Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The end of an era

You've likely read of the recent passing of SF author Frederik Pohl (1919-2013). As one example tribute, from USA Today, see, "Science fiction writer Frederik Pohl dies." He died during (but not in attendance of) this year's Worldcon.

Pohl was, without doubt, one of the giants of the genre. He wrote dozens of novels. His 1977 novel, Gateway -- winner of Hugo, Nebula, and Locus awards -- was a masterpiece, absolutely brilliant. And beyond being an author, Pohl was an influential genre editor, agent, and fan. He will be sorely missed.

Damien Walters of the (UK) Guardian notes that Pohl was the last of the Golden Age masters. See Walters's thoughtful piece, "Science-fiction's Golden Age writers left a fantastic legacy."

Walters asks:

What other literary genre can claim the influence over popular culture, and hence the hearts and minds of the masses, of sci-fi? From blockbuster Hollywood movies to the vast popularity of video game franchises such as Halo, Mass Effect and Bioshock, sci-fi is a constant in the lives of today's generation. What lasting influence, in contrast, do modernism, or the Lost Generation, or the Beats, have in the commercialised, capitalistic, mainstream culture of today?

And yet science fiction is still largely ignored by our cultural elite. The recent Man Booker prize shortlist has many great strengths, but SF is still systematically excluded from consideration. English departments at UK universities lead research across 20th century and contemporary literature, but SF is still shunned as an explicit research discipline. Perhaps it is the very popularity of science fiction that prevents elitists from seeing its value?

Will any of the SF authors who first came to prominence in the '70s and later have the same lasting impact as the Golden Age masters like Fred Pohl? 


Anonymous said...

I remember Frederik Pohl well for pulling me into the SF arena. In my elementary years I developed a general dislike for all fiction, preferring nonfiction, then for a Christmas present (against my expressed wishes by the way) my mother got me a subscription to Galaxy to which I added my own purchase a year later of If. These were the 60s and I was amazed at the quality of writing—and writers—which Pohl brought out for me as editor of both magazines. Later I also joint the SF Book Club and caught many of Pohl's novels and stories from collections. So I credit him with turning me around and bringing me a lot of thought provoking pleasure.

Edward M. Lerner said...

Hi Anonymous,

Yours is the kind of story Fred would have liked hearing. He will be missed.

- Ed