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International Fantasy Award

Entry updated 30 May 2022. Tagged: Award.


UK-based Award, made annually from 1951 to 1955 and finally in 1957. The idea came from four UK enthusiasts: John Beynon Harris (John Wyndham), Frank Cooper, G Ken Chapman and Leslie Flood. The International Fantasy Awards were presented to the authors of the best fantasy or sf book of the year, with a second category for the best nonfiction book likely to be of interest to sf readers; the nonfiction class was dropped after 1953. Winners were selected by a panel of prominent sf personalities, in the first year by the above-named founders of the award; from 1952 the panel was international. US judges included Forrest J Ackerman, Everett F Bleiler, Anthony Boucher and J Francis McComas (casting one ballot as a team), Basil Davenport, August Derleth, Hugo Gernsback, P Schuyler Miller and Donald A Wollheim.

The award itself took the form of a Rocket-shaped trophy (reportedly inspired by Chesley Bonestell's cover painting for the February 1951 Galaxy), to whose supporting base or plinth a globular Ronson cigarette lighter was also attached. Once the Hugos had been successfully launched, some of the raison d'être for these awards was gone, but in their time they were given to some excellent and imaginatively chosen works, most of which would have had almost no chance of winning any of the major US Awards. The first International Fantasy Award was presented at the 1951 UK sf Convention and the last at a London restaurant lunch (SF Luncheon Club) immediately following the London Worldcon in 1957. In that final year the same rocketship design – differing from the classic Hugo rocket in having small wings as well as fins – was also used for the Hugo awards.

Some confusion was introduced by the 1960 Gollancz UK edition of Frank Herbert's The Dragon in the Sea (November 1955-January 1956 Astounding as "Under Pressure"; 1956), whose jacket calls it "The science fiction novel, which, as a prizewinner in the International Fantasy Award tied with William Golding's Lord of the Flies". The Golding/Herbert tie was for third place, with John Christopher's The Death of Grass (1956; vt No Blade of Grass 1957) coming second and the actual winner being J R R Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings (3vols 1954-1955) as below. [PN/DRL]




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