There’s a great deal to say about David, and a lot of it doesn’t organize tidily. Anyone who ever visited his office or his houses or his vast stacks of inexpensive paperbacks in a dealers’ room would recognize that his true native environment was the jumble, and I fear that there’s no way to avoid that when talking about him.
David Hartwell worked more jobs simultaneously than any person I’ve ever known: anthologist, editor, publisher, book collector/dealer, and educator, and I’m sure I’m missing some.
I first heard of Hartwell when I was working in a science fiction bookstore (and comics shop) in the 1980s. My impression then was that he was seen as a somewhat ridiculous figure; this would have been in the aftermath of the high-profile failure of David’s Timescape imprint for Pocket Books. Wise heads shook sadly at the idea of building an entire publishing line around works that were, for the most part, sui generis—books such as The Book of the New Sun, The Dragon Waiting, the eponymous Timescape, all brilliant and each as different from the last as could be.