Ned Brooks: A Pair of Obituaries by Tim Marion

Ned Brooks around 1971.

Ned Brooks around 1976.

Ned Brooks: subjective obituary

By Tim Marion: I can’t believe it. This must surely be a hoax, ’cause Ned just loved hoaxes. He even liked death hoaxes, as long as they weren’t carried too far.

Just got news on Facebook that Ned (Cuyler Warnell Brooks Jr.) passed away while attempting to repair the roof of his house; he apparently fell, sustaining a fatal injury. What a waste! He used to brag that he would probably live to over 100, like his mother did. I used to joke that he could leave me this or that in his will, as I am slightly over 20 years younger than him. “How do you know I won’t live longer than you?” he would rejoinder.

Although I recall some hand-scrawled correspondence with another Doc Savage fan, for whose fanzine I wrote comic book reviews (a zine which never materialized, as far I know), it wasn’t until several months later that I met the first fan I ever knew, Ned Brooks, in October 1970. A mutual acquaintance had told me of a man whose house was filled with science fiction books and I became very much inspired to meet this fellow. Upon entering his house, I saw stacks of ERBdom on a tabletop. “Wow, ERBdom! Do you have any other fanzines?” I asked excitedly. At this point, he gave me an extra copy of the final issue of his genzine, The New Newport News News (a title that played on the name of the city we lived in, Newport News, Virginia).

Over the years we had our ups and down with each other, and our failures to understand one another, but basically, he introduced me to fandom and published, on his ditto machine, my first several fanzines and apazines. More recently, he has helped me with both my art collection and in other ways, while I have, in the midst of collecting fanzine collections, filled in holes in his. Even during these days we still have had trouble understanding each other on occasion, but have remained friends. I will continue to think of him that way, just a friend now whom I can no longer write, call, or, alas, visit.

Have a good time at that Worldcon in Brownsville, Ned — I’ll join you when I can.

Ned Brooks: objective obituary

By Tim Marion: Cuyler Warnell Brooks, Jr., was born in Montana and was the son of Cuyler Warnell Brooks Sr., who was also nicknamed “Ned.” Ned never did discover the origin of the nickname. Ned once boasted that at the age of five, he had the sense to leave Montana. A military brat, his family moved to Chile, where Ned spent his childhood. There, Ned learned to read Spanish, although he never really spoke it all that fluently.

Ned went to school at Georgia Tech where he graduated with a 2.5 grade average and a degree in physics. He went to work for NASA, in Hampton, Virginia, in 1959, during which time he rented a room on Briarfield Road in Newport News, Virginia. Somehow he got a hold of an issue of Buck Coulson’s fanzine Yandro and started subscribing to fanzines from there. At one point or another, Ned was quite a proficient letterhack. However, his accumulation of books grew to the point that the people he was staying with had to say, “It’s either you or your books…!” and so Ned purchased the now mildly famous house at 713 Paul Street (on which he, years later, had still more additional rooms built in order to hold his continually burgeoning collection).

Ned met Vaughn Bodé at a convention in the mid-1960s. Vaughn had a strong interest in science fiction and a brilliant cartoony style that was perfect for fanzines. At Vaughn’s request, Ned gave Vaughn the names and addresses of a bunch of prominent fanzine publishers. This was the beginning of Vaughn being “discovered.” In the early 1970s Ned, with George Beahm, started The Bodé Collectors, a mail order company designed to cheaply and affordably offer Bode products to his growing legion of fans, as well as to prepare the way for The Vaughn Bodé Illustration Index, which George compiled and published in 1976 (which unfortunately shortly followed Vaughn’s death). Years later, the two also collaborated on Kirk’s Works, a complete (at the time) listing of all appearances of Tim Kirk’s art.

Ned worked for NASA for 39 years, then retired to Lilburn, Georgia, in order to be closer to his relatives. He purchased and arranged a large house with room for all his books and there was even a separate room for his antique typewriter collection.

Ned also published a lot of fanzines — besides being a member of SFPA since the late 1960s and SLANAPA since 1970 (during which he had a perfect attendance record for each mailing) and a member of N’APA and Apanage (the latter which he named) briefly, he was also a member of the N3F and published ten issues of Collectors’ Bulletin for them, a mighty bibliographic effort each time. He also did five issues of a ditto’d genzine, The New Newport News News, as well as 26 issues of It Comes in the Mail (personalzine listing and reviewing the interesting and fan-related mail he received), and most recently, 36 issues of It Goes on the Shelf (personalzine reviewing books he had picked up). He also published the Hannes Bok Illustration Index in the 1960s and, much later, several small-press books in magazine format, including an edition of C.L. Moore’s and Henry Kuttner’s story “Quest of the Starstone” which was illustrated by Alan Hunter (book entitled Quest for the Green Hills of Earth). He has been popular in the N3F, Southern Fandom (where he won both Rebel and Rubble Awards at different times), and fanzine fandom in general.

He is survived by his sister Mary and her son Joe.

3 thoughts on “Ned Brooks: A Pair of Obituaries by Tim Marion

  1. I’m sorry I never got to meet Ned. I love that in photos of him on this page, taken decades apart, he has a shirt pocket laden with pens and other sundry implements, and even a pocket protector. My kind of people!

    As a long time SF reader who only became more involved this year, I’m very appreciative of the work Mike G. does on this site to keep track of fans as well as authors and other public figures, including when they pass from the scene. I am more aware every day of the depth and extent of the history of fandom, and more saddened by how many people I’ll never get to meet or interact with because I only learn of them from their obituaries here.

  2. When Cathy Doyle, my wife, put on a Ditto in Virginia Beach, the tradition of the con was to choose a Guest of Honor at random from the attendees. In defiance of odds or credibility, Ned was chosen. If he smelled something fishy, he kept mum about it, and obligingly rose for a speech, which consisted of this anecdote.

    Back in the old days, in France, a fellow’s friends prevailed upon him to take a ride in a sedan chair. “Oh, you’ll love it,” they said. “It’s like nothing else!” They finally won him over, but they pulled a trick on him. The chair they provided had no bottom, so when he stepped inside, he was still standing on the ground, and when the servants started carrying it, he had to step lively to keep up with them, still inside the sedan chair. At the end of the ‘ride,’ they asked him what he thought of the experience. “Well,” he said, “Apart from the honor of the thing, it’s very much like walking.”

    Ned was going to use a cover I’d sent him for It Goes on the Shelf this year, an honor I felt keenly. There’s an image of that here.

    Steve Stiles used to reminisce about his time in the Army, at Fort Stewart (home of an incredible transportation museum, with hovercrafts, jet pack, a flying wing…), and how Ned saved his sanity by regularly removing him from the base to hang around and not have to be military. It’s possible people have negative memories of Ned, but they’ve never shared them with me.

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