back to article Science fiction titan Frederik Pohl dies, aged 93

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 early 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 …


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  1. Graham Marsden

    I only started reading Pohl recently...

    ... I picked up a copy of The Space Merchants in a charity shop and, whilst reading it, I had to flick back to the front to check what date it was actually written because it seemed so appropriate for today!

    A sad loss :-(

    1. Jolyon Smith

      Re: I only started reading Pohl recently...

      For another eerily prescient future-history you should try "For Us The Living" (Heinlein)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I only started reading Pohl recently...

      I've never read any books of his, yet I read a lot of Sci-fi classics?

  2. Big-nosed Pengie

    RIP Fred

    One of the greats.

    1. Zaphod.Beeblebrox

      Re: RIP Fred

      Indeed. He will be missed, but he lives on through his writings - I am encouraged that the first post is one from a new reader.

  3. Roger Stenning

    RIP, Sir.

    Before people even considered what the future was bringing, he, and of course, all the other Greats, were already ahead of the curve. We shall not see his, or their, like again.

    The world is truly a smaller place for their departure.

  4. Qu Dawei
    Thumb Up

    A wonderful life and writer

    Frederick Pohl's works were some of the first I read as a new SF fan back in 1964, having been introduced to the genre by a librarian who thought I would like the stories. I did, and still, after so many years, I can return to and read any of his works with great enjoyment. I recognise him as being a very significant author in my intellectual life, because he did write thoughtful fiction, and some of his non-fiction work was equally thought-provoking.

  5. Chris Gray 1

    Some good reading

    I've definitely had some good reading from Frederick Pohl over the years. I just went and checked, finding 15 Science Fiction Book Club hardcovers on my shelves. No easy way to tell how many paperpacks of his I used to have!

    I'll go away now, feeling old. :-)

  6. Arctic fox

    Frederick Pohl.

    He was an extremely talented writer who could have chosen virtually any genre to write in. I'm glad he chose SF. He combined intelligence, artistry and a clear moral vision (although never preachy) in a manner that only a relatively small number of writers achieve in any field of literary endevour.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The Gateway series was awesome. RIP.

  8. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    RIP Fred

    And there go Nicholas Van Rijn and Dominic Flandry, by damn!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: RIP Fred

      AM I missing some obvious joke? both characters are in Poul Anderson novels.

      as far as I remember.

    2. tashammer

      Re: RIP Fred

      Bloody good stories the Polisotechnic(?) League. There again Mr.Pohl always did write good stories which i started reading in the late 50's early 60's thanks to a thoughtful local librarian in the North-West of England. The trouble with getting old is all the good people fall off the twig when you want them to live forever and, quite selfishly, keep on writing stories for one even though they don't even know you exist. "Nowt sa queer as fowks"

      God Bless you Mr.Pohl and thank you for many years of happy reading.


  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    zearly ?

    Why makes El Reg In-Content-Adverts for a kids clothing website?

    1. Sir Runcible Spoon

      Re: zearly ?

      warrt de fook yew honour bart? eetz aardvark tar getting innt.

  10. AndrueC Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Aw shame! One of my favourite authors. His Gateway novels were an inspiration. I've often wondered if I'd have had the guts to get into one of those spaceships and squeeze the go button. Robinette Broadhand - lucky bugger and unlikely hero of Mankind :)

    1. James Hughes 1

      Agreed. Although I still haven't found a charity copy of Heechee Rendezvous, although have read the other ones.

      Got ManPlus on the shelf somewhere, but I don't remember reading it - must put that on my list.

      1. David Given

        I have _Heechee Rendezvous_. It's... not great. While there are a few nice moments, they're rather sparse. Definitely for completists only.

        OTOH, _Gateway_ is an utter classic and I must reread it ASAP.

  11. jjk

    This year is getting worse all the time.

    Oi! You guys up there! Stop offing my favourite authors, start targeting those who really deserve it.

    1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      Maybe someone up there is 'collecting' them?

  12. Chris G

    Thanks for your visions.

    I think along with Aasimov, Federiick Pohl, A.E.van Vogt and Poul Anderson were the writers I most looked forward to reading.

    Now all gone now all gone on, the world is a lesser place for it!

    1. AndrueC Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Thanks for your visions.

      C J Cherryh is still alive and writing ;)

      The last survivor of my personal Science Fiction golden list.

