Frederik Pohl (1919-2013)

SFWA Grandmaster, author, editor, agent, and fan Frederik Pohl, 93, died September 2, 2013.

Frederik George Pohl, Jr. was born November 26, 1919 in New York City. He was one of the earliest SF fans, attending the first SF convention in Philadelphia in 1936, and was one of the founders of the Futurians and the Hydra Club. He attended Brooklyn Tech, but dropped out without graduating. From 1939-43 he was editor of new magazines Astonishing Stories and Super Science Stories. He sometimes published his own fiction, often in collaboration with fellow Futurians C.M. Kornbluth, Robert W. Lowndes, and James Blish, under assorted house names and pseudonyms including James MacCreigh and S.D. Gottesman.

He served in the Italian theaters of World War II and afterward became a literary agent, representing many of America’s top SF writers. In the ’50s he went back to writing and editing, producing his first novels in collaboration with Kornbluth, beginning with classic The Space Merchants (1953) and continuing with Search the Sky (1954), Gladiator-at-Law (1955), and Wolfbane (1957). He also collaborated with Jack Williamson on a number of books, including the Undersea Trilogy, the Starchild trilogy, and the Cuckoo duology, along with standalones Land’s End (1988) and The Singers of Time (1991). He collaborated with Lester del Rey on Preferred Risk (1983, as by Edson McCann).

Pohl’s solo novels include Slave Ship (1957); Drunkard’s Walk (1961); A Plague of Pythons (1965, later reissued as Demon in the Skull); The Age of the Pussyfoot (1965); Nebula winner Man Plus (1976); Gateway (1977), which won Hugo, Nebula, and Campbell Memorial awards, and began his Heechee series, which also includes Beyond the Blue Event Horizon (1980), Heechee Rendezvous (1984), Annals of the Heechee (1987), The Gateway Trip (1990), and The Boy Who Would Live Forever (2004); American Book Award winner JEM (1980); The Cool War (1981); Syzygy (1981); Starburst (1982); Campbell Memorial winner The Years of the City (1984); Black Star Rising (1985); The Coming of the Quantum Cats (1986); Terror (1986); Narabedla Ltd. (1988); Homegoing (1988); The World at the End of Time (1990); Outnumbering the Dead (1991); Mining the Oort (1992); The Voices of Heaven (1994); The Eschaton trilogy, including The Other End of Time (1996), The Siege of Eternity (1997), The Far Shore of Time (1999);  and O Pioneer! (1998);  The Last Theorem, written in collaboration with Arthur C. Clarke (2008); and All the Lives He Led (2011). 

A prolific story writer, Pohl’s short fiction has been collected in more then 20 volumes, including Alternating Currents (1966), The Best of Frederik Pohl (1975), The Early Pohl (1980), Pohlstars (1984) and, most recently Platinum Pohl (2005). “The Meeting” (1972), with C.M. Kornbluth, won a Hugo, as did solo story “Fermi and Frost” (1985). Other notable stories include Nebula Award finalists “Under Two Moons” (1965), “Shaffery Among the Immortals” (1973), “Growing Up in Edge City” (1976), “Mars Masked” (1979), and “The Greening of Bed-Stuy” (1985); “Day Million” (1966); Hugo and Nebula Award finalist “The Gold at Starbow’s End” (1972); and Hugo finalists “Servant of the People” (1983) and novella Stopping at Slowyear (1992).

An influential editor, Pohl edited Ballantine’s original anthology series Star Science Fiction in the ’50s. In the ’60s, he edited notable SF magazines Galaxy and If, and in the ’70s he was executive editor at Ace, then SF editor at Bantam. He won Hugo awards for editing in 1966, ’67, and ’68.

Pohl wrote about his life in memoir The Way the Future Was (1978). Other non-fiction includes a biography of Roman emperor Tiberius (1960), political guide Practical Politics 1972 (1971), Our Angry Earth: A Ticking Ecological Time Bomb with Isaac Asimov (1991), and Chasing Science: Science as Spectator Sport (2000). He also wrote non-SF novels, including A Town Is Drowning (1955), Presidential Year (1956), and Sorority House (1956, as by Jordan Park), all with C.M. Kornbluth; The God of Channel 1 (1956, as by Donald Stacy); Turn the Tigers Loose (1956, with Walter Lasly); and Chernobyl (1987).

He was president of SFWA from 1974-76. He was named a SFWA Grand Master in 1992; a living inductee in the SF Hall of Fame in 1998; won a Hubbard Award for life achievement in 2000; and received the Eaton Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009. He is survived by his fifth wife, Elizabeth Anne Hull.

Pohl wrote online extensively about his life in SF, politics, and other topics at The Way the Future Blogs.

For more about Pohl, see his entry in the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.

See the October issue of Locus for a complete obituary, photos, and appreciations.