David at the Hugo Losers Party at the Glasgow Worldcon in 2005
In the wake of his death a few days ago, I've already posted a few thoughts about David Hartwell on Facebook, but I wanted to expand on those here. Although I don't remember exactly when I met him (like Art Widner, David always seemed to be around on the science fiction convention scene when I arrived) I knew David for probably thirty years or more. I most likely met him at a Norwescon, the regional Seattle convention that I attended regularly starting in 1979. I have a clear memory of listening to him and Algis Budrys singing a sweet duet of "Teen Angel" in the wee hours of a party at what must have been a Norwescon.
The presence of Budrys makes me wonder if it was the one where Bridge Publications threw a party for William Gibson. The Norwescon history page says Budrys was Toastmaster in 1983 (Art Widner was Fan Guest of Honor at that one), which sounds about right, although I would have sworn Gibson had published at least one book by this time, which doesn't match the chronology.
Indeed, this all seems to have been completely wrong, and it seems that the party I'm thinking of may have been Arbor House's release party for Gibson's Count Zero
and Burning Chrome
, which would probably make it the 1987 Norwescon, where David was Toastmaster. David was working at Arbor House at the time and was apparently Gibson's editor there. The "Teen Angel" memory, on the other hand, could well be from 1983.
Whatever the case, David became a fixture of the science fiction community for me starting around that time. He used to come to Norwescon quite frequently, maybe Westercons too, and I'd also see him at the sporadic Worldcons I attended. He also taught at Clarion West workshops, so I'd see him whenever he came out for those. On top of that, he and Kathryn Cramer eventually became an item, and because she was from Seattle and her parents and sister still lived here, she and David would come to Seattle fairly frequently to visit. I even had dinner at the Cramer household a time or two during that period, but David would also include me in occasional dinners at conventions, usually on a publisher's tab, but what the hey. It made me feel as though I were vaguely part of the industry, and that was largely down to David's hospitality and inclusiveness.
With David in later days, at the pirate party at the 2005 Worldcon
I was an aspiring science fiction writer in the earliest period of our friendship, but I never tried to leverage our relationship into any kind of help with my development as a writer. Partly it was because David was a book editor, while I was trying to write short stories, and partly it was because I hadn't a clue what I was doing, even when I did try to make use of my professional connections to get feedback on something I'd written. But one of the great things about David is that he was a fan as well as a pro, and he and I could mindmeld completely on the level of enthusiasts of the literature of science fiction. From my fanboy perspective, it was always a delight to be able to talk to him about favorite writers, such as Gwyneth Jones, whom he was working with directly as an editor. He was a font of stories about what was going on behind the scenes. He also had a keen knowledge of the history of science fiction, and as I've related elsewhere, we once got into a discussion about A.E. van Vogt in which he told me that van Vogt's four biggest acolytes were Charles Harness, Philip Dick, Phil Farmer, and Barrington Bayley Jr. All of those writers other than Farmer are huge favorites of mine, and David opened my eyes as to why in one fell swoop. Maybe I should read more Farmer one of these days too.
When you start delving into all of David's accomplishments in the field, it starts to seem bottomless. He was, of course, a major book editor for several decades, publishing many important writers and novels over the years. He was also a major anthologists, who, along with an annual best-of collection, put together a number of very influential genre or subgenre anthologies, including for horror and hard SF and space opera. His Age of Wonders
is one of the best general introductions to science fiction ever written and once again displays his fannish cred by including a correctly attributed epigraph citing Pete Graham's fanzine quip, "The golden age of science fiction is twelve." His small press, Dragon Press, was also extremely influential, especially with the Gregg Press imprint of hardback reprints of the best of classical science fiction from the beginning up through the late '60s or early '70s, and also through the publication of The New York Review of Science Fiction
-- a monthly magazine of reviews and criticism that published several of my own reviews once upon a time. The World Fantasy Convention, which he helped to found, is a bit more controversial in its accomplishments, particularly for those of us who prefer the old fan-oriented model of conventions, but it's safe to say that it has had an enormous impact on the field as well, if nothing else through the awards it hands out. (And hey, the one World Fantasy Convention I attended, which I mostly didn't enjoy very much, saw John Shirley introduce me to Howard Kaylan -- of the Turtles and Frank Zappa fame -- which reduced me to the worst kind of fanboy spluttering about, "What was it like to work with Zappa?! Gibber, tweet!")
