Posts tagged ‘Heechee’


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’ »

Fred in Hollywood

For years I have held to the theory that the trouble with sf films is that the people in charge of making them in the studios are, at the highest level, demented little animals. That would explain it all. However I am no longer quite as sure of this as I was, since my dearly beloved daughter-in-law, as a senior vice president of one of the biggest organizations, says it certainly isn’t true of her own bunch. She even says that, in many years of dealing with executives at other outfits, she has encountered several who are hardly demented at all, and, as I know that Meg would never lie to me, my theory must be wrong.

Still. . . .  Well, let’s look at the record.

In the task of turning my written words into performable scripts there has been one recurring problem. (With English-language producers, I mean. With Europeans — German, Spanish and Italian — there have been other problems, but at least they got something made.)

There are three books of mine — rather two of mine, Gateway and Man Plus, and one that was half mine and half Cyril Kornbluth’s, The Space Merchants — that have struck any number of Hollywood people as good bets for dramatization. So they have repeatedly ponied up money for option or purchase — over the years a not negligible sum — and then tried to find someone to write a script.

This is where every one of these ventures has come to grief. They’ve never been able to find a writer who could figure out a way of translating the novel into a shootable script. In the process they have given employment to quite a few scriptwriters all over the world, at a cost of quite a few dollars apiece — apparently totaling, in a single case, close to a million — but the one person they have never once asked if he had any ideas to solve the problem was the guy who wrote the things in the first place, namely me.

Honestly, now. Is this not pretty close to madness?

I am, of course, not alone in this; approximately 99 out of every 100 people who have sold the rights to a published story to a moviemaker have similar stories to tell. Still, it rankles. Oh, I do not deceive myself that I know more about scriptwriting than a Hollywood pro does. I do know more about those stories than they do, though.

Chernobyl: A Novel

I don’t mean to say that every producer is an imbecile. I can testify that there is, or was, at least one Hollywood producer who knew a good story when he saw it and immediately set about getting it made as a film. His name was Larry Schiller, and the novel was my book Chernobyl, the story of the nuclear power plant that took out a whole industry when it blew. Larry acquired the rights, lined up financing, developed a script, began casting and arranged with the suddenly independent country of Belarus, which owned a power plant identical with Chernobyl but more prudently managed, to do location shooting there … being careful to stop in Chicago now and then as he passed through to let me know how things were going.

Oh, vision of delight! Everything was going just as one ignorantly dreams. . . .

And then at the last minute, thirty-six hours before principal shooting was to start, one of the pledged backers pulled his money out of the deal, and the whole house of cards irretrievably collapsed.

I regard that as one more symptom of an industry-wide dementia, and it broke my heart. It didn’t help Larry’s any, either, because after that happened he abandoned his career as a big-time motion-picture producer and turned himself into a vastly successful writer of bestselling books. I’m glad for Larry. But I do wish the damn film had got itself made.

Related posts:
Me and the Biz, Part II
Me and the Biz, Part II (continued)

Kilauea, photo courtesy U.S. Department of Interior, U.S. Geological Survey

Lava fall from Kilauea

As all you trained navigators out there know, that latitude and longitude means that my wife, Betty Anne, and I are on a ship, dodging around the islands of Hawai’i. Why? you ask. Cruising around the Pacific beats staying in Illinois in January, for one excellent reason. Because this is a beautiful part of the world, for another. And because there are things to be seen here, even from shipboard, which are simply unique. We saw one of them last night — an erupting volcano — and not for the first time.


Our first occasion for wandering around these islands on a giant cruise ship came more than a dozen years ago. A total solar eclipse was about to occur. Hawai’i would be one of the best places to see it. Omni magazine sent me to cover the event, which we did from the deck of a former transatlantic liner, the Independence, commanded by Captain Richard Haugh. He did a wonderful job for us, too. On eclipse morning, that whole part of the Pacific was overcast with thick clouds, with few and tiny breaks. Captain Haugh was getting minute-by-minute weather reports, though, and he managed to find one opening just in time for a perfect four-minute observation of the whole eclipse (but that’s another story).

People on shore on the Big Island saw nothing but the bottoms of the clouds.

Then, that night, Captain Haugh outdid himself. We were sailing around the southern tip of the Big Island toward the port of Hilo and he advised that we all be on deck around ten that night. We obeyed. What we saw, all along the gentle slope of the mountain to the sea, was a scattering of what looked like campfires — like, I thought, King Kamehameha’s army poised to invade the other islands — with a vast conflagration just at the water’s edge.

But that wasn’t the actual case. What we were seeing was in fact lava streams oozing down from the vent of Kilauea. As the lava streams flow, the lava on the outside hardens and forms a pipe through which the molten rock continues to flow. But the shells of the pipes are not very sturdy. Occasionally they crack open at random points revealing the hellfire within. These were Kamehameha’s “campfires.” And when the stream hits the sea, it makes an explosion of violent instant steam, firing glowing fragments of lava in all directions … and that’s what we saw again last night.

It is a wonderful — I’ll say it again, a wonderful — sight. If you ever get the chance, I urge you to take it in. You may not need to hurry, either. That flow has been going continuously for fourteen years now and shows no sign of stopping.

The Boy Who Would Live ForeverWhat may one day stop it once and for all would be for the added weight of that rock to cause the southern end of the Big Island to split off and plunge to the bottom of the sea, creating a huge tsunami. (Readers of the last book in my Gateway series, The Boy Who Would Live Forever, will remember that this is a plot element in the story. Waste not, want not. That’s what I always say.)

By the way, we’ve kept in touch with Richard Haugh, though he has moved on to more serious jobs than captaining a cruise ship. Last time his travels took him to the Chicago area, he gave us a call. “Hey, this is Captain Dick!” he cried.

But it was our daughter Cathy who answered the phone. When she heard that she hung up on him. She thought it was an obscene call.