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Wednesday, January 20, 2016

David G. Hartwell: R.I.P.

David G. Hartwell, my science fiction editor at Tor Books, suffered a grievous "brain bleed" yesterday after a fall, and is not expected to recover.  (Note added later in the day - and, alas, he did not.)

Actually, David was no longer my editor at Tor, since I stopped publishing with them after The Plot to Save Socrates paperback in 2007.   But I'll always think of him as my editor.

The big corporate world of traditional publishing boils down, as all human activities do, to individual human beings.  It's not that Tor wanted to publish my work, it was David.  In fact, though editors here and there have loved this or that piece of my work, I owe my career in science fiction to just two editors: Dr. Stanley Schmidt at Analog Magazine and Dr. David G. Hartwell at Tor.  Had it not been for them, I'd have missed out on what is often the best part of my professional life - being a published author of science fiction, getting a seat at the table of people whose works map out the quintessentially human activity of transforming the cosmos, maybe just a little.

Working with David was remarkable in itself.  When he told you, after reading a draft of your novel, that all you needed to do for it now was "move around some of the furniture,"  he was telling you it needed a major overhaul of ripping up and moving around chapters.  When a novel of yours he believed in didn't strike it all that big in sales, he attributed it to people for some reason "looking the other way".   He pleaded with me not to have a cat killed in one of my stories - he said readers would never forgive me - and I'm pretty sure I changed that scene and spared that cat. He advised against the title The Consciousness Plague for my second Phil D'Amato novel, claiming he had never had any luck with novels with "plague" in the title, and he was right about that, too.   He was not right about everything, and to this day I regret going along with some of his suggestions, but every book of mine that he edited bears his stamp, and I'm glad to have it.

David lived until a few years ago just a few miles north of me in Westchester, New York.   I drove him home from events in New York City, attended his birthday parties, and baby sat his son Peter with my son Simon.   Taking Peter to a dog show in White Plains, New York was easily a high point of that month.

David Brin, David Hartwell, and I were judges at the Fourth Annual Philip K. Film Festival in New York City just this past Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend.  I was there on Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday.  David Hartwell was there on Thursday - when, of course, I was seriously thinking of going, but got tied up in something else.

So I've got to settle for the videos below - of David, Stan Schmidt, and me at a panel five years ago, and David and me at his birthday party in 2011 (this brief video by Moshe Feder).   And I can still hope for a miracle.  I've always believed in while there's life there's hope, and, hey, that's what science fiction is all about.  (Note added later in the day - and sadly, there was no science fictional ending to this story.  RIP, David, you bettered the lives of many people.)

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