Gardner Dozois (1947-2018)

gardner2bdozoisI’ve been putting this off, but Gardner Dozois died Sunday. I heard about it while I was at Balticon: both the best and worst place to be to learn such news. Best because I was surrounded by people who knew who Gardner was, and what he meant. And worst because sf conventions are work for me, and after hearing, I wasn’t much good at selling books.

There have already been many people writing about Gardner, who he was, what he did, his awards and honors, his importance to the field of speculative fiction, and its importance to him. I don’t need to rehash that. Instead, I want to write about the Gardner I knew.

I first met him at my second interview for the editorial assistant position at what was then called Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine (and Analog Science Fiction and Fact: the two magazines shared me). During that interview, he remarked that he had a story from me on his desk, and wondered what my career goal was. I told him honestly that I wanted either his job or Stan’s (Stanley Schmidt, the editor of Analog, also had one of my stories under consideration). Neither one of them bought those stories; it took me three more years to write something worthy of Analog, and I never was able to sell a story to Gardner.

I remember attending science fiction conventions with my bosses: Gardner and Stan and Sheila Williams and Tina Lee (the managing editors of the two magazines). Stan was very quiet: much more comfortable in small groups, the early-to-bed sort. Gardner, on the other hand, was loud, gregarious, the center of attention in crowds (the larger the better). And something in me said that, in addition to his remarkable editing work, it was this connection with the fans that kept him winning Hugo Awards. I watched Gardner (actually, I remember sitting at his feet in more than one room party, listening with a crowd to his stories), and I thought “if only Stan could be this close to his fans, perhaps he might win the awards, too.” I tried to emulate Gardner on Stan’s behalf, though of course that was impossible, and it wasn’t the reason. But Saturday night at Balticon, I was up late in a room party, sitting on a bed surrounded by people, telling stories of the past, and I flashed back to my early conventions with Gardner, except that now I was in his position, telling the stories. Actually, I had a similar memory/feeling at the World Fantasy Convention in 2010. After a late night telling war stories to younger fans, I ran into Gardner at breakfast, and told him of that feeling of doing what he’d done. He laughed at me and said “you’re getting older.” Then Rusty Hevelin walked up and said, “Don’t worry about it, kid. I’m still telling stories of the 1950s.”

Early in 1992, Isaac Asimov came into the office, as he had done every Tuesday for probably ever. I looked forward to his visits, but we hadn’t seen him in several weeks. This particular Tuesday, the receptionist called to tell me Isaac was in the lobby, and I ought to come to him (he usually just came back to the office). He was weak, had snuck out of his apartment over his wife’s objection. Gardner came out front as well, looked at Isaac, and told me to take him home. So I was the last of us to see Isaac alive: he died a few weeks later.

After six years working at the magazines, I left to start my own magazine. I still saw Gardner at conventions, and made sure he got copies of my magazine to consider for his Year’s Best anthologies, but we weren’t really in close contact.

Ian Randal Strock, Gardner Dozois, and Sheila Williams, at Readercon 2017.

Then, last year, when Susan died, Gardner posted a note wondering what he had left to live for. Darrell Schweitzer and I convinced him that a collection of Susan’s fiction would be a fitting tribute, and that he ought to put it together. We published it last July, and Gardner made the trek to Readercon in Massachusetts to be present at the book’s debut. He spent a lot of the weekend sitting at my Fantastic Books table in the dealers’ room, talking about and signing the book for customers. In between, we got to spend time together, chatting and reminiscing, and I really enjoyed re-connecting with him, this time almost as equals (well, not of equal stature, but now I was publishing a book he had produced). A few months later, Gardner came to Philcon for Saturday, and again spent several hours with me at the table.

After the collection was published, Gardner found the manuscript to Susan’s unpublished novel, The Red Carnival, and asked if I’d be interested in publishing it. Sight unseen, I said of course. For him, and for Susan, I would have published it even if the book wasn’t worth publishing, but it totally is (I still don’t know why Susan didn’t put in the effort to get it into print). Gardner worked with Christopher, his son, to get me an electronic copy of the manuscript, and as I was editing it, I discovered there was a missing page. It was a fairly important page, since it contained the end of one scene, a scene break, and the beginning of the next, but that original page was lost. Eventually, I was able to convince Gardner that he had to write the missing page, so in some small degree, The Red Carnival is a collaboration between Gardner and Susan. I’m pleased that Gardner got to see finished copies of the book in circulation, since we were able to publish it in March (on the first anniversary of Susan’s death).

