David G. Hartwell had a profound influence on my life in science fiction three times.
The first time was in the fall of 1997. Up until that point in my life, I was not very widely read in the science fiction genre. I read deep within a very narrow band of authors. That changed over the course of a few days between September 19 – 23, 1997. I had a bad cold, and for reasons I can no longer recall, I picked up a copy of Hartwell’s Ages of Wonder at Dangerous Visions bookshop in Sherman Oaks, California, which was not far from where I lived back then. I stayed in bed with a box of Kleenex and Hartwell’s book. The effect that book had on me is best described by looking at what I read in the year leading up to it, and what I read in the month or so after finishing it.
And here are the books I read after finished Hartwell’s book about science fiction:
For the first time, I realized that science fiction a literary movement that went far beyond futuristic adventure stories. Since reading Ages of Wonder, my reading within (and without) the genre has been much more varied.
The second time took place more than a decade later. Kelly was pregnant with our first child, and I was nervous. I needed something to take my mind off the nervousness that I was feeling. Remembering what a revelation Ages of Wonder had been, I got a copy of Hartwell and Kramer’s The Hard S. F. Renaissance, and began reading. We traveled down to Florida that December, and I can remember sitting by the beach, unable to put down that massive book. I read, for the first time, such standout stories as “Beggars in Spain” by Nancy Kress, “Arthur Sternbach Brings the Curveball to Mars” by Kim Stanley Robinson, “Marrow” by Robert Reed, and many more. For the second time, Hartwell jarred my perception of science fiction, and what science fiction could do. By then, I had published a couple of stories, but it wasn’t until after reading that book, that I tried doing more with my own stories—and began selling to places like Analog.
The third time Hartwell influenced me was when I saw him on a panel or two at Readercon. He always came across as extremely knowledgeable, down-to-earth, and funny. He made it look easy, and that helped me when I started doing panels at conventions. I sat beside him on at least one panel at Capclave, years ago. I can no longer remember the subject of the panel, but sitting up there on the panel with him, I was distracted the entire time. I kept thinking, I’m sitting on a panel with David G. Hartwell!
All of this came to mind yesterday after receiving the sad news that David Hartwell had suffered a brain bleed, and was unlikely to recover. He has shaped modern science fiction and has influenced thousands of writers far more talented than I.
This morning my thoughts are with Kathryn Cramer, and David’s family and many, many friends.