David G. Hartwell, 1941-2016

David Hartwell in his office. (Photo by Robert Hoge, 2010)

David G. Hartwell has passed away. David leaves an indelible mark on fantasy and science fiction–so many people who write and edit and read have been shaped by his vision and commitment to the genre.

I met David while planning the Fuller Award to honor Gene Wolfe in 2012, and he was so generous and kind in all his help and enthusiasm. I delighted in subsequent opportunities I had to interact with him, at ICFA and other conventions, as well as on trips to New York where our paths crossed. Everything about the way he engaged with the world, from his clothes to his kindness, made a lasting impression.

I Masterpiecesdidn’t realize until last summer when I was packing up my books to move that one of my favorite childhood anthologies had been edited by David. Published in 1988, it was one of those literary treasures that always moved with me–from childhood home to college apartment and all the places that followed. I made a mental note to bring it with me to a future ICFA (The International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts) where I planned to show David and ask him to sign it.

Sitting in my living room and holding that collection in my hands 25+ years later, it felt like an important reminder of the many ways we are connected, of the creative continuum that we become a part of when we release work into the world, and of the ways that childhood aspirations can become reality.
Kyle Cassidy always says, “If you’re doing things right, eventually all your idols will gravitate to your living room.” Kyle calls it the gravity of art, and he’s right. I’m grateful that I had the chance to get to know David Hartwell.

So many people I care about–writers and editors and fans, are hurting from the sudden loss. My thoughts are with David’s family and friends.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden wrote in his online tribute that David “was our field’s most consequential editor since John W. Campbell.” Many people have been sharing photographs and memories.

David Hartwell’s legacy is vast. He will never be forgotten.


Not Yet

For the record, I am not an 80-year-old woman. Not yet.

The Silence of Trees is not an autobiography. It is fiction set in a historical context.

Last night I paid my first visit to a couples bookclub for The Silence of Trees. I am most often invited to speak at bookclubs comprised predominently of women. If there are men present, it’s for a mixed-gender bookclub, but they do not usually attend as couples.

This group met when they had been seated together for the wedding of one of their children. They hit it off so well that they decided to continue to start this bookclub.

The hosts and guests were gracious and enthusiastic, their discussion lively and a lot of fun, but the hostess was slightly disappointed that I was not an 80-year-old woman.

She was sure that the novel was actually an autobiography, and she was prepared to welcome Nadya to her home. She had decorated the dining room table with a tablecloth and china that she thought would befit an elderly Eastern European guest.

When I walked in the door, she was completely thrown off. She couldn’t shake the image she had constructed in her mind of the author and narrator as the same person. What followed was an interesting conversation about how I could put myself into the mindset and create the voice of an older woman.

I’m thrilled that the character of Nadya was believable, that’s so important, but I couldn’t stop thinking about our discussion all the way home. I wonder if other writers get asked variations of that question, “How did you write this character (who is unlike you in some way: be it gender, race, age, etc.) with such authenticity?”

Clearly, when writing science fiction, horror, or fantasy, the author is creating characters who are magicians, clones, werewolves, monsters, and aliens. There’s an inherent suspension of disbelief when you open a genre book. I wonder if the genre audience is better prepared to accept a character who is unlike the writer in some way?

Can I explain the magic that happens when I sit down and slip into a character to write his or her story? Not really. It’s like trying to explain the terrain of the imagination.

When I sit down to to write, sometimes five hours will pass by in a flash. When I look up from my writing, it will be some ungodly hour in the morning, and I’ll have written thousands of words and feel as if I’ve been out of ordinary time and space for a while.

That’s the magic of writing.

After that comes the hard work of craft: shaping and revising to make sure I’ve told the story in the best way possible.

That’s the work of writing.

I love what I do. I’m so grateful that people want to read my words.

I thank you for reading–wholeheartedly.

Now back to the work.