Today I made my way back to Darkest Somerset from Finncon. I kept up with Twitter a lot of the way, but it is hard to maintain a connection on a moving train, and while I was traveling south from Bristol the news broke that Charles N Brown, co-founder, editor and publisher of Locus, had died. Charles had been on his way home from Readercon.
It is impossible to have been involved in science fiction over the past few decades without getting to know Charles. He has won an enormous number of Hugo Awards, and his magazine has been the journal of record for the community for longer than I have been reading it. When I first started Emerald City I hoped that one day I might write reviews as well as Locus‘s star reviewer, Gary K Wolfe. I never dreamed that one day I would meet Gary, or Charles, let alone be invited to their homes, and to write for Locus myself. However, one thing that I learned very quickly is that if you established any sort of presence in the field then Charles would find you, because the science fiction community was his life and he made it his business to know what went on in it. If you had something interesting to say about books, Charles made it his business to seek you out and talk to you.
Why did he do this? Why do any of us do what we do for science fiction? Why have I traveled to conventions in Ireland, France, New Zealand, Australia and Finland already this year? We do these things because we love science fiction, because we want other people to love science fiction, and we want to encourage talented young people who are taking an interest in the genre.
Charles did this for a lot of people. He tirelessly promoted writers through Locus, he attended many conventions, and he sought out critics who were starting to make a name for themselves such as Graham Sleight, Karen Burnham and myself. Charles and I didn’t always agree about books, but we could always guarantee a good conversation about them. He bought me dinner far more often than I returned the favor, at least in part so that we could have those conversations.
I’m delighted to see from the official announcement at Locus Online that the magazine will continue to be published. Liza and her team have a huge task ahead of them. I have no doubt that they will continue to produce a great magazine. Reproducing the enthusiasm that Charles had for the field will be somewhat more challenging. He devoted his life to his favorite literature. Had anyone asked him how he wanted to go, I suspect that he might have said that he’d like to die quietly, in his sleep, on his way home from a very successful convention. Having seen various people’s reports from Readercon, I am sure that Charles will have come away thinking that the community he loved was doing very well, and continuing to produce great fiction. I will miss him very much, and I’m sure he had a whole lot of unfulfilled plans, but I think also he will have died happy with a sense of a job well done. It is certainly something he deserved.