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by Greg Bear

Poul Anderson and I first met around 1968, became friends in the seventies, traded correspondence on an irregular basis—and then I intruded on Poul’s life by marrying his daughter!

Strangely, he didn’t object.

I never knew Poul Anderson to pull rank or lord it over anyone, not even his headstrong son-in-law. He was polite reason incarnate, difficult to rile, and a sweet, sweet man. Not that he didn’t have grit. There was a hard and flinty conviction in Poul, sometimes expressed, but usually made obvious through accumulated experience. Family discussions over long evenings could get boisterous, sometimes about politics—on which we had more than a few disagreements—but more often about science.

My first debate with Poul about science happened way back in 1973 or ’74. Somehow or other, in our correspondence, Poul had questioned the viability of icy rocks in the rings of Saturn. He thought that even way out there the ice would eventually sublimate in the vacuum. We politely went back and forth on this until I plunged deep into my copy of the CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics (one of the essential bibles of hard sf writers in that day) and dug up obscure tables on ice sublimation. At the temperature of Saturn’s rings, sublimation is nearly zero. Ice behaves like rock out there. Poul graciously acknowledged this result, and I breathed an immense sigh of relief!

And somehow, I think I rose in his estimation. Later, when queried by his daughter (before we were married) about the physics of an artificial world in my first novel, Hegira, he said, “He does his homework.”

After the appearance of my first cover story in Analog, “A Martian Ricorso,” at a science fiction convention in 1976, Poul gave me a thumb’s up across a crowded hotel lobby. I glanced around and behind me, wondering to whom he was really gesturing to.

Delightful affirmation! Science fiction writers have always been remarkably supportive and tolerant. Poul was exceptionally so, certainly for me.

On another occasion, in the late seventies, we spent a fine hour around a table in a convention hotel bar discussing black holes and singularities with other writers—over beer, of course. Beer makes an excellent lubricant for scientific discussions. It also helps eliminate tritium from one’s body after an unfortunate laboratory accident—or so we learned from physicist John Cramer. I’m sure Poul would have approved of that prescription.

After I married Astrid, Poul and Karen provided technical assistance on several of my novels. For both Eon and The Forge of God, Poul helped me design the right orbits for astronomical objects. Karen supplied me with tips on history and various Greek usages and words.

Ten years later, Poul, Karen, and Poul’s geologist brother John spent a memorable evening going back and forth with me about the ideas on genetics and evolution I was using in Darwin’s Radio. Wonderful discussions! And pointed enough to make me sweat. Honing one’s arguments in such company was essential to making that novel work.

Poul and I served in Jerry Pournelle’s and Larry Niven’s Citizen’s Advisory Council on National Space Policy. That continued through the late nineties. Astrid and I attended Contact conferences with Poul and Karen, served on many convention panels together, frequently discussed writing and publishing—

And yet Poul and I never collaborated on a story. He certainly enjoyed collaborating with other writers, and likely would have gladly done so with me—but somehow, it never happened. During the time it could have happened, Poul was producing some of his finest and most ambitious novels, and so perhaps it would have been impolite to interrupt that streak. Still, it would have been fun.

If there had been a few more years . . .

Yet in many ways, Poul did collaborate with me—at a fundamental level. The influence of his novels and stories has been immense since I was a young teenager. The Broken Sword strongly influenced my vision of the Sidhe in Songs of Earth and Power. Tau Zero was, in my estimation, one of the finest science fiction novels of the last half of the twentieth century.

And his personal influence—gently guiding but never admonishing, informative about both business and science, about science fiction, history, and the history of science fiction—was incalculable.

Many writers find writing an arduous task. They’d rather do anything else—except work for a living. But Poul genuinely enjoyed writing, sitting alone in his small office, meeting his characters once again—old friends—and continuing their stories. He also greatly enjoyed being with friends and family. He was proud of his wife and daughter and his grandchildren.

I wish Poul had been with us longer, of course—his death moved me deeply. I miss him to this day. He would have been immensely pleased that his granddaughter Alex attended the Clarion West writer’s workshop, a prestigious six-week boot camp for writers. He would have been equally pleased that his grandson Erik is now writing scripts for comics—and making more money on his first contracts than I did!

And Poul would have been very proud indeed that Astrid has sold a mystery story (to San Diego Noir, edited by Maryelizabeth Hart) and is currently working on a novel with her collaborator, Diane Clark.

For more than twenty years, I had pretty steady access to Poul Anderson. We still get together frequently with Karen, who lives down in the Los Angeles area now, and help manage the estate. Poul’s legacy rolls along in so many ways. And so it is with great joy that I have read the stories in this collection.

This book is something of a miracle: tribute and collaboration, festival and continuity, an amazing gathering of many of the finest science fiction and fantasy writers of our time—brave writers all—attempting the very difficult if not the impossible job of writing a tale set in one of Poul Anderson’s many worlds—and succeeding!

Huzzahs and beer are definitely in order, with or without tritium!

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