Wolfbane was one of the earliest SF novels I read, and at the time it certainly seemed the creepiest! In contrasts, some of his other works with Cyril Kornbluth, such as Gladiator at Law, though fun adventures, also helped spur my lifelong habit of doubting all ends of the silly, nonsensical, so-called “left-right political axis.” Provoking people to rethink their own assumptions—now that’s writing.
One nearly forgotten Pohl book ought to tower high on any shrine of modern techno-visionary prophecy. The Age of the Pussyfoot was one of the only science fiction stories of the fifties through seventies that envisioned computers becoming common household tools, owned and used, avidly, by nearly everybody. In fact, to my knowledge it is just about the only work of prophetic fiction to foresee citizens carrying about portable, computerized assistants that would fulfill all the functions we now see gathering together in our futuristic cell phones. And you can bet I salivate for the even-better versions he foresaw. Pohl’s “joymaker” device is as marvelous an on-target prediction as Jules Verne predicting submarines or trips to the Moon.
In The Cool War, Frederik Pohl showed a chillingly plausible failure mode for human civilization, one in which our nations and factions do not dare to wage open conflict, and so they settle upon tit-for-tat patterns of reciprocal sabotage, ruining each other’s infrastructures and economies, propelling our shared planet on a gradual death-spiral of lowered expectations degraded hopes. It is a cautionary tale that I cite often, today, as recommended reading for those at the top of our social order.
David Brin can be found online at davidbrin.com
- What’s your Favorite Frederik Pohl novel?
- Jody Lynn Nye: Starburst
- Mike Resnick: The Way the Future Was
- Harry Harrison: The Space Merchants
- Vernor Vinge: Slave Ship
- Joe Haldeman: Wolfbane and The Space Merchants
- Neil Gaiman: The Age of the Pussyfoot
- Cory Doctorow: The Space Merchants
- James E. Gunn: Gateway and The Space Merchants
- Gregory Benford & Elisabeth Malatre: Man Plus
- Larry Niven: The Age of the Pussyfoot
- Ben Bova: The Space Merchants
- Phyllis Eisenstein: The Space Merchants