At the 2013 World Fantasy Convention, held in Brighton, Joel Lane’s Where Furnaces Burn won the World Fantasy Award for Best Collection. Due to personal problems Joel wasn’t able to collect the award in person. I had intended to visit Joel soon after, meet up for one of our irregular balti meals with mutual friends Dave Sutton, James Brogden, John Howard, Mike Chinn and Stan Nicholls, and to toast Joel for the win. Sadly, that visit to Birmingham didn’t materialise in time – for not long after the convention Joel passed away in his sleep. His death left a huge cavity in my life.
Last year, after months of sorting out the detritus of his life (in other words, clearing his house in preparation for its sale) Pauline Morgan mentioned the wealth of notes Joel had left behind. The notes were penned in his immaculate handwriting on all manner of pieces of paper; some were bullet points, some long detailed pages – all preliminary to unwritten stories and poems. It occurred to us that these notes should not be lost, that they should form the basis of a book of stories completed by Joel’s friends and colleagues. Pauline and I read through dozens and dozens and dozens of notes, finally honing them down to a score or two.
I was – still am – overwhelmed by the response. So many people wanted to be involved. Those who passed up on the project had to do so due to other commitments. We eventually selected and edited 33 stories and these, along with a handful of poems and essays, found their way into Something Remains, due to be launched at FantasyCon 2016; the book runs to over 400 pages (approx 120,000 words). Pauline and I agreed that we didn’t necessarily want people to ape Joel’s style, but to use his notes, to be inspired by them, and then write their own stories. After all, Joel was a great champion of weird fiction of all hues.
It was time-consuming, hard work, editing and then designing the publication. Yet it was something I was determined to get right, a book that all contributors – and Joel himself – would be proud of, from the front cover to the back. I have a copy of the proof besides me as I type this and think I did fine, but I leave it to others to finally decide. I feel honoured to be part of this project but wish so much it was unnecessary. The book won’t bring Joel back but at least it helps to remind us of his brilliance as a writer and poet.
The cover image is based on a photo I took of Joel in the early 2000s. I had just bought a Bronica medium format SLR and set up a temporary studio in the sitting room (at one of our summer barbecues). Joel was one of my first guinea pigs (volunteers). I’m pleased to say that he liked the photograph and used it for some promotional work.
FantasyCon 2016 has allotted a noon launch for us on the convention’s Saturday. Many of the book’s contributors will be attending so that will be a great chance to buy the book and get it signed – and support the charity Diabetes UK (Joel suffered from type 1 diabetes all his life, an illness that may have contributed to Joel’s sleep apnoea). There will also be wine and some other goodies for the book’s supporters.
Full details – the contributors – can be found on The Alchemy Press website.
The book will also be available from Amazon and other online dealers — also in eBook format.