November 26th, 1919 to September 2nd, 2013
November 26th, 1919 to September 2nd, 2013
You can’t really predict the future. All you can do is invent it. You can do things that may have an effect on what the future will be, but you can’t say which is going to happen unless you know who’s inventing things and who’s making things happen. We would not have landed a man on the moon in 1969 if John Kennedy hadn’t decided to do it. It’s because he invented that event that it took place. It probably would’ve happened sooner or later under some other circumstances, but that’s why it happened. Same with atomic energy. So you can see how future events take place but what you can’t do is know who’s going to do something that will change it. You can’t really say what’s going to happen, but you can show a spectrum of possibilities.--Frederik Pohl
"Frederik Pohl, grandmaster of science fiction, dies aged 93"
Prolific writer whom Kingsley Amis dubbed 'the most consistently able writer science fiction, in its modern form, has yet produced'
September 3rd, 2013
Frederik Pohl, one of the few writers who was truly deserving of the overused epithet "grandmaster of science fiction", has died aged 93.
His granddaughter Emily Pohl-Weary broke the news last night when she tweeted, "Rest in peace to my beloved grandfather Frederik Pohl, who showed me by example how to be an author. 1919-2013."
From his first published work in 1937, a poem entitled "Elegy to a Dead Satellite: Luna", printed in Amazing Stories magazine under the pseudonymous byline Elton Andrews, Pohl turned out an astonishingly huge body of work.
He will perhaps be best remembered for his 1977 novel Gateway, which won the Hugo Award the following year. A multilayered novel describing a space-station in a hollowed-out asteroid, built by a long-gone alien race who had left behind hundreds of space ships which humanity was learning to operate through trial and error, the novel also scooped the Locus, Nebula and John W Campbell awards and is considered a major milestone in SF writing today.
In his book on science fiction, New Maps of Hell, Kingsley Amis called Pohl "the most consistently able writer science fiction, in its modern form, has yet produced".
Even in his advanced years, Pohl embraced the internet and was an inveterate blogger, posting his latest missive just days ago – a piece on poverty in which he wrote, "Everyone knows that the principal thing lacking in the poor is the same all over the world. Its name is Money."
In his 1978 book The Way the Future Was, Pohl, who grew up in Brooklyn, New York, explained how he joined the Young Communist League in 1936 because it was pro-union and anti-Hitler, Mussolini and racism.
He served with the US Army in the second world war and was stationed in Italy with the 456th Bombardment Group. Since 1940, Pohl was married no fewer than five times.
Following news of his death, writers and fans took to the social networks to tweet their tributes to the writer.
British SF author Ian McDonald tweeted: "Saddened to hear of the death of Fred Pohl... everyone seems to have met him which in my book is a Good Thing."
San Francisco-based writer Rudy Rucker said: "Fred Pohl was one of the wittiest SF writers ever."
Fantasy author Raymond E Feist said on Twitter: "RIP Fred Pohl. A truly gifted, legendary storyteller, who taught me a lot about the business as well as the craft."
The general mood was summed up by fan Debra Kay, who tweeted simply: "R.I.P. Frederik Pohl. Thanks for the stories."
Frederik Pohl was one of those writers with a social conscience who achieved truly legendary status in his lifetime. A quote of his trotted out in the hours after his death can perhaps be read two ways: one as a desire to entertain, another as a rallying call for humanity to create a better world. "You can't really predict the future. All you can do is invent it."
"Frederik Pohl, Worldly-Wise Master of Science Fiction, Dies at 93"
September 3rd, 2013
The New York Times
Frederik Pohl, whose passion for science fiction while growing up in Brooklyn led to a distinguished career as one of its most literate and politically sophisticated practitioners, though one who was skeptical about attempts to perfect society through scientific means, died on Monday at a hospital near his home in Palatine, Ill. He was 93.
His agent, Mitchell Waters, who confirmed the death, said Mr. Pohl was taken to the hospital in acute respiratory distress. Palatine is northwest of Chicago. Mr. Pohl was involved in publishing science fiction since he was a teenager, when he served as a literary agent for his science fiction-writing young friends. He went on to edit magazines and books before finding renown as a writer, often with collaborators.
Perhaps the most famous of his anti-utopian novels was “The Space Merchants,” a prescient satire that Mr. Pohl wrote in the early 1950s with Cyril M. Kornbluth. More than a decade before the surgeon general’s report on smoking and health, the authors imagined a future dominated by advertising executives, who compete to hook consumers on interlocking chains of addictive products. One such chain is started by a few mouthfuls of Crunchies.
“The Crunchies kicked off withdrawal symptoms that could be quelled only by another two squirts of Popsie from the fountain,” the authors wrote. “And Popsie kicked off withdrawal symptoms that could only be quelled by smoking Starr Cigarettes, which made you hungry for Crunchies.”
“The Space Merchants” has been translated into more than 25 languages and has sold millions of copies worldwide.
Mr. Pohl’s grasp of science was impressive; although entirely self-taught, he was elected a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1982. He was also in demand as a so-called futurist, speaking to business executives and other audiences about the shape of things to come in a science-dominated future — and about the unreliability of even short-range predictions.
