Ben Bova (1932-2020)

SF writer and editor Ben Bova, 88, died November 29, 2020 after contracting COVID-19, developing pneumonia, and suffering a stroke. Bova was known both for his hard SF fiction and for editing major genre magazines Analog and Omni. In all, he produced more than 120 books.

Bova began his career in SF as a novelist with YA The Star Conquerors (1959), first in the Watchmen series, which also includes Star Watchman (1964) and The Dueling Machine (with Myron R Lewis, serialized 1963 and expanded in 1969).

He was appointed editor of Analog in 1971, succeeding John W. Campbell, Jr. after his death. He was honored with Best Editor Hugo Awards from 1973 to ’77 for his work there, and again in 1979 (his editorship ended in ’78). He then edited Omni from 1978-82.

Bova continued to write fiction while editing. His Exiles YA series includes Exiled from Earth (1971), Flight of Exiles (1972), and End of Exile (1975). His Kinsman saga includes Millennium (1976) and Kinsman (1979). The Voyagers series is Voyagers (1981), Voyagers II: The Alien Within (1982), Voyagers III: Star Brothers (1990), and The Return (2009). The Orion sequence has Orion (1984), Vengeance of Orion (1988), Orion in the Dying Time (1990), Orion and the Conqueror (1994), Orion Among the Stars (1995), and Orion and King Arthur (2012). He wrote To Save the Sun (1992) and sequel To Fear the Light (1994) with A.J. Austin. The Jake Ross series is Power Play (2012), Power Surge (2015), and Power Failure (2018).

His immense Tales of the Grand Tour sequence, which includes multiple sub-series, began with Welcome to Moonbase (1987) and continued with Mars (1992), Empire Builders (1993), Return to Mars (1999), Venus (2000), Saturn (2003), collection Tales of the Grand Tour (2004), Mercury (2005), Campbell Memorial Award winner Titan (2006), and Mars Life (2008). The spin-off Moonbase Saga has Moonrise (1996) and Moonwar (1997); the Sam Gunn series is Sam Gunn, Unlimited (1992) and Sam Gunn Forever (1998); the Jupiter sequence is Jupiter (2000) and Leviathans of Jupiter (2011); the Asteroid Wars includes The Precipice (2001), The Rock Rats (2002), The Silent War (2003), and The Aftermath (2007); and Star Quest is New Earth (2013), Death Wave (2015), Apes and Angels (2016), Survival (2017), and Earth (2019).

Other novels include The Weathermakers (1967), Out of the Sun (1968), Escape! (1970), As on a Darkling Plain (1972), The Winds of Altair (1973; revised 1983), When the Sky Burned (1973; revised as Test of Fire, 1982), Gremlins, Go Home! (1974, with Gordon R. Dickson), City of Darkness (1976), The Multiple Man (1976), Colony (1978), Privateers (1985), Peacekeepers (1988), Cyberbooks (1989), The Trikon Deception (1992, with Bill Pogue), Death Dream (1994), Brothers (1995; revised as The Immortality Factor, 2009), The Green Trap (2006), Able One (2010), The Hittite (2010), Farside (2013), Mars, Inc.: The Billionaires Club (2013), Transhuman (2014), and Rescue Mode (2014). He wrote THX 1138 (1971), a tie-in to the George Lucas film.

His story “Brillo” (1970, with Harlan Ellison) was a Hugo Award finalist, and “Inspiration” (1994) was a Nebula Award nominee. Some of his short fiction was collected in Forward in Time (1973), Maxwell’s Demons (1979), Escape Plus (1984), The Astral Mirror (1985), Prometheans (1986), Battle Station (1987), Challenges (1993), Triumph (1993), Twice Seven: Stories (1998), and New Frontiers (2014), some of which also included non-fiction. His standout short fiction was published in three volumes as The Best of Bova (2016-17).

In addition to many Analog and Omni anthologies, he edited numerous volumes of the Science Fiction Hall of Fame (1973-75), Closeup: New Worlds (1977, with Trudy E. Bell), Vision of the Future: The Art of Robert McCall (1982), The Best of the Nebulas (1989), First Contact: The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (1990, with Byron Preiss), Nebula Awards Showcase 2008 (2008), and Carbide Tipped Pens: Seventeen Tales of Hard Science Fiction (2014, with Eric Choi).

Bova wrote many works of non-fiction, notably The Uses of Space (1965), Starflight and Other Improbabilities (1973), Through the Eyes of Wonder: Science Fiction and Science (1975), Notes to a Science Fiction Writer (1975), The High Road (1981), Assured Survival: Putting the Star Defense Wars in Perspective (1984), Space Travel (1997, with Anthony R Lewis), Immortality: How Science Is Extending Your Life Span and Changing the World (1998), and Faint Echoes, Distant Stars: The Science and Politics of Finding Life Beyond Earth (2004).

Benjamin William Bova was born November 8, 1932 in Philadelphia PA. Bova attended Temple University in Philadelphia, where he met Rosa Cucinotta; they married in 1953 and had a son and a daughter before divorcing in 1974. That year he married Barbara Berson Rose, who predeceased him in 2009. He married Rashida Loya in 2013; she survives him.

He graduated from Temple with a journalism degree in 1954, earned a master’s in communications from the State University of New York at Albany (1987), and a doctorate in education from California Coast University (1996).

Bova worked as a newspaper reporter before becoming a technical editor and science writer for the Project Vanguard satellite launch program in the ‘50s. He worked for Avco Everett Research Laboratory during their studies of lasers and fluid dynamics in the ‘60s and early ‘70s before taking over at Analog.

He was president of SFWA from 1990-92 and served on the board of governors of the National Space Society, eventually becoming president emeritus. He taught at Harvard University and at the Hayden Planetarium, and often appeared as a guest scientist on prominent programs including Good Morning America and The Today Show. He won a Skylark Award in 1974, a Robert A. Heinlein Award from the Heinlein Society in 2008, and a First Fandom Hall of Fame Award in 2016.

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


2 thoughts on “Ben Bova (1932-2020)

  • December 1, 2020 at 8:29 am

    A big loss indeed. He was not much translated in Easter Europe, but many years later I read the Kinsman saga and for somebody coming from behind the iron Curtain it was quite interesting to see how the Eeast is seen. Speaking of that – I wonder how For All Mankind will solve a similar conflict. He belonged to one small group – and getting smaller – of writers who somehow manage to see the humankind’s future in not completely dark tones. Roddenberry must have been like that, and from today’s writers Kim Stanley Robinson comes to mind and this si about it. We need more writing like that, I think.

  • December 16, 2020 at 7:24 am

    Ben Bova, my friend. Always a Gentleman.


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