Join 3,374 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


RIP Frederik Pohl
September 2, 2013 3:50 PM   Subscribe

Noted science fiction author, editor, and SFWA Grand Master Frederik Pohl has died. His granddaughter announced the news via her twitter account. Pohl was born in 1919 (the same year stainless steel was patented and a year before the first commercially licensed radio station in the US) and after nearly a century of imagining the near and far future, and sharing that with the world, he was still updating his blog [previously] on a regular basis until his death.
posted by rmd1023 (113 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite

 
.
posted by Bwithh at 3:50 PM on September 2, 2013


I hadn't realized he was born that long ago. His talent's going to be missed.
posted by tyllwin at 3:52 PM on September 2, 2013


One of my favorite writers, RIP. Pohl worked in advertising before he started writing SF and when he was critiquing our culture he knew where the bodies were buried.

.
posted by localroger at 3:54 PM on September 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


Oh, no.
posted by Kevin Street at 3:55 PM on September 2, 2013


I once shared an elevator with him.

.
posted by Faint of Butt at 3:56 PM on September 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


.
posted by drezdn at 3:57 PM on September 2, 2013


A giant of sci fi, endlessly inventive. He'll be sorely missed, but his mammoth back catalogue will keep anybody going for a good few years.

Still keen to track down a decent copy of his Chernobyl.

.
posted by turbid dahlia at 3:58 PM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Saddened by this. He was a fine writer, both as a professional and fan, and one of our last links to the early days of SF fandom - he was at the first Worldcon in 1939, and helped organize the Futurians.

.
posted by Chrysostom at 3:59 PM on September 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


I re-read the Gateway series every couple of years. I can say that about few other books.
posted by ten pounds of inedita at 3:59 PM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I once got to ask him, "OK, I give, what was eating those damn hummingbirds!?!?!" Apparently it was a story out of life and it was some kind of hawk or falcon which they also never saw around their house.

He has provided me with many hours of entertainment and fascination and will be missed by many I am sure.

.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 4:00 PM on September 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I haven't read them in a long while, but I loved the Heechee Saga books.

.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 4:01 PM on September 2, 2013


.
posted by feckless at 4:05 PM on September 2, 2013


Frederik Pohl has had such an amazing career. In the late 70's and 80's, when many of the Golden Age greats had already done their best work, he was just getting started. Gateway, Beyond The Blue Event Horizon, The Day The Martians Came, even Chernobyl... All great books.
posted by Kevin Street at 4:05 PM on September 2, 2013


The Space Merchants is one of my all-time favourite sci fi books, and having not read Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? I can only posit that either Dick or Scott borrowed from it pretty generously in their world-building.
posted by turbid dahlia at 4:09 PM on September 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


.

One of the greats.

Who is even left now from that era?
posted by Artw at 4:11 PM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh yeah, his collaborations with other authors! Pohl and Cyril Kornbluth were just amazing together. Any one of those stories is mind blowing.

Wolfbane, for instance. That book starts out strange and gets weirder and weirder, in a wonderful sort of way that's very unusual for a book written in 1957.
posted by Kevin Street at 4:13 PM on September 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Pohl did so much incredible writing in the 70s and early 80s, then it seemed like he sort of faded from relevance.

Then, bam, in 2009 (at 90 years of age!) he reappears with the best damn science fiction blog ever written. The Way of the Future should easily qualify as a National Treasure the day the Internet declares itself a sovereign state.

Rest in peace. A life well lived.
posted by 256 at 4:20 PM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:20 PM on September 2, 2013


.
posted by Iridic at 4:23 PM on September 2, 2013


.
posted by hattifattener at 4:23 PM on September 2, 2013


.

reading his blog updates has been a pleasure for the past few years.
posted by mwhybark at 4:24 PM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


.
posted by jpolchlopek at 4:26 PM on September 2, 2013


.
posted by Inkslinger at 4:30 PM on September 2, 2013


turbid dahlia: "The Space Merchants is one of my all-time favourite sci fi books, and having not read Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? I can only posit that either Dick or Scott borrowed from it pretty generously in their world-building."

