This year saw the passing of one of my all time favorite authors, the SF/Fantasy master Jack Vance. Well, another of the greats has shuffled off this mortal coil. Frederik Pohl, noted publisher, editor, and author has left this world and, somewhat to my shame, I hadn't been aware that he was still with us.
One of Pohl's greatest works is The Space Merchants, a scarily prescient 1952 satire written in collaboration with Cyril M. Kornbluth. The book presents a view of a society in which megacorporations run things and marketing is a powerful force, conducted in ruthless fashion:
"Well, about this Coffiest," he said. "We're sampling it in fifteen key cities. It's the usual offer --- a thirteen week supply of Coffiest, one thousand dollars in cash, and a weekend vacation on the Ligurian Riviera to everybody who comes in. But --- and here's what makes the campaign truly great, in my estimation --- each sample of Coffiest contains three milligrams of a simple alkaloid. Nothing harmful. But definitely habit-forming. After ten weeks the customer is hooked for life. It would cost him at least five thousand dollars for a cure, so its simpler for him to go right on drinking Coffiest --- three cups with every meal and a pot beside his bed at night, just as it says on the jar."
One of Pohl's most accessible works is The Day the Icicle Works Closed, another depressingly prescient short story about a society gripped by a depression kicked off by the collapse of its greatest industry, which leads to a sharp divide between the haves and the have-nots. The story was reviewed by a blogger of note, and can be read here. The Liverpudlian band The Icicle Works took their name from this short story.
Rest in Peace, Mr Pohl... your ability to predict the foibles of society was unparalleled. Truly, we're living in the future you predicted.