Jay Lake

Technically, I could say that Episode 8 is now complete. But I don’t do technically. What this means is that the story is complete, but the last two chapters are still heavily done in pseudo-code.

So, yeah. Episode 8 remains standing. I wanted to be done, but, hey, it is what it is. Tomorrow. Hopefully. Always tomorrow.


For those of you who are not tied into the world of Science Fiction community, you may not have noted the passing of Jay Lake. You would be forgiven, I suppose. Most SF writers go under the radar screen, after all. But Jay Lake was a good one, and a well-loved one within the community. He worked hard, he wrote some great stuff. He had cancer and spent a big chunk of the last part of his life describing how he lived with it.

It takes a helluva lot of guts to live your life like he did. He passed away at home with his loved ones this weekend. I’ve spent some time the past few days reading what people had to say about him. There are a lot of stories. A lot of stories. I feel lucky to have my own, which I’ll share here because, in the end, Jay Lake was an important person in my life even though I only knew him for a very, very short time.

Of course, I read his blog. But I met Jay, briefly, in San Antonio, at WorldCon this past Labor Day weekend. We talked for only a few moments. I doubt that he would remember it. He was this big, shambling guy with a smile on his face. He walked with a cane, and he wore colors. Lots of colors. He had a remarkably fun way of looking at the world, and he read Lezli Robin’s stories (ironically, from a collection titled Bittersuite) for her while because Lezli had a strangely gorgeous case of laryngitis that day..

The thing is, I was there at WorldCon with a piece of news I was keeping somewhat secret–that being that I had finally made the decision to leave my corporate job and become a “full-time” writer (whatever that is). It was a decision that I struggled with for a long time, a decision that Lisa had pushed me on a bit, and a decision I was trying on for final sizing. I struggled with it because making this change felt like I was changing everything about who I was. You don’t understand how much of your identity is tied into what you do until you make this kind of 180-degree decision.

So, yeah, my whole goal for the convention was to convince myself that this decision to drop everything I had done to follow this “dream” of mine was actually a good idea. I wanted to confirm this decision, to make sure I wasn’t doing something astronomically stupid.

Of course, it was Jay Lake who made it so clear.

It was not the fact that he had cancer. That lesson was too much two-by-four to the side of the head. It was, instead, how he still saw the world through every lens in his life’s camera box. It was how he entered a room. It was his sense of humor. It was the way he enjoyed people around him. It was how his family was around him, simply there and living the life he had with him. I had a brief and pleasant conversation with Bronwyn, his teenaged daughter. I was struck by the fact that, in the end, Jay did everything he could to live his life on his own terms. Yes, cancer changed how he lived along the way. But I was struck by the fact that he was just doing everything he could to be the person that he was, to just keep doing the things he loved to do.

He was quietly inspiring.

After meeting Jay, I made a point to sit through a viewing of Lakeside, a Year with Jay Lake a documentary that follows him through a pivotal year of his life.

Later I watched Jay Lake take the stage at the Hugo Award ceremony. He was the same guy up there as he was in a small room. Same smile. Same laugh. He was struggling, of course. But jebbus, man, he looked like he was enjoying himself. And that’s the moment, I think, that I finally came to grips with the idea that spending my time focused on what I wanted to do wasn’t crazy at all. In fact, the opposite, staying in a job that I was always going to let rob me of my writing time was certainly the crazier option. I remember walking out of the big Hugo Award assembly hall feeling somehow bigger. And I know that when I walked into the office that first Tuesday after returning, and told my boss of my decision, that it felt absolutely right.

So, yes, I met Jay Lake, and though it would be far too presumptuous for me to say that I knew him, I can very easily say that he made a real impact on my life at a time that I needed that impact made.

For that, I will always remember him.

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