Sunday, July 18, 2010

Pohl Positions

Before crime fiction grabbed me by the lapels in my late 20s, I was a dedicated reader of science fiction: Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, Philip José Farmer, Algis Budrys--and of course the Grand Master, Frederik Pohl.

Pohl has written many books (with 1953’s The Space Merchants probably being his best known) as well as hundreds of stories--every one a gem. Now in his 90th year, and despite some recent health concerns, he is still hard at work. As a tribute to his career and their long marriage, his much-younger wife, science-fiction expert Elizabeth Anne Hull, has put together a unique new book called Gateways (Tor).

“Fred and I were cruising in the South Pacific in January 2009,” she writes, “when I conceived the project that would become this tribute to my husband for his ninetieth year, marking his career in the world of science fiction--as a fan and as a professional writer, first and foremost, but also as an agent and editor of both magazines and books.”

Brian W. Aldiss, Harry Harrison, Mike Resnick, Frank Robinson, Vernor Vinge, Greg Bear, Gregory Benford, Ben Bova, David Brin, Cory Doctorow, Neil Gaiman, Joe Haldeman, Larry Niven, and Gene Wolfe are among the stars of the genre who have been recruited as contributors to this wonderful new collection. Each author has written a story that he or she believes reflects the impact Pohl has had on their field--in the style of writing, the narrative tone, or the subject matter. There also some heartfelt appreciations by Asimov (from his autobiography, I, Asimov), Robert J. Sawyer, Connie Willis, and Robert Silverberg.

The stories start with “Shoresteading,” by David Brin, which is set in China after what sounds like a future nuclear confrontation. In that tale, a young man scrabbles to survive by means of illegal fishing and collecting sunken metal waste, and lives in a battered, deserted house that was once the beachfront residence of a wealthy export magnate in Old Shanghai. The volume’s short fiction ends with “Safari,” by Mike Resnick, in which a couple of real-estate salespeople in some unspecified future win a safari on a distant planet called Selous, where a talking safari car named Quartermain is their only guide.

If science fiction was ever your main squeeze and Pohl your personal deity, then Gateway is a must-read. Buy it now, or take a shot at winning a free copy of the book through a contest in Pohl’s own blog.

No comments: