Gateways: A Feast of Great New Science Fiction Honoring Grand Master Frederik Pohl
Gateways is a collection of pieces—short stories and accolades—assembled with the sole purpose of honoring one of the greatest science fiction writers ever, Frederick Pohl, on the occasion of his ninetieth year. The list of contributors reads like a Who’s Who of science fiction: Greg Bear, Gregory Benford, Ben Bova, David Brin, Cory Doctorow, Neil Gaiman, Joe Haldeman, Larry Niven, Vernor Vinge, Gene Wolfe, and quite a few more. It is edited by Pohl’s wife, Elizabeth Anne Hull, herself a long-time sci-fi luminary, with Jim Frenkel doing the in-house editing for Tor.
There are short “appreciations”—all of them personal reminiscences—from the likes of Gardner Dozios, Robert J. Sawyer, Robert Silverberg, and others. There are also short stories, many of them specially written for the collection—and a couple of them novella-length—each with an afterword by the author describing how Pohl featured in the author’s life. There is even a poem (“The [Backspace] Merchants”) by Neil Gaiman, and many of the stories use ideas from Pohl’s work, or adopt his “voice.”
It is striking, the number of big-name science fiction writers who had been given opportunities and encouragement by Pohl when they were starting out. It is a dramatic tribute that so many of them acknowledge Pohl’s influence on their work and on the genre at large. It is also striking—and gratifying to a life-long fan of Pohl’s fiction—to witness the great affection with which he is universally held within the science fiction community. As Frenkel says in his afterword, getting so many big-time authors to contribute something to this collection says it all. A lot of people like and admire Pohl, and many writers feel they owe him a debt of gratitude.
There is something in Gateways for every sci-fi reader. If it isn’t just the fannish pleasure of seeing some of your favorite authors having a bit of fun, it might be discovering some old or new sci-fi star telling their favorite Fred Pohl story, or maybe just the delight of finding a little genre gem tucked away in there. (This reviewer almost fell off his seat when he found a new Stainless Steel Rat story among the rest—and with porcuswine too!)
It might not be the best collection of new fiction ever presented. In fact, the quality of the stories was very variable. But, in the end, it doesn’t really matter all that much how good or bad this book is, as long as Fred likes it, and as long as his many, many fans feel that he has been appropriately honored for his outstanding (and outstandingly long!) contribution to the genre they love.
Given the absolutely stellar list of contributors, many offering specially-written homage pieces, it is unlikely that any science fiction fan—certainly no Frederick Pohl fan—will feel that Tor, or Hull, could have done more to praise this giant of the genre.