Form and Content

(Literary Essentials: Nonfiction Masterpieces)

Growing up in a poor family in the 1920’s and 1930’s meant that Frederik Pohl had to find entertainment in his surroundings—most of his youth was spent in Brooklyn—and in vicarious adventure. Pohl learned to read at an early age and soon discovered the pulp magazines of the period. These offered a wide variety of adventure and romance and, despite some atrocious writing, occasionally had good stories by capable writers. Secondhand copies, sold for a nickel or dime in used-book stores, were often within boys’ budgets, and a chance encounter with Science Wonder Stories Quarterly was the beginning of Pohl’s lifelong infatuation.

The catholicity of his interests did not translate into scholarly success, and he left Brooklyn Technical High School without graduating. He had, however, found that there were other science-fiction fans. His best friend, Dirk Wylie, provided more reading material and the idea that there might be others who shared their fascination. Their search for such people led them into the early organizations of science-fiction fans. The Science Fiction League, organized by Hugo Gernsback, editor of such magazines as Amazing Stories and Wonder Stories, was started to improve circulation; fan organizations grew by the mid-1970’s to include tens of thousands of people in a nationwide network.

Pohl was an eager member of the league from its beginning, but along with some other fans—notably Donald A. Wollheim, who was to become a major figure in the genre—he was quick to organize new groups. These...

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(Literary Essentials: Nonfiction Masterpieces)

Aldiss, Brian W., and Harry Harrison, eds. Hell’s Cartographers: Some Personal Histories of Science Fiction Writers, 1976.

Aldiss, Brian W., and David Wingrove. Trillion Year Spree: The History of Science Fiction, 1986.

Knight, Damon. In Search of Wonder: Essays on Modern Science Fiction, 1967.

Platt, Charles. Dream Makers: The Uncommon People Who Write Science Fiction, 1980.

Rose, Mark. Alien Encounters: Anatomy of Science Fiction, 1982.

Smith, Nicholas D., ed. Philosophers Look at Science Fiction, 1982.

Wollheim, Donald A. The Universe Makers: Science Fiction Today, 1971.