Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc. FFRF.org

In memoriam: Ben Bova was science fiction author

Vol. 38 No. 01 Jan/Feb 2021
Ben Bova at Minicon 8, 1974                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             

Science fiction author and editor Ben Bova died of complications of COVID-19 and a stroke on Nov. 29 in Naples, Fla., at age 88.

He was the author of 140 books and edited some of science fiction’s best-known publications and served as the president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

In an interview on FFRF’s Freethought Radio (July 18, 2009, which can be heard at ffrf.org/radio by scrolling to  that date), Bova said, “The Catholic Church teaches that faith is a gift from God, and it’s a gift I never received apparently. It always seemed kind of strange to me that we’re depending on this supernatural power and there’s no real evidence that it exists. . . . When I started understanding how science works, it occurred to me that there just is

no evidence that there is a God.”

Attracted to science but fearing he lacked the math skills for it led him to study journalism at Temple University in Philadelphia, which landed him a job in 1954 as a newspaper editor. He then worked as a technical writer for an aircraft company and as a writer for educational films at MIT.  He was working as a writer in 1969 for Avco Everett Research Laboratory, which built heat shields for the Apollo 11 module, when the first men landed on the moon.

He earned a master’s in communications from the State University of New York at Albany and a Ph.D. in education from California Coast University.

His increasing renown as a writer in the 1970s brought him the role for which he would be most acclaimed, editor of Analog, the popular science fiction magazine. As editor, Bova earned five consecutive Hugo Awards (1973 to 1977) and another in 1982 as fiction editor of Omni magazine.

After his first novel (The Star Conquerors in 1959), Bova wrote 140 futuristic and nonfiction books. The latest in his Grand Tour series was Uranus in July 2020.

He served as president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America and a science analyst on “CBS Morning News.” He taught science fiction at Harvard and film courses at other institutions. He received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Arthur C. Clarke Foundation (2005), was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (2001) and in 2008 won the Robert A. Heinlein Award “for his outstanding body of work in the field of literature.”

Bova’s writings predicted solar power satellites, the discovery of organic chemicals in interstellar space, the space race of the 1960s, virtual reality, human cloning, stem cell therapy, the discovery of ice on the moon, electronic book publishing and the Strategic Defense Initiative (Star Wars). His novel Mars Life (2008) explored the clash between science, politics and religion. His 1980 article in Discover magazine, “The Creationists’ ‘Equal Time,’” became an inspirational classic among freethinkers.

He married Rosa Cucinotta in 1953 while attending Temple University. They had a son and a daughter before divorcing in 1974, when he married Barbara Berson Rose. She founded the Barbara Bova Literary Agency. She died in 2009 of cancer in Naples, Fla. Bova married Rashida Loya, an anesthesiologist, in 2013.

Editor’s note: Most of this obituary comes from FFRF’s Freethought of the Day entry, which was compiled by Bonnie Gutsch and Bill Dunn. To see other entries in FFRF’s extensive list, go to ffrf.org/day.