Goodbye, buddy: Jay Lake, June 6, 1964 – June 1, 2014

For some reason, I never quite believed that this moment would come, that I would be writing this farewell. Jay was such a big guy, with a big heart and a big laugh and energy to burn. I couldn’t believe that cancer would win out over all that, kept hoping against hope that Jay’s huge spirit would triumph. No such luck. Jay was crazy, extravagant, generous, a force of nature. When he entered a room, he took it over; it was his, he commanded it, and whether you liked him or not, you sure as h*ll noticed him. He was as garish and loud as the signature Hawaiian shirts he wore.

Jae Brim, Jay Lake and Ruth Nestvold

But he was a lot more than that. He was a writer who was in love with words. None of that nonsense about the words disappearing, unobtrusive, behind plot and character, just being a vehicle for the story! Words should be flashy and beautiful, they should show off and strut their stuff and make sure readers noticed that they were the true stars of the show. That’s why, around the time I met Jay in 2001, he created the The Whirling Dingleberry Award — a motorized trophy for “wretched excess in stylistic elegance” for the Wordos writing workshop in my home town of Eugene, Oregon. Perhaps that’s also one of the reasons we eventually started collaborating. I’m not as baroque a writer as Jay was, but I do love to just play with words for words sake on occasion. We certainly had that in common.

If memory serves, I first met Jay when I crashed a Wordos workshop in around 2001 to surprise my Clarion West classmate Eric Witchey. For sure, Jay, Eric and I kept showing up in the same crowd at World Horror Con 2001 in Seattle, and I recall a very bizarre round robin story-telling session. But where I really started to get to know him better was at a Strange Horizons workshop on the Oregon coast in 2002. (This was before he grew his hair long and started wearing his now-famous Hawaiian shirts.)

Strange Horizons Workshop 2002

Back then, I was going to cons in the US once or twice a year, and Jay and I tended to hang out when we were both in the same place at the same time.

Jay Lake, Ruth Nestvold, Jim Minz

Jay Lake, Ruth Nestvold

Jay Lake, Ruth Nestvold

I find it hard to believe that I will never see Jay again, that we will never get back to collaborating again, that he will never again waltz into a room and make it crazier, happier and brighter.

I miss you, buddy.

Here’s the way I want to remember Jay — laughing:

Jay Lake, Ruth Nestvold

I may not believe in that kind of stuff (and neither did Jay), but part of me really hopes his spirit is out there somewhere, noticing how many lives he touched. But if not, his spirit is still out there in the lovely stories and novels he left for the world.

Some more goodbyes from others here:

Charlie Jane Anders

Elizabeth Bear

Cory Doctorow

John Scalzi


Greg van Eekhout

Related posts:

Saying goodbye with a laugh: The Jay Lake Wake

An excerpt from Recontact with Jay Lake and the first attempt at a cover

Almost All the Way Home From the Stars

6 thoughts on “Goodbye, buddy: Jay Lake, June 6, 1964 – June 1, 2014”

  1. I’m so sorry for your loss, Ruth. His happy, joyful spirit comes through in the photos. I wish I could say something that would help in some small way, but I know from experience that it doesn’t seem to work that way, unfortunately. Thinking of you as you mourn this wonderful man.

  2. What beautiful, fun memories you carry. Thank you so much for sharing and giving those of us who never met Jay, a chance to see what we missed. In my thoughts.

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