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updated: 9/3/2013 6:23 PM

Science fiction legend, Palatine resident Frederik Pohl dies

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  • Science-fiction author Frederik Pohl, 93, of Palatine died Monday.

    Science-fiction author Frederik Pohl, 93, of Palatine died Monday.
    Daily Herald File Photo


Prolific award-winning science-fiction author and Palatine resident Frederik Pohl died Monday at the age of 93, his agent has confirmed.

Pohl had more than 60 novels and 30 short stories published during his long career, including two novels -- "Man Plus" and "Gateway" -- that were recognized with the Science Fiction Writers of America's Nebula Award in 1976 and 1977, respectively, as those years' best work in science fiction or fantasy.

"Gateway" also won the 1978 Hugo Award, the World Science Fiction Society's top honor.

Pohl was a lifelong friend of fellow science-fiction legend and Chicago-area native Ray Bradbury, who died in 2012, and a contemporary of authors Isaac Asimov, Cyril M. Kornbluth and Arthur C. Clarke.

He collaborated with Clarke on "The Last Theorem" in 2008 and stayed active online in recent years, with his blog earning a Hugo Award in 2010. His agent said Pohl was hard at work finishing an autobiography when he died.

Pohl lived in Palatine for the last several decades and gave back to the community by speaking at the town's library and area schools, teaching others about the importance of science-fiction and writing.

"He was one of the great pioneers of American science fiction and had a very long and distinguished career," said Gwenyth Udd, librarian at the Palatine Public Library where Pohl spoke in 2011. "It was very exciting to have him living in Palatine. He was one of the last surviving of the original pioneers, so this is the passing of an era, the passing of a literary lion."

Udd said the Palatine Public Library likely will put up a display with some of Pohl's great works as was done when Ray Bradbury died last year.

Pohl was the inaugural speaker at the first Writer's Week program at Fremd High School in 1995 and visited the program again several years later, said teacher Gary Anderson.

"He was a grand gentleman in every way," Anderson said. "Just from his demeanor, you knew you were in the presence of greatness. I'm not sure the students really understood at first how enormously influential he was, but as soon as he started talking, he had them."

When visiting with students, Anderson said Pohl was accessible and funny while making sure to share real writing advice.

"His advice was to sit down and write at least three pages every day. He did that 365 days a year for decades and look at what he generated," Anderson said.

When the Fremd program started there was no budget for it, just a desire to get students in the same room with real authors, said retired teacher Tony Romano. Pohl agreed to participate in the program for free.

"He was very encouraging. He was really committed to young people and writing," Romano said.

"He said to finish what you start," Romano added. After hearing that advice Romano completed a half-finished novel that had been sitting in a drawer.

For years Pohl lived in a home near Fremd with a sign hanging from his lamppost reading "Gateway," the name of one of his most recognized novels.

"That was the whole idea behind writer's week, showing the students that this is just a regular guy who lives in a regular neighborhood and that if they want to write, they can do it, too," Romano said.

"A lot of students had seen that sign, but they didn't know that one of the inventors of science fiction lived a block away," Anderson said. "He helped us bring a new generation of students around to understanding science fiction."

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