I’ve been holding off on this until I received final word that David Hartwell had indeed died, but Kathryn Cramer has now confirmed his death. He was reported as being at death’s door following a serious brain injury (whether from an aneurysm first, then a fall down stairs, or vice versa) Tuesday, but only passed yesterday.
David was a friend, albeit one I only saw at science fiction conventions. He came to one of the pre-Armadillocon pizza lunches I used to throw, and we dined together at more than one Worldcon (where he usually picked up the bill, because That’s What Editors With Expense Accounts Do). I’ll miss his irreplaceable deep insights into the field.
There’s plenty of testament to what a fine editor David Hartwell is (Gene Wolfe said he was the best editor he ever worked with), and he won (and deserved) his Hugo for Best Editor. Chris Brown’s Tropic of Kansas was one of the last novels he bought for Tor before his untimely death.
His indefatigable work as Editor and Publisher of The New York Review of Science Fiction is well known, and he was very appreciative of what we were trying to do at Nova Express back in the day. He also ran Dragon Press and was editor of the Gregg Press science fiction line.
David was a great creator of science fiction institutions: He had a hand in creating not just NYRSF, but also the World Fantasy Convention, Sercon, the Philip K. Dick Award, etc. Anyone could have come up with those ideas, but it took David Hartwell to actually create them and make them stick.
David was also one of the field’s greatest science fiction first edition collectors, and we often talked about collecting first editions over dinner. He said the pride of his collection was the first American edition of Frankenstein (in two volumes), and he also owned a first of Symzonia. He also owned a bookstore in Westport, NY.
David was deeply involved in just about every facet of literary science fiction except writing fiction. He was, more than anyone else, Mr. Science Fiction, and his death is a terrible blow to the field.