I must admit, I was pretty bummed to hear of the passing of Jay Lake. He was one of the writers I have followed for some time and a true inspiration. He had cancer. Everyone knew it. We knew it, but we couldn’t really experience what he was going through. We just wanted to encourage him to get through it, get healthy, and keep writing.
Well, he did keep writing, and he did get through it, though not necessarily in the fashion we have wanted him to.
I was first turned on to Jay back in the day when I subscribed to a fantasy magazine called Realms of Fantasy. It has since gone extinct, but hey, that’s the way it goes sometimes. Anyway, it was full of all kinds of cool stories and other fantasy geek shit that I got off on.
One of those stories happened to be one about a family of superheroes, much like The Incredibles,, or I don’t know, do Superman and Supergirl have kids at all? It was comedic and dramatic all at the same time. It was a quick read and completely worth it. Damn, I thought. Who wrote this stuff? I had no idea who the author was, but I had to go and look him up.
In the months that followed, I read some more of his fiction, and even met him at Norwescon in Seattle one year. I hadn’t heard of any of his books, but I decided to purchase one to have him sign. It was entitled “Green” and he graciously autographed it for me. He seemed in good spirits and I thanked him and wished him well. It was my first convention, and I thought that’s pretty much what you did at conventions – say ‘thank you,’ and wish people well? I didn’t know that he wouldn’t be around in the next coming year.
Time played out the way it always does, catching us off guard and whatnot, and before I knew it, I had left one job, gone back to school, and been employed in a different area of the country before I found myself surfing online one day coming across the bad news. Jay was gone. No papers, no press, no really big deals (he just wasn’t big enough); just gone.
You look at his situation and you think, Here’s a guy who’s got it the worst. He didn’t have all the fame (which subsequently probably leads to him not having all the money in the world), didn’t have his health, and didn’t really have much (according to the writings of his blog and his cancer) other than his writing. And what he did have, he sailed with it. He wrote and wrote almost every day about what he needed to write about. He wrote a lot about his cancer, his health, but also did some writing on writing. This is all, of course, outside his job and his passion – writing the stuff he loved to write about.
That’s the kind of stuff that really gave me inspiration. I would read other authors commenting on Jay’s stuff and talk about how much they loved him. They talked about his style and how it was all his own, and from the stuff you heard and found about him, you knew that all of his stuff that he had produced had, grain-by-grain, led to him being the person the fans knew him to be.
He worked through it.
And that’s the inspirational part. The rest of us claim to want to write, and we don’t, and we’re healthy. Why is that? Then, you got the guys who don’t ask to get hit with the body bombs and they just shut up and do it. He was young. It makes me look at myself again and ask myself if I’m anywhere ready to die. Am I? I don’t think any one of us would answer yes. Well, few, if any. We all have the same old story to some degree. We all have something we claim we want to do. But then the years go by, and when the question comes around, “How’s it comin’ with that thing?”
“Yeah, I’m still working on it. I’ll get to it one day.”
Jay died at 49. I’m 37 and I’m asking myself, “How close am I to that ‘one day’?”
You’re missed, Jay.