Keep in mind that Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and Bladerunner have MANY differences. The book, certainly, has very little in common with the Space Merchants.
posted by Chrysostom at 4:32 PM on September 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


.
posted by mfoight at 4:32 PM on September 2, 2013


Gateway was magnificent.

.
posted by Fibognocchi at 4:32 PM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Jo Walton reaction piece.
posted by Chrysostom at 4:33 PM on September 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


.
posted by COD at 4:36 PM on September 2, 2013


.
posted by Mary Ellen Carter at 4:37 PM on September 2, 2013


So much of what he wrote seemed downright prophetic, held up against today's world. That he didn't just fade off as that world arrived has always seemed remarkable to me. I remember seeing a bit where he'd actually been interviewed about the similarity of some new food science advance to Chicken Little. An anthology he edited (Nightmare Age, which included some of his own work, as well as Kornbluth's, and Heinlein's, and was just overall brilliant IMO) was my first real introduction to old-school sci-fi, and I am now on my third copy. I know I need to be gentler with it, but I just can't not pick it up again.
posted by Sequence at 4:37 PM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


.
posted by gingerest at 4:38 PM on September 2, 2013


Don't forget he was an important editor, too!
posted by Chrysostom at 4:39 PM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh noes! Thank you for all the hours of great reading you provided! Hope your place in writers' heaven is comfy!

.
posted by Lynsey at 4:43 PM on September 2, 2013


I really like what Jo Walton said in that post Chrysostom linked to. Throughout his life Pohl was an advocate, prophet, and force for change. He always looking for the new, bright wonderful things that tomorrow would bring, and did his best to make them come true in his work as an editor and as a writer. Progress was really his thing.
posted by Kevin Street at 4:45 PM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


.
posted by XMLicious at 4:50 PM on September 2, 2013


.
posted by Sphinx at 4:54 PM on September 2, 2013


.
posted by Foosnark at 4:54 PM on September 2, 2013


.
posted by clockworkjoe at 4:54 PM on September 2, 2013


.

I just got home from DragonCon ... modern fandom would not have happened without, at least in part, this man.

Another of the Grandmasters has passed. A single dot must be a singularity to contain my grief. And I only know the man through his writings.

“What were we doing here? Traveling hundreds or thousands of light-years, to break our hearts?” ― Frederik Pohl, Gateway
posted by strixus at 5:01 PM on September 2, 2013 [6 favorites]


A Titan of science fiction.

.
posted by dbiedny at 5:05 PM on September 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


he was at the first Worldcon in 1939, and helped organize the Futurians.

Was he the last major figure with such a link to the birth of both fandom and the genre as a whole? Who is left? I can only think of authors whose influence began in the mid 50s like Silverberg.
posted by Justinian at 5:06 PM on September 2, 2013


I met him briefly many years ago at a convention in Denver, and I'm glad I had the chance to tell him how much I enjoyed his books.

.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 5:15 PM on September 2, 2013


I've read almost everything he ever wrote. The man was incapable of writing a dull word (a couple of the later ones weren't quite as good, but even so).

I'd been trying off-hand to meet him for several years - I had a friend who had done a video reading of "Day Million" with him - but it was not to be.

Glad someone recommended Wolfbane, it's one of the most astonishing books ever written.

Also, if you're at a ll interested in the history of science fiction, "The Way The Future Was", an account of the Futurians, is completely worth your time.


posted by lupus_yonderboy at 5:16 PM on September 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


Aww, man.


.


