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Gardner Dozois, July 23, 1947 – May 27, 2018

Sunday, May 27th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

Gardner Dozois

Yesterday I learned that Gardner Dozois had been hospitalized for a massive infection. Before I left the house today I checked Facebook and other sources to see if there was any news. When I checked again an hour ago, I was devastated to learn that he had passed away.

While he was a fiction writer of considerable note, Gardner made his true reputation as an editor. I first took notice of his name when he took over the editorial reins at my favorite fiction magazine, Asimov’s Science Fiction, in 1985. During his 17-year tenure he won the Hugo Award for Best Professional Editor 15 times, from 1988 until he retired in 2004. While I was in grad school I faithfully read his annual Year’s Best Science Fiction volumes, starting with the sixth in 1989. The Thirty-Fifth volume will be published by St. Martin’s Press on July 3. He’s published nearly a hundred other anthologies, including some of my favorites, including The Good Old Stuff, Modern Classics of Fantasy, and The New Space Opera, edited with Jonathan Strahan.

As Gardner’s Year’s Best volumes got larger and larger (surpassing 800 pages by 2002) so too did his Annual Summations, a critical look at the year in science fiction books, art, movies and culture. They were required reading for anyone who wanted to keep up with the field, especially in the pre-internet era. In many ways Gardner Dozois was the living, breathing, heart of science fiction, the passionate spokesman, champion, writer and dealmaker who was known both for his depth of knowledge and his impeccable taste.

{Click the images to embiggen.]

The Year's Best Science Fiction Thirty-Fifth Annual Collection-small The Year's Best Science Fiction Thirty-Fifth Annual Collection-back-small

The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Thirty-Fifth Annual Collection, coming July 3, 2018

I didn’t know Gardner well personally. I got to know him when I designed the first website for Asimov’s Science Fiction way back in the early 90s, and I was surprised and pleased to see a blurb from one of my SF Site reviews show up on the back of one of his Year’s Best volumes. We exchanged the occasional Facebook message, and he kindly reached out last year to ask if I wanted to review his latest anthology, The Book of Swords. But I don’t feel really qualified to comment on the depth of his contributions to the field.

Fortunately, I have many friends who knew him more intimately than I. For the last few hours my Facebook feed has been overrun with tributes. I’ve gathered a few excerpts to share with you here.

Andy Duncan

Gardner Dozois died today, a terrible loss to science fiction, and to many of us personally. He plucked me from the Asimov’s slush pile in January 1995 and from the start treated me, not as a first-time author with a lot to learn, but as a valued colleague whose arrival he had anticipated for years, filling an Andy Duncan-shaped hole in the field that he somehow knew existed, but hadn’t been able to name. For decades, his unflagging encouragement of my work helped keep me going. I was not unique in this. He did the same for hundreds of other writers. A first-rate short-fiction writer himself, he was arguably the most influential short-fiction editor in the history of science fiction — to my mind, his only rivals in that category are Ellen Datlow and John W. Campbell Jr. — but he also was one of the funniest, kindest, wisest people in this or any other field. We all were lucky to have him blaze brilliantly through our lives.

Rich Horton

He was one of the greatest editors in the field’s history (an argument can be made (and I’ve made it) that he ranks at the top); and he was also a very significant SF writer. His writing should not be forgotten — stories like “Strangers,” “A Special Kind of Morning,” “A Dream at Noonday,” “The Visible Man,” “Horse of Air,” “A Kingdom by the Sea,” “The Peacemaker,” “Morning Child,” “A Knight of Ghosts and Shadows” and many others are exceptionally written, imaginatively powerful, very moving — truly an oeuvre, at shorter lengths, to stand with the best writers of his generation.

He was also, of course, a very prominent anthologist, particularly well known for his very long running Best of the Year series. As such (and in many other ways), he was an important influence on me, and indeed something of a mentor. He was generous in treating me as an equal (I was not), and in happily discussing the state of the field with me at the drop of a hat. He was one of those in the field I can call a friend, and I’m proud to have known him.

