Friday Forgotten: The Way the Future Was by Frederik Pohl

The Way the Future Was by Frederik Pohl, © 1978, Ballantine hardcover,  autobiography

It’s funny how books find a person. I used to stop by Fred Pohl’s blog every now and then, and he had the cover of this book up as a permanent header. Then one day Steve Davidson posted something on his blog about SF (or sci-fi, or science fiction, take your pick) fandom and that led me to some other comments which led me back to this book.

The Way the Future Was cvr sml

I decided I wanted to read it. It wasn’t easy finding a (free) copy, as the local library had one in the catalog but they couldn’t locate it. I was finally able to get it via inter-library loan.

Once in my hands, I read it in a day or so, which is pretty quick for me, being a Slow Reader and all. The book begins with Pohl’s early interest in science fiction, beginning, as it did for so many, with a comic book. Later came the pulps and digest magazines and he was hooked. I know the feeling, I loved the Winston science fiction library books, but it was Astounding Science Fiction that really got me hooked.

Most of the book focuses on Pohl’s memories of becoming a fan, then the creation of fan groups, early efforts at writing, his first job as an editor and his career as SF writer and magazine editor, the latter mostly at Galaxy and If during the 1960’s. I found it all fascinating.

Then as the events in the book approach the time he was writing it (1976), he begins to wander into various editorial asides on such topics as cryogenics, UFOs, politics, handicapped children and other topics that are obviously close to his heart – or were at the time – but were of little interest to this reader. I skimmed the last fifty pages with little feeling that I was missing anything. There is much of interest here for the science fiction fan, but much that strays from what most will want to read.

About Richard Robinson

Enjoying life in Portland, OR
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11 Responses to Friday Forgotten: The Way the Future Was by Frederik Pohl

  1. Jerry House says:

    Pohl was a fascinating character whose writing just seemed to get better and better, and he was one of the most influential SF editors of the second half of the twentieth century. I understand his blog was a rough draft (of sorts) for an updated autobiography. Sadly it was not to be.

  2. tracybham says:

    This sounds very interesting, Rick. At least, most of it. The kind of non fiction I like. I will look for a copy, probably via ABEbooks.

  3. Jeff Meyerson says:

    I think I read the early parts of it years ago, but I really can’t remember. Good choice.

  4. I thought Fred Pohl was the best editor in Science Fiction during the 1960s. I have a copy of THE WAY THE FUTURE WAS but haven’t read it yet (the Story of my Life!). This dovetails nicely with the new ASTOUNDING book.

    • I’m still waiting for the Astounding book to complete “processing” at the library! One of these days, I guess.

      • Jeff Meyerson says:

        I’m only #3 or 4 on the Astounding book, but I think they are still processing it here too. That’s OK, we’ll be gone all next week, so maybe it will arrive by the time we get home.

        • And just like that, it showed up today. I’ll have to go pick it up later, but I have about 50 pages on the mystery I’m currently reading, then I’ll get started on it. I hope you have a good time in NOLA.

  5. Todd Mason says:

    I liked the book down to the last page (read it very shortly after reading Damon Knight’s THE FUTURIANS, in 1978), though inasmuch as he was writing it during his divorce from Carol Ulf/Pohl, he chose not to deal with certain details that he does deal with later, in such books as YESTERDAY’S TOMORROWS…where he notes he met his second wife Dorothy LesTina while working at Popular Publications, having come back on staff at ASTONISHING and SUPER SCIENCE before he (and LesTina as well) went into wartime military service.

    That blog was explicitly meant to be a run-up to a new edition.

    You would probably like YESTERDAY’S TOMORROWS a lot, as it is focused around the fictional editing Pohl did in its interstitial memoirs, and is an anthology of stories from the various magazines and anthologies he edited, and a few excerpts from the novels he edited for Bantam and others.

    • I might try YESTERDAY’S TOMORROWS, but not right away. I’ll be starting ASTOUNDING when I get it from the library, and I’m hoping the author doesn’t just pound on the Hubbard/Dianetics angle. I loved reading the magazine in the Fifties and Sixties, but ignored the editorials, just read the fiction and enjoyed the artwork, especially Freas.

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