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.
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.