But now Gardner’s gone, and I miss him.

Convention weekend coming

In the madness of launching and trying to publicize the Kickstarter campaign for Release the Virgins (which, by the way, is at 25% of its goal: thanks! And please help us spread the word), I’ve neglected the fact that I’ve got a science fiction convention coming this weekend. Hope those of you on the East Coast will be joining me at Balticon. As usual, I’ll be tethered to the Fantastic Books table in the dealers’ room (that’s the dealers’ room, not all the people who look like dealers out in the atrium, for which I’m still grumpy at the convention) most of the weekend. But I’ll also be on several panels, so come check me out:

Saturday at 11am: “Stopping the Clocks: Time Travel in Writing” with Jack Clemons, Brian Groover, Andy Love, and Rosemary Claire Smith.

Saturday at 2pm: “Monarchy and Empire in Speculative Fiction” with John Appel, Jack Campbell, Gail Z. Martin, and John Robison.

Saturday at 8pm: “Turning the Starship of State: Government in SF” with Tom Doyle, C.S. Friedman, Larry Hodges, and John Robison.

Sunday at 11am: “Improving Your Pitch Workshop” – they don’t seem to have anyone else scheduled on this one, so it may be a solo.

Sunday at 3pm: “Ask Me Anything: Editors & Publishers” with Scott H. Andrews, Walt Boyes, Neil Clarke, and Jeff Young.

Hope to see lots of you there!

The virgins are coming

The Release the Virgins Kickstarter campaign has already raised nearly 17% of its goal (in just about a day running live), but of course we’re still begging our friends to share the word with their friends.

I’m thrilled with a very cool comment the campaign has already garnered: “The concept is… different… to say the least, but I really had no choice about backing, considering I’m a fan of pretty much every author involved! Good luck!”

And as of a few minutes ago, the web site is now live. At the moment, it’s just a bare-bones description of the project, but it also includes a list of virgins. And I remain open to suggestions for other content to add to it. Thanks!

Release the Virgins

I’m thrilled, excited, trepidatious (?) to announce that Fantastic Books’ new anthology project, Release the Virgins, is now live as a Kickstarter campaign. Edited by Michael A. Ventrella, we have a slew of awesome authors lined up to participate, including:  David Gerrold, Lawrence Watt-Evans. Allen Steele, Jody Lynn Nye, Keith R.A. DeCandido, Sharon Lee & Steve Miller, Gail Z. Martin, Shariann Lewitt, Alex Shvartsman, Cecilia Tan, Daniel M. Kimmel, Patrick Thomas, and Hildy Silverman. But there will be more slots in the book for more authors (possibly including you?). We’d be grateful if you’d help us spread the word. Thanks!

White Wing Takes Flight Again

1515410366A press release from Fantastic Books:

In 1985, “Gordon Kendall” published White Wing, his first (and apparently only) novel, which Gordon R. Dickson called “A powerful story by a strong new talent.” The book garnered praise from Locus (“Kendall explores his characters’ dilemma in a clever, dynamic plot filled with intrigue, danger, and surprises.”), Amazing (“Emphasis is on the interplay of characters.… It’s an interesting book.”), Amazon readers (“I’ve loved this book for ages,” “one of the best Sci-fi books I’ve ever read,” “awesome and well done”), and GoodReads readers (“brilliant,” “one of my favorites,” “fantastic story line”).

Now Fantastic Books is thrilled to announce the identity of “Gordon Kendall,” and the fact that we are bringing this wonderful novel back into print. Gordon Kendall was a pseudonym shared by Shariann Lewitt and Susan Shwartz, who would each go on to write many kick-ass novels in their solo careers.

In White Wing, Earth has been destroyed, but the remnants of humanity fight on, in uneasy alliance with the Galactic League—their only purpose to avenge their world, their only pride the Honor of the Wing. But League politics will not tolerate pride in a refugee people, and the White Wing is under insidious attack. A powerful enemy attempts to brand one unit of the Wing as traitors, discrediting the entire human race.

