Posts tagged ‘Ann Pohl’

Walter M. Miller, Jr.

Walter M. Miller, Jr.

In the 1950s, a story bearing the name of a brand-new author, Walter M. Miller, Jr., showed up in John Campbell’s magazine, now known as Analog. It was quite a good story and was soon followed by another written by the same hand and just as good. And then another.

They didn’t all appear in Analog. A few weren’t even science fiction, but they were coming out in considerable volume and the science-fiction world had begun to take notice that an unheralded major new writer had appeared.

At lunch one day, the man who became Miller’s principal editor, John Campbell, talked about him with mock embarrassment: “He keeps sending them in one after another,” he said, “and I just can’t stop buying them.”

They weren’t merely good, either Some among them were immediately hailed as great — A Canticle for Leibowitz, for instance. Before long it was evident that a strong new force had emerged in American science fiction, and its name was Walter Miller, Jr.

All right, friends. Now we come to the hard part, because I’m doing my best to tell the sometimes unpleasant truth. Miller wasn’t just a writer I respected He was also the man my estranged wife Judy Merril had taken up with.

At first we all acted pretty civilized about it. Then, when Judy and I got into our endless Annie Wars over the custody of that very nice little baby, Ann Pohl, that the two of us had jointly brought into the world, Miller totally took her side.

I don’t mean just in verbal encounters. I mean that once when I went to the house Miller and Judy had rented — my daughter Ann living with them because we were all trying to make a system of taking turns in having Ann live with us work — and went to their house to pick Annie up because it was my turn, the two of them refused to give her up.

What happened then was just about what you would expect to happen: disagreement, followed by yelling. But then Miller got tired of talk. He went into their bedroom, and when he came out he was carrying a rifle pointed at my face. He ordered me to leave.

Continue reading ‘Walter M. Miller Jr.: My last fist fight’ »

Carol Poh

Carol Pohl

When I realized how much I had told this Dr. Hull of the sort of things I had made a point of keeping quiet about, I couldn’t help wondering why she hadn’t at least smelled my breath before letting me talk about all the things I hadn’t been willing to tell anyone else about the deal Carol and I had made.

Or, I should say, The Deal, because talking about terminating our marriage certainly was a big enough thing in our lives to be worth capital letters. Almost twenty-five years. Four kids — very parent-conscious ones, too, because they were accustomed to a (singular) Mom and a (singular) Dad, never mind that the biological facts of life were really more complicated than that for at least the first two of them.

Backflash: When it began to look as though my custody differences with Judy (my daughter Annie’s original mother, remember?), would only get official if we argued them out in a court of law, and in that event if Carol and I married we would have a pretty good-sized legal argument if only because we had a stable home life — that is, not flitting per whim all over the place. You follow my argument? Carol and I, plaintiffs, legally married, Judy and What’s-His-Name — Walter Miller — the writer she was roaming the country with, openly unmarried but acting as though they were.

So I had asked Carol, “Care for getting married one day soon?” and she said sure. With quite a few added reservations and qualifications, it is true, of the “Like this” or “Like that” kind, but acceptable ones. For instance, if she inadvertently became pregnant we had to rethink the whole thing, which I agreed to at once. And what it all added up to, it seemed to me, — finally — was a quite nice life for at least the next year.

And the year after that. That life Carol and I had shared for more than twenty years, only she didn’t — or at least very likely she didn’t — want to share it with me any more.

All clear? Well, no.

To be continued.

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Grandma Judy

Grandma Judy

In the 1970s, both Judy and I had become active in Canadian television, Judy as the person who handled Dr. Who for Ontario Television, me as a sort of all-purpose guest correspondent for the Canadian Broadcasting Company’s coverage of the American space doings, ending with the CBC’s coverage of the rendezvous in orbit of the Soviet Soyuz spacecraft and the American Apollo.

Things reached a point with Judy where I could do something for her. The Ontario TV authorities were getting difficult. Dr. Who had been sold to them as science fiction under the general principle that science fiction was educational and therefore good for children to watch. Educational authorities, though, were up in arms to say that such claims were ridiculous. Dr. Who wasn’t science. It was silly garbage, and it should be off the air.

And what Judy wanted to know was, “Listen, Fred, you’re pretty good at that space-program science talk. If we gave you time, is there anything you could say that would make Dr. Who sound a little more sciency?”

I thought that was a pretty funny request. I had also, for some time, been spending a lot of my time defending sf in general as healthy for people to watch. True, Dr. Who was a pretty marginal case. But you could find scientific lessons in almost any fantasy story once you allowed quantum reality to be defined as scientific, and I wrote a number of comments-on-the-air for Judy’s shows, and the problem passed.

It wasn’t just the opportunities for working together that brought Judy and me together at last. Most of all it was our growing number of descendants. Our daughter Ann had gone and grown up, and she had married a Canadian named Walter Weary, with whom she had two children, Tobias, who is now an excellent chef, with children of his own, and Emily, the granddaughter who won the Hugo Award.

