Archive for the ‘Personal’ Category

Frederik Pohl

 

By Elizabeth Anne Hull

Plans are under way for a celebration in memory of Fred, to be held August 2, 2014, at the Wojcek Conference Center at William Rainey Harper College in Palatine, Illinois.

Please save the date and join us if you can. If you’d like to participate in the program, please let me know as soon as possible.

In future, I’ll be posting more details about the program, as well as suggestions for accommodations for out-of-towners and other activities in conjunction with this event.

Gateway

 

From the blog team:

We’re thrilled to tell you that Fred’s novel Gateway may soon be on your TV screen.

Entertainment One Television (Hell on Wheels) in collaboration with De Laurentiis Co. (Dune< and Hannibal) plan to develop and produce a TV drama series adapted from the book, which was one of Fred’s favorites, and a winner of the 1978 Hugo Award for Best Novel, the 1978 Locus Award for Best Novel, the 1977 Nebula Award for Best Novel, and the 1978 John W. Campbell Memorial Award for best science-fiction novel.

The two companies were the winners of an auction with a number of producers bidding on the the screen rights to the novel. Martha De Laurentiis and Lorenzo De Maio of De Laurentiis will be the executive producers, along with eOne TV’s John Morayniss, CEO; Michael Rosenberg, executive VP of U.S. scripted TV; and Benedict Carver, senior VP of filmed entertainment. They’re now looking for a writer to do the screenplay adaptation, so interested sf writers with TV experience should contact them.

Some of you will wonder — yes, Fred knew this was coming together before he died.

Frederik Pohl

Frederik Pohl, ca. 1977.

From the blog team:

We see that sf critic Dave Truesdale, well-known gadfly, is once again stirring up controversy. But we have long memories, and recall when Truesdale was just another neofan, pubbing his fanzine and gushing about the pros he met.

Truesdale recently reprinted an interview with Fred from his early zine, Tangent. See it in Tangent Online.

In this paragraphless introduction, Truesdale recalls interviewing Fred at a Howard Johnson’s in Eau Clair, Wis., in 1977:

I had learned that Fred Pohl was engaged to speak at one of Wisconsin’s small state colleges in Eau Claire the evening of February 1st and was determined to interview him there. My ladyfriend and I drove nearly halfway across the state from Oshkosh, then sat through the talk where something like 30 students were in attendance. I was getting nervous because it was getting very late and we had to drive home. The talk ended and my hopes for an interview were fading. Fred then suggested we repair to the nearby Howard Johnson’s, get something to eat and do the interview there. We ordered our meals and ate while the tape recorder was running. It ran for well over an hour as we talked and talked. Sometime after midnight the recorder clicked off, we were all tired, and so agreed to call it a night. The separate checks came, but before I could reach for my wallet Fred made it clear that he was going to pickup the check, which he did. We paid the tip and drove Fred to wherever he was staying (I forget exactly where now, after 36 years.) It was a wonderful evening, getting to spend time with Fred and ending up with such a terrific interview. It was much more than I’d hoped for. Reading it for the first time, I hope you come away with it feeling much as I did — and did once again after working up this transcription, getting the chance to relive that night of so long ago. I was 26 years old in February of 1977 and had just discovered fandom and conventions a mere two years earlier, but much of that early period — and the memories like the one Fred gave me that night — they still seem very much like yesterday.

—Dave Truesdale, Tangent Online.

 

 

Most of the blog team will be at Capricon 34, in Wheeling, Ill., February 6–9. Come and see us!

Betty:

  • “Is Canon a Fading Concept?”
    7 p.m. Friday, Birch B
    With re-makes and re-boots everywhere, canon may be a fading luxury concept. Replaced by $$$. Will purists who hold canon important die out and be replaced by consumers who just want to be entertained?

  • Autographing
    1 p.m. Saturday, Autograph Table
    Betty will be signing copies of Gateways, the festschrift anthology she edited for Fred’s 90th birthday, and she’ll also have some books Fred signed before he died.

  • Reading
    3:15 p.m. Saturday, Birch A

  • “A Truly Subversive Literature”
    5:30 p.m. Saturday, Birch A
    David Gerrold has written of the “truly subversive nature of science fiction as a literature that questions the status quo.” Is science fiction truly subversive? If it is, why, and how, can some people find it comforting to read?

  • “What’s Green, Seven Feet Tall, and Has Horns?”
    10 a.m. Sunday, Willow
    Authors talk about their feelings on reviewers. Do reviewers serve a useful purpose? What makes a good reviewer or a bad one? Can or should an author ever respond publicly (or even privately) to a reviewer?

Dick:

  • Debate: “Is Fandom Undergoing a Generational Change?”
    7 p.m. Friday, Birch A
    A debate between an older and younger member of fandom, moderated by a fan in the middle. Is there a younger generation of fans and authors who are trying to take science fiction fandom in a different direction than it has previously been going? Can and should older fans adapt?

  • “Overthrowing the AI”
    10 a.m. Sunday, Botanic Garden A
    Computers are everywhere, on or desks, in our pockets, inside our televisions and cars. Is it possible to go completely off the grid? Is it desirable? How can we assert our dominance over our silicon masters?

