Science fiction and fantasy writer Jay Lake and I met only briefly — when Jennifer Willis profiled him for The Writer last fall. We exchanged emails on an edit I wanted to make to an excerpt we were re-publishing from his blog about his colon cancer. My own editors had questioned printing an expletive two-word endnote to his post. I asked Lake if he would be offended if we made a small change, if we edited out his provocative phrasing. Y’know, family audience and all that.
He responded quickly, and was gracious and generous. “I shan’t be offended,” he wrote. “It is however incredibly apropos.” He signed the email with a punctuation icon of a smiley face.
I never forgot that exchange. Another way of saying that is: Jay Lake stayed with me — as much for my cowardly erasure of his original text as for the suffering I knew he had gone through, the inevitable outcome ahead of him and because his post about cancer really got to me.
When Jennifer Willis wrote this morning to tell our editorial team that Lake passed away on June 1, my heart filled with sadness.
“He was always approachable and generous,” Willis wrote, “and it was a genuine privilege to be included in his circle of friends even late in the game. It seems he never met a stranger. It’s truly amazing what he accomplished in his short life, and it’s heartbreaking to consider what more he might have done.”
I’m not a sci-fi or fantasy aficionado, but I know something about writing and writers, and I know about cancer and cancer patients. Lake’s chronicle of his own illness is as powerful as any writing I’ve read about the fear-hope-fear-hope dance of this pernicious disease. He left us a great gift with his words — not only in the art of his books but in the candor and bravery of his blog posts.
We wish Jay Lake safe passage. And we deeply mourn the loss of a fellow writer and traveler. He would have turned 50 on June 6. Let us all raise a glass that day to honor him. Our condolences go out to his friend Lisa Costello, his family, his friends and fans. May he rest in peace.
And this one is for you, Jay: Fuck cancer.