On Charles Brown
People have been asking if I have any particular memories of Locus editor/publisher Charles Brown, whose death on the way home from ReaderCon has prompted a flood of reminisces and tributes in the science fiction quarters of the Internet. My own memories of him are relatively few; I’m closer to the younger members of the Locus staff, among whom I count several friends, and the time I had with Charles was relatively limited.
Nevertheless, a couple of years ago I was at a book fair in Oakland and while I was there I was invited up to the Locus office, which is also Charles’ house, to be interviewed. The house is absolutely lovely, filled both with art and with Hugos (one had to be careful not to stumble, lest one be impaled by a rocket) and Charles was a gracious host, giving me a tour of the place and in particular letting me visit his legendary archives, which to any science fiction writer with a sense of history is like being a kid allowed into the candy store.
As someone who has himself interviewed hundreds of creative people, I found his interview style interesting, since it largely consisted of the two of us having a conversation, me on a couch and him at his desk, and him seemingly being a bit grumpy about it. At the time I wondered if it was something about me, but I’ve come to understand this is was his usual mode, and in any event the interview, when it appeared in Locus, made me look good. So as an interviewee I certainly couldn’t fault his technique.
One of the things that always puzzled me about Locus interviews was that the printed articles are always the responses to questions, but never the questions themselves. I can’t speak definitively as to why Charles chose that method, but over time I guessed it was because he preferred the focus be solely on the author rather than shared with the interviewer. I think this says quite about about Charles, his respect and understanding of authors and his love of the genre of science fiction and fantasy.
Aside from the visit to the Locus offices, his path and mine crossed a number of times, generally at the year’s Worldcon but at a couple other conventions as well. He was always interested in what was going on with my career, and was never shy in his opinions, which as you might imagine I valued in someone like him, whose opinions of the state of the genre were vastly informed both by his sense of history and his understanding of what was going on in the genre now.
Although Charles was near-synonymous with the magazine he founded and published, I am genuinely delighted to hear that he made provision to have Locus continue in his absence. It would have been a shame to lose that voice and resource in science fiction. As I’ve mentioned before, I know several members of the staff as friends and think the world of them, and it’s grand that they’ll be keeping the magazine going. I’m doing my small part for Locus by finally purchasing a subscription, which I have been meaning to do for some time, but which I’m now motivated to do as much as a vote of confidence in the staff as anything else. Good luck to them going forward. I know they’ll do their founder proud.