Posts tagged ‘Gladiator-at-Law’


Detail: Cover by Ean Taylor for 'The Way the Future Was' (1983 Granada edition)


Fred’s death was reported and mourned all over the world. Here are excerpts from just a small selection of the remembrances from fans, friends and the media.

  • “Grand master passes through the final Gateway.” —Simon Sharwood, The Register.

  • “On Monday, September 2nd, 2013, one of the last remaining great figures in the science fiction genre passed away. Frederik Pohl was 93 years old, with a long and distinguished career writing, selling and editing science-fiction stories.” —Andrew Liptak, Kirkus Reviews.

  • “Like some magnificent sequoia, he was both a vibrant, majestic, respirating presence and a token of a distant, almost unimaginable past. He was given a Grandmaster Award by the Science Fiction Writers of America twenty years ago, but that tribute hardly begins to do justice to his immense accomplishments.” —Paul Di Filippo, Barnes and Noble Review.

  • “Frederik George Pohl, Jr. (Nov. 26, 1919 – Sept. 2, 2013) was almost a living artifact of a bygone era in science fiction, as well as one of the genre’s most fertile and perennially refreshed talents. Born in the immediate aftermath of World War I, he died in the epoch of Google Glass and the Large Hadron Collider, without ever losing his imaginative spontaneity or intellectual curiosity, or his ability to upset and disturb the genre consensus.” —Paul St John Mackintosh, TeleRead.

  • “弗雷德里克·波尔是为数不多的可以担当起“科幻小说大师”头衔的科幻作家.” —The Beijing News.

  • “Frederik Pohl was a science-fiction author of extraordinary longevity and accomplishment. In hundreds of stories between 1940 and 2010, and dozens of longer works from 1953, he became the sharpest and most precise satirist in the science-fiction world. Kurt Vonnegut may have created greater myths of the awfulness of America, and Philip K Dick may have had a profounder understanding of the human costs of living in a unreal world; but Pohl — from experience garnered in the field of advertising — knew exactly how to describe the consumerist world that began to come into being after the Second World War.” —John Clute, The Independent (UK).

  • “In all, he published more than 60 novels. His most lauded effort was Jem: The Making of a Utopia (1979), which remains the only science fiction title to have won the National Book Award.” —The Independent (Eire).

  • “La ciencia ficción tiene nombres que cualquier que se diga fanático tiene que saber. Uno de ellos es Frederik Pohl, y si su nombre no te suena, en este artículo te contamos por qué este hombre que acaba de pasar a la inmortalidad a los 93 años contribuyó a que cientos de miles se hagan fanáticos de este género.” —Nico Varonas, Neoteo.

  • “Described as prickly and stubborn (he was married five times and divorced four), Pohl resisted the Internet for years, according to family and friends, but in 2009 launched a blog called ‘The Way the Future Blogs.’ Like much of his writing throughout his life, it was funny, skeptical and perceptive and it won a Hugo Award.” —Ben Steelman, Star News Online.

  • “科幻黄金时代硕果仅存的科幻大师之一的Frederik Pohl于9月2日因呼吸困难(respiratory distress)去世,享年93岁。Frederik Pohl以科幻期刊编辑和作家的双重身份闻名,他在60年代作为科幻期刊的编辑连续多年获得雨果奖,之后又以作家身份获得了多次雨果奖和星云奖。” —Chinese Writers Network.

  • “A stickler for detail, Pohl was determined to get as much science correct as possible in his books. His research took him all over the world and he was elected a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. In 2004, when he published the final novel in the Heechee saga, he apologised to his readers for having suggested, in Gateway, that aliens might have taken refuge in a black hole. With the physics of black holes having been more fully understood in the intervening years, Pohl acknowledged that nothing and no one could exist within a black hole.” —The Telegraph.

