Gardner Dozois died on Sunday.
I cannot tell you how hard it was for me to write those words. I probably should have posted something Sunday night, or yesterday for sure, but I just couldn’t. It almost felt as if writing it would make it real, and there’s a part of me, a BIG part of me, that still does not want to believe it is real. It can’t be real. I just spoke to Gardner a few days earlier. He was in the hospital after a fall that had left him “bruised but not broken” (his words), but he was still Gardner, Gargy, the Great Gargoo, funny, lively, full of plans. We talked about getting together for a visit when I came east in July, either at Thrillerfest in NYC or down in Philadelphia where he expected to be in rehab. We talked about his latest anthology, and I tried to convince him to come to San Jose for worldcon, and we joked. This came on so quick…
I need to write a proper appreciation of Gardner, and I will, I will… but not just now. The wound is still too raw. I keep wanting to pick up the phone and call him and hear his voice again.
Gardner and I go back a long way. He was my second oldest friend in the field (I’ve known Howard Waldrop longer, though I actually MET Gardner earlier, since Howard and I knew each other only by mail for the first decade or so). Gardner is the reason I am here. He was the assistant editor at GALAXY in 1970 who fished my story “The Hero” out of the slush pile and recommended it as a buy to editor Ejler Jakobsson (who always took his recommendations). That was my first professional sale. And in the spring of 1971, when I walked into Disclave, the first SF con I ever attended, Gardner was the first person I met. He was working the registration desk.
Lots of people are posting and publishing appreciations of Gardner now, telling you that he was a great writer, and a great editor. All true. But right now it is not the editor or the writer I am mourning, it is my friend. He was the warmest, kindest, gentlest soul you’ll ever met, larger than life, bawdy, funny… so funny. When I remember Gardner, I remember laughter. If you were walking through the halls at any con and you heard a group of people laughing, odds are Gargy was in the middle of it, with a jellybean or a cheese doodle up his nose, telling his old Army stories. I heard those stories a hundred times, and they always made me laugh just as much as the first time. “Do not piss on the third rail, or YOU WILL DIE.”
It breaks my heart to know that I will never laugh with him again.
And you know what else breaks my heart? NIGHTFLYERS came out today, in two editions, one from Tor (with extra stories) and one from Bantam (with illustrations). The book is dedicated to Gardner. “Manatees!” I was going to send him copies as a surprise… and now I can’t.
Ah, damn… this is too hard.
A couple of years ago at Capclave, Gardner and I and Howard Waldrop did a panel that was really just the three of us telling stories. It’s on YouTube now:
Have a look. Have a laugh. Stick a jellybean up your nose.
That was Gardner.
God, I loved that man.
Current Mood: sad
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