After that marriage tanked, Ann married Juan Miranda, an Argentinean immigrant to Canada who was a high-tech electronics engineer. The reason he left Argentina for Canada is that Argentina had fallen under the rule of the brutally murderous “colonels,” who formed the habit of picking up people who criticized them on the street, torturing them, then murdering them and burying them in unmarked graves so their families could not even have the satisfaction of being sure whether they were dead or alive. Juan himself had been picked up by the death squads. But it was just at the end of their power. Legitimate law officials were arresting them and releasing their prisoners. Whereupon Juan very sensibly decided to get the hell out of Argentina. (His elder brother was less lucky. He had been picked up a year or so earlier and was never seen again.)

Anyway, Juan Miranda was one of my favorite sons-in-law of all time. He was smart, he was funny, he was crazy about Ann, and with her help, he gave us two more grandkids, Julia and Daniel. Judy was fond of him, too. Every time I (or, more frequently, Carol and I) managed to get to Annie’s house to view our descendants, Judy did her best to get there too.

Judy and I had one trait that united us. At the time, she and I were both unregenerate heavy smokers. Nobody else in our families was. When we needed a fix, what we did was go out on the front porch, light up, and spend half an hour chatting about things in general. You know. Like old friends do.

Part of that ended when Annie’s last marriage ended, and she moved way to the Atlantic Maritime Provinces of Canada. Then Judy’s health began to fail. She got really sick. And then, in 1997, she died.

I am pleased that, at the end of the last time I saw her, she gave me a hug. Do you know that it’s possible to have happy endings, at least reasonably happy ones, in the real world, too?

Related posts:
Judith Merril, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8

Judy and Merril in happier days.

Judy and Merril in happier days.

Well, let’s not draw this out any longer than we have to. Judy asked if I wanted to buy the house back from her, I said yes, Judy went off roaming somewhere, I don’t know where, and my new Significant Other, Carol Metcalf Ulf Stanton, and I began moving ourselves in.

There are a fair number of details about that period that I’m not sure I remember right in the area of what happened before which. One of those things is where the kids, Merril and Ann, were at that point. I think most probably that at least at first all three of them were with Carol and me. (Three. Judy’s Merril, our Ann and Carol’s Karen, daughter of her marriage to L. Jerome Stanton.) And for a time there, I don’t think a very long one, Judy and I were tolerating each other.

Then we weren’t.

We disagreed over how we were going to share Ann’s time, somewhat civilly at first, and then very uncivilly. I don’t know how that would have worked out, because it was around then that Danny Zissman appeared at my front door, and he was the bucket of gasoline that set our fires roaring,

Danny was Judy’s first husband, Merril’s father. Unknown to me, he had been having his own troubles with Judy, over custody of Merril, and he was fed up. He had been talking to lawyers, he said, and, on their advice, he was about to sue Judy for Merril’s custody. He thought he had a pretty good chance of winning, on the evidence, he said, listing fifteen or twenty things Judy had done, but he wanted to make winning a sure thing. Which it would be if I would join him with both of us suing Judy at once.

Oh, that was the siren song, all right.

I wasn’t at all sure Danny’s own case was as strong as he thought it was. His list of Judy’s misdeeds included some pretty trivial stuff. But there was also some stuff that might sway a judge, and I could see that the two of us suing her together would help both our cases … and, oh, wouldn’t it be nice to have this aggravation out of the way forever? So I mulled it over and then I said I’d join him.

I think there is too much suing of people for one thing or another, and I didn’t really look forward to all the bad stuff that was sure to come. I have only very rarely done that sort of thing in my life. Even now I would like to avoid suing that wretch for his vicious book if I can. I had those same feelings about joining Danny’s suit. But I got busy, and began to prepare for testifying.

The bad things began to happen right away.

Continue reading ‘Judith Merril, Part 7: When It All Hit the Fan’ »

Ashokan Reservoir (Photo by Daniel Case  [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], from Wikimedia Commons).

Ashokan Reservoir (Photo by Daniel Case).

Our marriage had been dealt a mortal wound. However we still had that lovable tiny baby Annie to provide a home for. And I wasn’t even hopelessly angry at Judy for dumping this new demand on me, only resentful of the timing. I had agreed that Judy had a right to her sexual freedom if she needed it. I just hadn’t really expected that the problem would get so urgent so fast.

So for a while there we went on as a family, Judy and me and our two kids. Judy quit her job, but I was doing pretty well. Money wasn’t a big problem. True, I recognized that it certainly could turn into a really big one really fast if I quit my job too.

Which I then did.

Why did I do that? I don’t know. I guess to some extent I was following Judy’s example.

It wasn’t entirely a suicidal step. We had more or less absentmindedly socked away a few profits from the big-money days, so we wouldn’t starve. Not right away, anyway. We didn’t owe any money. If we had to, we could sell the car. And the four of us, us and our two kids, didn’t need big bucks to live on. We could always find some way to get enough to live on, couldn’t we?

One such way was suggested to us by a lawyer Judy knew. I have no idea who the lawyer was. All I know is he came to see us one evening because he and Judy needed to talk about something, I don’t know what, and while he was in our apartment he got really interested in our needs and plans, and after some thought he came up with the perfect solution to our needs. We should get a joint job with some rich people as house servants. As a cook and butler combination, in fact; Judy making the meals and me doing all the odd jobs around the house.

