Posts tagged ‘James Frenkel’

Frederik Pohl

 

 
By Elizabeth Anne Hull

Elizabeth Anne Hull

Elizabeth Anne Hull

Windycon 41 was a lot of fun for me this year, especially the session dedicated to Frederik Pohl and his impact on science fiction.

Some highlights: We opened with a solemn presentation to me of a polished brass plaque which appeared on a commemorative bench at Loncon this year by Helen Montgomery and Dave McCarty from the executive committee of Chicon 7 and ISFiC. I was truly touched.

Gene Wolfe, our friend who lived in nearby Barrington till just recently, joined the panel at the last minute, and set the tone for the panel and made the audience laugh when he talked about how upset he was when Fred and I got married, and I soon after stopped being one of the hosts of our local fan group, SFFNCS (a.k.a. Science Fiction Fans of the Northwest Chicago Suburbs, pronounced “Sphinx”). In my defense, being Fred’s wife took a lot more time than being his girlfriend! Not to mention that I was holding down a full-time job at Harper College and developing their Honors Program, as well as the fact that Fred and I did a lot of traveling together to some pretty interesting and exotic places around the world.

Fred’s long-time editor Jim Frenkel kept us focused on the description of the panel: Fred’s multifaceted contributions to the field. He revealed some of what it was like to work editorially with Fred, who could always recognize a good editorial suggestion when he received it. We all agreed that all of Fred’s experience as an editor both for magazines and for books had sharpened his fiction skills and the ability to self-edit, and his period of agenting had also made him very aware of how important marketability is to a writer’s career.

I admitted that Fred was already a Big Name Pro and had a lot of experiences that I knew about only second hand when I met him at the Worldcon in Kansas City in 1976. I had in fact, taught The Space Merchants in my SF class but changed to Gateway in the late ’70s.

Long-time Chicago-area fan Neil Rest talked about the sensation Fred made on local fans when he came with me to one of parties held every month at the apartment of George Price (of Advent:Publishers) —or perhaps it was at one of the weekly meetings on the North Side called “Thursday,” quite possibly at the home of Alice Bentley, who might have been still a teenager or at least wasn’t yet a bookstore owner. We did a lot better at remembering our feelings than actual details, as will happen over more than 30 years.

From his beginnings in the New York area in the ’30s, Fred never gave up fanac and his sense of being a fan when he became a pro. I told how thrilled Fred was at Foolscap in Seattle in 2000 where Fred and Ginjer Buchanan (then an editor at Ace) were co-fan guests of honor. They called the con the “Fred and Ginjer Show.” In the ’30s and ’40s, Fred told me many times, he was very fond of the beautiful and talented Ginger Rogers, who he said, had to do all the steps Fred Astaire did, only backwards and in high heels.

Much more recently, Fred was also entirely thrilled in 2010 when he won a Hugo as Best Fan Writer at Aussiecon for his work in this blog. He was happy to give credit wherever due, and thanked his blogmeister, Leah A. Zeldes, who allowed him to concentrate on writing without having to worry about the technicalities of the Internet posting, as well as Dick Smith, who enabled Fred to use his obsolete word processor to write both fiction and non-fiction.

Continue reading ‘Windycon Honors Frederik Pohl’s Contributions to SF’ »

 

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

How I Came to Edit Frederik Pohl
Guest post by James Frenkel

James Frenkel (Photo by Joshua Frenkel)

James Frenkel (Photo by Joshua Frenkel)

For years I wanted to edit the works of Frederik Pohl. I loved his fiction, and not just the novels, but a lot of his stories as well. I also thought he was a terrific editor, because I read Galaxy and Worlds of If magazines in the 1960s, and when Fred was the editor they published a lot of great science fiction. So when I starting to work in book publishing and then began to edit science fiction for Dell Books, I thought it would be extremely cool to get Fred to write for Dell.

