Posts tagged ‘Larry Niven’

name badge

By Elizabeth Anne Hull

Elizabeth Anne Hull. Photo by Barb Knoff.

Anne Hull

Today I’m thinking about names. Fred’s was one he generally enjoyed, uncommon enough to be distinctive but not so rare as to be a unique identifier. He was no Beyonce or Liberace or Oprah. Though a lifelong anglophile, Fred liked the spelling of his name — the way the Danish kings did, with no C, rather than the most common English and Continental way — even though throughout his life he suffered from the indignities of having people, and later spellcheck programs, hypercorrect it for him.

What he didn’t like was the middle name on his birth certificate, George, but when he joined the U.S. military in World War II, he allowed the officials to give him the name Fred G. Pohl, Jr. He especially despised “Junior.” Fred was quite thoroughly estranged from his father, since his teenage years, and he always tried to be his own version of what he thought a man should be. He published consistently (when he didn’t use a pseudonym) as Frederik Pohl.

My own name, the one my mother, obsessed with the British royal family, gave me, combines two English queens. So I spell my middle name with an E, as did Queen Anne.

Fred and I had trouble from the day we ordered our wedding invitations, which we insisted be reprinted twice, once when the printer stole my E, and then when they dropped a C into Fred’s name.

Continue reading ‘Call Me Betty’ »

All the Lives He Led


Oh, and by the way, have you noticed that Booklist Online’s latest list of the ten best science-fiction and fantasy books of the year and, oh, my goodness, Number One on the list is All the Lives He Led by You Know Who. (Number Two is old friend Larry Niven’s The Best of Larry Niven and the third begins with a D, but let’s not hear any loose talk about alphabetizing lists of titles around here.)

The conclusion of “Alfred Bester and Frederik Pohl — The Conversation,” recorded 26 June 1978 at The Tyneside Cinema, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK.

Alfred Bester, 1979 (Photo by Frank Olynyk).

Alfred Bester, 1979 (Photo by Frank Olynyk).

Audience: What’s it like to start writing the next book after you have written, say, The Demolished Man?

Bester: I’ve just finished a book about a month ago and I’m absolutely pooped — there’s nothing left. It happens with me when I’ve finished something big like a novel. Not a script — with a script or a short story, next week you write another one. But with a book, I’m exhausted.

Now at my advanced age I know better — I leave it alone and the next thing I know, a few weeks, a couple of months maybe, an idea begins to niggle me and the next thing I know I’m beginning to dream and think about it. Who’s as surprised as me when there’s something in my head and there’s my legal pad, and a book is formed? You just have to wait for the battery to recharge. I just wait patiently and it starts all over again. There are so many ideas that one has.

I may think, “Ah yes, there’s that play that I’ve been meaning to write for a long time and I’m going to start on that play,” and the next thing I know it’s going to turn into a novel. You don’t know what will happen — you’re constantly surprised.

Pohl: You’re a much more organized person than I am. I don’t work on one thing at a time. I usually have eight or 10 projects going at one time. I work on one until I’m bored, and don’t know what to do next. Then I put it away and work on another. So the point never really comes where I have to say this day I start from scratch with something new, but each day, to the extent possible with the vicissitudes of travel or something, I do some writing!

Every day. I find that sometimes it gets a little treacherous though because I want to write the same scene in three different novels. There are two novels that I’m working on now and I’ve got a great scene and I want it in both of them.

Bester: I’ve stolen scenes from myself many a time and been ashamed.

Audience: Do you consider the increasing commercialism of science fiction will have a detrimental effect on the future?

Pohl: The increasing commercialism of science fiction has worried me sometimes because it seems to me that the prices have got pretty high and it’s a sort of South Sea Bubble thing that is going to bust before long. But I don’t think it’ll affect any writer seriously. Writers that are good enough to command the sky-high prices that are going on, especially science-fiction writers, are generally also so damn stubborn that they’re going to do what they want to do anyhow. And not too many of the first-rank writers that I know are going to worry about commercialism. They will do their thing.

