Retrospective Hugo awards may be voted under certain circumstances to fill the perceived gap left by a past World SF Convention at which no Hugos were presented. Besides the voting of the usual Hugos for the previous year's sf, a Worldcon committee may optionally allow its members to choose Retro Hugos which might have been but were not presented at the Worldcon of 50, 75 or 100 years previously (more recently amended to any such span which is an exact multiple of 25). These awards have been presented six times: in 1996 for 1945 work, in 2001 for 1950 work, in 2004 for 1953 work, in 2014 for 1938 work, in 2016 for 1940 work and in 2018 for 1942 work. Since Hugo presentations have continued without a break since 1954, all the 50-years-ago opportunities have now been taken and Retro Hugos are currently (since 2014) being given for Worldcons 75 years in the past. Initially the presentation option was confined to past years in which a Worldcon was actually held, but the rules have since been changed to allow Retro Hugos for years when there was no Worldcon, such as the wartime 1943 and 1944 when 1942 and 1943 work might have been honoured: Retro Hugos for 1942 were duly presented at the 2018 Worldcon and those for 1943 will be presented in 2019.
Several acknowledged sf and fantasy classics have been honoured in this way, but the influence of hindsight and of reputations chiefly based on later work has made these belated awards a distinctly unreliable guide to the preferences of past Worldcon members. Ray Bradbury, for example, was very far from being either the best or best-liked fan writer of 1938 or 1940, but in the twenty-first century had vastly greater name recognition than other, more plausible candidates. [DRL]
- 1938: John W Campbell Jr, "Who Goes There?" (August 1938 Astounding) as by Don A Stuart
- 1940: Robert A Heinlein "If This Goes On –" (February-March 1940 Astounding)
- 1942: Robert A Heinlein, "Waldo" (August 1942 Astounding as by Anson MacDonald)
- 1945: George Orwell, Animal Farm (1945 chap)
- 1950: Robert A Heinlein, "The Man Who Sold the Moon" (in The Man Who Sold the Moon, coll 1950)
- 1953: James Blish, "A Case of Conscience" (September 1953 If)
- 1938: Forrest J Ackerman, editor, Imagination!
- 1940: Ray Bradbury, editor, Futuria Fantasia
- 1942: Wilson Tucker, Le Zombie
- 1945: Forrest J Ackerman, editor, Voice of the Imagi-Nation
- 1950: Science Fiction Newsletter
- 1953: Walt Willis, editor, and James White, art editor, Slant
Special committee award (not a formal Retro Hugo)
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