Updated, 20 Jan, 4:00 AM, to add: I wrote this on the evening of Tuesday, January 19, but held off actually posting it because (as of then, and to the best of my knowledge, as of now) David has not yet actually died. Because of a misunderstanding, for which the fault is mine, another Making Light front-pager pulled the “publish” trigger on this while I slept. Kathryn Cramer has posted to the comments: “His heart is still beating, but he is being assessed for brain death. Whatever the assessment, he has had a massive brain bleed, which continues. He will not survive. He has not been breathing on his own since the EMTs arrived at the orchard house late this afternoon.” I apologize to Kathryn and to everyone who took my post as informed confirmation. I’m now putting the post back up, and I’ll amend this update as events warrant. —PNH
Updated, 21 Jan, 8:00 AM: Kathryn Cramer’s post is here.
Updated, 21 Jan, 9:30 PM: One more post from Kathryn, and totally worth your time.
To call our relationship “complicated” is to understate the case. We were friends. We were also editors working the same patch—him older and more eminent, me younger and more energetic. (“Younger and more energetic”, those were the days.) Back in the impossibly-long-ago mid-to-late ’80s, Teresa and I worked on his poetry magazine, and we helped dream up his journal of SF criticism and quit it three issues after. (I named it and designed the masthead.) He declined to hire me as his assistant at Arbor House, saying that Terry Carr had told him “Don’t hire that guy, he’ll just get promoted in six months and you’ll need an assistant again.” Thanks, Terry. In a more recent century, he and I co-edited a pretty good reprint anthology.
Teresa and I first got to know him in the early 1980s, when he was attending tons of conventions on the Timescape / Simon & Schuster dime. When our friend-in-fandom Paul Williams sat us down in Seattle and explained to us how we needed to work in SF publishing—and how to do that—, step one was that I should wind up at the 1983 ABA (the thing now called BEA) in Dallas. Which I did, crashing on David’s floor, spending days in the crush meeting publishing folks. Evenings, I hung back and watched as David and Paul invented the Philip K. Dick Society and planned Dick’s wildly successful posthumous Hollywood career. All of which came to pass. Clearly here was a magician, albeit a crafty, subtle, and not always trustworthy one. Like all the best.
Over the years at Tor we had occasions to want to drop-kick him out a 14th floor window—and occasions to be gobsmacked by his utter brilliance. He was a true believer in the intellectual and emotional power of fantasy and science fiction. He was our field’s most consequential editor since John W. Campbell.
He is gone. It’s like a mountain range is gone, or nitrogen, or a verb tense. We can’t believe it. David. Goodbye.
Updated, 20 Jan, middayish East Coast time:
Thank you, Jo, for this lovely tribute in the comments. — Abi
Like nitrogen, supporting every breath
Always been there, it seems you always will
So vital, so involved, that is until
A moment brings inevitable death.
I know death finds us all, but you? But why?
You, in the midst of life, one moment there
Then dying flesh, and then an empty chair,
I can’t believe it doesn’t shake the sky.
Your life is over, not complete, feels wrong
To say “he was” and never “he will be”
When you were there like axioms so long.
What’s left is all you did and made, and we
So shaken at the gap where you belong
Counting your loss against eternity.