R.I.P. Frederik Pohl


Frederik Pohl, one of the great science fiction authors and editors of the late 20th century, died Monday, his family announced on his website. He was 93.

Pohl was known as a dark humorist and satirist in novels such as “The Space Merchants” (1953) and “Gladiator-at-Law” (1955), both written with frequent collaborator C.M. Kornbluth, and the short story “The Gold at Starbow’s End” (1972).

His long career included writing novels and short stories, editing, and being a literary agent for science fiction writers. He won three Hugo awards, was named a grand master of the Science Fiction Writers of America in 1992 and was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 1998.


Born Nov. 26, 1919, in New York City, Pohl was an early science fiction fan who served as editor of “Astonishing Stories” and “Super Science Stories” in 1939-43; in the 1970s, he edited the magazines “Galaxy” and “If.”

He fought in Italy during World War II; upon his return he was a literary agent until the 1950s, when he began publishing his own writing.

“Pohl’s characters are people on the edge -- of society, of their world, of disaster, of time -- people shoved to the margins who then volunteer for the arena,” James Sallis wrote in the Los Angeles Times in 2006. “His stories are well-crafted machines that do precisely -- with no waste of motion, and indeed with something very like elegance -- just what they were built for.”

1977’s “Gateway” was one of Pohl’s many books that explored human space exploration after overpopulation and the depletion of Earth’s resources; the Times called it an “adventurous, extrapolative, and insightful novel.”

As far back as the 1950s, Pohl edited science fiction anthologies, something he continued to do throughout his life to bring attention to other writers’ work. He published a memoir, “The Way the Future Was,” in the late 1970s, and continued the story in the 21st century online with The Way the Future Blogs.

We will miss Pohl, both for championing great works of science fiction and for writing some of the best works of the 20th century,” wrote Annallee Newitz, editor of i09, the science fiction website. “His career is a reminder that sometimes the greatest contributions to the genre came from collaboration and community-building, as well as the solitary work that’s done at the keyboard.”


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