Martin H. Greenberg
On Friday, John Helfers of Tekno Books called to give Dean and I a heads-up that Marty Greenberg was in his last few days. We had known that Marty was fighting a lot of health problems, so this wasn’t a surprise. Yet it was a surprise. Marty was one of those giants, men that seemed amazingly strong no matter what. He was a presence, and the thought of him no longer being present was hard to bear.
I’ve been teaching a short story workshop, which is appropriate, since Marty’s Tekno Books has published more of my short fiction than any place else, and Marty has been a huge supporter of my work for decades. But he’s also been a friend just as long. I went to class with a heavy heart, and wasn’t surprised on Saturday when I got home from teaching to find out that Marty had passed on.
Class is over. I have time to think about this now.
I sold my first invitation-only short story to a mystery anthology edited by Ed Gorman and Martin H. Greenberg long before I had met Marty. I honestly don’t remember my first meeting with Marty. He was a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. His work in the sf field was something he did for love, not his day job. So we often talked about our UW connection. My father taught in the UW system for decades, and I got my degree at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Oddly, though, I never saw Marty in his native environment. I saw him all over the country at conventions. Early on in my career, I was in New York City to do some business, when who walked into the restaurant of my hotel but Marty Greenberg. We were staying in the same place (Manhattan really is small), and so we had a lovely impromptu breakfast–our own mini-convention–in the middle of a major city, because we happened to be in the same place at the same time.
I’ve had many meals with Marty, catching up on his family, our businesses, and always, always discussing ideas. This anthology or that project. This writer or that collection. The changes in the sf field. The changes in the mystery field. Gossip. Trade secrets. Marty knew everything and everyone, and everyone–everyone–respected him. I have never met anyone who disliked Marty Greenberg or said he harmed them in a negotiation. Marty did his best for writers, did his best to be fair.
He was, quite simply, one of the kindest people I’ve ever met. That’s rare in life. It’s even rarer in business.
It’s tough to lose a family member. And publishing has lost one of the pillars of the community, one of the centers of our little family.
Just like I can’t remember first meeting Marty, I can’t remember our last conversation. I’m sure it had something to do with business. We were on the phone a lot over the years. It was just something that happened. And I didn’t know at the time that it would be the last conversation. Funny how that works.
I am really going to miss him. His soft voice, his concern for all things in the industry, his warmth. His kindness. His kindness most of all. My thoughts are with his real family and the folks who worked with him every day. They’ll miss him the most. But I hope they realize how important Marty was to all the rest of us and what a large hole his passing will leave in our lives.