Archive for the ‘Miscellaneous’ Category

Geese oiled by Enbridge spill.

These Canada geese and some 200 other migratory birds, along with countless fish, mussels, turtles and mammals, were coated in oil when a pipeline owned by Enbridge Energy ruptured near Marshall, Mich., on July 26, 2010. The break spilled at least 843,444 gallons of crude oil into a wetland and nearby Talmadge Creek, and flowed into the Kalamazoo River and downriver for 38 miles to Morrow Lake.

When 840,000 gallons of unclearable, ultrasticky Canadian crude comes to take up residence in your little town — while you yourself can’t live there anymore — is that what you want?

Kzoo River sign

Thirty-five miles of the Kalamazoo River were closed to public use after the oil spill. Some portions remain closed.

Three years ago, the Enbridge Energy pipeline carrying heavy Canadian crude ruptured and spilled almost a million gallons of ultra-polluting tar-sands crude into the Kalamazoo River in western Michigan. In spite of tens of millions spent on recovery and cleanup efforts — similar to the practices that will be employed when a similar rupture occurs in the proposed Keystone XL pipeline — most of that is still there.

This stuff is not normal crude. It doesn’t float to the surface to be sucked away. It dives to the bottom, where removal equipment can’t pull it out — with as much as 180,000 gallons lingering there.

Is this what we want? Vast programs of permanently despoiling America’s pristine lakes, rivers and woodlands? And all for the sake of mining vast quantities of tar sands for fossil fuels that we dare not go on burning, anyway, for fear of what its released carbon compounds will do to our country’s rapidly worsening climate?

 

Fred wrote this in August of last year, shortly before his death. We present it now, with fresh links, because little has changed since then. Supporters continue to press for the stalled expansion of the Keystone pipeline owned by TransCanada, which saw 12 breaks in 2011, spilling more than 21,000 gallons of oil. Enbridge, meanwhile, failed to meet a Dec. 31 deadline for government-ordered cleanup of the mess its pipeline made in the Kalamazoo River in 2010.

The blog team

Eisenhower,-Dwight

  Dwight D.
  Eisenhower

 

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.”

                  —Dwight D. Eisenhower

   

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By Elizabeth Anne Hull

Elizabeth Anne Hull. Photo by Barb Knoff.

Elizabeth
Anne Hull
 

Today I’m thinking about names. Fred’s was one he generally enjoyed, uncommon enough to be distinctive but not so rare as to be a unique identifier. He was no Beyonce or Liberace or Oprah. Though a lifelong anglophile, Fred liked the spelling of his name — the way the Danish kings did, with no C, rather than the most common English and Continental way — even though throughout his life he suffered from the indignities of having people, and later spellcheck programs, hypercorrect it for him.

What he didn’t like was the middle name on his birth certificate, George, but when he joined the U.S. military in World War II, he allowed the officials to give him the name Fred G. Pohl, Jr. He especially despised “Junior.” Fred was quite thoroughly estranged from his father, since his teenage years, and he always tried to be his own version of what he thought a man should be. He published consistently (when he didn’t use a pseudonym) as Frederik Pohl.

My own name, the one my mother, obsessed with the British royal family, gave me, combines two English queens. So I spell my middle name with an E, as did Queen Anne.

Fred and I had trouble from the day we ordered our wedding invitations, which we insisted be reprinted twice, once when the printer stole my E, and then when they dropped a C into Fred’s name.

Continue reading ‘Call Me Betty’ »

Frederik Pohl and Dave Wolverton, 1987.

Fred with Dave Wolverton at the 1987 Writers of the Future Awards.

Over at Paleofuture, Matt Novak turned up a letter Fred wrote for a 1987 Writers of the Future time capsule. Novak writes:

“One of the predictions was from Pohl, who I contacted through email to ask about his letter to the future. There were over a dozen letters in the time capsule from people like Orson Scott Card and Isaac Asimov. But it was Pohl’s letter that really caught my eye because it hinted at a skepticism surrounding the entire practice of prediction — in particular, a reference to the work of cold readers and other charlatans who would have you believe that they can see into the future with certainty.”

After the opening of the time capsule last year, Novak asked Fred what he thought about it. Check out Paleofuture for Fred’s 2012 comments on his predictions of a quarter-century earlier. Here’s Fred’s 1987 letter:

Dear People of the Future,

In my day there were professional entertainers, and fake psychics, who specialized in telling total strangers all sorts of intimate details about themselves. The process was called *cold reading*. I’ve never done it before, but I think I can do it for you. I think I can tell you quite accurately what your lives are like as you open this time capsule.

For example, you live in a world at peace. Something like the World Court, as an arm of something like the United Nations, resolves international disputes, and has the power to enforce its decisions. For that reason, you live in a world almost without weaponry; and, because you therefore do not have to bear the crippling financial burden of paying for military establishments and hardware, all of you enjoy an average standard of living about equal to a contemporary millionaire’s. Your health is generally superb. Your life expectancy is not much less than a century. The most unpleasant and debilitating jobs (heavy industry, mining, large-scale farming) are given over to machines; most work performed by human beings is in some sense creative. The exploration of space is picking up speed, both by manned colonization and robot probes, and by vast orbiting telescopes and other instruments. Deforestation, desertification and the destruction of arable land has been halted and reversed. Pollution is controlled, and all the winds and the waters of the Earth are sweet again.

