Category Archives: obituary

Rest in Peace, Leonard Nimoy 1931-2015

SpockThe news media is reporting that Leonard Nimoy has passed away.  He was 83.  In spite of other roles, he will forever be remembered as Spock on the original Star Trek.

I was a fan of the original ST, although I had to catch the shows in reruns at odd times when I was growing up.  I’m not sure I’ve seen all of the episodes.  I did read the James Blish novelizations when I was in 5th and 6th grades.

Spock was always my favorite character on the show.  I went through a mild phase where I tried to model myself on him by not displaying emotions and using only logic.  That didn’t last long.  I’ve no Vulcan blood.

Rest in peace, Mr. Nimoy.  You lived long and prospered.

RIP, Frederik Pohl (November 26, 1919 – September 2, 2013)

Fred PohlOne of the last living links to the early days of science fiction has died. Frederik Pohl entered the hospital yesterday morning with respiratory distress and passed away yesterday afternoon.

Pohl started out as a fan and moved to become an editor, agent, and writer. His first editing job came when he was just 19, taking the helm at Astonishing Stories and Super Science Stories. He was also a founding member of the Futurians.  He served in World War II, and after the war briefly became a literary agent.

He collaborated with a number of writers throughout the decades, including Lester Del Rey (Preferred Risk as by Edson McCann), Jack Williamson (The Starchild Trilogy, Farthest Star, Wall Around a Star, Land’s End, The Singers of Time) and Arthur C. Clarke (The Last Theorem).  His most famous and successful collaborations were with fellow Futurian C. M. Kornbluth, beginning with the classic The Space Merchants, and including Search the Sky, Gladiator-at-Law and Wolfbane as well as a number of short stories.

Pohl edited Ballantine Books’ Star Science Fiction series in the 1950s, introducing the  concept of the original (nonthemed) anthology.  In the 1960s, he was the editor of Galaxy and If magazines.  During the 70s he was an editor at Bantam.Gateway

Like his collaborator Jack Williamson, Pohl continued to write novels almost until his death.  His most recent was All the Lives He Led (2011).  His Heechee saga is one of the landmarks of modern science fiction, especially the first volume, Gateway.

I had the privilege of meeting Pohl once in the summer of 1991, when the Science Fiction Research Association held a meeting on the campus of the University of North Texas.  Among those in attendance were Pohl, Jack Williamson, L. Sprague de Camp, and James Gunn.  Pohl was very friendly and chatted with me for a bit about what he was working on.  The books he signed for me at that event are among the most prized in my library.

I can’t help but feel like an era has ended.  I grew up reading science fiction by people like Pohl.  In fact, one of the first, if not the first, book I ever bought from the Science Fiction Book Club was The Best of Frederik Pohl.  I bought almost every SFBC edition of his work until I graduated high school.

platinum pohlHe will be missed.  As cliched as it sounds, we shall not see his like again.  Many of his novels are still in print, and his best short fiction was collected a few years ago in Platinum Pohl, which contains a number of stories written after The Best of Frederik Pohl was published.

RIP, Jack Vance (1916-2013)

The science fiction and fantasy world is saddened to learn that Grandmaster Jack Vance passed away on May 26 in Oakland, California.  Vance was 96.

Locus Online has an obituary that summarizes Vance’s life, plus there’s the Wikipedia entry linked to in the above paragraph.  I’ll not repeat what they’ve written.  Rather, I want to make this a more personal reflection.

I’ve read a bit of Vance’s work over the years, but I’ve never really jumped in with both feet. No particular reason, really, other than there were so many other books competing for my attention.  I started reading the Planet of Adventure Series a couple of years ago and examined the first and second of the four volumes in that set.  It was my intention to finish the series later this summer.  It still is.  Since most of my reading of his oeuvre has been science fiction, I’m posting this tribute here rather than on the main blog.

I read “The Last Castle” and “The Dragon Masters” in high school, as well as a few other titles here and there.  Subterranean Press has published a number of omnibus editions of Vance’s work as well as his autobiography over the last few years.  Most of these titles are out of print.  I’ve got all of them, and have dipped into them a little.  They’re not slight volumes.

The series Vance wrote that has most stuck out in my mind isn’t The Dying Earth.  I’ve not read that one yet.  It’s on the list.  What really impressed me was the five novel sequence known as The Demon Princes. 

The backstory is that a group of five intergalactic criminals wipe out the population of a colony planet to prove what badasses they are and that they aren’t to be messed with.  The five are known as the Demon Princes because they’re so evil.  One man and his nephew survive.  The man raises the nephew to be the ultimate hunter and killer.  In each of the five books, he goes after one of the Demon Princes.  The first three books were written in the 1960s, and they’re quite good.  As good as anything being written at the time, and better than most space opera that’s been written since then.

But the last two volumes, The Face and The Book of Dreams, were written in the late 70s and early 80s, and they’re the real standouts in the series.  They’re completely different from anything that was being written then or now.  And they’re completely different from each other.  Each of them has an ending that has stayed with me for decades.  It’s a rare book that can do that.  Usually the ending is the first thing I forget while the opening of a book is what sticks in my mind.  Of the two, I prefer the ending of “The Face” a little more simply because of the joke that Vance has spent a goodly portion of the book setting up, and setting it up so that it’s a natural extension of what’s happening all along.

The Demon Princes series was reprinted a while back by the SFBC in a two volume edition. Tor did the same around that time as well.  It’s a series worth tracking down.

Jack Vance was unique, a one of a kind writer, a master of the English language.  We shall not see his like again any time soon, a conclusion others will no doubt reach in a more elegant manner than me.  Rather than what I had planned to work on, I’m going to read some Vance this evening to honor his memory.

Rest in peace, sir.

RIP, Darrell K. Sweet

I just learned that we lost one of our greatest artists today.  As reported by Locus Online and Tor, Darrell K. Sweet passed away this morning.  He was one of the most recognizable artists in the field.  I grew up reading books he illustrated, and he was a personal favorite of mine.  I’ll post a more personal eulogy sometime in the next day or so.  It’s late, and this is one I want to take my time with.  Darrell K. Sweet, 1934-2011; he will be missed.

RIP, Anne McCaffery

Locus Online is reporting that SFWA Grand Master Anne McCaffery died at home in Ireland of a massive stroke on November 21, 2011.  She was 85.  McCaffery was author of the long-running Pern series.  In addition to Pern, McCaffery was the author of a number of other series, which she often co-wrote with up and coming authors who went on to have significant careers.  These authors include, but are not limited to, Jody Lynne Nye, Elizabeth Moon, Elizabeth Anne Scarborough, and Mercedes Lackey.  McCaffery won a number of awards for her work, including the Nebula and Hugo (she was the first woman to win both).  In 2006 she was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame.