I never met Joel Lane, but I felt like I knew him. That is powerful testament to his work. His writing was, I think, very personal. Like all great writers he put it all on the page. I think the first story of his I encountered was ‘The Country of Glass,’ in the late 90’s, and it floored me. At the time, I’d been binging on Ray Bradbury, and Raymond Carver. This then, ‘The Country of Glass,’ was something else entirely. Dense, dark, bleak, and humane, all at once. I sought out all the Joel Lane stories I could find.
A few years later I was putting together an anthology, “Songs From Dead Singers.” I knew I wanted a story from Joel, and he was the first author I approached about contributing to the anthology. I was a very green editor. This was my first book. Yet Joel was gracious and enthusiastic about the project and contributed the terrific story ‘An Unknown Past.’ Six years later I edited my second anthology, “Apparitions,” and again the first author I approached was Joel Lane. At the time, around 2008, I sensed from our communication that Joel was going through some personal difficulties. As we all do. Despite this, Joel contributed another fabulous story, ‘High Water.’ The anthology went on to be a finalist for The Shirley Jackson Award, thanks in no small part to Joel. Shortly after this I decided I was going to publish a small literary magazine, ‘Shadows & Tall Trees.’ Issue one of that journal contained Joel’s tale ‘Crow’s Nest.’ As with the previous books I’d edited, Joel was once again the first author I approached about contributing. In our correspondence Joel came across as intelligent, funny, amiable, earnest, and kind. He was socially conscious, and actively tried to make the world a better place for those he felt were mistreated. He was, in short, a joy to work with. A true professional. A rare and blazing talent.
One of my main reasons for attending the World Fantasy Convention this year was to meet Joel. Alas, Joel had to attend to his ailing mother and could not attend. But I was pleased to be at the awards banquet and hear his name read out as a winner of the World Fantasy Award. It’s very much deserved, and long overdue.
I am deeply saddened at Joel’s passing. Saddened for my own selfish reasons — I won’t be able to ask him for any more stories. Saddened for the readers and fans who will be deprived of new Joel Lane fiction. And saddened for his friends and family who will miss his friendship, his compassion, his kindness.
I urge you to read his collections ‘The Lost District,’ and the World Fantasy Award-winning ‘Where Furnaces Burn.’
I never met Joel Lane, but that’s how I knew him – from his words.
Long may they live.