Prometheus

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Volume 29, Number 1, Fall 2010

RIP, James P. Hogan, 27 June 1941 — 12 July 2010

James Patrick Hogan, science fiction writer and Prometheus Award winner, died unexpectedly in his home in Ireland on July 12th 2010, at the age of 69. Cause of death remains unknown, or at least unreleased. Hogan was scheduled as a guest at several science fiction conventions this year, including Armadillocon in Austin, Texas in August 2010. I met Hogan for the first time at Armadillocon back in the mid-1990s. He was gracious and friendly, and at dinner nearby with other fans and writers (including Gregory Benford, if I remember correctly), Hogan counted our party and was sorely tempted to give the name “Christ” to the waitress, so they would announce, “Christ, party of thirteen” when the table was ready.

Hogan also signed my stack of books, including the paperbacks I had bought some years earlier when first discovering his work as a writer, stating that anyone who paid money for his books deserved the few seconds of the time it took him to write his name inside the cover. I remember buying his first novel, Inherit the Stars, back in 1986 solely from the cover image, and then Code of the Lifemaker shortly thereafter. I sought out and read most of his earlier books based on these two works, and picked up pretty much everything published later, save for the last five or so books he published. I interviewed him for an issue of Prometheus, and saw him again at other sf conventions, though I never knew him as well as I knew his books, especially those paperbacks from his early career.

James Hogan had a long and storied writing career in science fiction. He won the Prometheus Award twice, first for Voyage from Yesteryear in 1983 and then in 1993 for The Multiplex Man. Both books featured “Prometheus Award winner” on subsequent editions. Eleven of his novels were nominated for the Prometheus Award. He also won the Seiun Award, presented by Japanese fans as part of the regular WorldCon ceremony. With around 29 novels, three short story collections, and two non-fiction books, Hogan strove for a hard science type of science fiction. This lent a level of plausibility to even those ideas that seemed far fetched, such as Earth’s moon having served as another planet’s satellite before being hurtled inward as part of a cataclysmic event. His Giants trilogy formed the core of his early fiction, starting with Inherit the Stars. The Gentle Giants of Ganymede followed a few years later, and then the third book, Giant’s Star. In between this series Hogan wrote several other books, including The Two Faces of Tomorrow, and the libertarian themed Voyage from Yesteryear.

Ten years after Giant’s Star, Hogan picked up the same series with Entoverse in 1991. He would add a fifth book in 2005, Mission to Minerva. He also wrote near future thrillers, such as Endgame Enigma and The Mirror Maze. The Code of the Lifemaker, a wonderful tale about robots creating their own civilization, experiencing the equivalent of the middle ages, renaissance, and enlightenment in a relatively short time, then meeting humanity, is a book I’ve read several times. A sequel, The Immortality Option, appeared in 1995, more than a dozen years after the first book. In the late 1990s and throughout the 2000s Hogan published several space travel novels, most of them standalone, but also a pair in a new series—Cradle of Saturn and The Anguished Dawn.

Short stories and non-fiction essays appeared in three collections spread out over 17 years, from Minds, Machines, and Evolution in 1988 to Rockets, Redheads & Revolutions in 1999, and finally Catastrophes, Chaos, and Convolutions. In his non-fiction work Hogan often took controversial positions, or attacked what he saw as sacred ideas based on faulty science and logic. Hewing to the theory that science and logic must shine its light on every theory without flinching, some of Hogan’s later positions and views appear uncomfortable. Although Hogan tackled AIDS/HIV research, Immanuel Velikovsky’s catastrophism, Darwin’s theory of evolution, ozone depletion, and other “sacred cows,” his defense of certain Holocaust deniers was an uncomfortable discovery on my part. While his two non-fiction books dealt primarily with science and artificial intelligence, going on the offensive against popular ideas whose truths are taken as undeniable, it seemed to go against the grain to defend a pair of controversial thinkers as more rigorous and convincing than scores of first-hand accounts, decades of historians and vast volumes of archival material.

Hogan’s own philosophy, as stated in a Prometheus interview, and later in an interview from Tangent, was one of civility and “do[ing] the right thing.” In Voyage from Yesteryear and some short stories (ie. “The Colonizing of Tharle” in the libertarian anthology Visions of Liberty), Hogan took a path very similar to Eric Frank’s Russell’s story, “And Then There Were None.” Given an opportunity to choose between freedom and obeying irrational and coercive orders, humans will tend to choose the former. Hogan, one hopes, will be remembered for his emphasis on science in SF, and liberty as a crucial part of any society, and the future of mankind.

— Anders Monsen

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