Memorial Day started as a day of remembrance, originally for soldiers slain in the Civil War. In more recent decades it has come to mark the beginning a summer, a holiday celebrated in thousands of back yards across the nation with hot dogs and potato salads. In the science fiction community, it has also become a traditional date for conventions, taking advantage of the three-day weekends. There are a dozen or more Memorial Day cons around these days… but some of them go way back.
It was at one of those conventions that I first met Gardner Dozois: Disclave 1971, in Washington D.C. Gargy (unbeknownest to me at the time) was the assistant editor at GALAXY who had found my story “The Hero” in the slush pile and passed it along to Ejler Jakobsson with a recommendation to buy. That became my first professional sale. A few months later, when I walked into Disclave, the first con I ever attended, Gardner was the first person I met. He was working the registration desk. “Hey,” he said. “I know you. I fished you out of the slush pile.”
He went on to become one of my oldest and dearest friends. We never lived in the same city, oddly, not even the same time zone… but we hung out together at worldcon every year, and sometimes at other cons as well, we workshopped together, taught together, talked together on the phone and by letter (those papery things we exchanged before email), won awards together, lost awards together, founded the Hugo Losers Party together (Kansas City, 1976), edited books together… and laughed together, that above all. Gardner was a brilliant writer (albeit very very slow — yes, even slower than I am) and one of the greatest editors our genre has ever produced, but he was also a very funny man, a joy to spend time with.
He died a year ago, on May 27th. To my shock — we had spoken on the phone only three days before, and he was the same old Gardner, full of jokes and plans for what he’d do when he got out of the hospital — and dismay. A year has come and gone, and I still find it hard to accept that I will never see him again, still have days when I think, “I should give Gargy a call, it’s been a while,” before I remember. I fear, given the date of his death, that Memorial Day weekend is always going to be a day of sadness for me from now on. (FWIW, Gardner was also a veteran, having served in the army during the Vietnam era, though in Germany rather than Nam).
Some of you may never have known Gargy, except as a byline on ASIMOV’S and BEST OF THE YEAR and our crossgenre titles, WARRIORS and ROGUES and DANGEROUS WOMEN. Here, to give you a taste of the man, is a YouTube of the panel I did with Gardner and Howard Waldrop a few years ago at Capclave, the D.C. area con that succeeded Disclave after the… ahem… unfortunate incident. There’s no subject for this panel, no big issue to discuss, just three old friends telling stories and having fun.
I love that someone taped it.
That’s a great memory for me. But there are so many more. And maybe the best times were back in the 70s, when we were both “Young Turks” (yes, people really called us that) and Rising Stars, just starting out, sleeping on floors and sharing rooms and rides at cons, scrounging meals off editors, with none of us having a pot to piss in.
Those were the days, my friend. We thought they’d never end.
Miss you, Gargy.
Current Mood: sad