Visions of Paradise

Friday, July 17, 2009

Charles Brown

I have been a faithful reader of Locus for 38 years, and I consider it an invaluable resource for serious readers of f&sf, both for its regular listings of forthcoming and recent publications, as well as its numerous reviews and various best-of-the-year listings and polls. For that reason, I considered Charles Brown an important person in the sf universe, and his unexpected death is a big blow to sf criticism and news. Fortunately, while there were few similar outlets such as Locus for many decades (Andy Porter’s SF Chronicle being one while it lasted), there are several websites which serve a similar purpose now. SF Signal is probably the most valuable daily outlet for news, while the number of current review sites far surpass the number of fanzines which carried reviews at any given time.

The editors of Locus seem willing and able to continue it, including Mark Kelly who runs the Locus Online website, all of which was apparently anticipated by Brown who arranged things so that Locus would survive him. That is good news for those of us who crave reviews and news about sf on a regular basis.

In some ways, Charles Brown was divisive in the sf community. There seemed to have been as many people who admired him as disliked him. From what I can gather, some of the latter people disagreed with Brown’s agenda for Locus, while others were jealous of his success in the fan community (such as his winning the Hugo Award virtually every single year). The latter is sour grapes, in my opinion, while the former is inevitable since, paraphrasing Abraham Lincoln, you cannot please all the people all the time.

My personal complaint with Locus has always been the fact that it tends to concentrate on certain sf writers while ignoring others who are equally deserving of attention. Considering the huge number of sf books published on annually, I understand that it is impossible to review every important book by every author, but some of the authors Locus ignored were winning awards on a fairly regular basis. I always thought that Locus favored “cutting edge” authors rather than traditionalists, an opinion which was apparently verified by Jonathan Strahan at his blog Strahan is a longtime acquaintance of Charles Brown who reviewed books for Locus before becoming its fiction editor. In his memorializing Brown, he made the statement:

He also did everything he could to influence [science fiction], to make it what he thought it should be. He published Locus to influence the field. He ran the Locus Awards to influence (by example) the Hugos.

I have no problem with that agenda, but it explains some of the trends and directions in Locus. I wonder if that agenda will change much, if at all, with new people having control of its contents.


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