C. M. Kornbluth and Frederik Pohl began their fruitful science-fiction collaborations in the early 1940’s and continued writing together, often under pseudonyms, until 1957. They published prolifically in magazines such as Galaxy, but their classic work proved to be the novel The Space Merchants (1953). Wolfbane was the final result of their true collaboration, although jointly produced works continued to appear after Kornbluth’s death in 1958 and Pohl continued publishing stories based on Kornbluth’s ideas into the 1970’s. “The Meeting” (1972), with Kornbluth listed as coauthor, won a Hugo Award in 1973.
Wolfbane is an early example of the substantial genre of science-fiction tales involving cybernetics, a word publicized by mathematician Norbert Weiner in 1947, only a decade before this Kornbluth and Pohl novel was published in serial form. Cybernetics, a term derived from the Greek word for “controller” or “helmsman,” refers to the study of general systems, the way they function, and how they process information. Cybernetic systems in science fiction frequently combine electrical, mechanical, and biological features, as does the one devised by the alien force in Wolfbane. It is by means of linking human mental and physical powers to the operation of the alien biomechanical complex that the alien planet dominating Earth nourishes itself.
As crude as Kornbluth and Pohl’s...
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