The end of the year is upon us and sadly we have lost some great people in the field of science fiction.
Ray Harryhausen (20 June 1929 – 7 May 2013)
Ray was a special effects genius. As a child I was enraptured by his stop motion effects in films such as The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958), Jason and the Argonauts (1963), and the fantastic Clash of the Titans (1981).
Whenever one of his films would air on television I would always, and I do mean always, stop whatever I was doing and watch. No matter how many times I see one of his films I cannot help but smile in enjoyment.
I realise that today his work may seem a little primitive, especially to young people that have only really seen CGI effects, but those stop-motion animations were, and are, truly alive to me. And without Ray’s efforts we wouldn’t enjoy the effects we see on screen today.
Iain M. Banks (16 February 1954 – 9 June 2013)
When I first heard Iain Banks was ill from the announcement on his website I was completely gutted. This was unbelievable.
The first time I read Iain Banks was with his first Culture novel Consider Phlebas. It was fantastic, amazing, superb. Here was an author with such imagination and so full of novel ideas that I felt I was part of the story. Every subsequent novel, Culture or not, was equally as engaging.
Iain Banks had a gift of wry humour and easy intelligence that cannot be understated. His works are subtle and invasive, often working on your thoughts long after you’ve put the book down.
When it was announced that Mr. Banks had passed on 9 June of this year I was so profoundly saddened that I still have not been able to bring myself to read his last Culture book The Hydrogen Sonata. I will soon, and when it ends I will no doubt be heavy of heart once more.
Richard Matheson (20 February 1926 – 23 June 2013)
Richard Matheson may be one those names you think you aren’t familiar with, but you probably know his work. He is best known for his novel I Am Legend (1954) which has been adapted for film no less than four times. Matheson has worked as a novelist and screenwriter, with extensive credits in the television and film industries.
He has written stories for shows that include The Twilight Zone and Star Trek (Original Series). One of my favourite stories of Matheson’s, Duel (1971) he adapted into a screenplay which was then directed by Steven Spielberg. If you’ve not seen Duel I would suggest searching it out to see it. This, like much of Matheson’s other work, is well worth spending your time on.
Frederik Pohl (26 November 1919 – 2 September 2013)
Frederik Pohl was a giant in the field of science fiction. First as a fan, then writer and editor, and a literary agent. Starting in 1930s, Pohl’s career spanned seven-five years, his first publishing success was a poem entitled “Elegy to a Dead Satellite: Luna” under the name of Elton Andrews, in the October 1937 issue of Amazing Stories.
Pohl went on to later edit Astonishing Stories, Super Science Stories, Galaxy Science Fiction, and Worlds of if. While editor of if that publication won the Hugo for best professional magazine in 1966, 1967, and 1968.
In 1977 Pohl’s first Heechee novel, Gateway, was published, which went on to win the 1978 Hugo for Best Novel. Pohl would write four more books of the Heechee. For me Gateway is a special novel as I didn’t read it when I was younger, but only a few years ago. Strangely Gateway, while dated it some regards, it still a vibrant and excellent story.
Pohl’s vast career touched the world of science fiction in many ways and his influence can still be felt today. Writing until the very end Frederik Pohl can only be remembered as great among greats.
Scott Carpenter (1 May 1925 – 10 October 2013)
Scott Carpenter was not directly involved in science fiction, but his career as an astronaut helped to bring much science fiction into science fact.
Rockets and moon landings would never have been possible without the efforts of people like Carpenter and his colleagues. The second American to orbit the earth, Carpenter flew aboard the Mercury-Atlas 7 rocket Aurora 7 and made three orbits around the Earth on 24 May 1962.
This early foray into space by the Americans, and the Soviets, has opened the door to Moon landings, Mars rovers, space probes, and space stations. All things that early science fiction writers dreamed about and witnessed into reality.
Carpenter, like the other astronauts and cosmonauts, undoubtedly inspired many children into the fields of science and science fiction.
It’s always sad when someone passes and this year, like every year, these loses are keenly felt by the many people these lives have touched and enriched. I am definitely better for having been so enriched and I am saddened that they have gone.