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What’s your Favorite Frederik Pohl novel, Phyllis (and Alex) Eisenstein?

Poster Placeholder of - 17It’s truly hard to select among Fred’s books; so many of them are excellent. To be honest, Alex and I both like The Space Merchants best, though it isn’t 100% Fred’s. But for me, runners up to that, would be The Coming of the Quantum Cats and Narabedla Limited—both of which are crazy and innovative and have enormous charm and could not be more different from each other. Fred is wonderfully versatile. And The Age of the Pussyfoot also stands out in my memory, as do Gateway and Man Plus.

And above all of that, Alex and I both think Fred’s short story “The Tunnel Under the World” is one of the best SF short stories ever written. Who could forget Feckle Freezers? And of course when we saw “Groundhog Day” the comparison was automatic, except that Fred’s story has a much more chilling (and gratifying for the SF lover) ending. And then there’s “The Man Who Ate the World,” which gives a whole new dimension to teddy bears. At long lengths and short ones, Fred always delivers the sense of wonder that science fiction lovers read the stuff for.

Phyllis Eisenstein can be found online at x.bl.com/eisenstein

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All the Lives He Led (978-0-7653-2176-3 / $25.99) by Frederik Pohl will be available from Tor Books on April 12, 2011.

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What’s your Favorite Frederik Pohl novel, Ben Bova?

Place holder  of - 30I like The Space Merchants best of all. To me, it epitomizes science fiction at its best: a fascinating premise, intricate interlacing of the futuristic aspects with the characterizations, and sharp writing.

Ben Bova can be found online at benbova.net

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All the Lives He Led (978-0-7653-2176-3 / $25.99) by Frederik Pohl will be available from Tor Books on April 12, 2011.

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What’s your Favorite Frederik Pohl novel, Larry Niven?

What’s your Favorite Frederik Pohl novel, Larry Niven?

Placeholder of  -24My favorite Fred Pohl novel? The Age of the Pussyfoot.  He broke a rule: he didn’t predict one future trend, but many.  And his “joystick” resembled several current devices, iPad and such. It felt like a real future.

Larry Niven can be found online at larryniven.net

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All the Lives He Led (978-0-7653-2176-3 / $25.99) by Frederik Pohl will be available from Tor Books on April 12, 2011.

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What’s your Favorite Frederik Pohl novel, Gregory Benford & Elisabeth Malartre?

Image Placeholder of - 28Hands down, Man Plus remains the most insightful portrait of outfitting a human for the harsh plains of Mars. Savor this:

Suppose one takes a standard human frame and alters some of the optional equipment.  There’s nothing to breathe on Mars.  So take the lungs out of the human frame, replace them with micro-miniaturized oxygen regeneration cat-cracking systems.  One needs power for that, but power flows down from the distant sun.

The blood in the human frame would boil; all right, eliminate the blood, at least from the extremities and the surface areas—build arms and legs that are served by motors instead of muscles—and reserve the blood supply only for the warm, protected brain.

A normal human body needs food, but if the major musculature is replaced by machines, the food requirement drops.  It is only the brain that must be fed every minute of every day….

Water?  It is no longer necessary, except for engineering losses—like adding hydraulic fluid to a car’s braking system every few thousand miles.  Once the body has become a closed system, no water needs to be flushed through it in the cycle of drink, circulate, excrete, or perspire.

Radiation?  A two-edged problem.  At unpredictable times there are solar flares; and then even on Mars there is too much of it for health; the body must therefore be clothed with an artificial skin. The rest of the time there is only the normal visible and ultraviolet light from the sun.  It is not enough to maintain heat, and not quite enough even for good vision; so more surface must be provided to gather energy—hence the great bat-eared receptors on the cyborg—and, to make vision as good as it can be made, the eyes are replaced with mechanical structures.

