Grand Master

by wjw on September 4, 2013

Frederik Pohl died yesterday, at the age of 93, just hours after he made a final post on his excellent blog.  You might say he went down writing, an inspiration we can all take to heart.

The news came as the San Antonio Worldcon was into its last hours, which left us little time to react, reflect, and mourn.

I think I first came to appreciate Pohl’s talents not as a writer, but an editor.  His long term at Galaxy and If produced a tremendous amount of good fiction which I consumed in my youth.  And, as an editor at Bantam, he acquired Dahlgren and The Female Man, visionary works that I doubt any other publisher would have touched . . . and which made a lot of money for Bantam at the time, which showed that his business sense was as finely tuned as his sense for art.

As for Pohl’s fiction, there was so much of it that I’ve barely grazed it all.  Twenty-some volumes of short fiction, over thirty novels, pseudonymous works under names like Scott Mariner or James MacCreigh, the large body of collaborative work with Jack Williamson, Arthur Clarke, Cyril Kornbluth, Lester Del Rey, and Thomas T. Thomas.

He was active— very active— for seventy-five years.  In all that time, the words add up.

I think I first met Fred at Jack Williamson’s house.  Like Jack, he was amiable, smart, and amusing, with a sly sense of humor that could creep up on you while you weren’t looking.  Like an intelligent person, I mainly just listened while he and Jack talked.

I worked with Fred later, when I was in charge of SFWA’s Anthology Committee, and I chose him to edit the three-volume SFWA Grand Masters anthologies.  I have to say that the relationship was trouble-free.  Fred was an absolute professional.  He knew what he wanted, and he took on the job of wrangling the estates of deceased authors for the stories he thought would fit each volume.  Each author was represented by four or five stories, including one gem that had been forgotten or neglected.  He knew every author he collected, and probably had first bought many of the stories himself, for one magazine or other, when the stories were new.

My only disappointment with Fred’s work was in his autobiography, The Way the Future Was, which was entertaining and enlightening and told a lot of good stories, but not stories as good as the ones he could have told.  (I suspect too many people were still alive.)  His terrific blog, which I recommend to you all, goes a long way toward telling the stories he didn’t put on the record when his autobiography was first published.  Just go to the blog and search for names like “Heinlein,” “Fletcher Pratt,” “Kornbluth,” or “Asimov.”  Then sit back and celebrate Fred’s life, all 93 years of it.

TRX September 5, 2013 at 7:48 pm

I was just thinking about Fred’s blog a few hours ago, and had planned to check his place out after yours. I knew he was in poor health, though his mind was still sharp.

I guess I need to make a copy of his blog before fades away.

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