This is a very short description of your life, but it could be made even shorter. A single word can describe it: it is very close to what every previous age of mankind would call *Utopia*.

How do I know these things?

It isn’t because I’ve made a probabilistic assessment of present-day trends. Quite the contrary. All the evidence of what is going on in the world today leads to the conclusion that none of these things are going to happen, because our country, the richest and most powerful nation in the history of the world (and, I have always thought, the best) is bankrupting itself to recruit and train terrorists in Latin America, give arms to terrorists all over the world, develop and deploy fleets, armies and weapons systems which have no purpose except to pound any country which disagrees with us into submission. Since, unfortunately for us, the people who disagree with us have terrorists, fleets, armies and weapons systems of their own, the most plausible future scenario is all-out nuclear war.

It is therefore clear that to make the predictions above is to bet recklessly against the odds.

It’s still a good bet, though.

In fact, I don’t see how I can lose it. Anyone opening the capsule to read these lines will have to agree that my low-probability predictions pretty well describe the actual turn of events … because if the high-probability ones of mass destruction and species suicide should prevail no one is likely to be around to read them.

The blog team

 

Messy files art - public domain

 

Thank you for bearing with us. It’s a little hard to believe that it’s been over three months since Fred died. As you might imagine, we’ve had much to do since then.

Elizabeth Anne Hull and Frederik Pohl

Elizabeth Anne Hull and Frederik Pohl

The blog team — which is to say Betty, Cathy, Dick and Leah — have been regrouping, sorting and pondering where to go from here.

Fred will remain a very real part of this blog for some time to come.

Going through his files, Leah found literally hundreds of pieces of writing that he intended for the blog. Some of them were old articles — written with a typewriter on paper — that he meant to give new life here. Others were written on purpose for the blog, but were never posted.

We’d like to give you a look behind the scenes of “The Way the Future Blogs,” so you can see how that happened, and how Fred will still live in his blog.

When his editor Jim Frenkel coaxed Fred to start a blog (“like that new young guy”), Fred was nearly 90 years old. He’d started his writing life on manual typewriters. He adapted to computers, but slowly. Although he had a lifelong fascination with science and technology, Fred, like a surprising number of science-fiction writers, was a late adopter for his personal use.

Right up until the exigencies of collaborating with Arthur C. Clarke on The Last Theorem demanded a switch to a more modern word processor, Fred was still using the antiquated WordStar with Dick’s expert legacy support to get contemporary computers to run it. Up till then, Fred resisted e-mail as well as new software, not to mention the web.

Collaborating with someone in Sri Lanka changed all that, and Fred finally embraced 21st-century connectivity … to a point.

He didn’t want to learn about all the bells and whistles of blogging, and since he had the use of only one hand, his typing wasn’t internet-ready. That’s where Leah came in. A professional journalist and blogger, she took on the task of blogifying Fred.

We settled on a system: Fred would write a blog post and e-mail it to Leah. She’d copyedit, fact check, format it for WordPress, add links and images and post it. At least, that’s how it was supposed to work.

Filing, even in the dead-tree days, was never Fred’s forté. He’d write things and then lose them in his computer. He rarely used folders, putting everything — blog posts, fiction, correspondence, et al. — in “My Documents.” He’d allow Microsoft Word to name his files and then forget their filenames.

Once Fred wrote something, he was done with it, and he went on to think about the next thing. Sometimes he wrote blog posts but never passed them along. Did he think they needed further polishing? Did he forget about them? Did he think he had sent them when he actually hadn’t? We’ll never know.

Fred found the process of attaching files and emailing them tedious, so he’d save them up in batches, and later get Cathy to email them in bulk. Sometimes she couldn’t find files because they had different filenames than Fred had told her. Cathy’s resourceful at searching, but some documents she never found. Sometimes Dick was called upon to use specialized tools to retrieve files Fred had lost or accidentally deleted.

Since Fred’s death, Leah’s been combing through his computer and sorting the files, a process that required opening and reading every single one. Along with published and unpublished fiction, insertions for an expanded version of Fred’s biography, The Way the Future Was, and the material Fred had written for its forthcoming sequel, she found many unposted blog entries, and those will start being posted here soon.

In the last months before he died, Fred and Leah went through his trunk files, work he’d written years ago — some previously published and some not. He set aside a big stack of articles that he wanted to share on the blog. Since they’re on paper and must be scanned, OCRed and edited, getting them online will take a while, but you’ll see those here, too.

Meanwhile, Betty’s decided to get back into writing for this blog, so you’ll see regular posts from her, as well. Leah will continue editing and blogifying and may weigh in from time to time. Dick will be behind the scenes making sure all our computers stay online and running, and Cathy will keep everybody in communication. So the gang’s all here, even — virtually — Fred.

We hope you’ll keep reading!

The blog team

lonestarcon

 

Welcome to Bexar County, Texas, the U.S. county with the fifth highest number of executions in the period 1876–2012.

(Oh, you didn’t know? That’s San Antonio, Texas, where the 2013 Worldcon was held this weekend.)