If you know the name in the title, then you know what this post means. If you don’t know Jay, you should check out his work.
Jay told me to my face that he didn’t expect he would last beyond June. When his friend and coauthor Ken Scholes worked with me to get their collaborative book METAtropolis: The Wings We Dare Aspire rushed through publication at WordFire Press, he was sure we didn’t have much time. Jay died this morning, June 1, after a very long and very public battle with cancer.
I am very pleased that I was able to get his book out in time, a book that we suspected—but hoped otherwise—would be Jay’s last book published in his lifetime.
Here is my foreword to METAtropolis, which was just released officially last week.
Sometimes it just sticks with you.
It was at the Beverly Hills Hotel in 2003, the glitzy black-tie Writers of the Future Awards ceremony, where I presented the trophy to a young writer named Jay Lake. Jay stood up to receive his award—and gave one of the most moving acceptance speeches I have ever heard.
In a ballroom crowded with such science fiction luminaries as Robert Silverberg, Anne McCaffrey, Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle, and many others, Jay described some of the grandest moments in human history, then made the point that the only reason anybody remembers them is because a writer was there to tell the story.
I have been a judge and guest instructor for Writers of the Future since 1996, and Jay was among my students in that year’s workshop group. Many of the newer writers I’ve taught go on to become successful, while others vanish into obscurity. When you teach a workshop group, you can never identify which will be which. But with that speech, Jay Lake certainly stuck with me.
Two years later, in 2005, at the Writers of the Future workshop and awards—this time held at the Seattle Science Fiction Museum adjacent to the Space Needle—one of the students was a gregarious and personable man named Ken Scholes. He took the opportunity to strike up a conversation with me, and I soon learned his real ulterior motive—that his wife Jen was a huge fan of my Star Wars novels, and he wanted to earn marital brownie points by introducing her to me.
Shortly after that event, Ken wrote to ask if I would consider writing a blurb for a small-press collection he was about to release. I have every incentive to help former students, and as a rule I say that they can ask me—once—for such a favor. I considered Ken’s request and asked if he was certain he wanted to use up his one favor for a small press collection. Having read his work, I expected much bigger things from Ken, and I advised him it would be better to hold off so that I could give him a quote for a major project. Ken listened to my advice … and only a few months later he sold a five-novel series to Tor Books. (And, yes, I gave him a quote on that one.)
Over the years I watched the careers of Jay Lake and Ken Scholes blossom, each of them becoming quite successful. My wife Rebecca Moesta and I gave lectures on professionalism at various science fiction conventions, how to talk, act, and dress like a pro. Jay would often pop in and stand there flaunting his trademark garish Hawaiian shirt. But that was his look and his brand, so Rebecca and I started incorporating him into our talks, too.
I followed with great concern as Jay revealed his diagnosis of terminal cancer; he rallied the whole science fiction community in his very public battle against the terrible disease. I contributed what I could, donating high-end one-of-a-kind items to fundraisers so that Jay could try new treatments, get a complete map of his genome, and embark on other innovative strategies. Despite Jay’s superhuman efforts, the cancer proved to be his kryptonite, and he was left with a ticking clock.
At Seattle’s Norwescon in 2013, Jay felt well enough to attend some of the events, and I spent a long time talking with him at a party one evening. The following morning I had breakfast with Ken Scholes, just so we could catch up.
At the time, I was just launching WordFire Press, and like a proud parent I was happy to show Ken some of our titles, which included not only my own backlist but a fairly impressive roster of other writers including Dune author Frank Herbert, Pulitzer Prize winning Allen Drury, along with Bill Ransom, Brian Herbert, Neil Peart, and others.
Ken and I talked about Jay, and he told me about the sprawling METAtropolis project they were working on in novella-length chunks. Jay and Ken have a significant track record with large publishers and certainly had no need to consider a relatively small independent operation like mine. After breakfast, Ken and I parted with a vague promise that we would have to do something “someday.”
But Jay’s clock kept ticking. The METAtropolis series gained a fair amount of attention when they were released as audio originals, and both Jay and Ken really wanted a nice print edition. In glacial traditional publishing, however, a book takes 1–2 years on average to go through all the steps of publication and release. With Jay’s declining health, that simply wasn’t acceptable.
In an email exchange I pointed out to Ken that WordFire Press operates under a different paradigm, with a much shorter time frame. He and Jay convinced their agent to go with WordFire—and here, only a month after the deal was signed, is the print and eBook edition of METAtropolis: The Wings We Dare Aspire.
I’m proud of these guys, and I’m very pleased to be their publisher. I hope you enjoy the book.
—Kevin J. Anderson
P.S. We were able to get a finished copy of the book for Jay to see in his hospice room, less than two weeks before he passed away.