  • “Avec un coup d’avance et l’humour noir qui caractérise son style, son œuvre dé voile , pour l’humanité, un avenir inquiétant en partie advenu: omniprésence de l’informatique, montée du terrorisme, raréfaction des ressources, pollution, surpopulation, crise du logement, fanatisme religieux. . . . Après Jack Vance et Richard Matheson , c’est la troisième figure majeure de la SF américaine qui s’éteint cette année.” —Macha Séry, Le Monde.

  • “Despite being 93, he worked to ‘Safeguard Humanity’ to the end.” —Eric Klien, Lifeboat Foundation.

  • Continue reading ‘Obituaries and Tributes to Frederik Pohl’ »

Back in the day when Cyril Kornbluth and I were writing books like The Space Merchants and Gladiator-at-Law, we had an idea for an experiment. The writing was going pretty well, as it usually did, but we were not content to leave well enough alone.

The papers had been full of stories about new pharmaceuticals called Benzedrine and Dexedrine, which sometimes appeared to help people stay awake and work longer and better. So one of us — I don’t remember which — said to the other, “I wonder if they would do anything for writers,” and the other one said, “Dunno. Let’s find out.”

So we did. Next time Cyril came out for a spot of writing, he brought supplies. I volunteered to go first, so I took a hit and sat down to write. And I wrote. I was confident I would start writing as soon as I sat down, and I pretty much did. I could see how that scene would end, and what the complications for the characters would be and what their resulting acts should be and what alternative decisions they might have preferred to make. It was all perfectly clear and straightforward.

The words came out, and when I had filled four pages I went downstairs to where Cyril was having a cup of coffee and reading the morning’s Times to tell him that the experiment was promising. Then he did his stint and, when it was over, reported that he thought so, too.

I don’t think we stayed turned on to finish the book. I don’t know why; either, but I’m pretty sure that we just went back to the old way of each doing four pages, turn and about, until the novel was complete. (No, I don’t remember which book it was.)

So the book got finished, and handed over to the publisher. And Cyril went home to Levittown, and I got on with some work of my own. And in the fullness of time, perhaps six months or more later, I hit that terrifying thing they call writers’ block.

On this subject I am no expert, and I’m not even sure that that thing that sometimes happens to me really deserves that name. I don’t lose the ability to write. Instead I lose the ability to believe what I am writing is any good, and sometimes (as I learn when time has passed and I look at those pages more critically) it really isn’t.

So what do I do about it? I rewrite, and I keep on going over the same ground until it gets better.

But that’s a slow and painful process, and on this occasion it suddenly occurred to me that I might have a better idea, because Cyril and I hadn’t used up all our Dexedrine. There was enough for a more extensive trial in the medicine chest in the third floor bathroom.

So I sought out my then wife, Carol, to tell her that I would be working late that night. She cooperated by making an early dinner, and, probably not much after seven p.m., I was sitting at my Remington Electric, fed, coffeed, juiced up with little white pills and ready to compose.

The fears and worries that had been paralyzing my fingers did not appear. My hands were relaxed, all but reaching for the keyboard and sentences were forming in my mind. I was clearly aware of what my characters had to do to get out of the tedious mess I had put them in., and of what might be going on elsewhere in my story universe that could start off a good new sequence. Foolishly I had got myself all tangled up in pointless and unneeded complications. But the way out was easy to find, and then it would be only chlld’s play to move ahead. I hadn’t thought through my backstory. I hadn’t seen how easily and inevitably events could fit themselves into a pleasing narrative — indeed into some of the most graceful line-by-line prose of my life —

And then I heard Carol’s voice from the stairway. “I think I’m going to pack it in. Want to take the two a.m. feeding tonight?”

It was almost midnight. I had been sitting in front of that keyboard for nearly five hours, happily savoring the knowledge that I had solved all the writing problems I had faced. And not one word, not even a comma, had gone onto paper. And that is what I have discovered about chemically mediated writing.

I’ve talked to other writers who have had similar disappointments, but not anyone who has used the new brain enhancers. Any of you guys out there know anybody who has?