Geek Trivia: Science-fiction double feature

Who are the only four writers to have two books win both the Hugo and Nebula awards for best science-fiction/fantasy novel?

If the Hugo Award is the science-fiction and fantasy equivalent of the Oscar, then the Nebula Award is geekdom's Emmy. Together, these two prestigious paperweights single out the best science-fiction and fantasy works of recent release—most notably novels.

To extend our mainstream analogy, the Hugo Award for Best Novel is akin to the Oscar for Best Picture, while the Nebula for Best Novel is the Emmy for Best Drama. Where the analogy breaks down is that novels can win both the Hugo and the Nebula—a peerless accomplishment in the genre of science-fiction and fantasy writing. It's also a tricky standard to meet.

Attendees of the World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon), which changes location every year, bestow the Hugo Awards, so the voting group is never entirely consistent. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA), the trade organization of professional geek writers, is responsible for presenting the Nebula Awards. While essentially a fraternity filled with arguably unstable members, SFWA's membership is not all that unstable.

While there's significant overlap in these two constituencies, the distinction between the two comes to this: Sci-fi/fantasy fans award Hugos, and sci-fi/fantasy pros award Nebulas. But it gets even more complicated.

Writers win Hugos for works published in the past year, but Nebulas have a rolling nomination process that can see works nominated and win a year or more after publication. That means the same novel can win a Hugo and Nebula in different years.

The Nebulas are the younger of the two awards, debuting in 1965; the first Hugo Awards were part of the 11th Worldcon in 1953. In the 41 years since the birth of the Nebulas, only 18 novels have managed the distinction of earning both the Nebula and the Hugo.

That's a rarified list of all the science-fiction and fantasy tomes penned in the last four decades—what could be more exclusive? Actually, only 14 authors have had novels win both the Nebula and the Hugo, meaning that four sci-fi/fantasy scribes have pulled off the legendary awards two-step twice.


Who are the only four science-fiction and fantasy authors to have twice pulled off the remarkable feat of penning a novel that won both the Hugo and Nebula awards for genre excellence?

The answer is a who's who of sci-fi/fantasy icons:

  • Orson Scott Card did it with Ender's Game and its sequel, Speaker for the Dead.
  • Arthur C. Clarke did it with Rendezvous with Rama and The Fountains of Paradise.
  • Joe Haldeman did it with The Forever War and its follow-up, Forever Peace.
  • Ursula K. Le Guin did it with The Dispossessed and The Left Hand of Darkness.

Interestingly enough, two of these authors garnered this awards duo for novels other than his or her best-known work. Clarke's 2001: A Space Odyssey is undoubtedly his most well-recognized book, though a certain Stanley Kubrick film adaptation might have had something to do with that. Le Guin's Earthsea series is probably the most famous portion of her personal bibliography, even though a certain Sci-Fi Channel miniseries probably did more damage than good in evangelizing the noted books and stories.

As for Haldeman and Card, The Forever War and Ender's Game have respectively defined their careers. Still, it's interesting that their most lauded works also generated equally applauded sequels.

Of course, that doesn't mean we should view either as a one-trick pony. Both authors won numerous accolades for other science-fiction works as well.

Haldeman picked up another Hugo-Nebula double-dip for a novella—The Hemingway Hoax—as well as four other stand-alone Nebulas and Hugos for short stories and novels. Card has won two other Hugos, including one in the nonfiction category for How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy.

So, who are the remaining 10 distinguished writers who pulled off the Hugo-Nebula combo?

  • Isaac Asimov for The Gods Themselves
  • David Brin for Startide Rising
  • Lois McMaster Bujold for Paladin of Souls
  • Neil Gaiman for American Gods
  • William Gibson for Neuromancer
  • Frank Herbert for Dune
  • Vonda N. McIntyre for Dreamsnake
  • Larry Niven for Ringworld
  • Frederik Pohl for Gateway
  • Connie Willis for Doomsday Book

That's not just a veritable honor roll of science-fiction and fantasy authors—it's a word-warping instance of Geek Trivia.

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The Quibble of the Week

If you uncover a questionable fact or debatable aspect of this week's Geek Trivia, just post it in the discussion area of the article. Every week, yours truly will choose the best post from the assembled masses and discuss it in the next edition of Geek Trivia.

I've put this week's quibble on hiatus in order to make room for a bit of our own awards presentation. In the September 6 edition of Geek Trivia, "Planet X marks the spot," I challenged readers to suggest a viable and justified-with-Geek-Trivia name for a hypothetical mystery planet that scientists might someday find on the edge of the solar system. TechRepublic member Leon Tribe won a tight race with this suggestion.

"Vulcan: Not only is Vulcan the Roman Smith God, the IAU would win the hearts and minds of all the Star Trek fans out there. Planet Vulcan would attain cult status as the newest planet in the solar system and the home planet of Spock. Coincidentally, Vulcan has already been suggested for a planet at the other end of the solar system as an explanation for irregularities in Mercury's orbit, later accounted for by general relativity."

For an avowed Trekker (check the picture) and a fan of the bizarre footnotes of historical astronomy, this suggestion was perfect. Plus, Leon supplied a reference link, which saved me a little research. For his trouble, Leon will receive an ultra-rare embroidered TechRepublic polo shirt. Mad props to Mr. Tribe, and keep those quibbles coming.

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The Trivia Geek, also known as Jay Garmon, is a former advertising copywriter and Web developer who's duped TechRepublic into underwriting his affinity for movies, sci-fi, comic books, technology, and all things geekish or subcultural.