But I didn’t have a chance. The first time I ever really talked with him, at, I think, the Secondary Universe Conference at Queensborough Community College in New York City in 1969, he was polite, but I was not even close to being an editor yet. I was still in college, and meeting a bunch of big-name science fiction people all at once, and overwhelmed by the experience. It seemed to me that everywhere I looked was someone whose books or stories I had read: Poul Anderson, Ben Bova, Lester Del Rey, Gordon R. Dickson, Frederik Pohl … and lots of others, including Ivor Rogers, who wasn’t an SF writer, but did write the occasional article for Time Magazine. and was a fascinating participant.

So years later, when I was now editing SF for Dell, I knew who Fred was, and I knew that he was hot — Gateway had just been published, and if he hadn’t been famous enough before, for all of his previous accomplishments, Gateway made him nothing short of the hottest SF writer on the planet. He was published by Del Rey Books, which was arguably the best sf and fantasy publisher in the world at that moment. It took enormous courage for me to even introduce myself to him, but I managed to do it — I think it was during Lunacon, New York’s annual SF convention. And then I asked him if he’d like to have lunch sometime and maybe talk about publishing a book with Dell.

I have the feeling that he humored me because he knew that an editor for a major publisher could afford to take him out for a very nice lunch at a fine New York restaurant. I don’t know for sure, but he did agree to lunch with me, and we did so, at a nice place on the East Side in Kips Bay … I remember it was Italian food, and I was really nervous. And when I asked him what he was working on — a classic opening line for an editor to dangle the bait of publication to an author — he readily told me that he had just finished the sequel to Gateway … and Del Rey was going to publish it, of course.

And before I could ask much more about future books, he let me know that he was very happy wit Del Rey. They were paying him well, advertising and promoting his books well, and he had more books under contract to them.

Basically he was telling me that it would be a cold day in Hell before I had any chance at all of getting to buy the right to publish one of his books. So why, I thought, was I buying him lunch?

Continue reading ‘Bearding the Wild Pohl’ »

From the blog team:

By popular request, here is the table of contents for Gateways, an anthology of original stories inspired by Frederik Pohl, edited by Elizabeth Anne Hull, and due out this summer from Tor:

Gateways, original stories inspired by Frederik Pohl, edited by Elizabeth Anne Hull

  • Elizabeth Anne Hull, Introduction
  • David Brin, “Shoresteading”
  • Phyllis and Alex Eisenstein, “Von Neumann’s Bug”
  • Isaac Asimov, Appreciation
  • Joe Haldeman, “Sleeping Dogs”
  • Larry Niven, “Gates (Variations)”
  • Gardner Dozois, Appreciation
  • James Gunn, “Tales from the Spaceship Geoffrey”
  • Gregory Benford and Elisabeth Malartre, “Shadows of the Lost”
  • Connie Willis, Appreciation
  • Vernor Vinge, “A Preliminary Assessment of the Drake Equation, Being an Excerpt from the Memories of Star Captain Y.T. Lee”
  • Greg Bear, “Warm Sea”
  • Robert J. Sawyer, Appreciation
  • Frank M. Robinson, “The Errand Boy”
  • Gene Wolfe, “King Rat”
  • Robert Silverberg, Appreciation
  • Harry Harrison, “The Stainless Steel Rat and the Pernicious Porcuswine”
  • Jody Lynn Nye, “Virtually, A Cat”
  • David Marusek, Appreciation
  • Brian W. Aldiss, “The First-Born”
  • Ben Bova, “Scheherezade and the Storytellers”
  • Joan Slonczewski, Appreciation
  • Sheri S. Tepper, “The Flight of the Denartesestel Radichan”
  • Neil Gaiman, “The [Backspace] Merchants”
  • Emily Pohl-Weary, Appreciation
  • Mike Resnick, “On Safari”
  • Cory Doctorow, “Chicken Little”
  • James Frenkel, Afterword

I’ve been nominated for the Best Fan Writer Hugo
(and I couldn’t be more pleased!)

Of course being nominated for a Hugo isn’t quite the same as winning one. This is a lesson I have been taught several times. All the same, it’s a nice feeling, and I appreciate it.

