’s fanzine, Sense of Wonder Stories #6, Chris Garcia brings up the rumour that the 1954 Hugos were not awarded because as Chris explains “the Little Men, the group who was sponsoring the convention, had their own annual awards”.

Now it is true that The Elves, Gnomes and Little Men’s Science Fiction, Chowder and Marching Society, a San Francisco Bay Area club, did indeed have their very own award. It was called The Invisible Little Man Award (a strange title since to the best of my knowledge the award has only ever been given to the least invisible of science fiction professionals). According to a short and unattributed article in an issue of the fanzine of the Little Men, Rhodomagnetic Digest V5 #1 (July 1962) to be exact, the purpose of the award was to “give formal recognition to someone in the science fiction field, either a fan or a pro, who has in some way contributed to the betterment of the field, and who has not yet been formally recognised”.

As far as I am aware the Invisible Little Man Award was first given out in 1950 to Ray Bradbury for his collection, The Martian Chronicles. I believe the trophy was handed over at a dinner especially arranged for the event. The Invisible Little Man Award was again awarded in 1951 to George Pal for producing adult science fiction films (Pal’s truly appalling film, The War Of the Worlds, was a couple of years in the future so the Little Men can be excused for thinking this). This second trophy was handed over at Westercon IV, an annual convention which was held in San Francisco that year.

Now according to that previously mentioned article the Invisible Little Man Award wasn’t awarded again until 1961, at Westercon 14 in Oakland, when the trophy went to editor Cele Goldsmith in honour of the improvements she wrought on those venerable science fiction magazines, Amazing Stories & Fantastic Adventures.

Assuming this is all correct then I think it’s unlikely the Little Men handed out an Invisible Little Man Award at their worldcon and then forgot all about it. Not impossible of course, stranger things have happened, but most unlikely I think you will agree. My theory is that the rumour about which Chris Garcia writes was started because at some point the 1954 Worldcon Committee perhaps discussed handing out the Little Men Award at the con. I can imagine the idea being considered because it would have been an appropriate occasion to revive the award. However, if they did consider it I assume they probably decided it would be tactless to drop a set of awards decided on by the fandom at large from the worldcon programme in favour of a single award decided exclusively by the The Elves, Gnomes and Little Men’s Science Fiction, Chowder and Marching Society.

I trust this clears the matter up.

2 thoughts on “The 1954 Hugo Awards”

  1. As you no doubt know, the name of the club came from the BARNABY comic strip, whose co-star, Barnaby’s “fairy godfather,” was a member thereof. One of the other strip regulars and club members was Lancelot McSnoyd, an invisible leprechaun, so I wonder if the “Invisible Little Man” award in turn took its name from him? (Probably the origin of the award name is well-known already, just not to me, so if this is “old news,” feel free to ignore it and treat this comment as, ah, invisible.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I would assume the Little Men took the name of their award from the comic. It seems like the sort of thing they would do. I can’t confirm this definitively though as very little seems to be known about the Little Men and their activities. Which is amazing since this is the club which once managed to sell off at least part of the Moon.


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