Frederik Pohl

American science fiction writer and editor (1919-2013)

Frederik George Pohl, Jr. (November 26, 1919September 2, 2013) was an award-winning science fiction writer and editor, with a career spanning over seventy-five years.

And you know, most people's fantasies are pretty sad

Quotes edit

  • Most of us rather hastily and thoughtlessly regard “science” as a sort of collection of linear accelerators and space vehicles and organic chemistry models. In fact it is not any of these things; it is only a systematic method of gathering and testing knowledge, involving certain formal procedures: gathering information, forming a theory to explain the information, predicting certain consequences of the theory and performing an experiment to test the prediction. If you investigate any area of knowledge (whether it is stellar physics or the number of angels who can dance on the head of a pin) by this method, you are doing science. If you use any other method, you are doing something else.
  • Advertising reaches out to touch the fantasy part of people's lives. And you know, most people's fantasies are pretty sad.
    • The Way The Future Was, (autobiography, 1978)
  • Anyway, that's what life is, just one learning experience after another, and when you're through with all the learning experiences you graduate and what you get for a diploma is, you die.
  • When you spend weeks on end close to another person, so close that you know every hiccough, every smell and every scratch on the skin, you either come out of it hating each other or so deep in each other's gut that you can't find a way out. Klara and I were both. Our little love affair had turned into a Siamese-twin relationship. There wasn't any romance in it. There wasn't room enough between us for romance to occur. And yet I knew every inch of Klara, every pore, and every thought, far better than I'd known my own mother. And in the same way: from the womb out. I was surrounded by Klara.
  • When my mother died and left me it hurt, but I was poor and confused and used to hurting. When the love of my life, or at any rate the woman who seemed to come to be the love of my life after she was safely gone, also left me — without quite dying, because she was stuck in some awful astrophysical anomaly and far out of reach forever — that also hurt. But I was hurting all over anyway then. I wasn't used to happiness, hadn't formed the habit of it. There is a Carot's law to pain. It is measured not by absolutes, but the difference between source and ambience, and my ambience had been too safe and too pleasurable for too long to equip me for this. I was in shock.

The Space Merchants (1953) edit

Co-written with Cyril M. Kornbluth
All page numbers from the 1978 Del Rey mass market paperback edition, 11th printing, ISBN 0-345-27682-5
  • Our representative government now is perhaps more representative than it has ever been before in history. It is not necessarily representative per capita, but it most surely is ad valorem. If you like philosophical problems. Here is one for you: should each human being’s vote register alike, as the lawbooks pretend and as some say the founders of our nation desired? Or should a vote be weighted according to the wisdom, the power, and the influence—that is, the money—of the voter?
    • Chapter 2 (p. 15)
  • That’s power, Mitch, absolute power. And you know the old saying. Power ennobles. Absolute power ennobles absolutely.
    • Chapter 4 (p. 44)
  • ‘Thou still unravish’d bride of quietness,
    Thou foster-child of Silence and slow Time—’

    That’s the sort of thing she would have written before the rise of advertising. The correlation is perfectly clear. Advertising up, lyric poetry down.
    • Chapter 4 (p. 48)
  • It was an appeal to reason, and they’re always dangerous. You can’t trust reason. We threw it out of the ad profession long ago and have never missed it.
    • Chapter 8 (p. 103)
  • Anybody who sets out to turn the world upside down has no right to complain if he gets caught in its gears.
    • Chapter 8 (p. 105)
  • Increase of population was always good news to us. More people, more sales. Decrease of IQ was always good news to us. Less brains, more sales.
    • Chapter 9 (p. 111)
  • He drew himself up and said with dignity: “We administer justice, Mr. Courtenay. And an ancient, basic tenet of justice is: ‘Better that one thousand innocents suffer unjustly than one guilty person be permitted to escape.’”
    • Chapter 16 (p. 186)

Drunkard's Walk (1960) edit

All page numbers from the mass market paperback first edition, published by Ballantine Books (Catalogue number 439K)
All italics and ellipses as in the book
  • He wasn’t very confident of analysis as a solution to his problem; despite three centuries, the technique of mental health had never evolved a rigorous proof system, and Cornut was innately skeptical of whatever was not susceptible of mathematical analysis.
    • Chapter 2 (p. 14)
  • What helped most of all was the utter joy Cornut took in it all. It was, after all, his life. As he led the class, he felt again the wonder he himself had felt, sitting in a class like this one. He hardly heard the buzz from the class as he put his pointer down to gesture, and blindly picked it up again, still talking. Teaching mathematics was a kind of hypnosis for him, an intense, gut-wrenching absorption that had gripped him from the time of his first math class.
    • Chapter 3 (p. 25)
  • It was a wonder that so strange thing as a number should exist in the first place, rivalled only by the greater wonder that they should perform so obediently the work of mankind.
    • Chapter 3 (p. 25)
  • It is not true that girls are made of sugar and spice. These mysterious creatures, enameled of complexion, faintly scented with distant flower-fields and musk, constricted here and enlarged there – they are animals, as men are animals, sustained by the same sludgy trickle of partly fermented organic matter; and indeed with a host of earthy problems men need never know, the oestral flow, the burgeoning cells that replenish the race. Womanhood has always been a triumph of artifice over the animal within.
    • Chapter 6 (p. 51)
  • A hundred and twenty million cases of the most deadly, most contagious…and least excusable…disease in medicine. For smallpox can infallibly be prevented, and only a world which had forgotten Jenner could have been taken by it unaware…or a world in which the memory of Jenner’s centuries-old prophylaxis had been systematically removed.
    • Chapter 15 (p. 119)

