I was saddened to read in this month’s Ansible that longtime fan Ned Brooks had died from injuries sustained from a fall. He was 77.
Ned was one of the first to welcome me when I got into fandom way back in my fanzine days of the early 1990s. He and I shared an obsession with collecting books, with him beating me handily by several thousand volumes. I often joked with my wife that if she didn’t stop complaining about my ever-expanding library, she should visit Ned’s house and see what a real collection looks like.
I knew him primarily through his fanzine, It Goes on the Shelf, a review zine started in 1985 in which he wrote about all the strange books he picked out of used bookstores, estate sales, and thrift stores. He had an eye for the unusual, the quirky, the forgotten. More than once I’ve gone to my local university library clutching a copy of IGOTS in order to look up some intriguing title.
IGOTS came around Christmas time every year, and my wife I always looked forward to opening up that familiar manila envelope and reading through the colored pages of Ned’s witty reviews of all the books he’d gathered in the previous 12 months. While I fell out of the fanzine world several years ago, Ned’s zine was one of the only I still received. I wasn’t about to give that one up!
We also traded books form time to time, and I well remember sending him a big batch of fanzines I’d collected over the years in exchange for some science fiction books. I’m glad that some of my fanzine memories are now part of his vast collection, and from what I hear his family will be finding a proper home for all of it.
At the moment, Ned’s website is still up, and it’s worth a look for the photos of his vast collection of books, fanzines, and antique typewriters. Also check out the almost complete collection of It Goes on the Shelf over at Fanac.
While I corresponded with him for many years, I did not know Ned personally. For an obituary by a personal friend, read Tim Marion’s heartfelt tribute over at File 770.
Ned’s death is a blow to fandom, and it taught me a valuable lesson. While I was at the London Worldcon in the summer of 2014 I picked up a few things I thought Ned would get a kick out of — the complete run of the con newsletter, a bunch of Perry Rhodan postcards the German fans were giving away, plus some other knickknacks. I was going to mail them, and then work and travel and laziness got in the way. Eastercon rolled around so I decided to hold off mailing the Worldcon stuff so I could pick up a few more things for him as a thank you for all the great zines over the years. I did, and then more stuff got in the way of my sending out the package. Now that I just got back to Madrid from a summer trip, I was really, truly going to mail all that stuff this week.
And now I can’t.
So if you’ve been putting off doing something nice for someone, go do that right now.
And check out It Goes on the Shelf. Ned’s writing deserves to live on.
Sean McLachlan is the author of the historical fantasy novel A Fine Likeness, set in Civil War Missouri, and several other titles, including his action series set in World War One, Trench Raiders. His historical fantasy novella The Quintessence of Absence, was published by Black Gate. Find out more about him on his blog and Amazon author’s page.