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 Wojcik 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.

Chernobyl by Frederik Pohl

 

In 1987, I spent some weeks pushing my (then) new book, Chernobyl. It was an unusual tour mdash; only six states, but a total of four countries mdash; and even more hectic than most of its kind, partly because some of it took place in and around the famous Harmonic Convergence that year.

I’ve said from time to time that the main difference between science fiction, which is supposed to depict things which might actually happen, and reality, which is the sum of the things that do happen, is that reality is a lot less plausible than the author of even the trashiest imaginable science-fiction story would ever dare. I always like it when something I’ve said turns out to be true, so let’s take a look at that implausibility, the 16th of August of ’87, when six hundred thousand people are said to have saved the world by humming in unison.

Let’s start a little way back.

A decade or so before that, a more than ordinarily fuzzy-brained motion-picture producer got hold of a 1974 book called The Jupiter Effect. It went to his head. He decided that he wanted to make it as a feature film. Then, thinking creatively, he realized the book didn’t have any actual story in it that could be filmed, so he decided that he wanted a novel written from which the film could be adapted.

Then, for my sins, they came after me to write the novel.

The thesis of the “Jupiter Effect” was that on a date in the early summer of 1979, all the major planets would be in the same general direction from the Sun. The book said that this could really ruin your day, because the combined gravitational attraction of all those lopsided planets would disturb the core of the Sun. That would somehow accelerate its rate of nuclear fusion and so increase the Sun’s radiation. Then all hell would break loose on the Earth. Among other things, friction between the heated atmosphere and all those mountain tops in the Rockies and Cascades would trigger earthquakes.

As a result, the book said, Southern California would fall into the sea.

(I hope you’re paying enough attention to understand that I’m not describing the plot of a science-fiction story. This was supposed to be real. This interesting prediction didn’t come from somebody’s chance encounter with an alien saucerer from the planet Clarion, but from the work of a couple of — otherwise — pretty reliable physicists.)

So I went and took my meeting, as they say, with the prospective producers and publishers. They explained all this scientific stuff to me, and I knew at once what I had to do. (I have my standards, after all.) I said, “No way, José.”

I said the whole thing was preposterous and definitely was not going to happen; and besides, if they wanted to film that book, the way to do it was to buy the film rights from the authors of the book, and then hire a script writer get to work on a scenario and, above all, leave me alone.

I thought that would end it.

As a matter of fact, I didn’t really understand how this particularly nutty idea had got even that far. Still, I was wholly confident that at some point someone in the producing organization would come to his senses. When this happened they would surely realize, a) that they couldn’t possibly get a film written, cast, produced, cut and released in time for the alleged drowning of Los Angeles and, b) it was a lousy idea anyway. I thought that if I just said no that might end the matter right then. Or, anyway, if it didn’t, at least I’d be out of it.

In the second part of that I was wrong. They kept coming at me.

Continue reading ‘Peddling Books Through the Harmonic Convergence’ »

Hunger games

 

By Elizabeth Anne Hull

Elizabeth Anne Hull. Photo by Barb Knoff.


Elizabeth
Anne Hull

By Elizabeth Anne Hull

Let’s you and him fight! One of the most effective strategies in battle is to pit factions of opposition against each other. Politicians do it so that opponents stop bothering the people in power, or the people who want power. They view government — whether local, state, national or international — as “playing the game” of politics.

When I saw the first of the Hunger Games films, I was surprised that I actually enjoyed watching such a violent idea come to life through the wizardry of Hollywood. I wrote my doctoral dissertation on neo-Freudian transactional analysis to understand drama (“A Transactional Analysis of the Plays of Edward Albee,” Loyola University of Chicago, 1975), and I think games can sometimes be dangerous even if they aren’t immediately lethal.

Regarding a sporting event as a game can make fans blind to the suffering of others. I have been watching the debate over football players and their higher risk of dementia at a young age, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

Playing games in personal relationships can prevent you from enjoying the tension release of intimacy and trust.

I’m not sure whether I feel less comfortable with those who view human life as gamesmanship in a zero-sum game (if one wins, another must lose), or with those who view the abstract qualities of life as battles, declaring war on poverty, drugs, or terrorism.

Ordinarily, games can be fun, but they can get to be tedious when they are unrelieved by work. And sometimes wars must be fought, especially if others pick the fight.

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.

toilet paper public domain image

 

By Elizabeth Anne Hull

Elizabeth Anne Hull. Photo by Barb Knoff.


Elizabeth
Anne Hull

An article I read some time ago in The Week (my favorite print replacement for the now online-only World Press Review) reassures me that “No, paper isn’t dead.”

As I’m buried in paper in various forms — greeting cards (ones received as well as those not yet sent), photographs, wills, old and new contracts, spanking new passport, officially notarized documents, old correspondence, even junk mail, and yes, books and magazines and newspapers — I looked at the facts mentioned in the longish essay with more than a little interest. A theory says that we learn more thoroughly by reading print than we do from electronic media. I’d like to believe that, but don’t know if I do. More research, please.

Coming at the question of paper’s obsolescence from another angle: Most retail stores no longer offer much choice of how to protect our food and other purchases on the way home. Upscale department stores seem to favor paper bags with handles, tony boutiques sometimes use a light-weight cotton bag, discount department stores use mostly plastic; Costco provides optional repurposed cardboard boxes with the tops razored off; outside California, most grocery stores offer only flimsy plastic, while Trader Joe provide paper for those who don’t bring their own bags.

But we give very little thought to the real costs of old sources of carbon (oil, coal, natural gas and fracked gas) versus new, renewable carbon (trees, plants, animal furs and hides, etc.), and the unintended consequences of our choices. We have yet to make a good realistic assessment of the overall cost of producing energy and plastics by consuming fossil fuels that took many millennia to form.

I don’t doubt the potential and immediate benefits to the planet from preserving the dwindling forests of the globe, but there also may be sustainable ways to farm trees and other raw materials, like cotton and hemp, etc. that make pretty good paper. The earth is certainly making new oil; the problem is, it takes such a long lead time in human perspectives.

Another consideration in sustainability might be the petrochemical products involved in creating electronic devices. I know I prefer writing on a computer to writing on paper. Much easier to revise. But nothing does as well for me as paper for jotting down a daily to-do list. Easier to triage and prioritize and let my daughter add to as she thinks of suitable stuff. And of course, we still need women’s sanitary supplies and American toilet paper!

So I’m quite convinced that paper is not dead — yet.