His view of a high-tech tomorrow was always darkened by doubts about the social consequences of scientific advances. In his grim 1979 novel “Jem: The Making of a Utopia,” high-minded colonists to a distant planet end up making the same mistakes that have already doomed civilization on Earth. The novel won a National Book Award (then known as the American Book Award) in 1980, the only year either award had a science fiction category.
Mr. Pohl was born in New York City on Nov. 26, 1919, and spent most of his childhood in Brooklyn. An early reader, he developed a taste for the science fiction magazines of the day, known as pulps for their poor-quality paper. His love of books encompassed everything from Tolstoy to the French Symbolists, but did not carry over to formal education; he dropped out of high school at 17 — “as soon as it was legal,” he said.
With a handful of like-minded young men, including Isaac Asimov, James Blish, Damon Knight and Mr. Kornbluth, Mr. Pohl threw himself into the burgeoning phenomenon of science fiction fandom. In 1936 he and a dozen other enthusiasts gathered in the back room of a bar in Philadelphia for what many regard as the world’s first science fiction “convention.”
Mr. Pohl’s ambition, like that of his friends, was to be a professional writer. Toward this end he became a literary agent and an editor, both before his 20th birthday. As an agent he represented the work of his friends to the established science fiction magazines; he also published many of their stories, and some of his own, in two new pulp magazines, Astonishing Stories and Super Science Stories, which he edited from 1940 through the summer of 1941.
After serving as an Army weatherman in Italy during World War II, he wrote advertising copy for a mail order publisher. Then he became a literary agent again. In the late 1940s science fiction was becoming respectable, and Mr. Pohl helped connect science fiction writers to mainstream publishers; he sold Mr. Asimov’s first novel, “Pebble in the Sky” (1950), to Doubleday. At the same time, he was writing prolifically, often in collaboration with Mr. Kornbluth. “The Space Merchants” was the most successful of the 11 books they wrote together.
In 1960 the British novelist Kingsley Amis hailed Mr. Pohl as science fiction’s “most consistently able writer.” The next year Mr. Pohl began editing two magazines: Galaxy, the monthly that had serialized “The Space Merchants,” and If, in which he introduced a number of important new writers, including Larry Niven and Alexei Panshin. Under his leadership If won the Hugo — an award voted by science fiction fans — for best magazine in 1966, 1967 and 1968.
After 1969, Mr. Pohl devoted most of his energies to writing. Yet he also found time to serve as science fiction editor at Bantam Books in the mid-’70s. It was a period of creative turmoil in science fiction, when a group of writers known as the New Wave sought to elevate genre writing by emphasizing literary style and character development. At Mr. Pohl’s urging, Bantam published two of the most important science fiction books of the era: “The Female Man,” by Joanna Russ, a feminist novel in which the war between the sexes is fought with real bullets; and “Dhalgren,” by Samuel R. Delany, a vast experimental work that owed as much to James Joyce as to H. G. Wells. Despite initial resistance from the Bantam sales force, “Dhalgren” went on to sell more than a million copies.
The ’70s also saw the blossoming of Mr. Pohl’s own writing career. In 1976 he won his first Nebula Award (given by the Science Fiction Writers of America) for “Man Plus,” about an astronaut whose body is surgically altered for life on Mars. He won another Nebula in 1977 (and a Hugo in 1978) for “Gateway,” which he considered his best novel. It told the story of a man who gains a fortune but loses the love of his life on a “prospecting” expedition aboard an alien spaceship — one of many left behind by the mysterious Heechee, who have taken refuge from even more mysterious aliens inside a black hole. Its most memorable character was a robot psychiatrist who tries to help the hero come to terms with his survivor guilt. Mr. Pohl wrote four more novels and a book of short stories in the Heechee saga.
All told, he published more than 65 novels and some 30 short-story collections, as well as nonfiction works. Nearly half his novels were collaborations with friends and colleagues like Mr. Kornbluth, Mr. Asimov, Lester del Rey and Jack Williamson. His last collaboration was with Arthur C. Clarke: the novel “The Last Theorem” (2008). Mr. Pohl won his last Hugo in 2010 in the “best fan writer” category for his blog “The Way the Future Blogs.”
A flirtation with the Young Communist League as a teenager left Mr. Pohl suspicious of grand schemes of social engineering. Yet he believed in the possibility of self improvement: “I am a sort of preacher,” he said in a 1980 interview. “I like to talk to people and get them to change their views when I think their views are wrong.”
“Why else,” he added, “would anyone write a book?”
Mr. Pohl was married five times and had four children; his third wife was the noted science fiction writer and editor Judith Merril. Information on survivors was not immediately available.
Mr. Pohl was a tireless researcher. In 2000 he published “Chasing Science: Science as a Spectator Sport,” which recounted his travels to learn about science firsthand, including visiting a neutrino detector in an abandoned gold mine in South Dakota and Star City, near Moscow, where Russian cosmonauts live and train.
When he did make a scientific mistake, he felt compelled to correct it. In the final novel in the Heechee saga, “The Boy Who Would Live Forever” (2004), he apologized to readers for his original decision to have the aliens hide in a black hole. While this had seemed an acceptable plot device back in the 1970s, when black holes were “quite a novelty,” he wrote, scientists in the 21st century no longer believe that “organized matter of any kind” can exist inside a black hole. Accordingly, he asked his readers to treat this central element in the galaxy-spanning saga as mere fantasy.
Frederik Pohl [Wikipedia]
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