I, along with pretty much everyone who works in science fiction and fantasy, got the word yesterday that David Hartwell was in very serious condition and not expected to survive, and unfortunately so it proved. It’s not my place to give details, partly because I’ve only heard specifics second and third-hand, but mostly because that is for those closest to him to do or not as they see fit. I’m here for a different reason.
I only met David Hartwell once, at World Fantasy Convention 2003 and doubt we exchanged more than 20-30 words total then, but the reason I’m writing today is to say a long overdue (and in Mr. Hartwell’s case, sadly too late) thank you to both him and his wife and editing partner, Kathryn Cramer. The reason I spoke to David Hartwell that one time was because he was making sure he received a copy of my first collection, The Ogre’s Wife. I was on my way to give a reading at the time and had one copy with me. Not being a complete idiot, I gave that one to him. I should have thanked him then, since he and his wife and editing partner Kathryn Cramer had shown an interest in my early stories, taking two to reprint in their first two yearly editions of their Year’s Best Fantasy. In another incident where I wasn’t present, a (reliable) friend reported that, on a panel about newer and emerging writers, my name had come up as Ms. Cramer reportedly said something to the effect that, “If you haven’t read him yet, you should.” Such kindnesses were a huge boost to me at the time. Maybe writers shouldn’t need validation other than the work itself, but as human beings we savor it as much as anyone, and getting those two reprints at that point in my writing career was a big deal for me. So I should have said “thank you” to David Hartwell when I had the chance. It never occurred to me at the time that life and circumstances would dictate that I never spoke to him again.
So I’ll say it now, and especially to his widow Kathryn Cramer who is still with us and I hope will be for a long time: Thank you.
If you follow the link to the Amazon page for The Ogre’s Wife: Fairy Tales for Grownups (TOW) at Amazon, you may note its status reads “Temporarily Out of Stock.” The fact is, other than whatever copies might be floating around with dealers—not many, I’m thinking—and not counting the few copies I still have, that edition is now officially Out of Print. The original publisher of TOW, Obscura Press, had been moribund for some time but finally decided to pull the plug on the operation. I’d been in contact with Gordie and knew this was coming. Frankly, I’d expected it to happen a lot sooner.
TOW was my first collection of stories, a World Fantasy Award finalist in 2003, and I was and am very proud of it. The book came out when PoD (Print on Demand) was just taking off, and PoD was a boon to small publishers who now didn’t need to sacrifice cash flow to print large numbers of books. The PoD outfit would print them instead, and only when orders were in. You’d start with a print run of maybe 250 or so for review copies and initial orders. It was ideal for shoestring operations and a lot of them sprang up and withered just as quickly, since they only lasted as long as the publisher’s enthusiasm and disposable income held out—even with the new technology, most of them weren’t money makers. Obscura did better than many, publishing books by Mike Resnick, among others. When Gordie offered to do my first collection–which so far as I knew would be my only collection–I couldn’t say yes fast enough, and it was a decision I’ve never regretted.
Regardless, it was once said of PoD books that part of their beauty was that they’d never go out of print. Wrong. It still takes a certain outlay to keep a book in the pipeline at a printer like Lightning Source and even though the print edition of TOW still sold a fair number of copies each year, the tipping point for Obscura finally came.
It’s not a bad thing. I already did the ebook edition on my own because I was dealing with a publisher who never claimed any rights that weren’t in the original contract. The ebook (Kindle, Nook, etc.) is still around. Now the print rights have reverted to me as well and I’ll eventually do a new print edition, probably through Createspace or the like. Likely with a new cover to differentiate it, and probably with some of the additional material I included in the ebook. But I’ll pause for a moment to acknowledge the passing after twelve years to Out of Print status of my very first book.
The new Story Time (see link on the right) is “How Konti Scrounged the World,” which first appeared in Realms of Fantasy back in February, 2000, and reprinted in THE OGRE’S WIFE in 2002. I’m including the story note I wrote for the ebook edition of the collection, with the understanding that the note was written long after the fact, and might have no more to do with the story than something anyone else might say about it. Continue reading