Saturday, 14 December 2013

JOEL LANE - 1963 to 2013

Photo copyright (c) Peter Coleburn.
The British Fantasy Society's Xmas get-together is usually a happy event, a chance to meet up with people from all over this rainy isle and catch up with their news. And this year's was going fine until chairman Peter Coleburn got up with a mic to make some announcements. I was sitting over in a corner with some friends, and only picked up two words of the first one: 'Joel' and 'died.' And I only know one person called Joel, and so I turned to my friends, deeply shocked, to find out the awful news.

That terrific writer Joel Lane had passed away in his sleep the previous month.

I first met Joel about a decade back at a British Fantasycon in Walsall, and we immediately hit it off so well that we ate out that evening and talked for hours. It was the same at several events after that. I never saw him outside the convention circuit -- he lived in Birmingham, I live in London, and there were few other chances for our paths to cross. But we were like-minded in our approach to writing, and Joel was a terrific guy to be around, rather shy and modest on the outside, but deeply clever and perceptive, kind, humane, and with an effervescent sense of humor when you got to really know him.

And he was a top notch author into the bargain. He wrote two mainstream novels, but he's surely best-known for his urban dark fantasy tales, several collections of which won or were shortlisted for awards. He was never any purveyor of schlock, he was a serious artist. And he'd just the previous month pulled down a World Fantasy Award for Where Furnaces Burn.

He edited too. I'm very proud that he included one of my short stories in he and Allyson Bird's 2010 anthology Never Again: Weird Fiction Against Racism and Fascism. And I thought so highly of the guy that -- months before I learned of his passing -- I dedicated my most recent novel to him.

I doubt that he believed in any afterlife. And so I hope, just recently, he's had a very nice surprise. He was a friend I won't be seeing at conventions any more. That hurts.

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