The Passing of Author Jay Lake

Award-winning author and friend of Writer's Digest Jay Lake passed away after a long battle with cancer. Our very own WD Books Editor James Duncan pays tribute to Lake and his legacy here.
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© 2009 Roger Podva

Award-winning author and friend of Writer's Digest Jay Lake passed away after a long battle with cancer. Our very own WD Books Editor James Duncan pays tribute to Lake and his legacy here. 

Jay Lake, author of 10 novels and hundreds of science fiction and fantasy short stories, passed away on June 1, 2014, after a long battle with cancer. It’s never easy losing another member of the writing community, and to say something meaningful in that wake can be just as difficult. Simply listing accolades and publication credits always feels so stiff, even though Jay was certainly accomplished, having won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer and receiving multiple nominations for Hugo and World Fantasy Awards. But we’re more than just the sum of our credits and awards, and I feel lucky for having worked with Jay on one of his most recent projects.

We only spoke over the phone a couple of times in early 2013 (he was still traveling then, but it was more difficult for him at that point) and yet I quickly picked up on his humor, his warmth, and his enthusiasm for writing in his favorite genres: science fiction and fantasy. Jay wrote the chapter about steampunk in our newest edition of Writing Fantasy & Science Fiction, and that essay is really worth checking out. When it crossed my desk for the first time, I quickly lost my editor’s eye and just read it for the joy of it. I was working on an outline for a western novel I had been wanting to write, and the introduction Jay gave of steampunk was so fascinating that I told him I was already altering my outline to include some of the elements found in the genre, which combines Victorian-era and/or Old West aesthetics and themes with futuristic technology powered by steam. I felt a groundswell of new enthusiasm for my project. Jay sounded surprised, happy, and humbled to hear he affected another writer in such a way, but it shouldn’t have been a surprise at all.

Jay had a great flair and passion for the fantastic and for melding the traditions of his favored genres with new, exciting ideas. And to me, at least, he was a fun and inspiring figure, though I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels that way about Jay Lake. If you’re interested in learning about steampunk, check out that essay of his. His website also contains numerous blog posts about his writing life and battle with cancer over the last few years, and it has links to many of his other works and novels.

And Jay hasn’t left us in total yet. He has another collection of stories coming out in September, titled The Last Plane to Heaven. It sounds like an apt parting gift from a kind and talented writer. I hope you look for it this fall.

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