About Me

A blog wherein a literary agent will sometimes discuss his business, sometimes discuss the movies he sees, the tennis he watches, or the world around him. In which he will often wish he could say more, but will be obliged by business necessity and basic politeness and simple civility to hold his tongue. Rankings are done on a scale of one to five Slithy Toads, where a 0 is a complete waste of time, a 2 is a completely innocuous way to spend your time, and a 4 is intended as a geas compelling you to make the time.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Charles N. Brown

It was announced on Monday that Charles N. Brown, the founder and publisher of Locus, the newspaper of the science fiction field, passed away at the age of 72.

The sf fan geek side of me is in very deep mourning.

I first remember encountering Locus at a bookstore, maybe an sf specialty bookstore, in Ithaca.  This would have been at some point during my eldest brother's years at Cornell, and maybe with the magazine's first color cover?  Though that might have been some Voyager cover in the very late 1970s, which I think might be too late?  In any case, it was a kind of really special thing for a budding young science fiction fan to discover a magazine devoted entirely to talking about the business of science fiction publishing.  It was a thrilling experience to lay down money and become part of that community.  If Charles N. Brown didn't invent Locus, someone else would certainly have had to.

As is often the case, when you start to do something for a living, some of the joy goes out of it.  My experiences with Locus as a pro have been more conflicted than as a fan.  Once upon a time I was an eager fan who would devour every review in Locus as part of my search for the bestest and the newest.  As a pro, I would wonder why this book had two reviews in the August issue while this book by my client wasn't being reviewed at all, and that would be more important than the reviews themselves, all of books that I'd never actually have time to read.  But of course the reason why I would worry about whether this or that book was being reviewed, or this or that author was in the "Selected Books" part of the Forthcoming Books issue instead of the agate listings was because Locus was important.  Locus mattered.

As a pro, I think I enjoyed reading Andrew Porter's SF Chronicle more.  SF Chronicle hasn't been around for several years now, but Andrew Porter is still very much with us, and I think it's important that we not become so busy eulogizing Charles N. Brown that we forget to give some honor and appreciation to those who can still appreciate it.  But I would entertain a motion that I could like SFC more because I could afford to like it more.  It mattered a little less, so I could still bring the fannish side of me to reading it.  Locus mattered more,  so I had to be always and ever the pro.

Let us hope Locus will continue to matter for a long time to come.  It faces challenges, as every print magazine does, and recent issues have had editorial comments from Charles N. Brown commenting on the drop in advertising.  Which you see in Publishers Weekly, in Variety, in the local newspaper.  The field is a little smaller because Locus doesn't need to do battle with the loyal opposition at SFC, and the field would be a lot smaller without any Locus at all for us to kick around.  It's been a part of my life for 30 years, Charles N. Brown was an influence on me, on my profession, and on the genre I love, for longer than that.  May Liza Groen Trombi successfully carry the torch into the next decade, and the one beyond that.  

1 comment:

Tim Akers said...

I'm not really a packrat or an archivist, but I'm keeping the copy of Locus where my name first appeared, the one where my first book sale was announced, and the one where the cover for Heart of Veridon got top of page treatment in Forthcoming Books.

Sad, sad, sad.