Frederik Pohl? Apocryphal?
Dear Quote Investigator: Frederik Pohl was an influential award-winning science-fiction author and editor. Apparently, Pohl’s Law states:
Nothing is so good that somebody somewhere won’t hate it.
Would you please examine this linkage?
Quote Investigator: Multiple statements have been labeled “Pohl’s Law” over the years. In 1966 Pohl was the editor of the science fiction (SF) magazine “Worlds of IF”, and he responded to letters from readers in a section called “Hue and Cry”. Pohl crafted an adage and affixed his name to it. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1
Pohl’s Law: The more hysterically any entity reacts to criticism, the more you’re likely to find to criticize about it.—Editor
In 1977 SF author Spider Robinson published a review column in “Galaxy Magazine”. He printed a version of “Pohl’s Law” that matched the one specified by the questioner: 2
Although Pohl’s Law states that nothing is so good that someone somewhere won’t hate it, I can hardly imagine anyone failing to enjoy this delightful album. Oh, and the George Barr cover is lovely.
Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.
In 1979 Spider Robinson and Jeanne Robinson published the novel “Stardance” which had recently been serialized in “Analog” magazine. Pohl’s Law was mentioned by a character: 3
“Pohl’s Law,” she said, and I nodded (Pohl’s Law, Raoul once told us, says that nothing is so good that somebody somewhere won’t hate it, and vice versa). And then the pack was upon us.
In 1981 Frederik Pohl published an article titled “On Predicting the Future: Crystal-Gazing for Fun and Profit” in “Destinies” magazine, and he presented another eponymous law: 4
We don’t want any mumbly-mouthed evasions or conditional opinions. We want the facts. And we don’t want to believe that the “facts” about the future, if we had them, would do us very little good at all.
This is one of the great paradoxes about the future, and it is embodied in Pohl’s Law: “The more accurate and complete a statement about the future is, the less value it has.”
In 2003 a letter to the editor of “The Tennessean” of Nashville, Tennessee mentioned one of the laws: 5
To paraphrase Pohl’s Law: There ain’t nothing, nowhere, so good, that someone, somewhere, won’t hate it.
In conclusion, at least three different statements have been called Pohl’s Law. The citations above dated 1966 and 1981 reveal that Frederik Pohl himself presented two of the three laws. The remaining law was described as Pohl’s Law by fellow SF author Spider Robinson in 1977. This law matched the one specified by the questioner.
Image Notes: Landscape image from Julius_Silver at Pixabay. Image has been cropped and resized.
(Great thanks to anonymous SF fan whose inquiry led QI to formulate this question and perform this exploration.)
- 1966 December, Worlds of IF, Volume 16, Number 12, Edited by Frederik Pohl, Hue and Cry (Letters to the Editor), Start Page 160, Quote Page 162, Galaxy Publishing Corporation, New York. (Verified with scans) ↩
- 1977 September, Galaxy Magazine, Edited by James Patrick Baen, Volume 38, Number 7, Galaxy Bookshelf by Spider Robinson, Start Page 118, Quote Page 122, UPD Publishing Company: Subsidiary of Universal Publishing & Distributing Corporation, Scarsdale, New York. (Verified with scans) ↩
- 1980 (Copyright 1979), Stardance by Spider Robinson and Jeanne Robinson, Quote Page 118, Dell Publishing Company, New York. (Verified with scans) ↩
- 1981 Winter, Destinies: The Science Fiction Magazine, Volume 3, Number 1, Edited by James Baen, On Predicting the Future: Crystal-Gazing for Fun and Profit by Frederik Pohl, Start Page 135, Quote Page 144, Ace Books: A Division of Charter Communications, New York. (Verified with scans) ↩
- 2003 November 5, The Tennessean, Section: Letters to the Editor, Letter title: No valid reasons to delay SR-840, Letter author: Don Huth of Hendersonville, Quote Page 18A, Column 4, Nashville, Tennessee. (Newspapers_com) ↩