Meet a Geek: Gardner Dozois, Fantastic-Story Collector

By Stephen H. Segal
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 3 | Posted Apr. 10, 2013

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Gardner Dozois

Photo by Kyle Cassidy

Recently returned from spending Easter weekend in the outskirts of Seattle, where he was feted as guest of honor at the Pacific Northwest’s regional science-fiction convention, acclaimed short-story editor Gardner Dozois joined PW in West Philly’s Barkan Park on Saturday for the launch of our Isaac Asimov historical campaign. We asked him to geek out a bit about his work, his pal George R.R. Martin, and Philly nerddom.

You edit several science fiction anthologies every year, including the Year’s Best Science Fiction series. What are the creative challenges you most enjoy?
For original anthologies, getting the best work I can from good authors and helping them to make it better if it needs it. For reprint anthologies, like the Year’s Best Science Fiction, reading widely, staying receptive and using the best work I can find. Even after all these years, finding a really first-rate story is still a thrill, one I want to share with others.

You travel all around the country to conventions, meeting fans from everywhere. How do you rate Philadelphia as a science-fiction town?
Philadelphia’s a good science-fiction town. There are many professional writers here, like Michael Swanwick, Tom Purdom, Gregory Frost, Victoria McManus and others. There are professional artists such as Bob Walters and Tess Kissinger and Susan McAninley. There’s one of the oldest organized fan clubs in the country, the Philadelphia Science Fiction Society, and one of the country’s oldest S.F. conventions, Philcon.

You collaborate with George R.R. Martin in editing themed short-story anthologies. What’s it been like watching Martin’s already-strong genre popularity explode through the American mass culture since Game of Thrones hit HBO?
It’s been amazing watching George’s success. We started out as broke young writers together. I remember, back in the mid-’70s, going to a Nebula Award banquet in New York City with George and trying to find an editor who was willing to buy us dinner, because neither of us had any money; the best we could do was an editor who took us out in front of the hotel and bought us each a hot dog from a hot dog cart. Now he’s perhaps the best-known and most successful writer in the genre, even personally satirized in cartoons and on Saturday Night Live. It’s astounding—but he’s worked very, very hard for his success, and deserves every bit of it.

Isaac Asimov was arguably, for a time, the most influential science-fiction author in America—and under your editorship, Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine was arguably the most influential sf magazine. In the new media era, do you think any one entity will ever again have the same singular impact on the field that either Asimov or Asimov’s did?
When I first started editing a Year’s Best volume, in the ‘70s, the job was pretty straightforward—there were three or four monthly magazines to read and a few original anthologies from trade publishers every year. Now, it seems like there’s a new electronic magazine coming along every five minutes, to say nothing of anthologies from small-press publishers, anthologies from really small-presses, podcast anthologies, Kickstarter anthologies ... Not only has this made my job more difficult, it’s also diffused the genre. Used to be, everybody read everthing; now, there are so many different markets in so many different mediums, that I don’t think one particular market is ever going to be able to be that dominant again.

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1. Andrew Porter said... on Apr 13, 2013 at 01:02PM

“So disappointing. I was so looking forward to seeing an image of Gardner—whom I've known for decades—biting the head off a chicken, as your "geek = nerd" coverage seems to imply.

Alas, he comes across as a normal guy who's an intelligent editor, witty and knowledgable about the SF field. Maybe it's your coverage that's biased?”

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2. Laurie Mann said... on Apr 13, 2013 at 05:58PM

“Isaac Asimov was also satirized on Saturday Night Live in the late '80s or early '90s by Phil Hartman in a hat, as part of the Carl Sagan Environmental Christmas Special.”

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3. Stephen Segal said... on Apr 16, 2013 at 03:24PM

“Andrew, it's been years now since widespread usage of the word "geek" morphed from being a pejorative into being the simple descriptive term for "brainy enthusiast." I'm surprised if our interviews with half a dozen scientists and speculative-literati in this week's "geek issue," including Gardner, didn't make it crystal clear that of course we're not mocking any of them—we're celebrating them. We're geeks too.”

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