by wjw on June 3, 2014

jayI’m getting damn tired of writing obituaries in this space.

It’s bad enough when I write about the honored veterans of the field, like Fred Pohl, who died full of years and honors.  But it’s far more discouraging to write about someone talented and joyous and unforgettable who was taken before his time, before he had a chance to write all the works that would have assured his place in the field’s collective (and sadly flawed) memory.

Not that Jay Lake didn’t write great stuff.  10 novels, over 300 pieces of short fiction, and editor of 15 anthologies . . . he was a writin’ dervish, insanely productive, the more so considering he was holding down a full-time job the whole time he was writing.

He was also big, loud, funny, and great to hang with.  Once I had the pleasure of meeting him, sometime in the early years of this century, he was a regular at the Rio Hondo workshop, where he came with his recipe for Tibetan momos.  (When I subsequently had momos at a Tibetan restaurant, I tasted them and thought, “Jay’s are way better.”)

Jay’s battle with cancer lasted six years and was fought loudly, in public.  He saw no point in being a shrinking violet when the issue was life or death– he just sort of screamed “FUCK CANCER!” and charged out to battle, waving his metaphorical broadsword.

I remember being at a party he threw to celebrate his victory over cancer . . . but unfortunately it was only his first victory.  It didn’t help that he had some kind of weird, one-of-a-kind cancer that nobody had ever seen before.  (He arranged a crowdfunding event to pay to have the cancer sequenced, so that maybe a more effective treatment could be devised.)

Eventually he had the back of his head tattooed, with the words “If you can read this, I have cancer again.”

That was typical.  Not only did he go six rounds with the Big C, he could do black humor about it.

When he was sick, his attendance at Rio Hondo got spotty.  When I invited him last year, I figured he probably wouldn’t be able to come, but I was over the moon when he accepted.

He didn’t come alone.  He brought along his auntie, his recipe for momos, and the cameraman/director/producer who was making a film about his war with cancer.  (Lakeside, now in post-production.)  Jay was very good at multitasking.

He also brought along a camera drone, because how cool is that?  And some kind of weird bright green fluffy hoodie, because his treatments had made him sensitive to UV, so he couldn’t go out into the sun without it.  When he wore it, he sort of looked like a green walrus.  Who was also a terrorist.  A green terrorist walrus.  With a camera drone.

Life around Jay was not simple.  But it was great.  Jay rocked life, right up until he couldn’t, and now that life is gone

God, obituaries suck.


DensityDuck June 4, 2014 at 11:36 pm

You need to write another short story about Drake Maijstral, and it needs to prominently feature a green terrorist walrus with a camera drone, because that is a wonderful idea.

In fact the Maijstral stories already *had* camera drones.

wjw June 5, 2014 at 6:17 am

Gotta admit, that is a pretty good idea for a story. Green terrorist walrus. Hmm.

DensityDuck June 12, 2014 at 3:08 pm

Like, Fidel Castro as a walrus. You’ve even got the mustache thing, and the military green. People always depict walruses as dapper upper-class Englishmen, and I think that it might be fun to play opposite that stereotype.

Make sure he’s got babes hanging around him. He’s not just a revolutionary green terrorist walrus, he’s a Latino love machine, a passionate pinniped with a taste for Rubenesque blondes!

Ruth Nestvold June 12, 2014 at 3:11 pm

Jay will definitely be missed, sigh.

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