Jonathan Strahan

I am devastated to hear that my colleague, friend, and one of the true greats of our field, Gardner Dozois, has died. He was smart, funny, caring and had a love of our field that I’ve only seen a few times. His short fiction was outstanding and you should read it if you haven’t. We’ll not see his like again. It was my privilege to work with him on several anthologies and to edit him at Locus for a decade. This is sad, sad news.
In many ways, this was where I first met Gardner. Not in person — that wouldn’t come for another decade or more — but in the pages of The Year’s Best Science Fiction. It shaped what I do to this day. I read every volume, studied the notes he wrote, and was entranced by his view of SF. I met him again shortly thereafter in the pages of Light Years and Dark, which published two of his finest stories, and then for years in Asimov’s. He was remarkable.

Piet Nel

Gardner Dozois, editor of distinction, pillar of the science fiction community, has died, aged 70.

Not only did he assemble several shelves of monumental, definitive anthologies, but he will be remembered as a party animal and raconteur of note.

This must be remembered above all: that although he wasn’t prolific, he was an award winning writer in his own right. Sometimes he kept us waiting for years for his next short story, but when they came, they were seldom disappointing.

Gardner’s writing was by turns hauntingly beautiful…  Gardner will be with us on the printed page, as long as there are books. Real books, not screens.

What’s that you say? You haven’t read “Morning Child”? Then you know what to do.

Scott Edelman

Sitting at Balticon, crying over Gardner Dozois, who passed a few hours ago. I have nothing coherent to share, only tears. I have no words.

Matthew Hughes

Michael Swanwick has posted news that Gardner Dozois has died from an infection after being hospitalized for a minor illness. I am saddened to hear of it. All the superlatives apply: giant in the field, played a unique role, top of the pyramid.

Paula Guran

So sorry to hear that Gardner Dozois has died. A rare talent who was not only a great editor, but a good writer. It was a honor to work on his collection When the Great Days Come. A superb anthologist and as for being a “year’s best editor” and knowledgeable about the field — he was the best. He’s inspired a lot of people, including me. One of those people who, despite ill health, you just sorta expected to go on forever.

John Kessel

Writer and editor Gardner Dozois has died. What a terrible loss. It’s going to take me a while to get my head around it. Only a week ago he received the Solstice Award at the Nebula conference for his contributions to the field of science fiction and fantasy, and I sat talking about him with his son Christopher Casper and Michael Swanwick.

His achievements in the genre as an editor are huge, and I can’t possibly do them justice here, but I hope people will not forget how fine a writer he was. When I came into the sf world in the late 1960s, Gardner was making a name for himself as one of the brilliant young writers who were shaking up the genre, people like George R.R. Martin, George Alec Effinger, Jack Dann, Joe Haldeman, and a half dozen others. In a podcast I did last year I talked about how open and accepting his was to me as a newcomer: he (with Jack) was the first writer of his generation — only a few years older than I — who treated me like an equal, even though it would be years before I started publishing my own stories.

He was generous, astute, thoughtful, open hearted, and could be hilariously funny. His loss leaves a big hole in the world that, for those who knew him, nobody is going to be able to fill.

Vera Nazarian

Sad news, according to various reports, Gardner Dozois, fabled science fiction editor (including the critically acclaimed Year’s Best anthologies), author and all around great member of the SF field, has died today in the hospital after a rapid decline due to a general infection. I’ve known Gardner for decades and this is truly the end of an era…

Gardner’s unique sense of humor will always stay with me, together with his brave ability to poke fun at himself, and his warm-hearted generosity to every SF convention newbie and long-time pro alike. Missing him profoundly.

Brett Cox

Deeply saddened to hear that Gardner Dozois has died. I didn’t know him as well as many of my friends did, but I knew him well enough–and, well, hell, you couldn’t be active in the sf community without knowing Gardner. His achievements as a writer remain undervalued; his impact as an editor cannot be overvalued. My deepest condolences to his family and his many, many friends.

Lou Anders

Gardner Dozois has left us. A blazing brilliant light in genre has gone out.

Todd Mason

Gardner Dozois, editor and writer, died this afternoon in hospital after a brief illness. He was 70 years old.

