We lost one of the giants of the field this week when science fiction writer/editor/Grand Master and science enthusiast Frederik Pohl passed away at the age of 93. It’s impossible to overstate the importance and influence that Pohl has had on science fiction, and thus literature as a whole, over the many decades he has been active. He started writing when he was still a teenager and continued writing right up until his death, publishing a novel a few years ago and regularly sharing his thoughts on various topics on his wonderful blog. Pohl practically invented science fiction with a few other Golden Age authors, but he was also quite at home with the New Wave science fiction writers of the 1970s.
In fact, his work as an editor during the upheaval of the 1970s made the New Wave of science fiction possible by buying and printing stories that were experimental and smart and not beholden to the straight-white-male paradigm that had dominated (still does?) science fiction during it’s first iterations. Pohl has always had a special place in my heart (I even named my band after one of his greatest works!), so I recommend grabbing these books and short stories, or any that you can find, and spending the weekend celebrating a man who was as big of a fan of science fiction as they come.
In a world where resources are dwindling, prospectors try their luck at Gateway–an alien artifact where ships seem to go to seemingly random destinations that can lead to fame and fortune, or fates that are even worse than death. This Hugo and Nebula winner is psychological science fiction at it’s best. It takes an incredibly cool and novel idea and marries it to characters that are painfully flawed. The last moments will leave you breathless and probably joining me in proclaiming it one of the finest novels ever written.
All the Lives He Led
After the U.S. has been devastated by ecological disaster, refugee Brad Sheridan flees North America for work at a Mount Vesuvius theme park in Italy. However, he soon becomes embroiled in a multifarious terrorist plot that has some far reaching implications. If you’ve ever had a crappy summer job as a student, this book is for you!
The Space Merchants
In an over-populated future, Mitch Courtenay follows fame and fortune as one of the best ad copywriters in the solar system. But how does one sell products on worlds were resources are scarce but the desire to consume products is overwhelming? A dark and unflinchingly hilarious look at the uniquely American invention of advertising as religion. It’s a compressed little epic that is topical and timeless like the best satirical works of Kurt Vonnegut.
Gateways by various authors
It’s no secret to anyone who will listen to me gush for a hot minute that I love Fredrick Pohl, and it looks like I’m not alone! This collection of new short fiction covers a wide range of subject matters, though all are written in homage to the diverse short fiction over Pohl’s long, illustrious career. Luminaries such as Neil Gaiman, David Brin and Connie Willis all take a crack at writing a story Pohl-style, and the results are a win across the board. A loving tribute to a sci-fi legend.