We received more appreciations for the late David Hartwell than we had room to run in our March issue, but would still like to share them with our readers. The following memorials from his friends, admirers, and colleagues are just a small part of the outpouring of appreciations for his life. Further appreciations are welcome in the comments.–Locus
I generally do not write memoriams. My first and last reaction is, “did I really know the person well enough?” This was my reaction when I read, with shock, of David Hartwell’s untimely passing from a stroke. But then I realized, looking at the Facebook threads begun in his memory, how many people qualified their statements with “I did not know him/never met him/never spoke to him, but….” And that changed my mind.
I do not claim to have been a fast friend of David’s; his circles and mine intersected only so much over the years. But he was always unfailingly friendly, as well as soft-spoken–to the point of seeming shy, at times. But his passions for the SF/F genre, for books, and for a life of the mind were as bright and vibrant as the stars that intrigued him.
David was the first person to publish my work in SF. Ironically, it was not fiction, although in the last two years, we had chatted about addressing that situation. But perhaps, being a nonfiction publication, it was ultimately more influential upon me, because it set in motion a string of events that led me to where I am today.
In 1989, friends of mine brought me to the first SF/F convention I had ever attended. I did not grow up in the fannish community, so when I entered the strange reality of Lunacon, the environment was terra incognita.
In the course of that convention (itself a tale with many odd excurses, such as meeting Tom Doherty in the rest room and having no bloody idea just who I was talking with), I sat in on a panel in a large room, almost filled to capacity, where the literary merits and particulars of SF were under discussion. Toward the end, I raised my hand, and asked a question about the aesthetic relationship, as the panelists saw it, between the evolution of SF in the 20th century and the (often helpful, often problematizing) temporally parallel modernist and post-modernist movements. One of the panelists–a distinguished looking fellow in a conservative sport coat and outrageous tie–asked me to provide more detail about where I saw the affinities and the bricolage between SF and these literary trends. I did so. On the spot, he asked if I’d be willing to write that up and send it to him for publication in The New York Review of Science Fiction.
For anyone sensitive to narrative structure, it has become obvious that this panelist was none other than David Hartwell. But for those who knew him, they were certain of that identity from the moment I mentioned the outrageous tie–of which David had an extraordinary and seemingly inexhaustible collection (I am not sure I ever saw him wear the same one twice). And those who knew David well will have realized it was him for another reason: his thirst for serious discussion of SF in all its shapes and forms. In this case, manifesting as a panel-ending solicitation for an article on a related topic, risking his time and energy on a completely unknown 29-year-old who had the great, dumb luck to ask the final question of the hour and thus have that coda-like request ringing in his ears loud and long enough to take action upon it.
The article was indeed long (and those who know *me* will not be surprised to learn that). But David ran it in its entirety, giving it a new, Tennysonian title (“The Ringing Grooves of Change”) and providing some (typically) excellent editorial comments and guidance as it moved to readiness. I was delighted.
Five years later, when market forces had driven my first freelance career into a ditch, I determined to ensure a secure professional foundation by becoming a professor. And so, the essay for which David had been the catalyst now sparked the conceptual fire that grew into my dissertation proposal. In modified form, it became the first chapter in that dissertation, which ultimately went on to become my first book, Rumors of War and Infernal Machines. When its second, American edition won the American Library Association’s 2006 Choice Award for Best Book, I dropped David a line to thank him for the seminal role he played in that almost 20-year journey. His reply was, predictably, very congratulatory while also being wholly dismissive of his influence.
I offer this story not because I believe it to be unique, but because, conversely, I suspect it is one of a vast throng of similar tales: of how David reached out and, without even knowing it, set someone on a course that would one day lead to a profound rendezvous with some aspect of the SF/F genre and/or community. I hope others will step forth with their analogous remembrances. I doubt there could be a more fitting tribute to a man who gave this field so much of himself, his energy, his vision, his passion: a bouquet of dreams given substance in this, the true “field of dreams.”
I will miss David a great deal; after all, who other than he shared the almost contentious conviction that Pynchon is, at the core, a modernist not a postmodernist? I will miss him hovering like a proud mother bird over his tables of used books, the treasure for which had both an insatiable appetite and also a near-evangelical zeal for sharing. I will miss his balance, his gentlemanly manner on panels (we sat our last together at Loncon), his dry wit, his strong tendency to depoliticize the field wherever possible, his elegant turn of a phrase, his slow smile, his omnipresent camera. And of course, his ties.
David’s last decade seemed to churn with a great deal of change and challenge, some being health-related issues. However, in recent years, it seemed he had found renewed energy on those occasions we met and chatted–although our talk never turned to personal matters: David was in many regards a very private person, and I never presumed to do anything other than respect those implicit conversational margins. But on the day before his passing, I had seen that he was on the same last-day panel at Boskone that I was, and so weighed whether I should make my departure a little later, just for the pleasure of touching base with David, and sharing our love of SF. But now that chair will be empty.
And we and our field are permanently diminished because of that.
I was terribly sad when I heard about the accident of David Hartwell. Then absolutely upset when my friend Robert Silverberg announced to me the brutal death of David.
I met him twice. The first time, some years ago, he came to my place in Paris and we had a very interesting dinner, at least for me.
One of my Bibles is his The World Treasury of Science Fiction (1989). I owe to him the honor to be represented in that Institution but that is not the reason for my admiration for his work. I think he was one of the best editors of all times in the science fiction field, at Tor and elsewhere, as was Ian Ballantine in the fifties and the sixties and later.
We met him, my wife Jackie Paternoster and me, a second time in November 2014, in New York at the Tor offices in the legendary Iron Flat Building. He gave us with his boss and collaborators a warm and kind welcome.
And I hoped to meet him again in NY or in Paris and to develop, beyond the admiration, a deep friendship such as I had and have with so many personalities of science fiction I read, admired and published.
I wrote to Bob: David lived by books, he died by books.
If it is true he fell in his house transporting a handful of books….
My English is not so good so I am not sure this is an appropriate sentence.
But I mourn him and partake the grief of his family and friends.
“Young David as Leader”
His coat of princely fit
Mixed with many colors ruled
Our realm. No one fooled
With Hartwell. Now his death
Strikes us hard. No breath
Nor tear suffices for the loss
That shall deeply cut across
The world of writers. Without him
We must stagger forward dim
In our vision for awhile,
Disoriented with no smile.
He assumed youthful command
In the field and led a motley band
Of believers with much compelling wit.
I first met David Hartwell either in his last days at Signet or his first days at Berkley, and we did a fair amount of business over the years. I was very happy to learn early on that David was knowledgeable about a lot of things in a lot of fields. He was one of the few people I knew who really loved science fiction. I’m sure he enjoyed the living from it, but I’m also sure he’d have enjoyed it just as much as a fan. Since we both lived in Westchester, we’d get together once or twice a year for lunch, and he’d fill me in on the world of science fiction, and then we’d get on to talking about the world in general.
David Hartwell made essential contributions to many specialized areas of science fiction–among them the libertarian contingent that should celebrate his memory for years to come.