Frederik Pohl, 1919-2013

We’ve lost another giant—maybe the last of his generation of Golden Age science fiction. Frederik Pohl, along with Clarke, Heinlein, and Asimov, occupied a central position in my formative years as a lover of science fiction. More than any of the others, he kept growing in maturity and ambition as a writer—showing a burst of enormous creativity in his late 50s, with two of his finest books, Man Plus (1976) and Gateway (1977). I consider Gateway one of the top five books in all of science fiction, and I’m not sure what the other four would be.

I first encountered his work, I believe, in The Space Merchants, which he coauthored in 1953 with C.M. Kornbluth. (I didn’t read it in 1953; I was only four years old at the time. I started reading him in my teens.) I still have many old paperbacks of his earlier work on my shelf. Just scanning a list of his titles evokes all kinds of feelings of golden-age sense of wonder: Search the Sky, Gladiator-At-Law, Drunkard’s Walk (which I was especially fond of as a teenager because of the tastefully drawn naked woman on the cover), Starchild, Rogue Star, Turn Left at Thursday, Starburst, The Siege of Eternity, The Case Against Tomorrow….

And yes, the title of my own work in progress, The Reefs of Time, is a knowing echo of his The Reefs of Space.

Pohl did just about everything there was to do in the SF world. He was an editor (Galaxy magazine), an agent, a solo writer, a collaborative writer, a futurist, a columnist and blogger, a president of the Science Fiction Writers of America, and a SFWA Grandmaster. He was also a perfect gentleman, and a fascinating speaker. I only met him once or twice, but he treated me, a fresh upstart, with graciousness and warmth.

You can read more about his life and work at the New York Times and the Guardian.

I hope he’s enjoying a perfect view of the stars from where he is right now, perhaps sitting around a table with some of the other departed greats, in the observation lounge of a heavenly starship. Godspeed, Frederik Pohl, and thank you for all of the visions.

Starships! — Best Music Video Since Large Hadron Rap*

I love this celebration of over 50 years of starships and their pilots, by bironic, to the tune of Starships Were Meant to Fly, by Nicki Minaj. For better viewing, pop it up to full screen and wear headphones. For best viewing, download it, copy to a USB thumb drive, and play it on a widescreen TV from your Blu-ray player. You’ll be glad you did. It encapsulates a lifetime of vividly realized star travel, from Forbidden Planet all the way up to the Star Trek reboot. See how many scenes you can recognize. I got most of them, but a few were from shows that escaped me.


Starships! from bironic on Vimeo.

My daughter Julia put me onto this one. I’d never find this sort of thing on my own. Lucky thing I’ve got her to keep me current.

(Here’s the rather different music video apparently created by the singer. I like the one above better.)

Starships rock!

*If you missed the Large Hadron Rap, check it out, too.

Help the Launchpad Astronomy Workshop

Speaking of great causes, if you like science fiction that actually gets the science right, there’s nothing better than the annual Launchpad Astronomy Workshop, which since 2007 has been training writers in the basics, as well as some of the finer points, of astronomy. In the early years, when I attended, Launchpad was paid for by grants from NASA and NSF. Now, funding is scarce, and the workshop needs a helping hand from people who care. Science fiction, after all, provides inspiration for future generations of scientists, as well writers, artists, and readers of all kinds. 

If you’d like to help, there’s just one more day left to make a donation to the crowd-funding of this important program. There are all kinds of free books available to reward donations—all donated by author or publisher-alums of the program (like me!) Check out the donations page and get a free book while helping a great cause!

Pen-Ultimate Anthology!

A bunch of my workshop graduates have gotten together to do a very cool thing. They’ve published an anthology of some of their best short stories—and on top of that, all the earnings are going straight to a great cause: the SFWA Emergency Medical Fund.

Here’s how it happened:

The Earth formed, and the rocks cooled. Shortly afterward, Craig Gardner and I got started in our writing careers. Fast forward to a few years ago, when we ran a series of workshops called the Ultimate SF Writing Workshop. A bunch of talented new writers attended, and we all became friends, and many of them are now becoming established as published writers in their own right. We stay in touch through an online group, and get together at local conventions. At last year’s Readercon, one of them—I think it was Lisa (LJ) Cohen—said over dinner with the group, “Why don’t we get together and publish a collection of our best stories?” The crowd rumbled approval, and with that, the project was born.

