Today, UIP author Michael R. Page takes to the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast to discuss the work and legacy of science fiction master Frederik Pohl. In his seven-decade career, Pohl not only wrote acclaimed novels and stories but shaped the SF field as a literary agent, book editor, and in Gardner Dozois’ words, “quite probably the best SF magazine editor who ever lived.”
Page’s study of Pohl includes no shortage of the author’s own words, including a lengthy interview conducted not long before Pohl passed away in 2013. The five quotes below feature Pohl on real world and SF topics.
1. On science fiction. The trouble is that science fiction is very good at telling us what is likely to happen given this assumption or that assumption. It gives us useful warnings, which no one pays any attention to. The destruction of the environment began fifty years ago, and nobody has really done anything about it, including me. Unfortunately, I’ve flown in a lot of airplanes in that time and contributed seriously to the carbon in the air. Science fiction is useful in telling us what we should be worried about but just don’t have enough sense to worry about it.
2. The SF bond. There’s a whole culture of science fiction that includes the reader and the writer almost on equal terms. Which is not true in any other kind of writing that I know of. In other areas of writing, writers think of things and people read them and are moved by them in one way or another. In science fiction, writers think of things, and readers think of exceptions or improbabilities or whatever . . .
3. Bringing people together. When science fiction first appeared as a magazine form, there was a wide sense of discovery by the people who read it and they thought, “Hey, I’ve been waiting for this all my life, but didn’t know it!” And I think that is the quality of science fiction that makes people suddenly love it when they first find it. And I think that it is one of the things that has made science fiction fans and readers be homogenous. They may fight and they may disagree, but they always go to bed together. My idea for a magazine was to buy up stories from this period, early fifties primarily, late forties and early fifties, and reprint them, which could be done fairly cheaply, and would do much good. I think that actually could be something that brings people together.
4. Learning process. One of the reasons I think my writing has worked out fairly well, because by being an editor and an agent, I’ve observed what writers do wrong, and it’s a wonderful way to stop doing them wrong yourself. Every writer I know who has taken a turn as an editor has become a better writer as a result, and I think that’s a good thing.
5. The fragile world. I lived on Mt. Vesuvius. Volcanoes tell us what a fragile world we live in. Most of us are not aware of that. They’re not in our backyard. But if you live in Italy and see volcanoes everywhere you look, almost always producing if not a real eruption at least a certain amount of throwing up sparks, leaves you to think, “I wonder how long this planet is going to hold together.”