Posts tagged ‘History’


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’ »

S.S. Marion McKinley Bovard

S.S. Marion McKinley Bovard

The East-West Homegoing crossing, from the Bay of Naples, down around Sicily and its somber dark-red-lit volcanic peaks and out into the stormy Atlantic, was a lot more exciting than the voyage out, even though we weren’t scanning for the snorkels of enemy submarines from the time of departing Port of New York to arriving at the wreckage-strewn harbor of Naples. The difference was weather. Going out in midsummer we hadn’t had any. Coming back, we had one of the worst winter storms on record.

Making the run from England to Boston a thousand miles north of where we were crossing in the bouncing, swinging little Marion McKinley Bovard, the Queen Elizabeth lost part of her bridge to wave action, nearly a hundred feet above the waterline. Months later, I ran into an Army nurse who had been on that run. When I asked her what it was like, she stared into space, shook her head and finally said, “Have you ever seen 2,400 men and women all puking at once?”

But down where we were, a thousand miles south, we were only in a brutally fierce, but not record-breaking storm. As soon as I saw a mimeograph standing idle, I had volunteered to put out a ship’s newspaper, so I had the run of the ship, barring a few places where I might hurt myself or fall overboard.

I had stationed myself in the captain’s bridge for the duration of the storm, where I kept my eyes fastened on the ship’s clinometer. We’d roll right 25 degrees, then come left about as many on the return — then 26 degrees, 30, 32, 30 — -and then a big one, 38 degrees, 42, 40, 43, 35 — and I couldn’t help myself, I just had to ask the third officer, standing next to me watching the same mad dance of the clinometer, “What if, you know. it hits a swell at the wrong time and just doesn’t come back?”

Continue reading ‘My War, Part 4: Homegoing’ »

Speed Graphic

The Speed Graphic, the best camera in the world.

I was appointed squadron historian without a written history to work on. There had been one, though incomplete, at one time. It’s just that no one could find it. And the man who had been writing it, an early arriver, had had one of the longest lists of campaign badges in the squadron. The more badges you had the sooner you got home, and he was already long gone to the U. S. of A.

Well, what to do? Every week another clutch of squadron weathermen got their own orders to report to the transit depot outside of Naples which would decide whether you got first-class seats in a C-53 Courier flight or three-deep bunks deep in the hold of a battle-weary troop transport. If we just did nothing for a few months, nearly everyone would be discharged and gone, and the problem would have solved itself, because there would be nobody left to care.

And I had one secret weapon that was all mine to wield. In the cascades of too much of everything that had suddenly begun to flow from everywhere, I had got up from breakfast one morning and discovered a full-size mobile photo lab parked outside my door. The staff sergeant driver/photographer/lab worker came out of the dining room, picking his teeth with the remnants of the fourth of Lisa’s cheese omelettes he had consumed, to inform me that his unit had just disbanded itself, and he had been ordered to report to me for duty.

Although he ranked me — I was still a buck sergeant — Staff said he would take my orders, and he hoped I would have some real work for him as he, a recent arrival, had hardly any battle buttons and wouldn’t get sent back to the homeland he had just left for months.

So that’s how I got my first idea. With me aboard, I ordered him to drive us to the transport depot, where the last contingent of our homebound men for that week were just checking in — and start taking every weatherman’s photo. with one of his four Speed Graphics.

My staff-sergeant helper grasped his duties at once. Not only did he patrol that area until he’d photographed every man with weather-squadron shoulder patches, but after he’d been doing it for a hour or so, he got an idea: “So I told them that if we got enough photos and stories, we’d make them into a book, and if they wanted to make sure they’d get a copy for themselves, they could pre-pay for it by giving me a ten-spot, which we would turn over to whoever was the last squadron financial officer, and he would be responsible for getting the books mailed out.”

I patted his shoulder. “You’re doing a great job,” I told him. “I’d put you for promotion to tech sergeant if I knew who to send the recommendation to. And, by the way, I see you’ve still got three more of those Speed Graphics. Better issue one to me, in case I see something I want to snap for the book — I mean, if there ever is one.”

How could he refuse? I could have made it an order.

And the Speed Graphic, I want to mention, was immediate new heir to the title Best Camera in the World as soon as I shot a few seascapes and turned them over to Staff for developing and printing. The Graphic was a reporter’s kind of camera. It didn’t have particularly good optics, but what it did have was huge negatives.

“Just point and shoot,” Staff advised me. “The picture you want will be on that negative somewhere and I’ll find it and vignette it and print it for you.”

And he would have done it, too, I’m pretty sure, if two sergeants in an MP jeep hadn’t shown up to get into my mobile photo lab, jiggle some wires under the dashboard, get it started and drive it away, Speed Graphics, vignetted prints and all.

To be continued.

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Bombs Away!


See, I wanted to get into the action This was World War II, and it was my personal war. I wanted to fight. When I was inducted, they put me, as they did everybody, through a battery of tests, and when they looked at all the results they said, “Boy, you qualified for everything. Now, you have to list what branch of service you want to serve in and, bam, then you’re off to basic training in that service and pretty soon you’re in the war, right where you want to be.”

So I took the list and checked off my three choices.

Number One was Infantry. That was the down-and-bloody place for fighting, and they said, “You put that down anywhere as a choice and that’s where you’ll go, because that’s where they need replacements all the time.” Just to make sure, I put Field Artillery as my second choice and Armored Corps as my third, and next thing you know, I’m on my way to basic training.

In the Air Force.

That’s when I began to perceive that they didn’t really much care what I wanted. Somewhere somebody was making arcane calculations of what the Army wanted. And that’s what they chose.

