Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Frederik Pohl 1916-2013

Waaaay back in high school I read a story in one of those 'Best of..." anthologies. It was about a future where the world population had exploded, and the United States had implemented a very unusual method of birth control- although the control was enacted well after the person culled had been born. It was a powerful story, and I remembered it. I couldn't recall the title or the author, but I remembered every detail of the story.

One day I told my husband about it. He pulled up Google- for some reason in all this time I had never thought to consult the Internet- and found the story: "Spending a Day at the Lottery Fair" by one Frederik Pohl.

I was thrilled to have the information, and even more thrilled when, a few days later, he brought me a collection of short stories called "Pohlstars", which included "Lottery Fair".

I re-read the story, and it was everything I remembered (and a little more, to my now-adult brain). And then, because you can't read just one, I kept reading. I read the heartbreaking "The Sweet Sad Queen of the Grazing Isles". I moved on to his most famous novel, Gateway. The incomparably weird "Starburst". The epic "The World at the End of Time". The sharp, cynical "The Day After the Day the Martians Came". And the rest of the Heechee Saga, oh yes. When I discovered that Pohl had a blog, I read that too. As a writer and editor who had been working for the better part of the 20th century, he shared wonderful stories, as well as his political opinions and pictures of his cats and the cruises he took with his wife. And he kept writing. He kept on despite the fact that, as he mentions in his blog post, his hands no longer worked and hadn't for some time.

Pohl was truly unique, even in the rush of Golden Age and New Wave SF that spawned so many unique writers. He combined solid science with flights of epic fancy, wrote truly alien minds with fantastic detail, and laid bare with humanity's best and worst qualities with sharp cynicism, but also humor. His style was plain but eloquent.

Frederik Pohl died yesterday at the age of 93. I commented on his blog posts a couple times. I hope that he might have read them and, in my clumsy words, understood what I was really trying to say: that he was an important artist and an important person to readers everywhere. To the world. To me. 

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