I first knew Pohl through two text adventures about his Heechee saga, which I loved, and then I stumbled across the books at a garage sale, and loved them. It is still my favorite science fiction universe.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 5:26 PM on September 2, 2013


.
posted by brundlefly at 5:27 PM on September 2, 2013


Still sad, but there are far, far worse ways to go than very swiftly (given he was blogging that morning), while in full command of your facilities, at the age of 93.
posted by tavella at 5:30 PM on September 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


Oh hell this sucks. Pohl was one of the writers that was in my head bigtime when I was a kid.

RIP man. You made me think. What else can you say?
posted by Splunge at 5:30 PM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


.

> Also, if you're at a ll interested in the history of science fiction, "The Way The Future Was", an account of the Futurians, is completely worth your time.

Seconded. A wonderful read (as is almost everything he wrote).
posted by languagehat at 5:30 PM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


.
posted by disclaimer at 5:37 PM on September 2, 2013


Darn. One of my favorite writers and amazing that he was still writing great stuff late in his career. Some novels of his that haven't been mentioned yet and that I liked a lot were Syzygy, Jem, and The Cool War. Pretty sure that I wrote a book report on Syzygy in the tenth grade.
posted by octothorpe at 5:39 PM on September 2, 2013


Thanks Pohl, what an amazing legacy and gift he gave to the field and its millions of readers.
posted by smoke at 5:41 PM on September 2, 2013


Ugh, not a good time for me and SF. Pohl was pretty much the last link to the past and my favorite link to current SF, Iain Banks, passed away only a few months ago. This must be what it means to get older; everyone you look up to starts going one by one.
posted by Justinian at 5:42 PM on September 2, 2013


.
posted by waraw at 5:44 PM on September 2, 2013


Oh, Man plus too. Damn he wrote a lot of great books.
posted by octothorpe at 5:45 PM on September 2, 2013


.
posted by sammyo at 5:57 PM on September 2, 2013


everyone you look up to starts going one by one.

The thing is you look up to them because you're a kid and they're accomplished adults doing stuff you admire, so yeah. The older you get yourself the worse that gets until you start really empathizing with Clint Eastwood's character in Space Cowboys when he says "You notice how everyone seems to be dead lately?"
posted by localroger at 5:57 PM on September 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


I read so many of his books when I was growing up.

.
posted by arcticseal at 6:03 PM on September 2, 2013


Also, as a 13 year old reading Gateway, Pohl showed me there were relationships outside of the traditional heteronormative, and those were just as legitimate as any other. That was important for me.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 6:03 PM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Gateway is indeed a great SF novel (I admit I haven't read the sequels). Funky, trippy alien craft, a streak of social satire throughout, a real 70s SF vibe. And yet by the end there's a real emotional punch/twist that is completely underscored by events of a nerdy SF trope of hard science. I can't think of many books that pulled off an ending like that.

.
posted by zardoz at 6:03 PM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


RIP. He had such range as a writer, from unapologetic psychodramas like Gateway to black satire like Space Merchants, but he wrote everything with the same rigorous love of people -- no matter how grim his image of the future was (and often prophetically so), he always had a kind of faith in us. And his empathetic interest in economic victimization was always a welcome change.
posted by thesmallmachine at 6:05 PM on September 2, 2013


.
posted by jquinby at 6:09 PM on September 2, 2013


The sequels to Gateway are excellent. It really goes further and further. All is explained...
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 6:11 PM on September 2, 2013


.
posted by Token Meme at 6:16 PM on September 2, 2013


.
posted by skepticbill at 6:18 PM on September 2, 2013


.
posted by homunculus at 6:25 PM on September 2, 2013


.
posted by BlueHorse at 6:29 PM on September 2, 2013


.
posted by Smart Dalek at 6:31 PM on September 2, 2013


.
posted by Nyrath at 6:49 PM on September 2, 2013


Makes me think of one of the founding fathers passing. Big, if old-fashioned, shoes left vacant. Those Gateway books were crazy.

