Hugos and Rockets and The Chain of Connection

The official Hugo Awards site describes the design of the award as having been "based upon the hood ornament from a 1950s American automobile."  They don't give a specific make or model, but I'll wager that the inspiration came from the Oldsmobile 88, aka the "Rocket 88".  There were variant versions of the hood ornament from year to year before the first Hugos were given in 1953, but the version used in advertising that preceded Oldsmobile's public introduction of the 88 line a few years before that makes, I think, a pretty irrefutable argument.

Look familiar?

I came across this image, and others on the vintage site linked above, because I was making notes for a future story where I wanted a young woman traveling in an old car, and I wanted a car whose name would both trigger a science-fictiony association and be "a man's car".  The Rocket 88 fit the bill pretty well; it was one of the first cars with a V-8 engine and other power embellishments, and is now regarded as an early outlier for the "muscle cars" from other makers that started coming on market in the mid-1950's.  But I did a double-take when I did an image search and saw some pictures of the 1950 "fastback" model of the Olds 88.

Because I recognized that distinctive sloping trunk lid.  And I remembered that my grandfather had owned a car with that same trunk lid.  I'd always remembered that it had been an older Oldsmobile, but I'd never remembered the particular model.   And, after I got older and became aware of the Hugo awards, I'd remembered that a car with a Hugo-like ornament on its hood had been around while I was growing up, but I hadn't remembered it as being Grandpa's Oldsmobile.

My grandfather died when I was in sixth grade, I think in late 1963, and I had never remembered him as anything other than as a frail old man and, in his last several months, a dying old man.  So it was a bit of a shock to realize that Grandpa might have been driving a muscle-car all those years.  My grandfather as a bad-ass?  As a tough guy?  Hard to picture.  Even in older family photos, he was thin and non-intimidating, not the type of person you'd expect to see in a fight, not the type of person you'd want on your side in a fight.

Or maybe you would.  Because there was one family story I heard from my mother decades after Grandpa had died, only once, and only in very brief form.  Probably because it was, at heart, a pretty ugly and very discomforting story.  But it showed that when someone tried to harm his children, my grandfather -- and a length of wooden broom handle -- was capable of cold-blooded and deliberate violence.

(I was actually planning on using this family story, with a number of changes and expansions, as the basis for the next story on my "to-write" list.)

So maybe my grandfather really was, or had been, a bad-ass tough guy.  And maybe, on those times when I rode in Grandpa's car to the store or other relatives' homes, I was riding with a Hugo on the hood!  Probably the closest I ever got to a Hugo.

(Although I was told, back in the 1970's when fandom was a lot smaller and I was a much more active fanzine publisher and letterhack, that I'd once come within a few nominations of being on a Hugo ballot for Best Fan Writer one year.  But "within a few nominations" probably doesn't count for much, then or now.)

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