I hadn't thought that I'd be writing something like this for a friend, not so soon. Certainly not for Charles Brown (1937-2009). While I knew his health wasn't great, it seemed like it had been doing better this year than last, and I was looking forward to seeing him at WorldCon in Montreal. Certainly WorldCon won't feel the same without him.
All I can add to the lovely testimonials by critics such as Cheryl Morgan and Graham Sleight is my own specific Tale of Charles.
I'd been reading Locus since 2001, when I went to my first WorldCon in San Jose. After reading it for awhile, I knew that I really, really wanted to do that. After a few disastrous attempts at reviewing in 2004, I spent the early months of 2006 really working on it (and starting Spiral Galaxy's first incarnation). I finally got up the courage to introduce myself to Charles and Gary K. Wolfe at the WorldCon in Los Angeles, 2006. At first I stalked them at panels, then I signed up for their joint Kaffeklatch. (I hovered around and made sure I was the first name on the list!) At the end of the Kaffeeklatsch I said "are you guys doing anything now, or could we [meaning any klatsch-mates who wanted to join in] buy you a drink?" This was an early lesson to me in how free booze can win an editor's heart. [The story of how those drinks actually got paid for is a longer story for another day.]
But here's the important bit; the really Charles bit. After WorldCon was over, he got in touch with me, a few weeks later. He was in LA to see the opera and could use a ride back to the airport Sunday morning. Would I join him for brunch, then give him a lift to LAX? I thought it over for perhaps an entire picosecond before accepting.
So I went to brunch then, and also the next month. After that he never really felt well enough to jaunt down to LA for the opera anymore. However, just the fact that he went out of his way to show some interest in me was all the encouragment I needed. If he hadn't contacted me, I sure never would have contacted him--I'd have hated to pester someone who didn't have time. He gave me lots of advice, and really seemed to enjoy telling stories to someone young enough not to have heard them already. I got to have some meals with him; I got the house tour, and a whisky tasting (during which I could finally at least begin to appreciate the stuff). He introduced me to lots of people who have been instrumental in getting me into this crazy situation I'm in today: part reviewer, critic, scholar, editor, and who knows what else?
We didn't talk as much once I moved to Houston, and I didn't get to talk to him much at ICFA this year (by then knew enough people on my own, so I was able to move around without constantly clinging to the Locus folks). I'm sorry about that--you always think you'll have another chance. Still, there's a very real way in which I wouldn't be here, part of the great conversation that we all love, if it weren't for Charles Brown. It's a small legacy compared to what he's left us with Locus, but I for one appreciate it.
All my best thoughts are with the Locus folks tonight: I hope that Amelia, Liza, Kirsten, Teddy, Tim and Francesca all make it through this--not unscarred, but at least OK.