Ned Brooks (1938-2015)

Ned Brooks. Photo by Gary Meek.

Ned Brooks. Photo by Gary Meek.

Southern fan Cuyler W. “Ned” Brooks died August 31. The 77-year-old had been on his roof making repairs when he fell off and died.

He was in his sixth decade as a fan, a life begun by answering a small ad in a science fiction magazine, “Discover fandom for $2.”

In 1963 Ned attended his first Worldcon, Discon in Washington, DC. In the mid-1960s he was also involved in the National Fantasy Fan Federation (N3F) and edited its Collector’s Bulletin. In 1972 he won the organization’s Kaymar Award, given for service.

Ned joined the Southern Fandom Press Association (SFPA) in May 1967 and remained a member the rest of his life. His SFPAzine, The New Port News, reached #200 back in September 2001. The last issue in July was #282.

He co-founded Slanapa, (Slanderous Amateur Press Association), a monthly apa with rotating Official Editor. He was OE for the August 2015 mailing, the 547th, which members received about a week ago.

Ned gained fame throughout fandom by publishing 28 bimonthly issues of It Comes in the Mail (1972-1978), and around three dozen issues of a review-oriented successor, It Goes on the Shelf, which he started in 1985.

“[It Comes in the Mail] worked on the basis that I would comment on everything pertaining to science-fiction and science-fiction fandom that I got in the mail,” he once explained. “It died of success — with only an electric typewriter and a mimeograph machine, I could not keep up – the larger the zine got, the more came in the mail.”

People were impressed with the relentless effort required to do It Comes in the Mail – including Donn Brazier, who in 1972 made Brooks one of the first 13 fans on the mailing list for his soon-to-be legendary fanzine Title.

Tim Marion recalls that Brooks not only introduced him to fandom in the 1970s, but published Tim’s first zines for him on his ditto machine.

Brooks’ worklife was spent as a NASA wind tunnel engineer, hired after graduation from Georgia Tech in 1959. D. Gary Grady once visited Brooks’ home where he saw “hanging over the stairs to the basement was a net, one used by NASA to catch tiles that fell off the Shuttle during launch. If I recall what he said correctly, the tiles were tested in the wind tunnel he helped run at NASA’s facility in Langley Virginia until his retirement.”

In recent years he notably did generous yeoman work copying things in his collection for other people’s research and projects. He donated fanzines to help fill in gaps in the archives of the Eaton Collection at UC Riverside. And he was interviewed about his devotion to paper fanzines for a pre-Dragon*Con feature in the Atlanta Constitution-Journal in 2010 – although he never attended the con. (Read the full story here.)

Ned Brooks with his fanzine collection. Photo from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Ned Brooks with his fanzine collection. Photo from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Don’t be fooled, though, Ned engaged in internet fanac, too. As of this writing his website is still online. Also, in June 2014, Brooks brought the quasiquote to the attention of the Shady Characters blog (about “The secret life of punctuation”).

He was the Fan Guest of Honor at Rivercon IV in 1978 and at DeepSouthCon 39 in 2001. He was the recipient of the Rebel Award in 1976 and the Rubble Award in 1992.

Andrew Porter reports, “He did have a will, and his family is aware of the value of his many collections. They will do the right thing by him, and dispose of them with the assistance of fandom.”

[Thanks to Steven H Silver, Tim Marion, Taral Wayne, Kyla and Rich Lynch for the story.]

22 thoughts on “Ned Brooks (1938-2015)

  1. So sad to hear this. As an original member of SLANapa, I encountered Ned in my early days in fandom and his wealth of fannish knowledge was incredidble. Aling with Harry Warner, Jr., Ned was an indefatigable chronicler of fandom and I hope his collection will serve future researchers.

  2. Talked with him many times when he attended conventions local to the DC area. He set up his huckster table and sold books he had bought from various thrift stories. The books were modestly priced. I often felt he set up shop to talk, often showcasing off the wall titles like THE WEREWOLF VERSUS THE VAMPIRE WOMAN.or an absurdity like the novelized QUEEN KONG. Or his finding a copy of Aliester Crowley’s poems with the name “Rose Kelly” written inside.


    His NASA job was the only one he ever held, and he enjoyed it.

  3. Like Tim Marion, I was able to publish my fanzines in the early 1970’s because of Ned’s generosity. I was in the US Army, stationed at Fort Lee, VA, about a 90-minute drive from Ned’s home in Newport News. For about the last two years of my enlistment, I’d drive down every few months to crank out an issue of GODLESS or POWERMAD on Ned’s mimeograph.

