Posts tagged ‘Catherine Pizarro’


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

Fred and Cathy

Fred and Cathy (Photo by Leah A. Zeldes)

Cathy Pizarro, Betty’s oldest daughter, who helps Betty and me deal with computer malfunctions and much else, came back to live with us years ago after her husband, Tony Pizarro, was hit and killed by an unlicensed driver in a stolen car in New York. Among other things, she took herself back to college, earning her first degree of Associate in Arts.

(We don’t know how we ever got along without her!)

Elizabeth Anne Hull, me, the Hugo and Steven Silver. (Photo by Cathy Pizarro.)

Elizabeth Anne Hull, me, the Hugo and Steven Silver. (Photo by Cathy Pizarro.)

I didn’t get over to the Worldcon in Australia, so when I won the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer, my friend Bob Silverberg accepted it for me. Here is what he said at the ceremony:

“A couple of weeks before I left for Australia I received an e-mail from Fred Pohl asking whether I would accept the Best Fan Writer Hugo for him if he won. This is what I replied:

“‘Of all the goddamn crazy things. Here we are in 2010, you are 90 years old, I’m no kid myself, the worldcon is in Australia, and you are sending me some kind of newfangled electronic message about the possibility that you might win the Best Fan Writer Hugo. What would Sam Moskowitz say about all this? Don Wollheim? Hugo Himself? Are we both trapped in the future, swept off into this nonsense by some inexorable force? Of course I will accept that Hugo for you. It will be one of the great moments of my life.’

“And it gives me immense pleasure now to accept the Best Fan Writer Hugo for my friend of more than fifty years, Fred Pohl.”

After Silverbob accepted the Hugo Award, the trophy was ferried back to Chicago by Helen Montgomery, who passed it along to Steven Silver, who brought it over last week. Thanks to everyone concerned!

Thanks, also, to everyone for all the congratulatory messages, of which this one from Encyclopedia Britannica might be the most extraordinary. I wrote their entry on Tiberius in the 1960s!

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.