Something to Share With You from Frederik Pohl

Frederik Pohl, the last of the great original science fiction writers, passed away today. In a futuristic way, I learned of this via Twitter as I was cooking on the grill. I wanted to share something with everyone.

On May 8th of this year, I had been reading I. Asimov, the biography of Isaac Asimov. I knew and had been reminded in the book of how close a friend Asimov was to Frederik Pohl. At the same time, I recall Asimov’s mutton chop sideburns and could not uncover anything about why he decided to grow his sideburns such.

Knowing that Frederik Pohl was still around, I though I’d go to somebody who knew him well, so I emailed through his webiste. It goes to an assistant, of course, but I’m pleased to say it was forwarded. I am posting that exchange here.

On 05/08/2013, at 16:59, Rick Novy wrote:

Mr. Pohl,

I know you were friends with Isaac Asimov for many, many years. I’m curious what motivated him to wear mutton chop sideburns. My research has failed me and I figured if anyone knows the story behind them, it would be you.


Rick Novy

My first response came quite a while later, though the original date would have posted from Pohl’s web server and the date seems much too early. But, that hardly matters.

Aug 5, 2013 at 6:05 PM

Dear Mr. Novy,

I am forwarding your query to Mr. Pohl. I too would like to know the story of those sideburns.

Name Withheld by RN

Frederik must have been ill by this time, as his wife was the person who answered. Janet Asimov, of course, would have been a better source than Mr. Pohl, and it turns out that is who Pohl’s wife consulted.

Thu, Aug 15, 2013 at 1:48 PM

Dear Rick Novy, I did contact Asimov’s widow, since my online research came up with coflicting stories about Isaac’s “mutton chops.” She says he started growing them when they first started living together and she trimmed his hair for him because he hated barbers. Both Isaac and Janet liked the look. The longer facial hair predated his thyroid problems, though the hospital partially shaved the area in order to do the surgery. Hope this satisfies your curiosity. Elizabeth Anne Hull, Frederik Pohl’s wife

I was thrilled to get a response and have at least some sort of an answer that I am pleased to share with all of you on this sad day.

Thu, Aug 15, 2013 at 6:53 PM

Thank you so much for the answer. I’m old enough to have asked Mr. Asimov myself, but never was in the same state much less the same room with him.

Please give my regards to Mr. Pohl, whom I have never met, either. I do love his work, though.

And the final response.

Thu, Aug 15, 2013 at 7:31 PM

Rick, I’ll pass along your comments to my husband. Fred enjoys hearing from his fans. Keep reading. Betty Hull

And there it is, my only interaction with the great Frederik Pohl outside of his life’s work.

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