One of science fiction’s best has passed away.
In years to come, the true depth and breadth of David G. Hartwell’s influence and impact on the field will come, I have no doubt, to be recognized as a separately named era in the history of the field.
I don’t know what we’ll call it (Gernsback, Campbell, Moorcock, Hartwell? The Platinum Age?, a herald of the maturation of the field?) but whatever we largely settle on, it will be recognized as a distinct boundary layer within the geologic strata of the genre.
Many other websites have offered up glowing, heartfelt biographies. I’ll take things a little more personal.
I knew David in passing – enough to get a smile of recognition whenever we passed in the halls of a convention, enough to ask him about his latest tie and jacket combo, enough to request and receive some face time.
That relationship in passing (as so many fannish/professional relationships are) began back in the late 70s when David had begun editing Cosmos, the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.
It was a heady time for science fiction fans, the middle of a mini-boom in the field that followed recovering from the loss of the manned space program and the advent of Star Wars. David introduced Cosmos and, at about the same time, Weird Tales was coming back, Asimov’s SF had just been launched (alongside it’s companion Asimov’s Adventure magazine), Galileo, a semi-prozine with newsstand distribution was showing some promise, Baen was just about to leave Galaxy, Ted White was intimating that Amazing and Fantastic might be heading for bigger things; Unearth, Questar, The Outer Limits magazines were launched, along with a host of single-title media magazines trying to capitalize on the Star Wars phenom filled the stands; Omni’s launch was just a couple of years away.
I was editing and publishing a semi-prozine named Contact SF and we were preparing a special issue on the editors in the field. I don’t remember exactly which convention it was, but my partner (Joseph Zitt) and I had managed to line up interviews with David, Ted White, George Scithers, and Ben Bova (memory may not be entirely accurate; what is accurate was that we had managed to get a good handful of the leading magazine editors into a hotel room for a series of interviews, and David was among them).
It went swimmingly; we’d managed to put together a good list of insightful questions about the joys and horrors of editing a serial publication; questions about the future of the field, questions about background and future intentions.
I remember that my primary concern then was transcribing the tape. The issue I faced was trying to identify who was saying what as we recorded what became (I hope and believe) was an enjoyable free-for-all for all.
The cassette player crapped out on us, but we didn’t know it at the time. Nothing on the tape was useable or even understandable.
Everyone was gracious about it when informed that we’d have to do it all over again (a feat never accomplished unfortunately), but of them all I distinctly remember that David was particularly enthusiastic, supportive and encouraging.
Such was the man.
I’d no idea at the time that he would go on to become so widely influential in the field. I do know that when Cosmos folded, he was more than happy to release Ginjer Buchanan’s fan column that briefly continued in my magazine – which I think is a telling example of his personality. He could have kept that column, something he’d already paid for, but he was more interested in giving a hand-up to new-comers and more interested in seeing the words get into print than he was in any personal gain or influence.
That trait was on exhibit throughout his entire career, and we are all the better for it.