It was with some sadness that I learned this morning of Frederik Pohl’s passing, on his own blog of all places. He was a giant in science fiction, writing prolifically in many forms.
For me, his seminal accomplishment will always be Gateway, with its mysterious spacecraft pre-programmed on journeys to fortune or, more often, doom, and the men and women who risked all to take their chances with them. When I first read it in 1984, my science fiction diet to then had been space operas and little else; now, suddenly, there is deep characterization, a bit of suspense, and a robotic psychiatrist.
I still try to read Gateway once every few years, preferably in the mass-market paperback version I had as a kid. Some books just don’t work in hardback or trade paperback for some reason.
And Pohl wasn’t just a significant writer. His contributions to science fiction, from its relative infancy mid-century to the present, extended into publishing as well. Jo Walton over on Tor.com points out his importance as an editor:
But Pohl was also a truly great editor—he edited Galaxy and If for more than a decade in the sixties. He also edited for Bantam, and bought and published Samuel R. Delany’s Dhalgren and Joanna Russ’s The Female Man (both 1975). He was one of the most imaginative editors the genre has ever seen, always prepared to buy things in new styles and move ahead.
It’s tempting to view his passing as him taking a trip on his own Heechee spacecraft into the unknown, but I get the sense he was too much of a curmudgeon to have appreciated that view, so I’ll just bid a fond farewell and dig up my tattered copy of Gateway instead. That, I think, he would appreciate.
(Image via The Way the Future Blogs)