I actually think he was perfectly serious about it, too. I was torn between laughter and throwing the jerk out of the house. I really don’t know how seriously Judy took his idea. I never thought it worth discussing with her.

I’m a little uncertain about timing here. I’ll tell you everything significant that I remember, but I may get which happened before what mixed up I can’t really see why that would matter, anyway.

We kept on living as though we remained prosperous for a while. We kept the car. That summer we rented a big old house, up over the Ashokan Reservoir in beautiful bucolic surroundings a hundred miles north of New York, where Judy and the kids lived for that summer while I came up for weekends. One of the best things about the Ashokan place was that it gave us plenty of space to have friends stay with us. (The one of those guests I remember best was Cyril Kornbluth. That was because I made the mistake of drinking with Cyril one night. The two drunkest times I have been in my whole life were with Cyril, and this was one of them. Did Judy object? Of course not. She thought that the drunker I got, the funnier I got, even when, the next morning, she had to collect my passed-out body from a neighbor’s house.)

Then, I believe that winter, we rented a different house in a quite different part of the area. That one was in Rockaway Beach, and we took it because Judy was really afraid to have our two well-loved children staying in New York during a polio scare. (If you’re too young to know what those were, Google it.) That’s one of the times where I’m a little mixed up. All that winter, out in freezing Rockaway Beach, I was commuting five days a week to an office in New York. I just don’t remember which office. Sorry.

Anyway, what I do remember is that I was commuting to New York in my giant old Cadillac, and my giant old Cadillac was teaching me a lesson for moving there by refusing, every morning, to start until I called the AAA for a jump. (And even that lasted just so long, because before long the AAA gave up and expelled me. I had to start hiking to and from the Long Island Rail Road station.)

By the way, I don’t want you to think that, apart from annoyances like commuting, I was miserable in Rockaway Beach. I wasn’t. When the weather turned fairly decent, at least for a while, I liked walking the beach and sitting on a bench in the sun to see those endless freezing-gray waves, the hundreds and millions of them, as they came endlessly rolling in and to realize that if I had a telescope that could see right across the ocean, the next human construction. I saw would be in Portugal.

Well, enough. We managed to lump along, one way and another, for several years that way. I did not ever think I could go on living forever in Judy’s kind of marriage. But I wasn’t living in forever. I was living in one interesting thing, and then another interesting thing. And they weren’t really all that bad.

I did finally quit my job in order to become a full-time literary agent and that was very interesting for me to run. And Judy, at least temporarily, was about as happy as Judy could ever be, because she had written a successful novel.

To be continued.

Related posts:
Judith Merril, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9

After Judy Merril and I realized that the one thing we both most wanted from the life we had been living was to have a baby, we started looking for someone to marry us so the baby would be legitimate. Judy quickly found someone. I’ve forgotten his name, but he was a fairly well-known lefty New York Justice of the Peace.

So we were married in 1948. Then we began the process of knocking Judy up. It didn’t take long. Judy handled pregnancy quite well, so we simply went on with our lives.

Which, at the time, were actually quite nice. We still both had our jobs and were therefore well fixed for money. I had bought a car — secondhand, a giant Cadillac eight-seater that Jack Gillespie said was a gangster car and quite possibly once had been. It was very easy to imagine half a dozen criminals with tommy-guns shooting up an enemy’s hangout out of its windows.

We used it to roam around the countryside, and to transport friends to cons if they wanted to go. We’d driven it up to Toronto for the 1948 Worldcon with a party of half a dozen or so passengers — George O. Smith, I think Chan Davis and his wife, and I don’t remember who else. (The reason I clearly remember George O. is that as we passed through Niagara Falls George got out of the car, ambled over to the railing and fulfilled a lifelong ambition by urinating into the Falls.)

And then, all of a sudden we had come to the time when Judy’s belly was as big as a washtub and we needed to watch for signs of needing to get to French Hospital for the birthing.

I have to confess I was not the most useful Father in Waiting. What I very much feared was that she would start in labor when she was in bed with me, or something of the sort, and I would have to deliver the baby. I’m afraid I chased her off to the hospital too early at least once, when she thought it was barely possible she was beginning to feel labor pains, and they sent her back home. But then the labor did start.

I don’t remember where I was or what I was doing when the baby came. I hope I was at least considerate enough to have been in the hospital while Judy was giving birth. But I don’t remember whether I did.

Anyway, our baby daughter Ann — I insisted on naming her after my mother and Judy was willing to let is be so — was born in 1950. Both Judy and I were then exactly as happy and contented with parenthood has we had thought we would be.

For a while.

But then it all came crashing down on us, when Judy came to me and said she was sorry but she just couldn’t help it. She couldn’t go on without the sexual freedoms that had meant so much to her. She didn’t want to get a divorce. Our marriage, she said, was working quite well and she didn’t want to change a thing. Well, one thing, that was … she wanted to change the rules a little. How would I feel about making it an open marriage?

Continue reading ‘Judith Merril, Part 3: Life with Judy’ »