Master of science fiction

David Hartwell, the legendary science fiction editor, critic, and historian, passed away yesterday at age 74. Nominated a mind-blasting 41 times for the Hugo Award, Hartwell worked for Signet, Berkley/Putnam, Pocket (particularly its Timescape SF imprint), and as a senior editor at Tor Books, while also maintaining part-time relationships with Gregg (his own baby) and William Morrow. He taught. He mentored. He served on the board of the World Fantasy Convention.

Hartwell had a hand in thousands of SF titles, including Gene Wolfe’s The Book of the New Sun, Frank Herbert’s Children of Dune, and works by Gregory Benford. A tireless advocate of literary-oriented SF, Hartwell was perhaps best known as the all-knowing, deeply learned editor of many anthologies, some produced with his wife Kathryn Cramer. As such, he had a profound influence on what the field came to consider its own canon and history. The Bruce Sterling-edited Mirrorshades, a Hartwell project, helped defined cyberpunk, to the extent it can be defined, and Hartwell’s anthologies did much to mainstream hard SF and revive space opera. Yesterday, Cory Doctorow at Boing Boing summed it up:

He had Views about science fiction, ideas about what should be happening in the field, and he used his considerable talent, reputation and dedication to foster writers and works and make them well known.

In his book Age of Wonder Hartwell analyzed not just the literature but SF fandom. The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction summed it up in its entry on his career: “He was perhaps the single most influential book editor of the past forty years in the American sf publishing world.”