The blog team was absolutely right, too, in urging you to join the Worldcon, give them the $50 and get the sampler of Hugo nominees. It comes in electronic form instead of good old ink on paper, which I personally much prefer, but the price is right. All those great novels, novellas, novelettes and short stories would be many times more expensive if you paid retail, and you get samplings of all the other awardable categories, too.

* * *

Gateways, original stories inspired by Frederik Pohl, edited by Elizabeth Anne Hull

As long as we’re talking I’ve got a couple of other things I meant to talk to you about. One is a really neat book that’s coming out next month from Tor. Its title is Gateways — note the plural s — it’s edited by my favorite anthology editor ever (that is, the one I’ve been married to for the last quarter-century, Elizabeth Anne Hull) and it came about when Betty Anne told our Tor editor, Jim Frenkel, that she would like to put together a festschrift anthology for my then upcoming 90th birthday, composed of new stories written by writers on whose careers I had had some significant effect, as editor, agent, collaborator or whatever.

When she made a list, Jim whistled and said, “That’s a list of most of the top writers in the field.” Not all of the writers were able to produce stories for her but most did, and it is my opinion that some of these are going to be showing up on awards voting this time next year.

She didn’t make the deadline for my birthday, though. I kept getting sick, and her efforts would be devoted to keeping me alive for a while. And then Betty herself fell in a bank parking lot and cracked a lumbar vertebra, resulting in pain, surgery and a lot of lost time. But now it will be in the stores before you know it, and I think you’ll like it.

* * *

Speaking of the ills the flesh is heir to—

A couple weeks ago, I had to get an adjustment in one of the contrivances that keep me more or less normal. We had just parked at the hospital where they do most of my repair work when another car pulled up beside us, and out of it came our production staff, comprising Leah A. Zeldes, our blogmeister, and her husband, Dick Smith, who makes sure we have enough bandwidth and keeps our computers functioning much of the time. (They are, by the way, pretty good fanzine Hugo candidates themselves, having been nominated for the award in three separate years for their handsome zine STET.)

I was out of there and back home in a couple of hours. Leah, not so much. She had a couple of days of being observed while the doctors figured out what she needed, then a spot of surgery, then bed rest for recuperation, and then, just to keep the doctors on their toes, a bit of pneumonia to round things off.

Now she’s back home recovering. But she still managed to get up a couple of posts from her hospital bed.

Arthur C. Clarke, photo by Amy Marash, www.marash.tv

Sir Arthur C. Clarke at home in Sri Lanka, 2005. Photo by Amy Marash.

I first met Arthur C. Clarke in the 1950s, on the occasion of his first cross-Atlantic visit to New York City By then Arthur had established himself as a first-rate science-fiction writer and he did what sf writers do in a strange city: He looked for other sf writers to talk to.

He found them in the rather amorphously shaped group that called itself the Hydra Club, where I was one of the nine heads that had been its founders. We became friends. We stayed that way for all of the half century that remained of Arthur’s life. We met when chance arranged it — at a film festival in Rio de Janeiro, at an occasional scientific meeting, at assorted “cons” — sf-speak for science-fiction gatherings — in many places at many times.

In the early days Arthur spent a lot of time visiting New York, usually staying at the Chelsea Hotel on West 23d Street, and when possible I would join him for dinner or a drink — that was all expense-account money and happily paid for by my publisher, because I was an editor in those days and eager to publish as much Clarke as I could get my hands on. But by the turn of the millennium our friendship had reduced itself to a desultory correspondence and the odd phone conversation. I had given up editing to concentrate on my own writing. What Arthur had given up was ever leaving his island home in Sri Lanka, where I had never been. (Although I visited a number of other countries, Sri Lanka wasn’t one of them.)

Then, in one of his letters in the early part of 2006, Arthur rather offhandedly mentioned that, a couple of years earlier, in a fit of exuberance, he had signed publishing contracts for several books that, he was now convinced, he would never be able to write himself. Most of them he had arranged for some other writer to finish, but there was one, called The Last Theorem, for which he needed a collaborator.

Continue reading ‘Sir Arthur and I’ »