David Geddes Hartwell, 1941-2016

Here are memorial comments on the passing of Mr. Hartwell by two of the most prestigious and well-known editors in the field.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden

To call our relationship “complicated” is to understate the case. We were friends. We were also editors working the same patch—him older and more eminent, me younger and more energetic. (“Younger and more energetic”, those were the days.) Back in the impossibly-long-ago mid-to-late ‘80s, Teresa and I worked on his poetry magazine, and we helped dream up his journal of SF criticism and quit it three issues after. (I named it/and/designed the masthead.) He declined to hire me as his assistant at Arbor House, saying that Terry Carr had told him “Don’t hire that guy, he’ll just get promoted in six months and you’ll need an assistant again.” Thanks, Terry. In a more recent century, he and I co-edited a pretty good reprint anthology.

Teresa and I first got to know him in the early 1980s, when he was attending tons of conventions on the Timescape / Simon & Schuster dime. When our friend-in-fandom Paul Williams sat us down in Seattle and explained to us how we needed to work in SF publishing—and how to do that— step one was that I should wind up at the 1983 ABA (the thing now called BEA ) in Dallas. Which I did, crashing on David’s floor, spending days in the crush meeting publishing folks. Evenings, I hung back and watched as David and Paul invented the Philip K. Dick Society and planned Dick’s wildly successful posthumous Hollywood career. All of which came to pass. Clearly here was a magician, albeit a crafty, subtle, and not always trustworthy one. Like all the best.

Over the years at Tor we had occasions to want to drop-kick him out a 14th floor window—and occasions to be gobsmacked by his utter brilliance. He was a true believer in the intellectual and emotional power of fantasy and science fiction. He was our field’s most consequential editor since John W. Campbell.

He is gone. It’s like a mountain range is gone, or nitrogen, or a verb tense. We can’t believe it. David. Goodbye.

Gardner Dozois

As many of you probably know by now, David G. Hartwell, one of the most important and influential SF and fantasy editors of the 20th and 21st Centuries, is dying from a brain bleed, and may even be already dead by the time you read these words (he was last reported to be on a respirator, being evaluated for brain death, but the doctors hold out no hope for his survival).

David and I were born in the same hospital, Salem Hospital in Salem, Massachusetts, a few years apart, but didn’t actually meet until 1970, when I moved to New York City, and David was the smart, energetic, and ambitious editor of Berkley Books. He bought my first two novels there, and in the decades since, even though we were sometimes rivals, with dueling Best of the Year anthology series, he never wavered in his support for my career, and he has been one of my closest friends in SF fandom and professional circles for almost fifty years.

David loved science fiction with a pure passionate love that never wavered. It was one of the things that held us together. We didn’t always agree by any means, but we could always talk about science fiction together, sometimes for hours. I can’t even begin to count how many lunches and dinners and long sessions spent sitting around in a bar in some convention hotel we spent doing so, or how many conventions would boil down to one last room party at three or four o’ clock in the morning, with the last people awake at the convention being me and David and John Douglas and maybe Susan Casper or Ginjer Buchanan or Judith Weiss or Pat Cadigan or Michael Swanwick or a few other people, all still laughing and talking (and arguing, passionately) about science fiction, sometimes until the sky outside the hotel-room window had grayed with dawn.

David had an immense influence on the development of science fiction over the last almost fifty years, not just by the books he bought and edited and championed, or by the writers he mentored and developed, but in dozens of other ways, probably more than will ever be realized. Without David having been there, there’s no way that science fiction as a genre looks anything remotely like what it looks like today. Without him, it would have been much the poorer place. His loss is a heavy and grievous one, not just for science fiction, but for all who knew and loved him.

Rest In Peace, David, whenever they let you go.

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