Lennart Uhlin with David at the 2014 Worldcon in London
Because he was such an important figure in the field, he seemed to know all the writers, artists, editors, and publishers, but as I say he was equally friendly with mere fans. He seemed to genuinely enjoy people, and he could remember details about everyone. Most recently I was struck at the 2014 Worldcon in London when David joined me at a table in the village green where I was sitting with the Swedish fan, Lennart Uhlin. I asked them if they new each other, and they both said, "Of course," and David proceeded to talk about Lennart's bookshop in Stockholm, which he had apparently visited at some point. The fannish connection does remind me, however, that I wasn't completely above trying to get David interested in my writing. Or textual amalgamations, as the case may be. I'm pretty sure that, based on our shared enthusiasm for van Vogt, I mailed him a copy of the cut-up van Vogt chapbook I produced called Promethean Wakes
, using sentences from van Vogt's novel The Weapon Makers
. He never said anything about it, so I have no idea whether he even read it. However, I also sent him a copy of Travels with the Wild Child
-- a long piece I wrote in 1996 about my friendship with Tamara Vining, who was also a good friend of David's. David seemed to really like that one, and he offered to trade me a Gregg Press book (Zelazny's Damnation Alley
) for several more copies, which he asked both Tami and me to sign and which he said he'd be offering for sale at conventions. I wonder whether he actually ever sold them. More recently I invited him to contribute to the Joanna Russ tribute in the fanzine I publish with Andy Hooper and carl juarez, Chunga
, since David had long been an advocate of hers and had dreamed aloud more than once in my company about publishing a collection of her SF reviews and criticism. He told me he hoped he could send us something, but he ended up not doing so. A year or so later I saw him at a convention, and he apologized for failing to come up with anything. He seemed genuinely crestfallen that he hadn't been able to participate, but I just assumed he was a busy man with a lot of other things on his plate.
There are so many other memories, but I'll try not to ramble too much. Another favorite one was finding him at the Hugo Losers Party in LA in 2006, which I'd been avoiding despite the fact that Chunga
was nominated that year until Ulrika, whom I'd sent as my avatar, came and dragged my ass to it, where I promptly found David celebrating his first Hugo win and was able to happily add my heartfelt congratulations. He consoled me for Chunga
's loss, assuring me it was a fine fanzine. We had added him to our mailing list by then. As I've also mentioned elsewhere, the last meal I had with David was at the London Worldcon, where he treated me, Rachel Holmen, and his two youngest children, Peter and Elizabeth, to dinner after a mad dash through a publishers party where the creme de la creme of British science fiction writers were having fun at the top of their lungs while drinking comped margaritas. One of the big topics of conversation at the London Worldcon were criticisms from younger writers and fans that the science fiction establishment (both pro and fan) was too white, male, straight, and old. David had been hit with some of that criticism and was frustrated, because he felt he had been on the side of the angels when it came to the demographic changes in the field. Still, he took the criticisms seriously and was more than willing to discuss them at length. We also talked about the amicable state of his ongoing divorce settlement with Kathryn, and it was good to hear that things were going as well as possible on that front. I'll always remember that at the end of that meal, as David put the bill on Tor's tab, he gave me a huge smile and said, "Now *that* was a true Worldcon conversation!"
David with Charlie Stross, who had just won his first Hugo, at the 2005 Worldcon
A year later, at the Worldcon in Spokane, he came to the TAFF reception for Nina Horvath in the evening fanzine lounge, where I was one of the putative hosts, although Ulrika, Liz Copeland, and Scott K. were doing all the actual work. He talked about how proud he was to have been one of Nina's nominators and how proud he was of her win and of her star-making role at the convention, particularly at the Hugo Awards, where the conversation had turned from lack of diversity in the field to the Puppy complaints that political correctness was destroying the good old-fashioned values of science fiction. That David was keyed into something like the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund once again demonstrates his fannish cred. At the end of Sasquan, I saw him for what would end up being the last time ever, and he told me about how he'd been up until 2am dancing at George R.R. Martin's anti-Puppy post-Hugo party. David said he hadn't known he still had it in him to party like that. He had looked and sounded increasingly frail over the past few years, but he was still rocking the awful shirts and clashing suits and ties. His fashion sense was legendary and otherwordly. He basically embraced conflict and the garish on that front. The fashion atrocities clashed, in turn, with his slightly patrician mid-Atlantic accent and genteel air.
He was really quite an amazing and fascinating man all around. I can't say I was deeply close to him, but having seen him so much over so many years, even in dribs and drabs, leaves a feeling of perhaps unearned intimacy. As with Art Widner, whose memorial party at Sasquan David regretted missing because I failed to publicize the event, it's hard to imagine what fandom will be like now that he's gone. He died trying to carry part of a book case upstairs from the basement, when he took a fall and hit his head, causing a massive brain hemorrhage. It's a horrible loss, but in a very fannish pursuit. A man who loved books like they were breath, killing himself wrangling a bookcase. I feel bad about losing the future pleasure of his company, but I feel worse for Kathryn, Peter, Elizabeth, and David's older son, Geoff, whom I first met at the 1993 Worldcon in San Francisco and who became a buddy for a few years after that. My condolences to the family (I've never met the older daughter, Alison) and to the entire world of science fiction, which lost a singular figure and friend in David. Long may his crass ties fly, if only in memory.
David and Sharee Carton at the pirate party at the 2005 Worldcon