.
posted by wenestvedt at 6:50 PM on September 2, 2013


.
posted by newdaddy at 6:52 PM on September 2, 2013


.
posted by bongo_x at 6:53 PM on September 2, 2013


.
posted by motty at 7:08 PM on September 2, 2013


I loved his books. Thanks so much, Mr. Pohl.

.
posted by bearwife at 7:23 PM on September 2, 2013


Keep in mind that Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and Bladerunner have MANY differences.

That was my guess, but having not read the book I don't know what those differences are. So I'll assume Ridley Scott nicked the ideas, rather than Dick doing the nicking.
posted by turbid dahlia at 7:23 PM on September 2, 2013


.
posted by Mitheral at 7:37 PM on September 2, 2013


.

Thank you for giving us your words. I would have been a very different (and sadder) person without them.
posted by Alnedra at 8:12 PM on September 2, 2013


.
posted by niccolo at 8:21 PM on September 2, 2013


Damn. I adored Galaxy and Worlds of If when he edited them.
posted by DavLaurel at 8:25 PM on September 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


.

I think he may have been the last of the Grandfathers standing. I'm not sure if anyone else from the Golden Age is still with us.
posted by dejah420 at 8:27 PM on September 2, 2013


.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 8:56 PM on September 2, 2013


I have a special affection for The Years of the City. It's a fixup collection of novellas set in New York and it doesn't have an eschaton or an apocalypse or anything; the world has changed in some ways but it's pretty much the same in many others, but the tone is optimistic and reading it makes me feel happy. RIP.
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:57 PM on September 2, 2013


.
posted by brennen at 9:31 PM on September 2, 2013


Huh. I had no idea Pohl was responsible for publishing one of the smartest, funniest and most challenging 70s scifi books I've ever read: Joanna Russ's The Female Man. Embarrassed to admit I've never read one of his books, or his blog. I'll honor his memory by correcting that right away.

RIP, sir.
posted by mediareport at 9:57 PM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


.
posted by hap_hazard at 10:05 PM on September 2, 2013


Loved the short stories; Age of the Pussyfoot; and The Space Merchants, which Kingsley Amis touted as the best of the genre. Not sure it's been topped since.
posted by GeorgeBickham at 10:06 PM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have a theory concerning the longevity of science fiction authors which is based on their sheer determination to catch a glimpse of the future they have created.

Your future has outlived you, Fred.

.
posted by arzakh at 11:03 PM on September 2, 2013


.
posted by bleep-blop at 11:07 PM on September 2, 2013


I'd been following his blog since Metafilter introduced me to it, after more or less losing track of him as an author for a couple decades (and despite having read him from my early teens to past my college years, until the blog I never realized the scope of his contributions as a fan and an editor).

When he threw out a couple plugs for the Baen e-reprint of the old Lester Del Rey-edited Best-Of short story collection I picked it up and was well impressed by the range and sheer invention of the stories. Not all of the concepts held up entirely in the 21st century, of course, but almost all the writing did.

Are any of the true old guard of that era of science fiction left? I think Fred Pohl must have been just about the last... He was sharp and insightful to the last: his passing reminds me of the compassionate but firm way he declined an offer, made with some emotion, to offer him the services of cryonic preservation for free. Truly one of the great minds of Science Fiction.
posted by nanojath at 11:54 PM on September 2, 2013


I shared a car with him once. Well, actually my mom gave him a ride from the airport to the comic shop where he was doing a signing. He was very gentlemanly, elegant and gracious; my mom, who was normally skeptical of the usually poorly socialized science fiction community, was utterly charmed by him.
posted by happyroach at 12:12 AM on September 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


.
posted by RokkitNite at 12:53 AM on September 3, 2013


.
posted by axon at 2:40 AM on September 3, 2013


Huh. I had no idea Pohl was responsible for publishing one of the smartest, funniest and most challenging 70s scifi books I've ever read: Joanna Russ's The Female Man.

Not only that, Pohl was also responsible for publishing Samuel Delany's Dhalgren, another of the most challenging sf books of the 70s.

