It is with great sadness and a sense of deep loss that the members of Tindal Street Fiction Group pay tribute to one of its members, Joel Lane, who died suddenly on November 25th, 2013.
I knew Joel for over twenty years, after he joined the group in the early 90s. But I knew of him before that, saw his name in magazines, we were both in the same issue of ‘Panurge’, his peculiar biting fiction making an impact on me immediately, and I was so happy when he joined the group.
He wrote the blurb to my first collection of stories in 1997; I was glad to be his support act at the launch of his chapbook ‘Do Not Pass Go’ (‘Why was it called that?’ I asked. ‘Because I won’t collect £200,’ he said) in 2011. So many memories. One of the best nights of Tindal Street Fiction Group was the night Joel read ‘The Quiet Hours’ to us in Mick Scully’s Chiropractor’s consulting room (the group was temporarily homeless). Such a rich, economic, beautiful story, still my favourite. My surroundings – the black bed that patients lie on, the charts of skeletons and muscles, the desk, disappeared as he quietly read and the story wrapped itself around us all. He explained to me later it was about Charles Beaumont and his extraordinary disease where time speeded up and he aged rapidly. He was always introducing me to new writers, for twenty odd years he was always supportive, he was always there. Now he won’t be, except in spirit.
I can’t believe I’ll never see his spidery writing on my manuscripts, the generous and detailed comments, so helpful. I can’t imagine not hearing his gentle voice pointing out what was good in someone’s work, often seeing depths in it that the writer didn’t know existed. Or discussing writers and books or politics down the pub after, getting steadily drunk on white wine. Or that I’ll never see him run for the last bus again after meetings, clutching his bags of books and papers. Or hearing his dreadful puns. Or see him dance to the Clash as he did at my 50th. Seeing him euphoric after a book launch, walking through Birmingham, or when he was down or ill, pushing his hand through his hair, still having time for you. If I go on strike again he won’t be there handing out leaflets, urging compassion and railing against inequality.
We have lost, I think, a great man, modest but acutely intelligent, a brilliant writer (he just won the World fantasy Award, the latest in a long line of awards and acclaim). He had fans and friends everywhere around the world. I’m proud to count myself among them.