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        Re: Thanks for your visions.

        Sadly Cherryh's gone on a bit of a Foreigner series treadmill though, presumably because the publisher keeps asking for more. I keep hoping for something new and different to come along. Maybe she can sell enough ebooks to be able to completely please herself and self-publish? Still my favourite author of any genre though.

        1. AndrueC Silver badge

          Re: Thanks for your visions.

          Sadly Cherryh's gone on a bit of a Foreigner series treadmill though, presumably because the publisher keeps asking for more.

          Yeah. I think I'm one behind the latest but don't really feel motivated to buy it. I actually thought the Gene Wars series had potential although I get the impression it wasn't a huge success.

          I'd definitely like to hear more about Finisterre. The atmosphere, descriptions of scenery and sometimes downright terror of those books is awesome. I read the second one during a stormy Christmas and that really added to the atmosphere :)

          But I have to admit that my primary interest in her work are the Merchanter/Compact series which I like to treat as being the same thing really given the cross references between them.

          1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

            Re: Thanks for your visions.

            Yes. Nighthorses are what bacon was invented for! And I must say, she probably could have been a horror writer if she'd wanted to. Telepathic beasties getting you to help them eat you is an excellent idea for a setting. Definitely a book to read in a small log cabin in the middle of nowhere...

            She's obviously got a thing for horses, I believe she's done quite a bit of riding (or she's a brilliant researcher and bluffer) - and doing ancient military history will have helped. Her fantasy's worth a look, if you haven't already. Finisterre is I guess a bit of both. Fortress in the Eye of Time is much better than the (still good) sequels - and also has lots of horses, but I think her most interesting fantasy is the Celtic based stuff. Although I'm sure other people have done it, that was the first time I'd come across someone using the Celtic myths in that way. Plus she's just re-written her 3 Russian ones and sells them ebook only (, as apparently they got buggered up in publishing production. I've read the first one, and it doesn't seem a whole lot different to what I remember from 10-15 years ago. But I think it was the other 2 that were less successful, and I've not got on to them yet.

            But I'm mostly a fan of the science fiction, and so would like to get back to that. And it would be nice to know what those lovely gents of the ex-Company Fleet are up to nowadays. Or even something about what they were up to in the war, or which she's only written the beginning and end.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    14 of Freds books on my shelf - not counting collaborations.

    I am sad to discover that nearly 80% of the books on my shelves were written by authors now no longer in corporeal form; I wait in dread to hear of Orson Scot Cards demise.

    1. MJI Silver badge

      I know what you mean

      I emailed OSC a while ago to ask about a book, he replied.

  14. tojb

    Zearly 1940s

    "the late 1930s and zearly 1940s." Advanced thought-rays have expunged all memory of the Zearl incident of 1941. Only I and the author of this article remember it, although the horrific events which it set in motion remain common knowledge among all Earth peoples.

    1. Irony Deficient

      incomplete expungement

      tojb, there are still more people than you and the author who can recall the infamous attack at Zearl Harbor, where the Aripona was sunk.

  15. Rupert Stubbs

    "Sci-Fi"? Tsk, tsk...

    Should be "SF", as any fule kno.

    1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

      Re: "Sci-Fi"? Tsk, tsk...

      No no!

      It's Scientifiction, I insist.

  16. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

    Sorry to hear of his death, but he has had a very good innings, and a "batting average" to be proud of. One of the greats indeed. I shall raise a glass of finest malt to his memory this evening

  17. MJI Silver badge

    I have read some of his works

    But cannot remember which ones they were, I now have a shopping list for the rest.

    1. fritsd
      Big Brother

      The Cool War

      Yesterday I read a BBC blog called "BUGGER" about the history of MI5, and in a sick way it reminded me of Frederik Pohl's "The Cool War". I heartily recommend it... if you dare...

  18. Admiral Grace Hopper

    When I first started to read SF I picked 'Man Plus' off the library shelf, then spent the next fortnight reading everything the library had by Frederik Pohl until I'd exhausted their supply. The library then got in all his remaining published works. After I'd read those I moved on to other authors, but it was his work that got me started for which I feel duly grateful.

  19. Frank Bough

    Very Sad

    "Gateway" in particular is a stunning achievement in Science Fiction. Let's do everything we can to use the sad news of Pohl's passing to increase his readership. RIP.

