Charles N. Brown 1937-2009
Review by Ernest Lilley
Locus ISBN/ITEM#: 0908CHARLESBROW
Date: 02 August 2009
Links: Locus Obit: Charles N. Brown / Wikipedia Entry /
Charles Nikki Brown started out as a science fiction fan of the golden age, never stopped loving the genre he'd read when he was young, and became one its most important voices in the critical period over the last forty years, coincidentally, though not accidentally, in sync with the genre's evolution in the post space race era.
Charles started Locus, today regarded as the magazine of record in speculative fiction, with "Ed Meskys and Dave Vanderwerf as a one-sheet news fanzine" to support Boston's 1968 bid for the 1971 Worldcon, where Locus won its first of many Hugos. He continued it as co-editor in the years that followed, until he took it up as a full time job in 1975.
A former Naval officer and nuclear engineer, Charles embodied much that was central to the generation of fandom he grew up in, yet his ability to embrace the new never waned, and indeed, he was an important sounding board for many authors. At Readercon 20, I moderated a panel on the Year's Best SF with Charles to my right, and he complained (mildly) that Neal Stephenson hadn't listened to him when he suggested that the ending to Anathem be changed. I've no doubt that Neal gave the input thought, even if it didn't deter him.
I've gotten my share of "input" from Charles, generally to talk less and listen more, and I've taken it (as much as I'm able) to heart. To me, he always seemed a bit of a "Dutch Uncle," but a favorite one as well.
Seventy Two years aren't nearly enough for a life, especially one lived by as thoughtful, articulate, and influential a person. I don't feel especially bad for Charles...dying in your sleep on the way home from a con full of people who are passionate about the same things you are...and who hold you in deepest regard isn't a bad way to go. Especially since we can be sure that the work done at Locus will continue under the able editorship of Liza Groen Trombi. I do feel sad for the loss of the community, and for the loss of all that Charles knew, and more, that he understood.