Brown, Eric

Tagged: Author

(1960-    ) UK author who began publishing sf – after a children's play, Noel's Ark (1982 chap) – with "Krash-Bangg Joe and the Pineal-Zen Equation" for Interzone in Autumn 1987; like several further tales assembled in The Time-Lapsed Man and Other Stories (coll 1990), it is set in a future world dominated by the effects of bio-engineering and dense with information. This marriage of Cordwainer Smith to Cyberpunk, though not in itself original, has considerable potential as a focus for a complex vision of things to come, as demonstrated by his second novel, Engineman (1994), which is also set in what might be called the Nada Continuum sequence featuring interstellar Matter Transmission, and which sustains a note of Smith-like elegy in its depiction of an obsolescent form of space travel, that guided by "enginemen", one of whom becomes involved in a complicated plot.

Brown's first novel, Meridian Days (1992) – set mainly in a vast Archipelago of the planet Meridian, whose culture is dominated by artists – is also loosely connected to the Nada Continuum universe. Brown maintains a nice distance from the underpowered artists he depicts, and the interplotting of the tale keeps Meridian Days from too close an association with Dying Earth tropes, one of which is to conflate (wholly unconvincingly) Decadent art and the death of civilization. For much of his work, there is a sense – by no means evident in the work of all sf writers – that for Brown the meaning of an sf story inheres in the meaning of the lives it depicts; and that for his characters, the meaning of life frequently comes to focus through the operations of Art, made or appreciated, a focus it is perhaps hard to discern in the Bengal Station/Jeff Vaughn sequence beginning with Bengal Station (2004), a noir detective Space Opera series. This focus on moments of realization marks his short fiction in particular, much of which has been assembled in The Time-Lapsed Man (not the strongest of his collections), Blue Shifting (coll 1995), Parallax View (coll 2000) with Keith Brooke, Deep Future (coll 2001), The Fall of Tartarus (coll 2005) – a set of linked elegies for a dying planet and its bereavement-obsessed inhabitants, told in a Planetary Romance idiom – and Threshold Shift (coll 2006), which includes the first three tales in the Kéthani sequence about Aliens who offer Immortality and Transcendence to humans. The Kethani sequence was later assembled as Kéthani (fixup 2008).

The novels are more spectacular, but not perhaps as accomplished as the short fiction. Set in an America close to full ruination, the Virex Trilogy – comprising New York Nights (2000), New York Blues (2001) and New York Dreams (2004) – effectively uses New York as a venue for a set of Near Future noir adventures in and out of Virtual Reality; Bengal Station (2004) recombines Aliens, Asian Earth, romantic love and exogamous (see Exogamy) longings for the stars into a mix which is not unfamiliar – Brown's work sometimes resembles that of Ian McDonald – but exceedingly competent. The protagonists of British Front (2005) find themselves thrust forward 50 years into a grim racist Britain, a future which (not entirely convincingly) they may be able to prevent after they have returned to the present; and The Extraordinary Voyage of Jules Verne (2005) playfully (and movingly) places Verne into the world of his own darker creations, figures from the later years of his career like Robur the Conqueror; rather similarly, Gilbert and Edgar on Mars (2009 chap) translates G K Chesterton and Edgar Rice Burroughs to a Planetary Romance version of Mars. In the more ambitious The Kings of Eternity (2011), two protagonists – one in 1999 and the other, clearly based on Lawrence Durrell, in 1935 – follow mutually encircling paths into the English countryside, where at the heart of aa mysterious wood – again clearly evocative, in this case of Ryhope Wood in Robert Holdstock's Mythago Wood (1984) – a portal exists, allowing the incursion of an Alien being who brings the "gift" of Immortality. In The Serene Invasion (2013), Aliens impose a neurological block on the Terran biosphere, so that no form of violence is possible; their Invasion is accompanied by further gifts, including an inexhaustible Power Source, all leading to a genuine sense of ethical complexity. It may be that Brown's fertility has not yet found a significant venue to fix itself to, though this novel is extremely assured; at the same time, by the early years of this century he had already amassed an impressive body of work. [JC]

see also: Interzone; Perception; Time Travel.

Eric Brown

born Haworth, West Yorkshire: 24 May 1960

died

works

series

The Web

Virex Trilogy

Bengal Station/Jeff Vaughn

  • Bengal Station (Waterville, Maine: Five Star, 2004) [Bengal Station/Jeff Vaughn: hb/]
  • Necropath (Nottingham, Nottinghamshire: BL Publishing/Solaris, 2008) [Bengal Station/Jeff Vaughn: pb/Jon Sullivan]
  • Xenopath (Nottingham, Nottinghamshire: BL Publishing/Solaris, 2009) [Bengal Station/Jeff Vaughn: pb/Jon Sullivan]
  • Cosmopath (Oxford, Oxfordshire: Rebellion/Solaris, 2009) [Bengal Station/Jeff Vaughn: pb/Jon Sullivan]

Starship

  • Starship Summer (Hornsea, East Yorkshire: PS Publishing, 2007) [chap: Starship: hb/Tomislav Tikulin]
  • Starship Fall (Alconbury Weston, Cambridgeshire: NewCon Publishing, 2009) [Starship: hb/Dominic Harman]
  • Starship Winter (Hornsea, East Yorkshire: PS Publishing, 2012) [chap: Starship: hb/Tomislav Tikulin]
  • Starship Spring (Hornsea, East Yorkshire: PS Publishing, 2012) [chap: Starship: hb/Tomislav Tikulin]
    • Starship Seasons (Hornsea, East Yorkshire: Drugstore Indian Press, 2012) [omni of the above four: Starship: pb/Tomislav Tikulin]
  • Starship Coda (Hornsea, East Yorkshire: PS Publishing, 2016) [chap: Starship: hb/Tomislav Tikulin]

Helix

  • Helix (Nottingham, Nottinghamshire: BL Publishing/Solaris, 2007) [Helix: pb/Dominic Harman]
  • Helix Wars (Oxford, Oxfordshire: Rebellion/Solaris, 2012) [Helix: pb/Dominic Harman]

Weird Space

  • The Devil's Nebula (Oxford, Oxfordshire: Rebellion/Abaddon, 2012) [Weird Space: pb/Adam Tredowski]
  • Satan's Reach (Oxford, Oxfordshire: Rebellion/Abaddon, 2013) [Weird Space: pb/Adam Tredowski]
  • The Baba Yaga (Oxford, Oxfordshire: Rebellion/Abaddon, 2015) with Una McCormack [Weird Space: pb/Adam Tredowski]

The Telemass Quartet

Jani / Multiplicity

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