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WesternSFA
Gateways
ed. by Elizabeth Anne Hull
Tor, $15.99, 416pp
Release Date: July 5, 2011

Fred Pohl’s wife, Elizabeth Anne Hull, made this book as a birthday present for Fred.  She gathered together an amazing assembly of writers who were influenced by or loved Fred.  I can only imagine the lineup she might have gotten even 20 years earlier.  The list is a veritable who’s who which, of itself, says quite a bit about Fred Pohl’s existence. Some are short, some long, all are extraordinarily professional.

David Brin has quite a long piece that was fascinating to contemplate.  The Eisensteins’ was quite amusing.  Joe Haldeman’s was a bit disturbing. James Gunn’s left me a bit dry, I didn’t finish it.  I was a bit disappointed in Gregory Benford’s & Elisabeth Malartre’s offering – it was way too reminiscent of Jean Auel’s stories.    Vernor Vinge was typically brilliant.  While I enjoyed the piece from Greg Bear, I was at a loss to connect it to our genre.  The long short story from Frank Robinson was chilling and ugly and oh-so-well-written. “King Rat” by Gene Wolfe was just ….charming although that might not be the way anyone else would characterize it.  Although Harry Harrison’s Stainless Steel Rat stories are some of my favorites, I would have wished for something new rather than the first chapter of his last book.

Jody Lynn Nye wrote the most human of all the stories, a perfect delight.  While I like Brian Aldiss, I didn’t really care for this story at all, couldn’t see the point.  Ben Bova had a lovely laugh-out-loud final line and his story was, I think, the only one that had a direct relationship with his Afterword. The second best laugh-out-loud final line came from Sheri Tepper.  I could feel the frustration of Mike Resnick’s characters – caught in the vacation of a lifetime… and no way out.  Cory Doctorow’s made me feel simple.  Not sure I really got it.

Anthologies are not always that satisfying for me, I’d rather read a novel.  But this has got to be the most enjoyable anthology I’ve ever had the pure pleasure of reading.

Each author contributed an Afterword with their anecdotes of Fred Pohl, his influence on their work/life, and/or an homage to his accomplishments.  Interspersed between the stories are Appreciations from several writers who weren’t able to send a contributing piece.  All of those memories add up to a very affectionate portrait of this man who has had an enormous effect on our favorite genre.  I wish I had had the chance to know him. ~~ Catherine Book.

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