Man Plus (1976) edit

Winner of the 1977 Nebula Award; nominated for the 1977 Hugo Award and the 1977 John W. Campbell Memorial Award
All page numbers from the April 1980 Bantam Books mass market paperback edition, 4th printing, ISBN 0-553-14031-0
  • All of them had been so tested and retested that they had acquired considerable skill in answering test questions the way the examiners wanted them answered.
    • Chapter 4, “Group of Probable Pallbearers” (p. 41)
  • Think of a frog as a functional machine designed to produce baby frogs. This is the Darwinian view, and is really what evolution is all about. In order to succeed, the frog has to stay alive long enough to grow up and get pregnant or get some female frog pregnant. That means it has to do two things. It has to eat. And it has to avoid being eaten.
    • Chapter 5, “Monster Becoming Mortal Again” (p. 50)
  • Even money, thought Roger on the way back to his own office, is not a bad bet. Of course, it depends on the stakes.
    • Chapter 6, “Mortal in Mortal Fear” (p. 74)
  • I don’t think you know what it’s like to have someone head over heels in love with you. What’s the good of a man who’s upside down?
    • Chapter 7, “Mortal Becoming Monster” (p. 81)
  • She described herself as happy. This diagnosis did not come from any welling up of joy inside herself. It came from the observed fact, looking at herself objectively, that whenever she decided she wanted something she always got it, and what other definition of happiness could there be?
    • Chapter 11, “Dorothy Louise Mintz Torraway as Penelope” (p. 146)
  • Don Kayman was too good a scientist to confuse his hopes with observations. He would report what he found. But he knew what he wanted to find.
    • Chapter 14, “Missionary to Mars” (p. 190)

Platinum Pohl (2005) edit

Original publication of each story is given at the collection’s Wikipedia page linked above
  • She laughed out loud. It was a very nice laugh. No girl looks beautiful when she’s laughing hard, and girls who worry about looking beautiful don’t do it. Dorotha Keefer looked like a healthy, pretty girl having a good time, which when you come down to it is about the best way for a girl to look.
  • Specialization is the goal of civilization.
    • My Lady Green Sleeves (p. 88)
  • Is there any of me, or of any of us, that isn’t just consequence?
    I think, and I’ve thought it over a lot, that everything that ever happened keeps on happening, extending tendrils of itself endlessly into the moving present tense of time, porducing its echoes, and explosions and extinctions forever.
    • I Remember a Winter (p. 139)
  • “See, we don’t go in for your so-called ‘birth control’ here. No abortion. No contraception. We accept the gift of life when it is given. We believe that every human being, from the moment of conception on, has a right to a life—although,” he added, “not necessarily a long one.”
    • I Remember a Winter (p. 222)
  • “You could rule the nation—and yet you don’t seem to go after that power.”
    The mayor frowned. “Power, Mrs. O’Hare? You mean the chance to make laws and compel others to do what you want them to? Why, good heavens, Mrs. O’Hare, who in his right mind would want that?”
    • Servant of the People (p. 254)
  • It was a nasty day in late December, just before the holidays. The weather was cold, wet, and miserable—well, I said it was London, didn’t I?
    • Waiting for the Olympians (p. 255)
  • There’s an editor for you.
    They’re all the same. At first they’re all honey and sweet talk, with those long alcoholic lunches and blue-sky conversation about million-copy printings while they wheedle you into signing the contract. Then they turn nasty. They want the actual book delivered. When they don’t get it, or when the censors say they can’t print it, then there isn’t any more sweet talk and all the conversation is about how the aediles will escort you to debtors’ prison.
    • Waiting for the Olympians (p. 257)
  • Scientists are an agnostic lot, of course—well, most educated people are, aren’t they?
    • Waiting for the Olympians (p. 269)
  • “See, there’s a bit of a problem here. It’s true that editors are always begging for something new and different, but if you’re dumb enough to try to give it to them they don’t recognize it. When they ask for ‘different,’ what they mean is something right down the good old ‘different’ groove.”
    • Waiting for the Olympians (p. 272)
  • What will come of these things? That is a fair question. Unfortunately there is no answer. Not yet. If we knew the answer in advance, we would not have to perform the experiment.
    • The Gold at the Starbow’s End (p. 349)
  • He said in an injured tone: “Mister, naturally the staff won’t bother your stuff. What kind of a hotel do you think this is?
    “Of course, of course,” I said. But I knew he was lying, because I knew what kind of hotel it was. The staff was there only because being there gave them a chance to knock down more money than they could make any other way. What other kind of hotel was there?
    • The Gold at the Starbow’s End (p. 381)
  • I delighted his fussy little soul, because by adding what I remembered of Navy protocol to what he was able to teach me of Army routine, we came up with as snarled a mass of red tape as any field-grade officer in the whole history of all armed forces had been able to accumulate. Oh, I tell you, nobody sneezed in New York without a report being made out in triplicate, with eight endorsements.
    Of course there wasn’t anybody to send them to, but that didn’t stop the Major. He said with determination: “Nobody’s ever going to chew me out for noncompliance with regulations—even if I have to invent the regulations myself!”
    • The Knights of Arthur (p. 394)
  • Oh, it was work and no fooling. I enjoyed it very much, because I didn’t have to do it.
    • The Knights of Arthur (p. 398)
  • I found a man who claimed he used to be a radio engineer. And if he was an engineer, I was Albert Einstein’s mother, but at least he knew which end of a soldering iron was hot.
    • The Knights of Arthur (p. 398)
  • You don’t think progress goes in a straight line, do you? Do you recognize that it is an ascending, accelerating, maybe even exponential curve? It takes hell’s own time to get started, but when it goes it goes like a bomb.
    • Day Million (p. 441)

External links edit