From time to time I’ve flirted with things like television where you can’t really do your thing unless you have a commanding position and have spent 20 years earning it, but I don’t want to do that, even though I could make much more money and reach a wider audience. It’s not my thing. And most of the writers I know will not do what they don’t want to do, no matter what sort of money is about.

Bester: I agree completely. I do an occasional science-fiction special, but I can’t write for any of the standard shows. The coast — Hollywood — is impossible.

There’s a little gag: What is a camel? A camel is a horse designed by a committee. Out on the coast, it is all committee work.

Pohl: Yes, all these people have to justify their salaries by having an opinion! If they don’t have an opinion, they’re fired.

Bester: Which they impose on you. I’m all kinds of author, but I’ve never yet written anything in which I’ve not been in complete control. And I just will not put up with committee work.

Audience: Another person who comes to mind as somebody who has tried very hard to do his own thing within the framework of media work is Harlan Ellison!

Pohl: Harlan does his own thing. Harlan chooses for reasons not known to me to flagellate himself by going back and writing episodes of The Flying Nun from time to time. Why he does this I don’t really know; he doesn’t need the money.

Bester: Harlan did a Star Trek script and it was the one good script that they had. Harlan’s a marvelous writer, there’s no doubt about it.

Pohl: The reason I don’t get involved in film and top TV, is neither that I’m allergic to money nor above that sort of thing. It’s just that I don’t want to deal with all those people. One maniac editor is all that I can handle at one time; 27 lunatic network executives would just drive me insane.

AD: But Fred, now you’ve achieved enough clout to get away with it.

Pohl: I can get away with it until they come back and say, “NBC loves your idea but they won’t allow you to do what you said you want to do.” And then I walk away.

A couple of years ago, I was coming to Los Angeles and my Hollywood agent called me up and said: “When you come, I’ve got somebody for you to meet. He’s a producer and he wants you to write a script for him.”

And I said: “What kind of script?”

“It’s a Japanese monster movie!”

Continue reading ‘Me and Alfie, Part 8: Hollywood and the Name Game’ »

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

Which, as you know, is the largest island in the Marquesas group, and the one in whose harbor we are now anchored so that our shipmates may storm ashore in search of tapa cloth and guaranteed authentic ironwood carved war clubs.

Betty Anne and I, shipboard, 2009.

Betty Anne and I, shipboard, 2009.

The other thing about Nuku Hiva is that it is the last dry land we are going to see until, after seven more days at sea, we dock once more in San Diego. This has certain consequences, among them the fact that something we do with our computers is incompatible with something the local comsats do up there in orbit. I won’t bore you by providing a more technical explanation of the problem (as if I could!), but what it means is that the posts I have been writing for transmission to our blogmeisters, Dick and Leah, aren’t going to get transmitted anywhere until we are back in our own home. And then they may not get to you in the proper order, as planned for your maximum reading enjoyment.

Ah, well. Sorry about that. I’ll try to do better. Meanwhile. . . .

I said in the beginning that I intended to provide reminiscences of some people who might interest you, and you might like to get an idea of who these people are. They appear to come in five categories: writers I have collaborated with to one degree or another (Williamson , Kornbluth, Asimov, Hubbard, etc.), writers who were my clients when I was a literary agent (Asimov, Budrys, Wyndham, etc.), writers I published when I was an editor (Asimov, Niven, Doc Smith, Heinlein, etc.), writers I hung around with a lot (Asimov, Silverberg, Ellison, etc. — you will note that some people come under more than one of these headings) and, the smallest of these categories, the nonwriters. This includes editors and publishers (the Ballantines, John Campbell, Horace Gold, etc.) and a few assorted scientists, politicians and other special cases (Carl Sagan, a local Democratic Party boss, a U.S. senator and so on).

Quite a few of these I have already written about in one form or another and those bits just need touchups to pass on to you, and so I will start them soon and keep them going as long as my right index finger permits. Along with whatever other kinds of comments I think you might be willing to sit still for. And I hope you’ll enjoy.