Sad news today:

Science fiction Grand Master Frederik Pohl has died, aged 93.

Pohl was one of last survivors of Science Fiction’s “golden age” of the late 1930s and zearly 1940s, a time when he contributed to and edited pulp fiction magazines. He was also an important figure in the emergence of fandom, founding the “Futurians”.

A contemporary of Isaac Asimov, Jack Vance, James Blish and other Sci Fi royalty, Pohl’s initial impact as a novelist came in collaboration with Cyril Kornbluth. The pair penned The Space Merchants, a work considered a classic for its satire depicting a future society run in part by advertising agencies and eerily prescient today in the age of search engine optimisation.

When i09 asked a bunch of folks in 2008 to recommend a science fiction novel that you should read before stepping into the voting booth, my choice was The Merchants’ War, Pohl’s mid-80s sequel to The Space Merchants. It doesn’t quite describe the way politicians are marketed today, but it’s close enough to be scary.

Pohl’s novels in the 90s and beyond were mostly fairly mediocre, but when he was good he was one of the best. I’m not sure any science fiction writer has ever written three consecutive novels as good as Man Plus, Gateway, and Jem. He’ll be missed.


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