    1. AndrueC Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Very Sad

      Yup. Gateway is one of those mind expanding novels. It's written in a jocular style but actually putting yourself on that asteroid as one of the prospectors is both scary and invigorating. I also have one of the earlier sequels to thank for explaining the Big Bang theory to me :)

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Day Million would be very topical

    what with being about internet porn as a lifestyle and all.

  21. Reginald Marshall

    No! Wait!


    Wait for a very, very long time.

    Oh how I shuddered when I first read those words... RIP and thanks for all the fine books, Mr Pohl.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A while back El Reg ran a list of all the great SF books that have never been made into films. I took a copy as a reading list and have been enjoying its fruits since - it's very useful to have to hand in charity shops and second-hand book shops. I have now update the Pohl section with the other titles mentioned above.


  23. Dan Paul

    Too bad, Another of the good ones gone forever Rest in Peace!!!

    It's so sad that good old "hard" science fiction has list so many of it's founders, even more sad that so many of the remaining ones are stuck in miserable contracts generating "factory fiction" that has no foresight, no spark like the old days. You would gleefully run to the magazine rack every month to look for the latest Asimov or Astounding magazine to get your fix of an SF great like Pohl, Vance, Van Vogt, Asimov, Heinlein, etc.

  24. Alistair

    SF/Fantasy as a genre is sadly thinning

    Although I would not have put Fredrick Pohl on the top of my list of authors in the genre, I certainly considered him in the top ten. I have memories of reading SF/F magazine and being able to see his influences in lesser known authors' works. I can still recall Gateway, although I might just have to re-read the series (I have them either on my shelves or on my mother's) for refreshment. (pun intended) Truly a sad occasion to loose any of the grand old leaders of the era of science fiction, and I'll have to admit -- I'm off to read his blogs just to see what he's been up to of late.

    Cant decide between a sadface and a glass, he did have a hell of a good run.

  25. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    I'd add "Wolfsbane" and "The Cool War."

    I've never read Staruburst but I have read the short story "The Gold at the Starbow's End."

    I'm not sure but I think it describes arithmetic coding for data compression for beginners.

    RIP. Probably needs a beer tribute.

  26. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    I wish I was rich enough to participate in endless leisure.

  27. Big_Boomer Silver badge

    RIP & Thanks Fred

    My faves are Quantum Cats, Narabedla and the Starchild series.

  28. Stevie


    I had the pleasure of seeing and hearing him in person at an I-Con many years ago. He was quiet and thoughtful, easily the most intelligent member of that particular panel.

    Smaller world.

    1. Nightkiller

      Re: Bah!

      Ditto on that, ArbourCon, 1977

  29. earl grey


    And condolences to the familty for their (and our) loss. Here's another...

  30. Nightkiller

    And as an Editor

    ... He was the one that had the guts to recommend Samuel R. Delaney's "Dhalgren" as a worthwhile read.

  31. mjones52

    My approach to SF was a haphazard one. I was introduced by the village librarian through the anthology "The Omnibus of Science Fiction" in 1958. I was hooked. A short while later I found one of Mr. Pohl's books; he held another of the lines, and reeled me in evermore. Thank you, sir.

    The great ones that built SF are gone, never to be equaled, a loss to all, inspiration for those who've carried on and built anew.

  32. AJNorth

    Pohl On Radio

    Frederik Pohl also penned a number of the original stories that were adapted for the longest running, and arguably finest, Sci-Fi radio series ever produced, X Minus One, which aired on NBC for almost three years (1955-58) and spanned 130 episodes, all of which survive (and are available for free at the Internet Archive --

    The program opened with announcer Fred Collins delivering the countdown, leading into this classic introduction (although later shows were partnered with Galaxy Science Fiction rather than Astounding Science Fiction):

    Countdown for blastoff... X minus five, four, three, two, X minus one... Fire!

    [Rocket launch SFX]

    From the far horizons of the unknown come transcribed tales of new dimensions in time and space. These are stories of the future; adventures in which you'll live in a million could-be years on a thousand may-be worlds.

    The National Broadcasting Company, in cooperation with Street and Smith, publishers of Astounding Science Fiction, presents... X --- Minus --- One.

    I especially recommend Pohl’s "Tunnel Under the World," from March 14, 1956. Though he will be missed, his gifts will continue to enrich us 'til the end of time.

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