The news of David G. Hartwell’s sudden and tragic death has been all over the net for the past few days. Most of you reading this probably know already. He fell while carrying a bookcase section down a flight of steps, hit his head, and died of a massive brain bleed.
For those of us who knew him, the news was as shocking as it was sad. Just a few months ago, David was dancing at the Hugo Losers Party at Sasquan, and seemingly having a great time. He was 74, it is true, but he was still strong and sharp and vital, and should have had a lot more years. Dozens of moving tributes to David’s life and career have already been posted. There’s not much that has not been said, but I feel compelled to add my own few words.
I have known David for a long, long time. I first met him at a con… a worldcon, or perhaps a Lunacon, it is hard to recall. I was a young writer, and he was a young editor… at New American Library (Signet) in those early days. Later he moved to Berkley, and still later to Pocket Books, where he founded the prestigious Timescape line.
In the early days, the NAL and Berkley days, David and his first wife Pat were also resident proctors at Bard Hall, a graduate dormitory at Columbia University. There were always a few empty rooms at the dorm, so when impoverished young SF writers came to NYC, David and Pat would put them up. One Christmas season I was the impoverished young writer in question, and I stayed in a dorm at Bard Hall for a week. The best part of that stay were the nights I sat up talking with David. I was greener than summer grass in those days, still years away from my first novel; I got a graduate course in publishing that week, and learned more about the history of science fiction on his couch than from all the books I’d read. (Heard some choice gossip too).
Some years after that came Tor, where he has been a mainstay for oh, these many decades. Tor’s long long track record as the preeminent publisher of science fiction and fantasy in the United States is based in no small part to the work of David G. Hartwell. Oh, and he did a lot more than that too. With Robert Weinberg and Kirby McCauley, he founded the World Fantasy Convention and has continued to supervise and help run it ever since. He administered the convention’s award, the Howards, for decades. He helped to start THE NEW YORK REVIEW OF SCIENCE FICTION, one of the premiere critical journals in our field.
Professionally, our paths crossed a number of times. At one point David was editor of a short-lived SF magazine called COSMOS, where he bought my story “Bitterblooms” (still one of my favorites) and made it the cover story. At Berkley, he was a bidder when my first novel DYING OF THE LIGHT was put up for auction. He didn’t win — Pocket Books and another publisher both outbid him — but as fate would have it, he became my editor anyway a few year later when he moved to Pocket to found Timescape. He was the editor on my second novel, WINDHAVEN, my collaboration with Lisa Tuttle. And thanks to that, he had an option on my next book, which turned out to be FEVRE DREAM. But when I turned that one in, David did something very ballsy and unselfish… he passed it along to another editor at another imprint at Pocket, Anne Patty of Poseidon Press, because he knew that she could pay me more and get out more copies (Poseidon was a bestseller imprint) than he could. FEVRE DREAM turned out to be my biggest success to date, in no small part thanks to David’s gesture. Shifting it over was not necessarily the best thing for Timescape, or for David himself, but it was the best move for me and my career. Not everyone would have done what he did. It was a remarkable kindness.
I never worked with David again after that, but we remained friendly through all the years that followed, though the only time we ever really saw each other was at cons. David was a great editor… but he was also a fan. He never missed a worldcon that I can recall, nor a World Fantasy once those got rolling, and he could be found at many a Philcon, Boskone, Lunacon, and Readercon as well. Some editors go to cons for strictly professional reasons; they do panels, take their writers out to dinner, and then repair to their rooms. Not David. He was as much a fan as a pro, and you’d find him at the SFWA suite, the Tor party, the Baen party, the bid parties, the bar, the Hugo Losers party… wherever there was good fellowship and good cheer and good talk to be found. David G. Hartwell was a trufan.
And when two a.m. came rolling around, he would sing.
Good night, David. You’ll be missed.