Poul Anderson was born 90 years ago

Poul Anderson in 1985
Poul Anderson in 1985

Poul William Anderson (photo ©Slawomir Burzynski) was born on November 25, 1926 in Bristol, Pennsylvania, USA.

Poul Anderson’s father died when he was just a child and his mother moved the family to Denmark, where he lived for a few years to return to the USA after the outbreak of World War II. He was still a student at the University of Minnesota when he started publishing his first stories in the magazine “Astounding Science Fiction” in 1947: “Tomorrow’s Children” together with F.N. Waldrop and some months later its sequel “Chain of Logic”, written by Anderson only.

In 1948 Poul Anderson graduated magna cum laude in physics, in spite of this he decided to devote himself full time to a writing career. After publishing a number of short stories, in 1952 he published his first novel, “Vault of the Ages”. The following year he married Karen Kruse, with whom he had their daughter Astrid, who many years later married the writer Greg Bear.

In the course of the ’50s Poul Anderson published various works and began a number of cycles for which he became famous in various genres and subgenres. In 1953 he published the fantasy novella “Three Hearts and Three Lions”, which was later expanded into a novel published in 1961 with the same title. However, at that time the market favored science fiction and in 1995 Anderson published the short story  “Time Patrol”, the first of the Time Patrol which was followed by many others that over the decades were collected in various anthologies.

In 1955, Poul Anderson and Gordon R. Dickson published the short story “Yo Ho Hoka!”, the first of a series of stories in the Hoka series that the two authors wrote together over the years. The stories were later collected in anthologies published with different titles.

In those years, Poul Anderson also wrote the first stories that started to form a consistent future history focusing on certain periods and on specific protagonists. In 1951 he published the short story “Tiger by the Tail”, the first of the Dominic Flandry series. In 1958 he published the novel “War of the Wing-Men”, later re-published in a version a bit different as “The Man Who Counts”, the first of the Polesotechnic League with Nicholas Van Rijn as its protagonist.

This future history with its various sub-cycles allowed Poul Anderson to develop the typical themes of his works. The space is a frontier of freedom but human beings go through difficulties to build an interstellar civilization. The stories contain a number of political, social and even economic elements, sometimes speak of internal conflicts and others of relationships with alien civilizations. In different periods of this future history the situations change, sometime getting worse with the decline existing in Dominic Flandry’s stories.

Over the decades, Poul Anderson wrote many novels and short fiction included in its various cycles and other autonomous. When fantasy started being more profitable, Anderson increased his activity in that genre. Together with his wife Karen he wrote the King of Ys series.

In 1993, Poul Anderson published the “Harvest of Stars” novel, the first of a tetralogy that began on an Earth under a totalitarian regime and is a mix of space opera, cyberpunk and more. The second novel, “The Stars Are Also Fire” (1994) won the Prometheus Award.

Poul Anderson kept on writing even in the last years of his life publishing novels such as “The Boat of a Million Years” (1989), “Genesis” (2000), winner of the John W. Campbell Memorial Award, up to the posthumous “Mother of Kings ” (2001) and “For Love and Glory” (2003).

Poul Anderson died of cancer on July 31, 2001. The many awards received by his works over the decades are just one indication of their value. He’s an author who has been widely appreciated both in the field of science fiction and fantasy and is rightly considered one of the masters of these genres.




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