    He was one of the Good Guys, and always seemed to view the world with a mild bemusement and an even temper. Hadn’t been in touch except for an occasional wave-by on the Internet for years, but always thought of him fondly.

  4. Ned played a big role in networking many of us together in the 1970s. When I was building a mailing list for my blog-with-staples, “It Comes In The Mail” was an important reference for learning the addresses for other fanzines which were available for trading.

    Thanks, Mike, for the online pointers.

  5. Shocked and stunned. Ned was and has been a preeminent force in my fannish existence going back to the early 70s. RIP, my friend.

  6. I never met Ned, but I was certainly affected by his kindness and generosity over the years. When I needed a scan of Bruce Pelz’s first WOOF zine, Ned was the one who provided it almost as soon as I asked.

    It’s still hard to digest this news.

  7. Thanks Lenny! Once again, File 770 crowdsources its editing.

    If this blog is ever nominated for another Hugo, they’ll need to give out 350 of those little rocket pins…

  8. Ned and I corresponded off and on a bit from about 1982 on. I’ll miss getting It Goes on the Shelf.

    He had astonishing good luck with thrift store finds, as readers of IGOTS will remember. Many of us wouldn’t have found it possible to finish reading some of the quirky books he found, but his accounts of his finds were entertaining.

    He was also a highly knowledgeable typewriter collector. I couldn’t enter into this hobby really, but reading his remarks might make some of us wish we’d hung on to the machines with which we’d clacked out fanzines once upon a time.

  9. My first thought, upon hearing about this through the grapevine yesterday, was that it can’t be true… I would e-mail Ned and ask him. Then the absurdity sunk in. There is the slight consolation, at least, that we will be hearing from Ned for some time to come. There is a letter of comment from him in the next issue of Broken Toys, and no doubt there will be other locs in other fanzines in the coming months.

  10. Everybody here knew Ned from decades before I did. I guess you could say I’m a recent friend. Since 1987. While I only met him maybe three times, we did an email round robin from 2001 to now. I can’t say everyday. On the other hand, sometimes twice a day. The important thing is what we discussed, all sorts of subjects. The last one dated 8/29 concerned a Warner Brothers cartoon, the qualities of Absorbine Jr., statistics on alcoholism deaths, inoculation against smallpox, the Civil War in Maryland, and Donald Trump. In short, Ned had very catholic interests. Going from that to your photo of him and his collection, I think, in later times, he had on his website the same photo, except that I fixed it up with the ghost of a famous fan. I have forgotten who, though. If it isn’t there, no big deal. I will nonetheless miss him very much. I thought he was going to live as long as his mother, who died at 103. Unfortunately, that was not to be.

  11. I sent Ned a copy of my first fanzine and he was nice enough to respond with much needed constructive criticism. Very sorry to hear of his passing.

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  13. I’m the Executor of Ned’s will, and the beneficiary of his book, fanzine, and record collection. Just to update everyone: LOCUS will be running his obituary in the next issue, for which Disney/fantasy artist Tim Kirk has done a portrait of Ned in his library. The books will be part of my collection now, and the fanzines are headed off to the University of California at Riverside, which Ned would have appreciated: He had over one ton of fanzines, apazines, and convention program books, all of which will be carefully tended to for posterity. A minor clarifying point: Ned didn’t fall off the roof; the ladder slipped from under him on the wet deck, and he came crashing down and struck the deck, hit himself on the head, and broke his foot. It was an accident, pure and simple, and especially regrettable because it should have never happened. In June of this year, Ned and I were joking about who would die first. The joke became an ugly reality a scant three months later, to my shock and inexpressible sadness.

  14. Hi, Bruce. Send me a letter at Ned’s address, and I’ll get it. I’d like to get back in touch with you. It’s been too long, my friend. I remember our time together with Ned–fond memories indeed.

    Ned’s extensive typewriter collection needs a home. I’ll follow up on your suggestion, and suggest it to Joe, his nephew, who is looking for a suitable place to put what is an extensive collection of vintage pieces.

  15. Ned was a wonderful bibliophile and a faithful correspondent for many years. I think I first encountered him when he was publishing under the Purple Mouth Press imprint from Newport News, Virginia. Ned was one of those collectors who truly enriched the field of literature in which he collected. He was also an authority all things relating to fandom. His unexpected death is a tragic loss for fandom and for all lovers of fantasy literature.

  16. Ned was an unending source of support and suggestions in my recent search for a particular fanzine. Bless you, kind sir. You are missed.

  17. Pingback: Brooks’ Fanzines Donated | File 770

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