Written at the height of the Cold War, the book has a surprising resonance with the world of today, and the prose stands the test of time.

Fantastic Books is honored to republish White Wing—featuring the original cover art by Janny Wurts—in a new trade paperback edition. Authors Shariann Lewitt and Susan Shwartz claim their proper credit for the book, which is now available.

White Wing by Shariann Lewitt and Susan Shwartz
Fantastic Books, 242 pages, $14.99. ISBN: 978-1-5154-1036-2.

White Wing—and all Fantastic Books titles—are distributed via Ingram, and available through all major online retailers and specialty sf shops via direct order from the publisher.

New Speaking Appearance

Just found out I’ll be a speaker at this summer’s American Mensa Annual Gathering (that’s in addition to the meetings and working as RVC1 there). On Saturday, July 7th, at 7:30 pm (just as everything is wrapping up and conflicting with the last-night festivities), I’ll be giving a talk entitled “John Kennedy’s grandma, Bill Clinton’s mother, and John Tyler’s grandchildren: Familial oddities of the Presidents of the United States”. Hope some of you are still alert enough to spend a little time with me before capping off the weekend with a bang!

First Lady Barbara Bush (1925-2018)

41bushbFirst Lady Barbara Bush died April 17, 2018, at the age of 92. Born June 8, 1925, she is the second woman to be both wife and mother of US Presidents, and the first to live long enough to see her son retired from the Presidency.

I’ll leave the longer obituaries to everyone else, and instead focus on the aspects of her life that impinge on the books I’ve written.

Barbara Pierce Bush is fifth on the list of longest-lived First Ladies, at the age of 92 years, 313 days. She is also fourth on the list of longest-lived Presidential mothers (she passed her mother-in-law on that list in October 2016).

She was part of the longest-married Presidential couple. Twenty-year-old World War II veteran George H.W. Bush married 19-year-old Barbara Pierce on January 6, 1945. They had six children between 1946 and 1959 (one of whom died as a child). George took office as President days after their 44th anniversary. Their eldest son, George W., took office as President twelve years later. They are only the second Presidential couple (the first to both live long enough) to see their son elected President. They are also only the second couple to live long enough to see their son retire from the Presidency (the first, Joseph and Rose Kennedy, lived through their son’s assassination in office). Number two on that list of long-married Presidential couples are Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter, who married 18 months after the Bushes. Number three on the list are Gerald and Betty Ford, who were married 58 years, 72 days.

Barbara Bush was the last living First Lady who was born in New York (there were nine: New York has supplied more First Ladies than any other state). She was the second oldest woman to become First Lady (she was 63 year 226 days old when she became First Lady).

Barbara Bush was the tenth woman to be both Second Lady and First Lady, but only the fifth whose husband was elected both Vice President and President, and the only one to be Second Lady for eight full years (the first Presidential term of office ran from April 1789 to March 1793).

She is survived by her husband, George H.W.; sons George W., Neil, Marvin, and Jeb; daughter, Dorothy Bush Koch; 17 grandchildren, and several great-grandchildren.

The George Bush Presidential Library and Museum has set up this Barbara Pierce Bush Memorial Site.

Science fictional predictions

I posted this on Facebook, and got a gratifying number of responses, so I’m spreading it around even more.

What prompted this was that I was watching Star Trek II on television. In the movie, Khan mentions that the ship on which he was traveling, the Botany Bay, was launched in 1996. As those of us who lived through 1996 know, the DY100 class of starship has not yet been invented.

Further mulling reminded me of Back to the Future, Part 2, in which Marty and Doc travel to the future: October 2015. Well, that’s now more than two years in our past, and we still don’t have commercial hover-conversions.

And then I thought of 2001 and 2010 (although I don’t recall the dates being mentioned explicitly in the text of the books/movies; only in the titles).

So my question to you is what other speculative fiction includes explicit predictions of what the world will look like in the future (as of when the novel was written/film was filmed/etc.), which are set in a year that has (as of today) passed? Missed predictions are what I’m expecting, but I’d be thrilled with accurate predictions, too. Thanks!