He was already an accomplished young writer when he began his first high-profile editorial gig, succeeding Lester Del Rey as the editor of the E. P. Dutton hardcover annual The Best Science Fiction Stories of the Year, the 1977 sixth volume, and continuing to edit that series for five volumes, through 1981, some reissued in paperback. He began editing his current series of best of the year volumes, for Bluejay Books/St. Martins beginning with a volume for 1984; the 35th volume is scheduled for publication in July. In late 1985, he also took on the editorship of Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine, continuing till 2004; his former assistant, Sheila Williams, has been editing the magazine in the years since. He has also edited notable series of anthologies with Jack Dann, George R. R. Martin and others.

He was a consistently gregarious presence at conventions, and has been among the key editors in the field throughout his career. His wife, writer Susan Casper, died last year; though we both lived in Philadelphia, I had not yet met Dozois, but attended her funeral. I didn’t choose to intrude on him at that time, though I was able to speak with fellow attendees I did know such as Ellen Datlow and Scott Edelman… His death was unexpected, and he will be missed by readers and writers who have never met him as well as his family and many good friends.

Our previous coverage of Gardner’s many books and articles includes:

The Book of Swords
A Book That Makes You Yearn to be Stranded on a Desert Island: Modern Classics of Fantasy
The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Thirty-Second Annual Collection
The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Thirty-Third Annual Collection
The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Thirty-Fourth Annual Collection
Gardner Dozois on the New Sword & Sorcery
Worldmakers and Supermen
Explorers and The Furthest Horizon
The Good Stuff
Multiverse: Exploring the Worlds of Poul Anderson, edited by Greg Bear and Gardner Dozois
Gardner Dozois on the 2013 Hugo Nominations

Gardner also produced a number of massive best-selling anthologies co-edited with George R.R. Martin. They include:

Old Venus
Old Mars
Rogues
Warriors, reviewed by Jason M. Waltz

Gardner’s output has not slowed, despite serious health issues over the past few years (and a lengthy stay in the hospital last year, and the death of his wife, Susan Casper). Still to come this year are two major works: The Year’s Best Science-Fiction: Thirty-Fifth Annual Collection (July 3) and The Book of Magic (October 16, 2018).

 The Book of Magic Gardner Dozois-small

Dozois was born July 23, 1947 in Salem, Massachusetts. He sold his first short story, “The Empty Man,” to Frederik Pohl, it appeared in the September 1966 issue of If. In the 1970s he took a number of editorial positions with magazines such as Galaxy Science Fiction, If, Worlds of Fantasy, and Worlds of Tomorrow. He won the Nebula Award for best short story for “The Peacemaker” in 1983, and for “Morning Child” in 1984. His collections include The Visible Man (1977), Geodesic Dreams (1992), Slow Dancing through Time (1990), and When the Great Days Come (2011). Michael Swanwick posted this brief announcement on Twitter and Facebook this afternoon.

It is my sad duty to note the passing of Gardner Dozois today, Sunday May 27, at 4:00 p.m. The cause was an overwhelming systemic infection. Gardner had been hospitalized for a minor illness and was expected to be released shortly. The decline was swift. He died surrounded by his family.

Gardner Dozois was 70 years old.

9 Comments »

  1. I’m so sad to see this. He was a major anthologist. Which is a blow to someone who loves short fiction.

    I will be reading the forthcoming Book of Magic with sadness now.

    Comment by Charles_Martel - May 28, 2018 12:32 am

  2. Charles,

    Yes indeed. But I’m very happy to have two additional books from Gardner to cherish.

    Comment by John ONeill - May 28, 2018 12:34 am

  3. Thanks for this, John.

    I forgot to mention the first time I met Gardner, which was a bit embarrassing for me.

    This would have been at Archon in 1999, when Gardner was Guest of Honor. I wasn’t doing my Locus column then, certainly wasn’t editing my own Best of the Year anthologies — I was writing for Tangent, but had no real profile in the field. (Not that I have all that much of one now!) I was there as a fan, and I was always a fan of Gardner both as a writer and as an editor.

