Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Frederik Pohl (1919-2013)

I just heard that Fred Pohl has passed away. He was a major figure in twentieth-century American SF, as editor, agent, novelist and short-story writer. He edited pulp-magazines before the Second World War, rubbing shoulders with other founding figures of the genre as we know it today. He wrote satirical novels and short stories in collaboration with C.M. Kornbluth in the 1950s. He edited Galaxy magazine in the 1960s. In the 1970s he had what for many people would be a late-career flourish with a string of award-winning novels such as Gateway, Man Plus (probably my favourite of his works) and Jem.

But that late-career flourish in his 50s turned out to be mid-career, as he continued working right through to his 90s. His authobiography, The Way The Future Was, consequently turns out to be a rather incomplete work as it was published in 1978 when Fred was a mere 58 years old! In recent years, he effectively extended the book by becoming a prolific blogger with his The Way The Future Blogs.

I met Fred in 2008 at the Eaton Conference in Riverside, California. He appeared on a panel with guest of honour Ray Bradbury. I had a chance to talk to him briefly about his work, telling him that I had re-read Man Plus on the flight from the UK, and found that it held up well for a thirty-year-old book. I have a few photos from the event, including one of me talking to Fred, but my favourite is this shot of him looking pensive. In the background, Larry Niven (standing) is sharing a joke with Ray Bradbury; and further back is SF scholar Eric Rabkin (seated), talking to Fred's wife Elizabeth Anne Hull.

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