tENTATIVELY, cONVENIENCE's Reviews > Before the Universe

Before the Universe by Frederik Pohl
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Dec 07, 11

bookshelves: sf
Read in December, 2011

This is the 3rd bk by Kornbluth that I've read & the 1st that he wrote in conjunction w/ his main collaborator Frederik Pohl. The only thing I'd previously read by Pohl was Chernobyl wch I found educational. Pohl elucidates their collaborative method as being one in wch Pohl suggested the basic outline, Kornbluth fleshed it out, & Pohl put the finishing touches on. Since I find collaborative writing more difficult than other types of collaboration (collaborative music making, eg) the results here are interesting for me.

The latter half of the bk consists of 3 consecutive related stories - the 1st being the title one. These stories are entertainingly silly & I'm sure their authors had alotof fun w/ them. Coincidentally for me, I was at work as an A/V tech & squeezing in reading a few pages when I got to the part on pp162-164 where a main character insults & threatens an A/V technician for being neglectful &/or mischievous. 13pp later, the main female protagonist reminisces fondly about an anarchist she was lovers w/. Alas, he was shot. Of course, that tells you next to nothing. These tales are basically a good read w/o being a GREAT read. Still, I enjoyed them. AND I learned that as of 1980 Pohl had won 4 Hugos. Impressive.

Both Kornbluth & Pohl were in the SF-fans-turning-into-pro-writers group "The Futurian Society of New York". What I might've gotten more than anything else from this bk was just a feel for how exciting a group of thinkers these folks must've been in the late 1930s. According to the relevant Wikipedia entry:

"At the time the Futurians were formed, Donald Wollheim was strongly attracted by communism and believed that followers of science fiction "should actively work for the realization of the scientific world-state as the only genuine justification for their activities and existence".[4] It was to this end that Wollheim formed the Futurians, and many of its members were in some degree interested in the political applications of science fiction.

"Hence the group included supporters of Trotskyism, like Judith Merril and others who would have been deemed far left for the era (Frederik Pohl became a member of the Communist Party in 1936, but later quit in 1939). On the other hand several members were political moderates or apolitical, and in the case of James Blish arguably right-wing. Damon Knight in The Futurians indicates that Blish at that time felt Fascism was interesting in theory, if repellent as it was then being practiced. More solid evidence is that Blish admired the work of Oswald Spengler."

W/ this in mind, the last bk I read by Kornbluth, Not this August (see my review here: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/10...), can be seen in a new light.

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