Poul Anderson

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At a Glance

Poul Anderson (1926–2001) was, among other things, undeniably fair. He made a conscious effort in all of his novels and stories to show both sides of a conflict equally. Even the antagonists are revealed to be complicated characters that have valid reasons for their behavior. Best known for his science fiction and commentary on society and politics, Anderson based many of his stories on real scientific beliefs. Not surprisingly, he was a vocal advocate of space exploration and felt that it was essential to human freedom. Throughout much of his work, Anderson wrote about characters facing difficult decisions that would end in a tragic conflict.

Facts and Trivia

  • Anderson was president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America beginning in 1972.
  • Anderson’s daughter, Astrid, is married to fellow science fiction author Greg Bear.
  • Anderson’s work in the 1970s was greatly influenced by historian John K. Hord’s theories about empires and the patterns they follow.
  • Anderson wrote an essay titled “There Will Be Time” that criticized the American Left for not addressing the Soviet Union’s human rights violations and for ignoring Israel’s unfair treatment of Palestinians.
  • Anderson loved a challenge. He once said, “I have yet to see any problem, however complicated, which, when looked at in the right way, did not become more complicated still.”

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(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Poal Anderson was born in Bristol, Pennsylvania on November 25, 1926, to Anton and Astrid Anderson. Karen Anderson was born in Erlanger, Kentucky on September 16, 1932, to Norman and Hallie Kruse. The Andersons were married on December 12, 1953.

In 1947, while still a college student, Poul Anderson had his first story published. When he graduated in 1948 with a bachelor's degree in physics from the University of Minnesota, he devoted himself to writing. By 1951, he was publishing several stories a year, and in 1952, his first book, Vault of the Ages, a novel for young people, appeared. Before the end of the 1950s, Anderson was a well-established author whose works included mysteries, historical novels, and nonfiction articles, as well as science fiction; he was well established as one of America's most popular science fiction authors, with a following comparable to those for Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, and A. E. Van Vogt. From the 1950s on, he has remained an industrious writer, publishing scores of articles, hundreds of stories, and scores of novels. In recent years, Poul Anderson's productivity has dropped, continuing a trend begun in the mid-1970s. This lower productivity may be partly explained by his writing the large and complex The King of Ys quartet. On the other hand, his writing shows greater maturity; his excellent command of language and style is matched by depth of characterization and themes.

Anderson is admired not only by a wide readership, but by his fellow authors, as well. The Science Fiction Writers of America have twice given him their Nebula award: once in 1971 for the best novelette, "

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