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The SFWA Grand Masters, Volume 1
Frederik Pohl
Tor Books, 384 pages

The SFWA Grandmasters, Volume 1
Frederik Pohl
Frederik Pohl was born in 1919 in New York City. His first novel was The Space Merchants (with C.M. Kornbluth) serialized in Galaxy magazine (1952) and his first solo novel was Drunkard's Walk, a Galaxy serial in 1960. He has won Hugo Awards as an editor (1966, 1967 and 1968), as a short story writer for "The Meeting" (with C.M. Kornbluth) in 1973 and in 1986 for "Fermi and Frost," and as a novelist for Gateway in 1978. He won Nebula Awards for Man Plus in 1976 and Gateway in 1977. As well, he has served as President of SFWA during 1974-76 and World SF for 1980-82.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: O Pioneer!
SF Site Review: The Siege of Eternity
Gateway (Frederik Pohl's) - Game Download
Man Plus Review
Notes on Frederik Pohl

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Ken Newquist

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In a genre that's committed to thinking about tomorrow, sometimes it's easy to forget about yesterday.

The new SFWA Grandmasters series remembers the good old days with the first of three anthologies dedicated to the reigning champions of the science fiction genre. The book contains short stories from the first five of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association's 15 grandmasters: Robert A. Heinlein, Jack Williamson, Clifford D. Simak, Fritz Leiber and L. Sprague de Camp.

Reading the stories in this book is like visiting childhood friends whom you've never quite forgotten. These are stories from the dawn of science fiction's Golden Age, when authors were first beginning to shrug off the handicap of space opera, and were beginning to tackle serious science fiction.

The anthology is respectfully edited by Frederik Pohl, who is a grandmaster in his own right. As he states in his introduction, he's had the pleasure of working with many of the authors featured in the first book. His respect and admiration of these individuals comes through in his introductions to each section.

Many of these stories first appeared in the major pulp magazines of the 30s and 40s, and it's a testament to the authors' abilities -- and those of their editors -- that the stories have held up so well over time.

Heinlein's "Year of the Jackpot" does particularly well. A statistician records ever escalating patterns of strangeness and realizes that a catastrophic adjustment is about to occur. The story works just as well in our present as it did in Heinlein's.

Fritz Leiber's "Sanity" -- about the last sane man in the world and his plan for dealing with the lunatics around him -- is timeless, as is Jack Williamson's "With Folded Hands." In that story, robots arrive on Earth with orders to keep humanity from hurting itself. Humanity welcomes them with open arms... until they realize that the robots will keep them from doing anything remotely dangerous including driving, cooking and even needlepoint.

Some stories do show their age. Heinlein's great futuristic highways -- in which the roads move, but the people don't -- seems a little overly optimistic now. The days of having atomic bombs on the moon (Heinlein again, this time in "The Long Watch") are less of a threat.

Our present may have caught up with and -- in some cases surpassed -- the futures featured in these stories; this doesn't make them any less compelling. The book represents an excellent opportunity for younger readers to learn about science fiction's origins while giving older ones a chance to reminisce with old friends.

Copyright © 1999 Ken Newquist

Kenneth Newquist is a confessed science fiction/fantasy addict living in Easton, Pennsylvania, and working as a webmaster at a small university in New Jersey. He's regular contributor to Science Fiction Weekly and is the editor of the speculative fiction webzine Nuketown.


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