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 eight 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, in 2018 for 1942 work, in 2019 for 1943 work and in 2020 for 1944 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 subsequent to 1939 (the first Worldcon) when no Worldcon was held. In practice this means the World War Two years 1943-1945 when 1942-1944 work might have been honoured: Retro Hugos for 1942, 1943 and 1944 were duly presented at the 2018, 2019 and 2020 Worldcons.
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: Arthur C Clarke "How We Went to Mars" (March 1938 Amateur Science Stories)
- 1940: Isaac Asimov, "Robbie" (September 1940 Super Science Stories as "Strange Playfellow")
- 1942: Henry Kuttner and C L Moore, "The Twonky" (September 1942 Astounding as by Lewis Padgett)
- 1943: Ray Bradbury, "King of the Gray Spaces" (December 1943 Famous Fantastic Mysteries; vt "R is for Rocket" in R is for Rocket, coll 1962)
- 1944: Ray Bradbury, "I, Rocket" (May 1944 Amazing Stories)
- 1945: Hal Clement, "Uncommon Sense" (September 1945 Astounding)
- 1950: Damon Knight, "To Serve Man" (November 1950 Galaxy)
- 1953: Arthur C Clarke, "The Nine Billion Names of God" (in Star Science Fiction Stories 1, anth 1953, ed Frederik Pohl)
- 1938: Forrest J Ackerman, editor, Imagination!
- 1940: Ray Bradbury, editor, Futuria Fantasia
- 1942: Wilson (Bob) Tucker, Le Zombie
- 1943: Wilson (Bob) Tucker, Le Zombie
- 1944: Forrest J Ackerman, editor, Voice of the Imagi-Nation
- 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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