Elegy to a Dead Satellite: #Fred Pohl

RIP Fred Pohl.

Throughout my life I have had been lucky enough to have brief but vivid encounters and conversations with some of my favorite authors. I have bought Ray Bradbury a taco, bummed cigarettes to Tim O’Brien, and fetched Gwendolyn Brooks hot coffee; and then there was my lunch with Fred Pohl. At the time I was probably twenty three or so, taking a class in science fiction literature that he had come to speak at; he was in his late sixties or early seventies at the time but had the energy of a man my age. The lecture was fantastic and the discussion spilled out after class into the cafeteria, where he and I ended up talking over plastic wrapped sandwiches for another hour or so.

I remembered vividly talking at lengths about the theater; although he was not a playwright he and his wife enjoyed attending plays and at the time he was working on a novella where one of the characters was an actor. I remembered how encouraging and positive he was, and how affectionate he and his wife were. He told me a funny story about how Isaac Asimov had relentlessly mocked L Ron Hubbards’ terrible writing and his bizarre cult, and he pointed me towards a really difficult to find short story where Asimov takes a hilarious shot at Scientology in the form of a ladies’ knitting circle that takes over the world.

His writing was better than good; his stories are a foundation upon which much of modern sf and pop culture at large is built. Novels like ‘Gateway’ are so well written and prescient that it is hard to believe they were written decades ago. If you haven’t made his acquaintance, I urge you to introduce yourself to my departed friend, Fred Pohl.

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