Science fiction Grand Master Frederik George Pohl, Jr passed away on September 2, 2013, at the age of 93. Pohl was an accomplished science fiction author, editor, agent, and above all, a fan of the genre. He died due to respiratory failure, but was still an active writer through the final weeks of his life. His work can be read on his blog, which will continue to be active, as the website states that there’s a “thick file” of Pohl’s work that will continue to be shared with the world.
Frederik Pohl was born on November 26, 1919, in New York City. He was a science fiction fan in his early years and attended the first sci-fi convention in Philadelphia in 1936. Pohl was also one of the founding members of the Futurians and the Hydra Club. From 1939-43, he was editor of two pulp magazines, Astonishing Stories and Super Science Stories, which is where he began his long career. His style was known for “embracing its pulpiest tendencies” of the sci-fi genre.
After World War II, Pohl became a literary agent who at one point was “representing more than half the successful writers in science fiction.” Pohl was the literary agent of fellow science fiction Grand Master Isaac Asimov. He later became a a copywriter and book editor for Popular Science.
On the fiction front, Pohl is best known for the novel The Space Merchants released in 1953. Cyril M. Kornbluth co-authored the novel, which is set in a world where big business replaces government and rampant consumerism is a way of life. The release of The Space Merchants made Pohl one of the most influential futurists and sci-fi writers at the time. The novel was one of numerous collaborations with sci-fi author Cyril M. Kornbluth, which include Search the Sky, Gladiator-At-Law, and Presidential Year.
As a prolific author, Frederik Pohl penned 20 volumes of short stories; more than 32 novels including Gateway, The Years of the City, and JEM; a collection of nonfiction; an autobiography; hundreds of blog posts; and collaborations with like-minded sci-fi authors such as Cyril M. Kornbluth, Jack Williamson, Lester Del Rey, Thomas T. Thomas, and Arthur C. Clarke.
Pohl was president of the Science Fiction Writers of America from 1974-76. He was named the organization’s 12th recipient of the Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award in 1992. Pohl was also a living inductee into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 1998. He won a Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer in 2010, for his blog “The Way the Future Blogs.”
Pohl’s career in science fiction looked towards the future with a sense of collaboration and camaraderie. Even in his final weeks, he continued to write and share his work on the Internet. Pohl was a futurist who was an advocate for the environment and who knew the dangers of big business and corporations. In his last few blog posts, Pohl wrote about the risks of fracking and the Koch Brothers’ villainy. Not bad for a 93 year old. In an interview with Vice, Pohl talked about how he viewed the future:
You can’t really predict the future. All you can do is invent it. You can do things that may have an effect on what the future will be, but you can’t say which is going to happen unless you know who’s inventing things and who’s making things happen. We would not have landed a man on the moon in 1969 if John Kennedy hadn’t decided to do it. It’s because he invented that event that it took place. It probably would’ve happened sooner or later under some other circumstances, but that’s why it happened. Same with atomic energy. So you can see how future events take place but what you can’t do is know who’s going to do something that will change it. You can’t really say what’s going to happen, but you can show a spectrum of possibilities.
Frederik Pohl was truly a great writer and science fiction visionary who will be missed in the genre. He is survived by his fifth wife, Elizabeth Anne Hull.