When the great ones come and go
Locus magazine has posted a short note from noted sf/f author Michael Swanwick that celebrated editor and writer Gardner Dozois has died from an “overwhelming systemic infection”. Mr. Dozois had a history of heart problems, necessitating bypass surgery and a defibrillator implant in 2007, but his hospitalization was not thought to be life-threatening.
Best known for his 20 years as editor-in-chief of Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine, from 1984 to 2004, for which he garnered 15 Hugo Awards, Mr. Dozois was an award-winning author, taking short-story Nebulas in 1983 (“The Peacemaker”) and 1984 (“Morning Child”). After retiring from Asimov’s, he continued editing his popular The Year’s Best Science Fiction anthologies, as well as devoting more time to his fiction. “Contrafactual”, his alt-history of an American Civil War where Robert Lee went guerrilla rather than surrender (and narrated by a young Minnesota newsman “Cliff”, an alt-history Clifford D. Simak), won the 2006 Sidewise Award for “short form” alt-history.
Mr. Dozois was part of the generation of sf writers who came out of the Vietnam War era, along with Joe Haldeman (The Forever War) and David Drake (Hammer’s Slammers), though his fiction tends more to the clash of ideas than of weapons, and theological ideas, at that. “The Peacemaker”, for example, is a post-apocalyptic flooded world where the rural folks revive the old tradition of appeasing angry waters with blood. “Morning Child” is a father-and-son road trip through a post-war landscape, where the life cycles are altered and alternating, during “the Last Days”.
Tied to his unsparing perspective on humanity’s inability to outgrow or out-tinker our way up from a basic, bestial nature, is his flat-out love for all of those human natures being natural. The narrator of “A Special Kind of Morning”, one of the rebels trying to bring down the corporate overlords, says, at the end of his battle:
“I’d learned two things: that everybody is human, and that the universe doesn’t care one way or another; only people do … So, empathy’s the thing that binds life together; it’s the flame we share against fear. Warmth’s the only answer to the old, cold questions.”
And what kind of morning is special? “It’s always a beautiful morning somewhere, even on the day you die.”