All posts by Jonathan Strahan

Frederik Pohl

Frederik Pohl has died. If you’re reading this and wonder why this is important, there’s a clue or two here. Pohl started publishing in 1937, attended the first Worldcon in 1939, and was part of pretty much everything interesting in science fiction for the next 60 years.

As a writer he co-wrote some of the best satire the field has seen with C.M. Kornbluth, and one of the greatest space adventures too. His fiction was sharp and smart and dark and sometimes sly.  There’s a taste of what he could do in his short fiction. He was also an incredible editor, editing Galaxy and If magazines, the influential Star anthology series and novels like Samuel R. Delany’s Dhalgren and Joanna Russ’s The Female Man. He  was instrumental in publishing Cordwainer Smith, R.A. Lafferty and many others. Pohl was an influential literary agent, a Hugo Award winning blogger, and even wrote for the Encyclopedia Brittanica back when that really meant something.

I had a chance to talk to Pohl once. I was at the launch for Scot Edelman’s SF Age at the 1993 WorldCon in San Francisco. The event was held in a large room with big circular ottomans that people were sitting on.  I was sitting on one with Jeremy Byrne, when I noticed an elderly couple sitting on the other side of the ottoman (about six or eight feet away). It was Pohl. I was so overcome I couldn’t say anything. I remember whispering in an awed voice to Jeremy “that’s Fred Pohl!”. I couldn’t imagine actually talking to him. I wish I had, because then I could have thanked him for the many hours of pleasure his work gave me, how much I’d loved The Space Merchants and Gateway and Man Plus and The Years of the City. It’s a mistake I won’t make again.

My old friend Charles Brown said the thing that made Fred Pohl so impressive was that he constantly interested in and engaged by the world. He travelled extensively, often with Charles, and that was reflected in his work. With his passing, I think the first great Golden Age of Science Fiction has finally ended. Vale.

Subterranean shines with new issue

Subterranean Magazine
Subterranean Magazine

There are many reasons that I love Bill Schafer and Subterranean Press.  As a book lover, I appreciate the well curated, sharply designed and beautifully produced books that they produce. As an editor who has worked with the press, I am staggered by their professionalism and generosity. Everything is done right, and if there’s a minor issue it’s resolved quickly and easily. And as a reader, I love what they choose to publish. Whether it’s Lucius Shepard’s The Dragon Graiule or the eight volumes of The Collected Stories of Robert Silverberg or their recent gorgeous Harlan Ellison reprints – they’re all essential.

And then there’s the magazine. I’ve guest edited an issue of Subterranean Magazine and appreciate the quality and variety of work featured by Bill in the magazine, as well as his excellent taste and careful curatorship.  The twenty eight issues published to date include some of the best short fiction published anywhere over the past five years. His support of K.J. Parker’s short fiction alone makes it essential reading.

The latest issue has just been published and it features:

A major new novella by Lewis Shiner and a terrific novelette by Ted Chiang make it a stand out. I recommend the issue heartily and suggest you take a moment to let Bill and the gang know how much you appreciate what they do. I will be.

Admitting defeat

Last night I received an email from my good friend Ian Mond suggesting that it might be time to wind up the Last Short Story podcast. We’d started it, along with our Not if You Were the Last Short Story on Earth colleagues, last October in a fit of energy and enthusiasm. We would, we thought, do a monthly podcast devoted to discussing just a single new collected work of short fiction.

It seemed like a good idea. It seemed like a great idea. But there was an underlying truth behind it: we were doing it because we were struggling to keep up with all of the short fiction coming out and many of us were tired and some just wanted to read a novel or two.

We produced a six or seven episodes, and then began to run out of steam. Ian’s email just stated what we all knew and, once he’d said it, we all knew it was time. My sincere thanks to Ian, Tansy, Alex, Tehani, Alisa, and everyone else. It was fun to do, but we’ve closed the podcast. It’s now offline, though we may look for some kind of repository for the episodes in future.

Successful, but challenging…

There are times when it’s difficult to reconcile the differences between various aspects of your life.  So far this year has been successful, but challenging. Since returning from World Fantasy in Toronto I have sold four new anthologies, including finding a wonderful new home for my ‘best of the year’s series, been commissioned to edit a special issue of a magazine I love and respect, worked with my colleagues and dear friends at Locus on eight issues of the magazine, recorded 26 episodes of the Coode St Podcast with my partner-in-crime Gary K. Wolfe and several episodes of the Last Short Story podcast, had Gardner Dozois call two of my books the best science fiction and the best fantasy anthologies of the year, attended a terrific convention in Canberra, been incredibly fortunate to have two of my books win the Locus and Aurealis Awards, and been nominated for the Hugo and World Fantasy Awards. I also saw Bruce Springsteen live in Sydney, a fine Elvis Costello show, a good Rickie Lee Jones show, and half of a You Am I gig that I was happy to see. With a little luck I’ll see more. And, of course, Miss 11 got into the Gifted and Talented Program, which made me almost insanely proud.

But, at the same time things have been difficult and challenging for me at my day job. Nothing seriously wrong, and I am very fortunate to work with a great group (from my director to my manager to my immediate colleagues), but it’s not been much fun. I’ve also had a string of minor health problems, starting with what looks to have been a nasty ear infection that has left me with slightly damaged hearing and permanent tinnitus (and caused me to miss a best friend’s wedding), a blurry right eye caused by the collapse of the collagen layer at the back of my eye (something that can happen when you get older and are very short-sighted apparently), and a sore neck. They’ve all slowed me down, and worn away at me. As have some unnecessary and unfortunate complications to do with my editing.

Some or all of this will come right, and there are good things ahead. Today Springsteen tickets go on sale.  Seeing him next February will be huge. I am going to London and Brighton in October, which I think will be fantastic (even though getting ready for it feels like a slog), and there are family birthdays and celebrations.  The family is going away for Christmas, which should be terrific. And in January I’ll be turning fifty, which I’m definitely not looking forward to: lots of talk of parties and celebrations, but I feel mixed and unsure about it and may prefer just to let the day go past unnoticed. Who knows?

Either way, it’s been a time of feeling tired, stressed and worn out. That said, while I’m perfectly willing to whinge a bit on my blog, I look at the challenges facing others and know how comparatively lucky I am.