Gateways Edited by Elizabeth Anne Hull
In “The Secret Miracle,” Jorge Luis Borges writes of his main character, a playwright: “Like all writers, he measured the achievements of others by what they had accomplished, asking of them that they measure him by what he envisaged or planned.” Borges would no doubt include himself in this all inclusive critique. I would argue, however, that there are some writers who exist beyond Borges’ definition, such as Frederick Pohl. Whether he’s being judged by his accomplishments, his vision, or by any other yardstick, Pohl measures up. He’s published novels, short stories and poems since 1937. He’s worked in many facets of the publishing world, as writer, as agent and as editor. He’s won numerous awards, multiple Hugos and Nebulas (becoming a Nebula Grand Master in 1993), the National Book Award, and was the 2010 Hugo Best Fan Writer for his work on his blog The Way the Future Blogs. You can read my review of his most recent novel All the Lives He Led here. Of all these accomplishments, perhaps the most striking measure of the man is the quantity and quality of the writers he has aided and inspired. To see what I’m talking about, you need only glance at the table of contents of Gateways, the collection of homages and shorts stories dedicated to him, compiled and edited by his wife, fellow writer and science-fiction researcher Elizabeth Anne Hull
The first unusual thing about this table of contents is that it includes “Appreciations,” one or two page thank you notes from those whose schedules or workload did not allow them to submit fiction to the collection. This list of those owe Pohl gratitude include Isaac Aismov, Connie Willis, and Robert Silverberg. We’re into “intimidatingly awesome” territory already, and we haven’t even gotten to the fiction yet. Reading further, we find a who’s-who of contemporary science-fiction.
David Brin contributes a near-future novella “Shoresteading,” perhaps my favorite fiction of the collection, about a “shoresteader” living in the ruins of coastal Shanghai and reclaiming the marvels that have been claimed by the rising seas. It simply has to be read to be truly appreciated. Joe Haldeman’s “Sleeping Dogs” is science-fiction of the highest order, raising questions of memory and responsibility that stuck with me long after I’d put the book down. “Virtually, A Cat,” by Jody Lynn Nye combines the affectionate feelings of a cat lover and space travel that feels sweet at first, and turns into something far more compelling by its conclusion.
In truth, each of the fictions and poems included in this collection is an indication of the far reaching and long lasting influence that Frederick Pohl has had on the genre. It should be read for its view into the life of a Grand Master, to discover writers you haven’t (but ought to have) yet read, and not least of its charms, because it’s a damn fine collection of short science-fiction.