The Death of Damon Knight. One of Science Fiction’s originals passed away at the age of 80. In addition to being a very good fiction writer, Knight was foremost among the immediate post-war generation of SF writers to establish retreats for aspiring SF writers. What follows is some of a tribute to him by TOR Books Senior Editor Patrick Nielsen Hayden from his web log:
“He was an absolutely central figure of the science fiction world. As a teenager in 1939, he hitchhiked from his home in Oregon to New York City, where he became part of the Futurians, the group of fans and writers that also included the young Frederik Pohl, Donald Wollheim, Isaac Asimov, C. M. Kornbluth, and many others; his book-length memoir of this period, The Futurians , remains one of the most entertaining works of SF history ever published. He was the first reviewer to subject science fiction to the standards of ambitious mainstream fiction; his collection of essays and reviews, In Search of Wonder , is the founding document of modern SF criticism.
“With Judith Merrill and James Blish, he founded the Milford series of writing workshops, which led to the creation of the Clarion SF and Fantasy Writers’ Workshop, at which he and his wife Kate Wilhelm taught for decades—helping to raise generation after generation of some of the field’s best writers. His book Creating Short Fiction remains one of the best how-to texts for the any aspiring fiction writer. He founded the Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA) and served as its first president; he was a tireless defender of authors’ rights and critic of bad publishing practices. He edited dozens of important anthologies, most notably the “Orbit” series; in that capacity, he discovered many writers who later rose to prominence, including R. A. Lafferty, Gardner Dozois, and Gene Wolfe. (Wolfe’s classic The Fifth Head of Cerberus is dedicated “To Damon Knight, who one well-remembered June evening in 1966 grew me from a bean.”)
“With a tremendous sense of non sum dignus, I served as editor on his last two novels, Why Do Birds (1992) and Humpty Dumpty: An Oval. I’m proud to have been involved in publishing them. Humpty Dumpty , in particular, is a novel I believe the SF world and the literary world will eventually catch up to; it is a great humming elegy for the world, told at the moment of death.”