All right, I was in the Air Force. Then they kept me stooging around the Lower Forty-eight for two years before they at last dumped me into the hopper of the 456th Bomb Group (Heavy) weather station in Italy. It was just in time.

The rumbling and grumbling roar of B-24 motors was coming from every one of those takeoff strips that sprawled over what had once been Italian farm fields and olive groves. We weathermen just arriving from the States had got there in such a hurry that I had already pulled my first shift in the weather station by the time I dumped my baggage in the four-man tent, one of whose cots would be my home for the foreseeable future.

At last! I was in the war! The proof of that was right overhead, where some three hundred or so lubberly B-24s were fighting every attempt of their pilots to gain altitude so they could form up for the long pull across the Mediterranean to where their war would start — No! Had started already!

Once I was outside, I could see in the last glimmer of daylight those chubby B-24s nuzzling into their formations, a few of them all formed up already and already starting to line out across the Mediterranean Sea toward southern France. That’s what it was, the invasion of Southern France, begun at last! And every American and British bomber and fighter in Italy or North Africa was joining in the fight.

The sky was full dark now, stars beginning to appear, along with the little running lights of all those planes — no! It wasn’t dark! Two great blossoms of red and yellow fire swelled overhead, followed at once by the great ker-BANG blast of two B-24s that had cut their turns too fine and exploded in the air as they turned into a collision … and then, suddenly, another immense ker-BANG from a little farther away, as two more B-24s collided … and then a single, smaller blast as a plane flying by itself caught a chunk of wreckage from one of the collisions and itself blew up.

That was five heavy bombers afire at once in the sky over the 456th Bomb Group. Ten men in each crew. Fifty human beings dying before my eyes.

And the next morning at daybreak, every last cook, clerk or MP in the 456th Bomb Group was rousted out of his bed at dawn and set to join one of the wobbly lines of searchers that trudged across the earth under where the explosions had been, looking for a head, a thumb, an ear, a boot with something that once had contained a living human’s foot, to turn over to the graves registration squadrons to try their luck at identification.

That’s what I saw that first night with the 456th. There were ten men, from pilot to tailgunner, in each of those five blown-up bombers, but there were no parachutes and no survivors.

Oh, I was in the war all right. I just wasn’t allowed to do any fighting.

To be continued.

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Hundreds of thousands of Americans were made homeless in the Great Depression, leading to precarious "Hoovervilles."

Hundreds of thousands of Americans were made homeless in the Great Depression, leading to precarious "Hoovervilles."

I remember The Depression pretty well, not only because I saw some of it with my own eyes (I was 11 in 1931) but because I did a lot of research on it for a book I never published. What you youngsters don’t know is that it came in two halves, like a football game.

First half was The Crash, in 1929. As the country was gradually beginning to try to get over that, along came the second half, around 1931. That’s when European banks began to fail, and the contagion spread to American banks, so that when Franklin D. Roosevelt got elected in 1932, America’s banks were going bust so fast that the first thing he did after he was sworn was issue an executive order for a national bank holiday so teams of examiners could see which ones were about to fold, and keep them closed until they could be shored up. Or if they couldn’t, they would at least pay back part of what they owed their depositors. That was bad, but it wasn’t as bad as getting nothing, and the banks that stayed open had the confidence of their depositors, because the weak sisters had been screened out.

If we do come to that over Europe’s present tawdry banking messes — it seems that their bankers aren’t any more honorable than our own — I think Obama, if re-elected, would do something like what Roosevelt did, with, I hope, similar results. Mitt Romney I do think likely to perform more like Herbert Hoover. That is, urge everybody to be calm and not make things worse, while he watched the banks go under, one by one.

Oh — and speaking of Europe’s banking scandals, one of the first things Romney did on arriving in London was to go to a fund-raising gathering of London bankers. A number of them appear to be implicated in the rate-fixing Libor scandal. As long as they’ll give him money, Romney doesn’t seem to care.

From left, Donald A. Wollheim, Milton A. Rothman, me, John B. Michel, Will Sykora, 1936.

From left, Donald A. Wollheim, Milton A. Rothman, me, John B. Michel and Will Sykora in 1936.

The “maybe” is because some doubt has been expressed. Having heard of what we New York fans did by taking the train to Philadelphia, some British fans promptly organized a gathering in Leeds a few months later. This causes some confusion as to which con deserves to be termed “the first.” Some blog readers have asked me, as one of the few survivors of the Philadelphia event, to describe how it came about.

I believe the idea of the two areas getting together was originally Don Wollheim’s, and I believe that after talking about it by phone with at least one Philly fan (I think it was Bob Madle) they set a date. Anyway, it was an adventure. Going there on the train was a considerable part of it, because I had seldom before taken a train away from the city without a grownup in charge.

To be sure Donald turned 21 right about then, but he wasn’t a “grownup.” He was just one of us. And, come to think of it, Will Sykora might well have been a trifle older than Donald. I never had asked his age. It wouldn’t have seemed polite, would have seemed, I don’t know, like inquiring into things we weren’t meant to know, like the reproductive processes of some creatures that had chosen a different pathway when the main line of human evolution was turning into marsupials or mammals.

Anyway, it is true that I was the secretary. I did take minutes and then, true to form, lost them. I have to say, though, that that was really a pretty trivial loss. No recordable business was brought up by anyone since all we had ever planned to do was get together. What we did do was what fans everywhere have done whenever they were in the company of other fans. We talked about what we had recently read, and which authors we liked and what we wished favorite authors would write next … and then about everything. That is what fans have always loved to do. Talk.