Appreciations for Neil Barron (1934-2010)

As reported in Locus Online, Neil Barron passed away last year. While he wrote and edited many critical articles and reviews, he will perhaps be best remembered for Anatomy of Wonder, most recently in its fifth edition. Along with the remembrances that will appear in Locus Magazine, Gary K. Wolfe and Stefan Dziemianowicz sent in these appreciations. If you have any appreciations or memories of the man or his work, please leave a note in the comments.

Stefan Dziemianowicz

This is very sad news. I worked with Neil on Fantasy and Horror, his revision/update for Scarecrow Press of the Garland volumes Horror Literature and Fantasy Literature, and was in touch with him until about 5 or 6 years ago, through his heart surgery and his brief second marriage. I got a brief note from him after his second marriage dissolved, and then–silence. Neil was a great guy, and very knowledgable about the fiction he loved.

Gary K. Wolfe

I worked with Neil on the 4th and 5th editions of Anatomy of Wonder, as well as on his 1990 fantasy volume for Garland, so I probably have a vested interest in the question of whether these are useful or important, although I will say that I still find myself consulting AOW more often than any reference book other than the Clute/Nicholls Encyclopedia. In fact, I was just looking something up in it last night.

The last time I heard from Neil, I think, was in 2006, in which he was worried about the sales of the 5th edition.  He wanted, rather generously, to congratulate me on the Hugo nomination for Soundings, but then added “My interest in fantastic fiction has diminished steadily over the years.”  He was already effectively retired from the field by then, and like most of us I guess, I didn’t hear much afterward.

But I think he probably did as much as anybody to move SF and fantasy into the reference shelves of libraries, and his dedication to his work was meticulous bordering on the obsessive.  He was also a pretty good editor.  Our tastes in SF didn’t always mesh, and it became increasingly apparent that his interest in the more recent work in the field was waning even during AOW5, but he respected my judgments on the chapters I contributed, and when he asked questions, they were good ones.

5 thoughts on “Appreciations for Neil Barron (1934-2010)

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  • January 12, 2011 at 5:22 am
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    I would be the first to agree how valuable Anatomy of Wonder is. Now that Mr. Barron is gone, I sincerely hope that someone will carry on his work of editing successor volumes.

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  • January 12, 2011 at 3:03 pm
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    Neil Barron was one of the best in moving SF into the attention of libraries, from his first version of Anatomy of Wonder in Choice Magazine, and on through all the book editions of AOW. His work and service to the SFRA were valuable to that organization. His keen insights and wisdom will be missed.

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  • January 13, 2011 at 9:55 pm
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    This is my own “It All Started When”: As a highschool sophmore I was poking around the school library one day when I found this book with a weird cover. It turned out to be a book about the literature of science fiction, its definition and history, with listings and analyses of works, writers and themes, including other books about SF. An ambitious book, like nothing I’d seen before. I checked it out and wasted an entire weekend poring over it, it was my kind of book. I could then look for other books myself without bothering the librarians. Of course, SF had always been around in some familiar form, in TV, movies, comics and toys. For me, “The Anatomy of Wonder” is where it really began, the interest in reading and writing science fiction and fantasy.

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  • January 18, 2011 at 7:52 pm
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    Neil frequentedthe bookstore my wife Glory and I owned on Vista Way in Vista, CA. It was not far from his house where he and Carolyn had us over for dinners usually consisting solely of salad. What was lacking in protein was made up with grand conversations on the state of science fiction at that time. This was during the 1980s and Neil was working on an early revision of AOW. Neil was a great listener, a frequent attendee at signings, and a bearer of supressed smiles when we invited them out to dinner at restaurants that served more than salads. I’ve missed conversing with him.

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