Eric Brown, science fiction author and Guardian critic, dies aged 62

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Eric Brown, a prolific, award-winning author who published more than 50 novels, children’s books and short story collections, and who was the Guardian’s science fiction reviewer for a number of years, has died aged 62.

Brown, who was born in Haworth, West Yorkshire, and latterly lived in Berwickshire, Scotland, with his wife, Finn and daughter Freya, died on 21 March after contracting sepsis, having been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma a year ago.

He wrote more than 20 novels, beginning with Meridian Days for Pan in 1992, set on a distant planet. He was also the author of many standalone novels and series, including the Bengal Station trilogy – Necropath, Xenopath and Cosmopath – published by Solaris from 2009-10.

Brown’s fiction was often concerned with contact between humankind and alien races, with a strong focus on the human aspect of the stories. He also wrote crime fiction, including the Langham and Dupré “cosy crime” series, and books for young readers published by Barrington. In 1999 and 2001, his stories won the British Science Fiction Association award for short fiction.

Writer James Lovegrove said: “I met Eric Brown in person perhaps no more than a dozen times, but he and I corresponded for almost 30 years, exchanging two or three lengthy emails a week.

“I knew him as a kind, self-effacing and generous soul who wasn’t above a curmudgeonly grumble now and then or the occasional rant at the inanities of the world but remained nonetheless sanguine and positive,” the Pantheon series author added.

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“His fiction reflected this. It’s full of humanity and compassion, with a deep-rooted English sensibility and an abiding belief that our species can rise to any challenge and act responsibly. Himself an underrated author, he championed other authors, living and dead, whose work he felt wasn’t getting the attention it deserved. During his final illness he bore the indignities of a gruelling medical treatment with stoicism and fortitude. People who discovered his fiction while he was alive cherished it, and I truly hope that many more will now follow their example.”

Ian Whates, book editor and founder of NewCon Press, which published a collection of short stories by Brown, said: “Eric Brown was a mild-mannered Yorkshireman who felt more comfortable sitting around a table in a pub with a handful of good friends than he did socialising at large events.”

Whates went on to describe Brown as a “prolific writer” who developed “his own style of ‘traditional’ science fiction before branching out into more experimental forms of the genre”.

“Eric was warm-hearted, honest, and unfailingly good company. His passing has hit hard,” Whates added. “I feel privileged to have known Eric both personally and professionally. As a writer and, more importantly, as a person, he will be sorely missed.”

Novelist Keith Brooke had been friends with Brown for more than 30 years, and Brown was the best man at his wedding. The pair collaborated on many fiction projects. “The last time I visited him was August 2022,” Brooke said, “carefully timed for a few days between chemo sessions when the chances were best that Eric would be strong enough for visitors. He was in fine spirits, remarkably positive about life, and in true Eric fashion, about making the absolute best of whatever time he had left.”

Brown’s literary agent, John Jarrold, said he felt “privileged” to have represented Brown since 2005. “He was a wonderful, underrated writer, full of brilliant invention and an innate understanding of characters’ flaws and foibles. He will be greatly missed as an author – but even more importantly as a warm, caring human being.”