Back in April 2011, I wrote a post for SF Signal called “The Last Veterans of the Golden Age” in which I listed those people that I could think of–with some help–who were still alive at the time of the writing. Among the people still around back in April 2011 were Frederik Pohl, Ray Bradbury, and James Gunn, all three of whom are Grand Masters of science fiction.
We lost Ray Bradbury last year, and yesterday, we lost Frederik Pohl. I was in the airport in San Antonio when I saw the news on Twitter, reported by his granddaughter, and despite his age and his engagement with the online community, it still came as a shock. And coming at the tail end of the World Science Fiction Convention, it made the convention bitter-sweet.
Fred wrote fiction and nonfiction, edited, acted as an agent (Isaac Asimov’s first agent!) and was involved with science fiction fandom throughout his entire life. His stories like “Day Million” and his novels like Gateway and The Space Merchants (the latter with Cyril M. Kornbluth) are classics of the genre. He wrote nonfiction as well, was an astute politician and advocate. I wish I could have met him in life.
I did get to meet Ray Bradbury and this weekend, I finally got to meet James Gunn, and thank him in person for the online workshop he ran in 2008, which turned things around for me. After that workshop, I started selling stories more frequently and to the bigger markets, like Analog.
Fred’s passing leaves us with only the most tenuous connections to the Golden Age of science fiction. David Kyle is still around, as far as I know. Katherine MacLean is still around, and she published late in the Golden Age. But these connections with the past are increasingly tenuous and won’t be around much longer. Science fiction is going through another kind of golden age of short fiction, but it makes it bitter-sweet to live in a time when we are experiencing such a wonderful golden age, while losing the last of our connections to the first.
My thoughts and condolences go out to Fred’s family, his friends, his fans, and all of science fiction. Fred lived a long life, but his passing is nonetheless a big loss for everyone.
You have to wonder how the current era of SF will be nostalgically referred to after 50 years, now that we’re living in what turned out to be a seriously alternate version of the Golden Age’s future.
Neal, given everything that is going on right now, and assuming it is ultimately successful, it could be this will be looked back on as the struggle for the genres great cultural and gender-awareness awakening. Possibly the beginning of a new, very different, but equally positive golden age.