I hope that by now you have seen the news that the Locus Science Fiction Foundation is using Kickstarter to raise $9500 towards preserving the archives of the late Charles N. Brown. The fundraising effort has a deadline of May 7th, and over the next few weeks I’d like to feature some voices that will put the collection in context and raise awareness of how important it is. As a start, here is Locus’ senior reviewer Gary K. Wolfe with a statement that Paul Witcover, Cecelia Holland, Jeffrey Ford, and Elizabeth Hand have also seconded.
Having seen much of this material (and even slept among some of it from time to time), I could easily have fallen into the trap of taking it for granted–except that, on more than one occasion, I’ve watched usually unflappable and distinguished writers almost melt upon first exploring it.
Obviously as a member of the LSFF board, I’m biased. But as a scholar of the field, I’ve watched too many private collections dispersed, auctioned off, or donated to remote state university libraries where only a handful of devoted researchers will ever see them again. For decades, many SF and fantasy writers had a hard time finding libraries who would even take their stuff. Sometimes a librarian or archivist who was also a fan and realized the value of the material and actively seek it out–but then sometimes they were later replaced by librarians who had no interest in it at all, and simply filed it away. In the last few years a few libraries have done an excellent job of amassing good collections–Riverside, Kansas, Liverpool, Toronto–but not even many of these have the resources to digitize much of their material.
More important, perhaps, is that Charles’s collection is clearly of interest to the entire SF community, and not only to scholars. Unlike the papers of a single author, this mass of material touches upon all aspects of the SF and fantasy fields over something like six decades, amassed by someone who determinedly stayed near the center of the field for most of that time. I’m fairly certain there are treasures and surprises here than none of us know about yet, and the prospect of getting all this digitized, stabilized, and organized will at the very least provide us with endless opportunities for wallowing. And if there’s one thing that scholars, SF readers, and Internet users in general have in common, it’s wallowing.