Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

R.I.P. Frederik Pohl

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Frederik Pohl, a master of science fiction whose transformative influence on the genre is incalculable, died Monday in Palatine, Illinois, of unspecified reasons relating to respiratory illness. He was 93.


Pohl leaves behind a body of work that spans multiples eras, subgenres, and upheavals in the world of science fiction literature. After getting involved in sci-fi through the nascent culture of fandom in the 1930s, he began publishing his own fiction and editing the pulp magazines Astonish Stories and Super Science. His career as a novelist began in the '50s—including frequent collaborations with authors Cyril Kornbluth and Jack Williamson—and involved many pseudonymous works. In the '70s, Pohl established himself more solidly with canonical novels such as Man Plus, Gateway, and Jem. From there he explored the width and breadth of science fiction, from the satirical alternate history of 1986's The Coming Of The Quantum Cats through his terrorism-tackling 2011 swan song, All The Lives He Led.

Although rigorous in their examination of the impact of science and technology on culture, Pohl's work always probed the humanity—and often the humor—inherent in such abstract and sober subjects. He was awarded many accolades throughout his life, including the highest honors in science fiction, the Hugo and Nebula Awards (each won multiple times). He was also named the Science Fiction Writers Of America's Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master in 1993; was inducted into SFWA's Hall Of Fame in 1998; and won the only extent National Book Award for science fiction (hardcover) in 1980 for Jem.

Pohl's death came during the 2013 World Science Fiction Convention, which was being celebrated in San Antonio as he fell ill, and included the announcement of this year's Hugo winners. Said fellow science-fiction legend, editor David G. Hartwell, via Facebook Monday, "I am so sad. My friend and mentor Fred Pohl died yesterday. One of the last of the giants of SF."