Science Fiction Awards Watch

About the Big Heart Award

by John Hertz

(An earlier version of this article originally appeared in Nippon 2007’s Progress Report #5 (Apr. 07). It has been edited to add the recipients of subsequent Big Heart Awards, and text from John Hertz reporting the Administrator who succeeded Dave Kyle.)

The Big Heart, highest service award in the science fiction community, is given each year for good work and great spirit long contributed. Magnanimity is among the highest virtues. It is in our best tradition.

The Award has gone to fans; it has gone to pros; in our community some are both. It often goes to a person whose service may have had thanks but little applause. The pros who received it were not thus honored for their professional achievement. A few, like “Doc” Smith, were famously helpful. Others, like some fan recipients, have been generous of labor, money, friendship, behind the scenes, unconcerned with who went into the spotlight.

The Big Heart was begun at the death and in the memory of E. Everett Evans, “Triple E”, one of the more big-hearted we have known. It was administered forty years by Forrest J Ackerman, another. At the new millennium, itself a moment long in the science-fiction eye, Forry stepped down, and handed over administration of the Award to Dave Kyle, whose middle name, as history has noted, was Ackerman.

Like much with us, the Award is colored by custom. After Dr. David Keller it was not given posthumously. Something of an exception was made when Bob Pavlat suddenly died and the Award was nonetheless given to both him and his widow Peggy Rae (later Peggy Rae Sapienza), who each had amply earned it. It is presented at the World Science Fiction Convention, which is held in various locations, inclining the Big Heart to persons living near that year’s Worldcon or associated with it. The association can be imaginative. In Art Widner’s year he lived near San Francisco. The Worldcon was in Boston. But he had been active in the Stranger Club, founders of fan activity there; the entire club was Fan Guest of Honor, and he was one of seven to attend. Speaking for myself, after Dave Kyle at Torcon III surprised me with the Award, I realized the connection between my conventional headgear and the handmade propeller beanie involved with giving the Award to him at Torcon II.

Dave administered the Award for a decade and a half. The motto of my local club, the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society, is “Death will not release you” (sometimes made a kind of call, to which the response is “Even if you die”), with records carefully showing some people still in office posthumously, but that is not the practice of the Big Heart Award. Dave and others had agreed who would follow him. At his passing on September 18, 2016 he was succeeded by Steve Francis.

While stretches of our history are unmapped, the Award has also an indicative use. For the 1940s and 1950s we have the unequaled studies by Harry Warner, Jr., All Our Yesterdays and A Wealth of Fable. Before and after we so far have only blazes along the trail, in fanzines, the amateur publications by fans, for fans, rarely printing fiction and often comment, which remain our most distinctive activity; in convention program books, progress reports, newsletters; in club minutes; in records of the visiting-fan funds, TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund), DUFF (Down Under Fan Fund), and the rest; in regional awards, Auroras (Canadian), Ditmars (Australian), many more. With no map at hand, one is grateful to trailblazers. The Big Heart names, starting as the 1950s end, are worth following.

During Forry’s tenure we were stymied. It takes one to know one; there was no better to administer it. But what were we to do about Forry himself? This was resolved by Heaven, or fate, as you prefer. Big Hearted Howard DeVore, long so known by his own earning with no further help, was to receive the Award while Fan GoH at L.A.con IV. In the previous December he passed away. That by settled custom had no effect whatever on his Guesthood, and equally halted giving him the Award. With two decisive gestures it was given to Forry, and renamed the Forrest J Ackerman Big Heart Award. Dum vivimus, vivamus – while we live, let us live.

Recipients of the Big Heart Award

  • 1959 E.E. Smith
  • 1960 Bob Bloch, Sam Moskowitz
  • 1961 Rick Sneary
  • 1962 Bob Tucker
  • 1963 James Taurasi
  • 1964 Bjo Trimble
  • 1965 Walter Ernsting
  • 1966 David H. Keller
  • 1967 Janie Lamb
  • 1968 Walt Daugherty
  • 1969 Harry Warner, Jr.
  • 1970 Herbert Häussler
  • 1971 C.L. Barrett
  • 1972 Stan Woolston
  • 1973 David A. Kyle
  • 1974 Robert Madle
  • 1975 Donald Tuck
  • 1976 Ron Graham
  • 1977 Elaine Wojciewoski
  • 1978 Bill Rotsler
  • 1979 Georges Gallet
  • 1980 Lou Tabakow
  • 1981 Walt Leibscher
  • 1982 Darrell Richardson
  • 1983 Peggy Rae & Bob Pavlat
  • 1984 Terri & Tom Pinckard
  • 1985 Bill Crawford
  • 1986 Rusty Hevelin
  • 1987 Wiktor Bukato, Takumi Shibano, Tetsu Yano
  • 1988 Andre Norton
  • 1989 Art Widner
  • 1990 Jay Kay Klein
  • 1991 Julius Schwartz
  • 1992 Samanda Jeude
  • 1993 Marjii Ellers
  • 1994 Jack Williamson
  • 1995 Ken Slater
  • 1996 Dik Daniels
  • 1997 John L. Coker III
  • 1998 Joanie Knappenberger
  • 1999 Chris Collier, Peter Hassell
  • 2000 Robert Silverberg
  • 2001 Sue & Steve Francis
  • 2002 Pat Sims
  • 2003 John Hertz
  • 2004 Filthy Pierre
  • 2005 John-Henri Holmberg, Waldemar Kumming, Ina Shorrock
  • 2006 Forrest J Ackerman
  • 2007 Robin Johnson, Atsushi Morioka
  • 2008 Suford Lewis
  • 2009 Andrew I. Porter
  • 2010 Merv Binns
  • 2011 Gay Haldeman
  • 2012 Juanita Coulson
  • 2013 Tom Veal
  • 2014 Vincent Docherty
  • 2015 Ben Yalow
  • 2016 Edie Stern & Joe Siclari