Man Plus coverFrederik Pohl, the acclaimed science fiction author behind one of my favorite novels, Man Plus, passed away today.

The list of novels he’s written, or edited, or presented in his magazine Galaxy, that I have not read, is too long to enumerate here.  Pohl was the very definition of prolific in his writing and editing.  Most importantly to me, his style and sensibilities helped to inspire me in many of my own writings.

Man Plus is a perfect example of this.  In Man Plus, scientists planning the first manned mission to Mars decide that a human needs to be “augmented” to properly survive on the Martian surface, and thereby to ensure the success of the mission. 

Astronaut Roger Torraway is selected to be the subject of the “Man Plus” project, and is turned into a Mars-customized cyborg.  Before and during the mission, he must not only deal with his new body, but his connections to his wife, friends and colleagues, as well as his self-image and his definition of what it means to be human.  The story highlights Roger’s struggle, as it portrays a Mars that feels incredibly real and even likely, along with a few twists that make the novel really shine (and inspired a sequel).

Pohl’s style was always about realism and relevance: His characters were more real than most I’ve read by many other science fiction authors, and his plots and settings were always believable and vivid.  These were qualities that I valued highly in my SF, and featured in my own novels.  Along with the works of Arthur C. Clarke, Michael Crichton and Ben Bova, the books of Frederik Pohl were the most inspiring to me.

I’d only recently rediscovered some of his novels that I’d not read in years past, or had read and forgotten in time.  Surely the only good thing about Pohl’s passing is that it will inspire others to seek out his work, spreading his fame and influence even further.  We’ll miss you, Fred.