    So I got to the con, and there was a book signing line. And I realized I hadn’t brought a book by Gardner. (I don’t get that many books signed, so I usually forget these things!) I ducked into the Dealers’ Room, and at the late Larry Smith’s table (might have been the first (of very many!) books I bought from Larry) I found a chapbook copy of Gardner’s essay on James Tiptree’s fiction. (He wrote this in about 1973 or 1974, before Tiptree’s real identity was revealed, and he made roughly the same statement Robert Silverberg made, that he was pretty sure Tiptree was male.) I hadn’t yet read that essay, so I happily bought the chapbook, and rushed back to the signing line.

    I got to the front, and gave Gardner my chapbook, stammering an introduction. Gardner opened it to the title page, ready to sign, and then he said “I’ve signed this copy already. But I can sign it again if you want!”

    So, pretty embarrassing. I told him this story years later (he wouldn’t have remembered it of course), and I suggested that I should have picked up my paperback of NIGHTMARE BLUE on the way to the con. That’s one of his few novels, co-written with George Alec Effinger, and I kind of liked it as a teenager, though Gardner didn’t think much of it. Which he told me — though he assured me he wouldn’t have done what Harlan Ellison apparently used to do with DOOMSMAN, a book of his he hated, which is refuse to sign it, pay the fan for the book, then tear it up in front of him.

    Comment by Rich Horton - May 28, 2018 10:29 am

  4. I thought I might add a couple short numbery quotes from an article I did for Locus Online back in 2005 (Short Fiction Awards Winners and Their Editors)

    “One simple way to quantify editorial success is to count how many award-winning stories each has published. By this “absolute” measure Gardner Dozois is by far the most successful editor, having published 44 award winning stories, 34 Hugo winners and 15 Nebula winners (five of the stories having won both awards).”

    “Most remarkable is a recent Gardner Dozois run: from 1997 through 2000 stories from Asimov’s won every short fiction Hugo award. Indeed, Dozois published 5 consecutive novella winners and six consecutive novelette winners around that time. Interestingly, during that same period Asimov’s featured only one Nebula winner. … Not surprisingly Dozois has had other streaks nearly as impressive: taking 10 of the 12 possible Hugos from 1990 through 1993, for example. ”

    (I got some pushback after this piece was published from people saying “Rich Horton claims that the number of award-winning stories Gardner Dozois has published proves he’s the best editor of all time, and that’s stupid because x, y and z” when in fact I didn’t say he was the best editor of all time (though I think he’s a strong candidate), and when in fact I carefully enumerated x, y, and z and several other reasons why the simplistic award counting I was doing was in no way definitive proof that any particular editor was the best.)

    Comment by Rich Horton - May 28, 2018 12:05 pm

  5. I just found out about his passing this morning, and am deeply saddened. A top-flight anthologist and editor, the best, my favorite. I’ve only read a couple of his stories, for me it was those books collecting so many excellent stories, both the BEST OF and the others, such as OLD MARS and OLD VENUS. I’ll start re-reading ROGUES later today.

    Thank you for this post, John, you’ve gathered many comments and quotes, saving me from tracing scattered sites across the web. Not that I won’t keep looking.

    Comment by R.K. Robinson - May 28, 2018 1:05 pm

  6. […] Black Gate » Gardner Dozois, July 23, 1947 – May 27, 2018. I relate most to this one. […]

    Pingback by Gardner Dozois (1947-2018) | Featured Futures - May 28, 2018 8:40 pm

  7. Rich,

    Thanks for sharing those quotes, and that story of meeting Gardner.

    That must have been the Archon after we met? The first Archon I attended was Archon 22 in 1998, at Dave Truesdale’s invitation. That’s where he introduced me to you, I’m pretty sure.

    Comment by John ONeill - May 28, 2018 8:48 pm

  8. > A top-flight anthologist and editor, the best, my favorite.

    RK,

    He produced many of my all-time favorite anthologies. I especially enjoyed his reprint anthologies from St. Martin’s Press in the mid-90s, like EXPLORERS and THE GOOD OLD STUFF. Like you, I’m tempted to dig them out and read them again.

    Comment by John ONeill - May 28, 2018 8:51 pm

  9. Yes, I think that’s right. 1998 was my first Archon as well, surprisingly enough. I had attended ConQuesT is KC the year before (or maybe earlier in 1998), at Dave’s instigation as well.

    Comment by Rich Horton - May 28, 2018 11:32 pm


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