.
posted by aught at 5:29 AM on September 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


So I'll assume Ridley Scott nicked the ideas,

As a random example, the very title of the film, "Blade Runner," is an out of context appropriation from a completely unrelated sf novel by Alan Nourse that Scott used just because he liked the sound of it.
posted by aught at 5:44 AM on September 3, 2013


aught: "an out of context appropriation from a completely unrelated sf novel by Alan Nourse that Scott used just because he liked the sound of it"

My middle-school self was thoroughly confused by that novel when I found it in the library and tried to reconcile it with the movie.
posted by jquinby at 5:53 AM on September 3, 2013


dejah420: "I think he may have been the last of the Grandfathers standing. I'm not sure if anyone else from the Golden Age is still with us."

Close, at least. Everyone mentioned on the Wikipedia "prominent Golden Age authors" list is now dead, as are listed major attendees at the first Worldcon. It appears that at least one of the Futurians is still alive, David A. Kyle.
posted by Chrysostom at 5:53 AM on September 3, 2013



posted by DigDoug at 5:54 AM on September 3, 2013


.
posted by tommasz at 5:57 AM on September 3, 2013


A great thinker who could embrace the utopic and dystopic with equal mastery. And his blogging was worthwhile and entertaining until the end.

.
posted by whuppy at 6:21 AM on September 3, 2013


.
posted by dragonplayer at 7:08 AM on September 3, 2013


.
posted by tilde at 7:33 AM on September 3, 2013


.
posted by RolandOfEld at 8:41 AM on September 3, 2013


.
posted by RainyJay at 9:05 AM on September 3, 2013


.
posted by seyirci at 9:31 AM on September 3, 2013


.
posted by BibiRose at 10:01 AM on September 3, 2013


Who is even left now from that era?

Anyone trying to figure that out might want to have a look at this index to Groff Conklin's anthologies. Fred first appeared in Conklin in 1959.

On first and second glance it looks like Fred outlived the great majority by about a decade. Larry Niven, born 1938, is still kicking.
posted by Twang at 11:14 AM on September 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


aw, crap, crap, crappity-crap crap crap. The Pohl/Kornbluth collaborations were some of the best sf of the fifties and his blog was a delight.

As the sf writers who came to prominence in the '40's have passed, I've thought each time "But we've still got Pohl." It was still the case that the whole genre from the Golden Age was encompassed by one lifetime.

At least he had a good long run.
posted by Zed at 11:16 AM on September 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Pretty good NYT obit.
posted by Chrysostom at 11:27 AM on September 3, 2013


.

Damnit.
I loved his blog.
posted by Mezentian at 12:42 AM on September 4, 2013


Close, at least. Everyone mentioned on the Wikipedia "prominent Golden Age authors" list is now dead, as are listed major attendees at the first Worldcon.

I saw that, and I was going through that list... "Walter M. Miller, Jr., nah, he must be alive".
Nope.
Then I pulled out two copies of tales from the Golden Age Asimov edited with his friends, and, nope. Everyone I google seems to be dead.

I've been on a huge Golden Age jag since Bradbury died, because names were like giants across my chldhood, and I only recently discovered how accessible Asimov remains, and now I realise it looks like the Golden Age has ended on this plane.
posted by Mezentian at 12:53 AM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


.
posted by Minus215Cee at 2:55 AM on September 4, 2013


SF Encylopedia entry. I'd forgotten he was president of SFWA!
posted by Chrysostom at 10:36 AM on September 4, 2013


I just started The Space Merchants and, my god, is it amazing?
It is. So much.
I kinda want to see the folks who do Mad Men do it on TV.
posted by Mezentian at 7:04 AM on September 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


.

I loved his collaborations with Cyril Kornbluth.
posted by Autumn Leaf at 8:45 PM on September 14, 2013


« Older Forget the dire predictions of a looming shortfall...  |  12 Minutes of Freedom in 460 D... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments