Literary Anniversaries: 02 September

It's hard to believe there's a man called Roger somewhere in there ...

It’s hard to believe there’s a man called Roger somewhere in there …

We have two anniversaries to celebrate today: the first a name known to almost everyone; the second is less well known, but equally worth celebrating.  Frederick Pohl and JRR Tolkien both died today, 40 years apart.

“A good science fiction story should be able to predict not the automobile but the traffic jam.”

Let’s start with Frederick Pohl, a Science Fiction writer who died in 2013.  Pohl is responsible for two of my favourite SF novels.  In Gateway, humans have discovered and try to exploit an alien technology.  But there is a price.  If you sail off into deep space in a ‘Heechee’ spaceship you could come back rich … or inside out, or squashed flat, or dead in a hundred other ways.  Or you may simply not come back at all.  There’s a similar element of risk in Man Plus, I think.  Roger Torroway is being adapted to survive on the surface of an alien planet.  What is left of his humanity, though, by the time the scientists are through?  What does his wife think of the ‘makeover’?

Tolkien needs little introduction, and I’ll write in more depth about him when we celebrate his birth in January.  Looking back at his life gives me the perfect opportunity to showcase one of his poems, though.  I’ve taken this from The Fellowship of the Ring.  Bilbo sings these words as a song at Rivendell on 24 December (just before the Nine Walkers set out on their mission, led by Gandalf), and it’s a beautiful, poignant study of growing old.  I hope you like it as much as I do:

I SIT BESIDE THE FIRE AND THINK

I sit beside the fire and think
of all that I have seen,
of meadow-flowers and butterflies
in summers that have been;

Of yellow leaves and gossamer
in autumns that there were,
with morning mist and silver sun
and wind upon my hair.

I sit beside the fire and think
of how the world will be
when winter comes without a spring
that I shall never see.

For still there are so many things
that I have never seen:
in every wood in every spring
there is a different green.

I sit beside the fire and think
of people long ago,
and people who will see a world
that I shall never know.

But all the while I sit and think
of times there were before,
I listen for returning feet
and voices at the door.

 

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English Teacher; Shakespeare Geek; Science Fiction Nerd; Adult Fan Of Lego (AFOL); Scrabble Warrior; Television Refusenik. Above all, READER ...

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One comment on “Literary Anniversaries: 02 September
  1. Eleanor says:

    I have just read the Hobbit, and I am about to read the Lord of the Rings again! I love his works!

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