Science fiction editor David Hartwell is dead.

And the entire science fiction community is in shock.

Most readers probably don’t know him, but fans and authors know him well. Hartwell has been editing science fiction books since the 60s. In the 80s, he founded the Timescape imprint, which published such books as Gene Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun; Michael Bishop’s Nebula winner No Enemy But Time; Windhaven, written by George R. R. Martin and Lisa Tuttle, as well as authors Afred Bester (though not his best work), Philip K. Dick, Jack L. Chalker, Jack Vance, David Gerrold, and Roger Zelazny. He has continued on as an editor for Tor. The Wikipedia page only scratches the surface of the authors he’s encouraged and edited.

David was also an anthologist, doing a yearly volume of best science fiction from 1996-2013 and a similar series of best fantasy for eight years. His The Dark Descent (and sequels) collected some of the best horror stories over the years; it’s a must read for those interested in the history of the genre. He also did a couple of dozen stand alone anthologies.

He edited the small press magazine The Little Magazine and also The New York Review of Science Fiction. A review of mine appeared in the latter, and I still have no idea how he got it (It was written for another magazine, which went on hiatus, then showed up in the NYRoSF. I asked him how it happened, but he couldn’t remember).

He was also a fan. He’s been the guiding force behind the World Fantasy Convention, making it into what it is now. But he showed up at other conventions, too. He’s been a regular at Albacon (I’ve been involved since the beginning), appearing on panels and having a table in the dealer’s room. I’ve shared quite a few panels with him, and one year did an interview with him as part of our writer’s workshop.

He was known for his garish outfits (here he is winning a Hugo Award) and for singing “Teen Angel” at cons.

He was in good health, but he fell on his basement stairs, hitting his head, which led to bleeding on the brain. EMTs were on the scene in only five minutes, but there was nothing they could do. The news came out late last night, and his wife confirmed his passing this evening.

This has hit the field hard. Facebook is full of tributes to him. He was always friendly and encouraging to young writers. It is a sad and shocking loss.

Got his “Best of” annuals pretty regular for a while. Sorry to hear this. Will exercise caution going downstairs.


This has gotta be the worst January ever.


Ah, shit. I knew the guy.

This is worse than Bowie, even.

I was only familiar with his more recent work and I hadn’t known he’d been working in the field since the sixties.

I met him at a World Fantasy Con. Nice chap. Definitely a master of the anthology format, and a vigorous promoter of modern fantasy literature.


RealityChuck writes:

> . . . his wife confirmed his passing this evening . . .

His wife? He and Kathryn separated three years ago, and Hartwell told me that they were getting divorced. I assumed that they were divorced by now. Did they get back together?

His wife, Kathryn Cramer, called it “collaborative divorce,” but they were still married.

Here is her account of the accident. It brought me to tears.

Hartwell was a giant in the industry. He was everywhere and did everything outside of writing. You’d see him at conventions, you’d see his name on books, you’d see his name on awards, you’d hear his name in conversations, you’d know him by the ridiculous coats he wore. You might be lucky enough to get involved in a late-night conversation where you would shut up as he and some other old pro would trade stories. He was only 74, but he contained 100 years of history.

Thanks for posting this. I don’t recommend reading it at work; it’s quite moving.

The Dark Descent: The Evolution of Horror (1987) could be the only classic horror anthology you’ll ever need. Get one immediately.

Oops. Amazon has used paperbacks available for $171. Maybe wait a week or two.