Home > Recommendations > “Fermi and Frost”, by Frederik Pohl

“Fermi and Frost”, by Frederik Pohl

“Fermi and Frost” is a 1985 science fiction short story by Frederik Pohl.  It won the Hugo for Best Short Story of 1986.

Non-Spoiler Summary

“Fermi and Frost” is the story of a SETI astronomer who’s at an airport when a global nuclear war begins.  He rescues a small boy from horrible, overcrowded conditions and in in turn rescued by a fan of his work, and put on a plane to Iceland, which is assumed to be safe.  It turns out that Reykjavik is destroy, but the rest of Iceland survives the nuclear war.  Can it survive the nuclear winter?  Well, there’s no longer a sun… but Iceland has some geothermal energy to count on, and underground spaces can be converted to various kinds of farming…  I won’t spoil whether or not they survive, but I will tell you they do better than anyone else on Earth.  Which is to say, they’re the last survivors.

Why should you read it?

Because the portrayal of people trying to survive without a sun, but with other advantages, is fascinating.  Unfortunately, Pohl’s choice of presenting multiple options and then choosing one for you is off-puttingly old-fashioned, but for the most part, when he’s not doing that, the writing is as good as anything he’s ever done.  In fact, I’d go as far to say that this is half a story from the 1950’s and half from the 2000’s.

Where to find “Fermi and Frost”

This story was re-published in 2005 in Platinum Pohl: The Collected Best Stories, which is currently available from the King County Library System.  It does not appear to be freely available in text or in audio.

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