  • “What Is a Fan Writer?”
    1 p.m. Sunday, Birch B
    Many people hear the words “Fan Writer” or “Fanzine” and think of Fan Fiction, but there are also definitions of those words which have nothing to do with Fan Fiction. This panel discusses the diversity of fannish writing, from fanfic to essays to travelogues, as well as where you can find the best in fan writing, however you define it.

Leah:

  • “To Tweet or Not to Tweet?”
    4 p.m. Thursday, Birch B
    If you’ve heard about tweeting, but haven’t given it a chance, our panel of expert tweeters explain how to get started, who to follow, and what pitfalls you should avoid.

  • “Is Canon a Fading Concept?”
    7 p.m. Friday, Birch B
    See above.

  • “So Awful, It’s Awesome: Guilty Pleasures”
    8:30 p.m. Saturday, Birch B
    Do you love mega sharks battling giant octopuses? Was Richard Grieco your favorite Loki? Is Sherlock Holmes better when he battles unbelievable CGI dinosaurs? These panelists talk about their favorite “so bad it’s awesome” media and books from the past few years.

  • “Fandom Saved My Life”
    10 a.m. Sunday, Birch A
    How has the fannish community tried to provide safe space for people to be themselves? For many it is the first place that they can do that safely. Further discussion on how we can each provide safe space for newcomers and each other as our community grows.

Hope to see you there!

The blog team

The Space Merchants, 21st Century Edition

 

See, the liberating thought that came to me one night was, “Hey, Fred! All those people you and Cyril had so much pleasure making fun of, they’re still around — only worse than ever — and they still need to have somebody point out how contemptible their aspirations are and how wretched they would make our lives if they could.”

Time for a new edition! Some of the brand names had lost their relevance — how many people own a Kelvinator or drive a Nash these days? — but it was an easy chore to replace those names with more contemporary ones.

The one thing that would have made the whole job easier, and a lot more fun, was no longer with us. That was the presence of Cyril Kornbluth himself, eternally graceful in the use of words and even more reliably sardonic in his understanding of the world we live in.

* * *

So, after all this long and eventful half-century since the day I diffidently handed the unfinished manuscript of The Space Merchants over to Horace Gold, what do I think of the book itself?

I think it isn’t exactly a conventional novel, which may be why so many editors declined the chance to publish it. Certainly it wasn’t a conventional science-fiction novel, as the term was understood in those early days, it lacking radar-eyed and multilimbed alien characters, as well as their squadrons of faster-than-light battlewagons. What it was, and is, is what Kingsley Amis felicitously termed a “comic inferno” or a “new map of hell.” As such, readers who shared my and Cyril’s apprehensions about the world of the future heard a voice that shared their concerns, and liked what they heard.

And I would make no stronger claim for the book now.

 
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Ian Ballantine

Ian Ballantine

One by one, I showed the tearsheets of Gravy Planet, to every publisher in America who had ever published a science-fiction book or given any sign that some day he might. One by one, they turned it down cold. These publishers, remember, were firms to whom I had been regularly selling scores of science-fiction books, more than any other agency — indeed, to the most important markets frequently more than all other sources combined. With many of the editors, they and I had come to look on each other as personal friends.

That didn’t mean they would buy our book. As one of the better-paying editors said, “Since we’re friends, Fred, I can be candid with you.. This manuscript is simply not of professional caliber. What you need is to find a professional writer to pull it all together.”

What I have sometimes said about that since is that we couldn’t find a professional writer to help us, we found an amateur publisher, Ian Ballantine, who had just started his own company of Ballantine Books and didn’t know that our book wasn’t publishable. So he went ahead and published it, and made a good profit doing so.

That joke is unfair to Ian. He had had a good many years of experience running other book publishing companies before starting his own. But it’s true that he knew nothing about science fiction.

He did, however, know me, and had for some time.. He decided to trust my judgment, and that turned out generally well for him, not just on The Space Merchants (as two of his editors retitled the book), but in the many years thereafter that I served as an unofficial advisor and trouble-shooter for the firm. (Over those years, Ian himself lost control of his publishing company, but not because of taking on the sf program.)

The Space Merchants began showing off its legs in other ways, not just in the sales at Ballantine Books but in unexpected other income. We began to get requests for foreign editions and translations, first England and France and then, over the years, in more than twenty other languages, perhaps double that. And we very quickly sold the film rights for what seemed like all the money in the world: fifty thousand 1950s dollars, equal to perhaps half a million in today’s limp currency. And it became a steady seller on Ballantine’s backlist for many years after that, with a sizeable check coming our way every royalty period, right up to the time when Judy-Lynn del Rey agreed to revert it to me so I could accept a multi-book offer involving it.

That was a mistake After a few brief weeks of sales, the novel rapidly disappeared from sight into the dungeons of the backlist of St. Martin’s Press. Although from time to time I pleaded with them to revert it so we could let one of the other publishers bring it back to life, all I ever got from Tom Dunne, the editor in charge, was a polite little note saying no, and so the book stayed there, invisibly, and unprofitably, until a couple years ago, when the 21st Century edition. came out.

And sold out almost immediately.

 
To be continued. . . .

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