This is a thorough transformation, no mere augmentation. Yet in Pohl’s rigorous prose it seems possible. Here’s the hero, an extensively modified cyborg with augmented eyesight. A nurse brings a bouquet of roses to his room soon after his new eyes are hooked up:

”Roger sat up and began again his investigation of the world around him.  He studied the roses appraisingly.  The great faceted eyes took in nearly an extra octave of radiation, which meant half a dozen colors Roger had never seen before from IR to UV; but he had no names for them, and the rainbow spectrum he had known all his life had extended itself to cover them all.  But it was not quite true even to say that it seemed to be red; it was only a different quality of light that had associations of warmth and well-being.”

This is the best novel to treat a big question: Will we venture out into the dangers of the galaxy as allies and competitors of our own machines?

Gregory Benford can be found online at gregorybenford.com.

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All the Lives He Led (978-0-7653-2176-3 / $25.99) by Frederik Pohl will be available from Tor Books on April 12, 2011.

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What’s your Favorite Frederik Pohl novel, James E. Gunn?

Place holder  of - 64Image Place holder  of - 25My choices probably are pretty standard (although maybe I’ll be surprised by the final list): Gateway and The Space Merchants.  Fred’s fiction is always an occasion, for those flashes of insight into the human condition as well as his great storytelling abilities and his skillful prose, I don’t think Fred (and Cyril) ever did better in Fred’s satire mode than his first, but Gateway is Fred at the peak of his mature powers and focusing on a more difficult target, the human heart rather than human folly.  By the time Fred was able to write Gateway he had recognized that his skills at skewering human folly were a trap and he had moved on (at least most of the time).  I’m looking forward to his new one.

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All the Lives He Led (978-0-7653-2176-3 / $25.99) by Frederik Pohl will be available from Tor Books on April 12, 2011.

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What’s your Favorite Frederik Pohl novel, David Brin?

Place holder  of - 31 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

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All the Lives He Led (978-0-7653-2176-3 / $25.99) by Frederik Pohl will be available from Tor Books on April 12, 2011.

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What’s your Favorite Frederik Pohl novel, Cory Doctorow?

Poster Placeholder of - 99The Space Merchants was a book my father and I could both agree on—he from his anti-capitalist background and me from the PoV of speculative fiction. The image of Chicken Little has stuck with me ever since, and it resonates anew every time someone reveals a fresh horror from big agribusiness. Likewise, I am reminded of it again and again every time some jackass comes up with a newer, more intrusive form of web advertising.

Cory Doctorow can be found online at craphound.com and boingboing.net

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All the Lives He Led (978-0-7653-2176-3 / $25.99) by Frederik Pohl will be available from Tor Books on April 12, 2011.

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What’s your Favorite Frederik Pohl novel, Neil Gaiman?

Image Placeholder of - 85I’ve never been able to get The Age of the Pussyfoot out of my head.

It’s not just that it felt like a future, but that every step we take into the future, as our phones become our iPods become our secretaries become our friends become our credit cards, the Joymaker sits in the back of my head. That’s where we’re going.

Neil Gaiman can be found online at neilgaiman.com

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All the Lives He Led (978-0-7653-2176-3 / $25.99) by Frederik Pohl will be available from Tor Books on April 12, 2011.

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What’s your Favorite Frederik Pohl novel, Joe Haldeman?

Image Placeholder of - 11Poster Placeholder of - 23As impressive as Fred’s later work is, the two that made the biggest impression on me were novels I read when I was still in high school—Wolfbane and The Space Merchants.  I suppose most of the sf I’d read before that was pretty much hooray-for-the-future optimism.  Fred’s darker vision (along with Kornbluth’s) woke up something new and frighteningly adult in me.

Joe Haldeman can be found online at home.earthlink.net/~haldeman/

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All the Lives He Led (978-0-7653-2176-3 / $25.99) by Frederik Pohl will be available from Tor Books on April 12, 2011.

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What’s your Favorite Frederik Pohl novel, Vernor Vinge

Image Place holder  of - 55Slave Ship is my favorite of Fred Pohl’s solo novels.  It’s a book with humor and realism and a near future that feels right even if it didn’t turn out that way. This last is important since as a genre, science-fiction doesn’t predict the future—and yet the best of it has staying power.

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All the Lives He Led (978-0-7653-2176-3 / $25.99) by Frederik Pohl will be available from Tor Books on April 12, 2011.

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Related Links:

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