Pen-Ultimate: A Speculative Fiction Anthology has just been published, a year later. The workshoppers (my workshoppers!) did all the writing, selecting, editing, cover art, book design, and ebook formatting. Craig and I wrote the intro and outro, but other than that, it’s all the work of these fine new writers.

Check it out!  The stories are great, and it’s only $2.99 in ebook. It’s also available in print for $8.50. Every penny earned is going to a medical fund that helps SF/F writers who have fallen on hard times medically and financially. What could be a better cause than that? 

I feel like a proud father, all over again!


Here’s where you can get it:

Paperback:
Amazon
CreateSpace

Ebook:
Amazon
Smashwords

Coming:
Barnes and Noble
Apple
Kobo

Is Some Club Reading My Book?

Most days I sell between zero and a few ebooks total in the Barnes and Noble Nook store, a steady drip-drip-drip of sales. (I do better, thankfully, in the Kindle store, and even better for some reason in the Kindle UK store. Still, even there, sales have lagged in the last month or so.) But the other day, there was an abrupt spike in the Nook store: 19 sales for the day, almost all of which were The Chaos Chronicles, Books 1-3. The next day was less, but still better than usual. What’s up with that? I wondered, marveling happily. (I should note that, for many writers, these numbers would be reason for scowling, not smiling. But I was smiling.)

I still wonder what was behind it, but my best guess is that some reading club has decided to try my Chaos books, and they all ordered from the Nook store and not the Kindle store or Book View Cafe (and I wouldn’t know about the Apple/Sony/Kobo stores, because reporting is slow there). Is this true? Does somebody know? Or is it just one of those unexplainable synchronicity things?

Everyone* in my vast organization wants to know. And we hope that all the rest of you will follow suit, or encourage someone else to.

*My wife, and me.

Star Trek Fun

This came to my attention from SyFy’s Blastr site.

A new car ad from Audi features dueling Spock actors. Zachary Quinto (new Spock) challenges Leonard Nimoy (old Spock) to a little competition in “The Challenge”:

The Audi-o is a little low, so you might have to turn up the volume.

Hugh Howey on Self Publishing

By now, most people interested in books and publishing have heard of Hugh Howey, a self-published SF writer whose eighth (I think) book Wool hit gold and became a runaway bestseller in ebook. It made a millionaire of the author, and led in the course of time to an extraordinary print contract with a major New York publisher, in which the publisher offered a large six-figure advance for print rights only, allowing the author to continue to mine his own ebook rights to the tune of six figures monthly.

Wool cover
[Deep breath, and expel the envy. All together, now…]

Anyway, Hugh Howey writes on Salon.com about his views of traditional versus self-publishing. It’s pretty interesting, although I don’t necessarily agree with everything he says. (For one thing, he doesn’t mention the role that traditional publishers play in helping writers, especially new writers, improve their craft and produce better books. Some say that that role is diminishing these days, but I think it really depends on the publisher and the editor.) Still, it’s hard to argue with Howey’s success.

I write this as I’m taking a break from working on my taxes, wherein I discover that I sort of seriously underestimated the effect my own improved ebook sales would have on my tax bottom line. Ow. I’m not remotely in the same universe as Howey, sales-wise. Nevertheless, last year was one of the best years I’ve  had in my modest career in terms of book income, and it was all from my backlist. The paradigms, they are a-shiftin’.

More Live Audiobooks!

Once again, I was surprised to discover that more of my books are up on Audible.com!  Five Star Rigger books were released in February. That’s Panglor, Dragons in the Stars, Dragon Rigger, Star Rigger’s Way, and Seas of Ernathe—all of the Star Rigger books except Eternity’s End.

You can see the lot of them on my author page, or go straight to the individual titles.  I’m still working with the Audible people to get the descriptions corrected (Panglor has the wrong plot description altogether), and not all of the sample buttons are working. But the books are all available. They’re also for sale in the iTunes store.

The titles that went up in October are all listed now as being enabled for “Whispersync for voice,” which means if you have a Kindle edition you can switch back and forth between reading the ebook and listening to the audiobook without losing your place.

Panglor audiobook

Dragons in the Stars audiobook

Dragon Rigger audiobook

Star Rigger’s Way audiobook

Seas of Ernathe audiobook
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