Benjamin William Bova died on the morning of November 29th, 2020.
He was an American writer. He was 88 years old.
Dr. Bova was the author of more than 200 works of science fact and fiction, including short stories, essays, newspaper articles, non-fiction works and novels. He was the six-time winner of the prestigious Hugo Award, the editor of Analog Magazine, and the editorial director of Omni Magazine. He was president of the National Space Society and the Science Fiction Writers of America.
It is a common wish to visit the future and report back to the present; to time travel. Ben Bova was that time traveler; his books and short stories: the journals from the future. In his various writings, Dr. Ben Bova predicted — years before they happened: the race to the Moon during the 1960s, satellites using the Sun to power the Earth’s technologies, the discovery of organic compounds in interstellar space, virtual reality and the internet, human cloning, the struggle to relieve the world of nuclear weapons, humans living on Mars, stem cell therapy, the discovery of ice and water on the Moon, electronic book publishing, robot police, and sex in space.
While he experimented with some fantasy works (his Orion series is a good example) most of his novels were science fiction: no stories of a rocket’s roar in empty space (where sound cannot travel). He believed that a reader should feel, immersed in one of his books and short stories, that you were walking on the rusty, rock strewn surface of Mars, enduring the planet’s light pull on your cheeks, and tasting the stale air in your suit helmet. Newton’s Laws were not suggestions.
Widely read, Dr. Bova would delight in reciting entire poems of, say, Rudyard Kipling, or the songs of Cole Porter on occasion. He would acknowledge the most esoteric pun or obscure reference with a groan or a wry grin. He could – as he often did during writing breaks – with pen and sans eraser, complete entire New York Times crossword puzzles in the time it takes to finish a lunch cup of yoghurt. Words were his tools; his memory and imagination, his toolbox. And his two pointing fingers – he never used his entire set of fingers to write, the hammers that pounded first the typewriter keys and then, when it was invented, the home computer to conceive and mold a good story.
And stories he wrote. Translations of his multiple works appear in bookstores and libraries world-wide. He once said of his craft that “it is so easy to find a reason for not writing. Writing is hard, grueling work; it’s much easier to do something else. Especially if you have a “real” job that demands eight hours a day or more, it is difficult to make the time for writing. Yet that is precisely what you must do. Make the time. “Writers,” he said, “don’t “find” the time to write. They make time for their writing. Family, friends, job, all the other pleasures and obligations of your life must take second place to writing,” he counseled. “If you are going to be a successful writer, you must write.”
Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania during the depths of The Great Depression, his family was so poor, a can of beans would suffice as supper, and so destitute he suffered from rickets, a vitamin D deficiency, now readily available in supermarket milk. Asthma kept him from playing stick ball and out of South Philadelphia’s violent street gangs which, along with his curious mind, led him to read books and write stories. Lots of books. Lots of stories.
To support his family, he worked as a newspaper reporter for several years before joining Project Vanguard, the first American artificial satellite program. He later wrote scripts for teaching films with the Physical Sciences Study Committee in association with Nobel Laureates from many universities. Later still he became the manager of marketing for Avco Everett Research Laboratory, in Massachusetts, and worked with leading scientists in fields such as high-power lasers, artificial hearts, and plasma dynamics.
But it was as the editor of Analog Magazine (earlier Astounding Science Fiction — the running joke at that time was that nothing was amazing, only astounding), then editorial director of Omni Magazine in New York City where he had the most influence on the craft of writing. It was at these magazines that Dr. Bova discovered, guided, and promoted some of the most talented writers known today.
For his exceptional editorial work, he received the Science Fiction Achievement Award (the “Hugo”) for Best Professional Editor six times. In 2001 Dr. Bova was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). He received the 1996 Isaac Asimov Memorial Award; was the 1974 recipient of the E.E. Smith Memorial Award for Imaginative Fiction; the 1983 Balrog Award winner for Professional Achievement; the 1985 Inkpot Award recipient for his outstanding achievements in science fiction. In 2000, he was Guest of Honor at the 58th World Science Fiction Convention, Chicon2000.
Dr. Bova taught science fiction at Harvard University and at the Hayden Planetarium in New York City, where he also directed film courses. He received his doctorate in education in 1996 from California Coast University, a master of arts degree in communications from the State University of New York at Albany (1987) and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Temple University (1954).
He lectured on topics dealing with the prospects for human immortality, the interaction of science and politics, space exploration and development, the craft of writing, and the search for extraterrestrial life. He worked with film makers and television producers such as Woody Allen, George Lucas, and Gene Roddenberry.
Dr. Bova was a regular commentator on WGCU-FM, the southwest Florida NPR station. He was the science analyst on CBS Morning News, and appeared frequently on Good Morning America and the Today show.
Dr. Bova served on panels of the Office of Technology Assessment. He was a member of the Board of Governors of the National Space Society, a charter member of the Planetary Society, and a Fellow of the British Interplanetary Society. Temple University honored him as a Distinguished Alumnus in 1981, and in 1982 made him an Alumni Fellow.
He was the resident Emeritus of the National Space Society and a past president of Science Fiction Writers of America, Dr. Bova received the Lifetime Achievement Award of the Arthur C. Clarke Foundation in 2005, “for fueling mankind’s imagination regarding the wonders of outer space.” His 2006 novel TITAN received the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for best novel of the year. In 2008 he won the Robert A. Heinlein Award “for his outstanding body of work in the field of literature.” In 2012 he received a Space Pioneer Award from the National Space Society.
Using romance, adventure, and scientific accuracy, Dr. Bova showed how the human race will expand through the solar system in his Grand Tour novels LEVIATHANS OF JUPITER, MARS, and TITAN. His nonfiction books, such as FAINT ECHOES, DISTANT STARS and IMMORTALITY were honored by the American Librarians Association.
If one is fortunate, one is able to count at the end of one’s life the few good deeds done for a friend, for a son or daughter, perhaps for a student. In this, Ben Bova was blessed. His humor and warm counsel are the gifts he leaves to a multitude of friends. His love, his caring, his generous soul, and a cornucopia of memories, are the gifts he leaves to his family. His literary works are the gifts he leaves the world, requited now by the gratitude of those who read and enjoy his stories, and in the future, by those yet to be born.
At the request of the family please no flowers.
Donations in Ben’s name can be made to:
National Space Society or,
the Red Cross , or the American Heart Association.
Memorial Services will be announced at a later date.