Charles Brown, R.I.P.

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.

5 thoughts on “Charles Brown, R.I.P.

  1. I was lucky enough to meet Charlie at a couple of Worldcons & remeber sharing his company over here in London at the Warehouse or in the shop –

    he has gone on (maybe he is with Ted Sturgeon & all the other founders of the imaginary wave…
    bless us all

    % another Mau Thai?

  2. The more I think about it, the more I realise just how different the field would be without him. Folks know where I stand on today’s Locus, but it was one of my favourite’s when I was learning how to read from the collection my Dad had. Without Locus, how many writers would have slipped from notice? I found the old Locus Art Book and I realised just how important Locus was to breaking Fan Artists into the world.

    And he bought me dinner once and we had a lovely conversation at a couple of WorldCons.

    The lngest lasting image I’ll have of him will always be the time he I called him ‘One of the gods of the Hugos” and having him correct that he was “The God of the Hugos” with a huge grin on his face.

  3. Charles was a good friend to so many people, and generous with his time and hospitality. It is a sad loss, but I am glad I had a chance to get to know him. Timothy and I both feeling sad: the world won’t be quite the same without him…sententious, but I can’t think of another way to say it.

  4. I’ve also been on my way back from Finncon and have only just logged on and received the news. I only met Charles a handful of times, sadly, but I enjoyed the conversations we did have, often reflected on the things we spoke about, and was thinking about Charles only yesterday (more specifically his recent thoughts on The Moon is a Harsh Mistress) when I picked up a Heinlein juvenile in the Finncon dealers room.

    I think it’s rather fitting that, before I logged on, before I’d taken my suitcase upstairs or taken off my shoes, the first thing I did was tear open the new Locus. As sad as this news is, I’m pleased that the magazine is in safe hands.

  5. Goodness knows I’ve had my differences with him over the years (he was vehemently against the splitting of the Best Dramatic Presentation and Editing Hugos) but on the whole, I would hate to imagine the the field without him or Locus.

    While I’m happy the magazine and website will continue, I would also urge the editor and staff to take the opportunity to take Locus in new directions (such as changing the interview format and initiate some investigative journalism).

    But that’s for another day…My condolences to you. See you in Montreal next month!

    Best Wishes,
    Chris M. Barkley
    Cincinnati, OH USA

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