JOEL LANE (1963 – 2013)

The Witness has gone. Or he has stayed and we have gone.


Links to my real-time reviews of some of his books:

(11 Mar 09): Beneath The Ground – edited by Joel Lane

(6 July 09) The Terrible Changes – by Joel Lane

(27 Sep 10): Never Again edited by Allyson Bird & Joel Lane

(2 Dec 10): The AUTUMN MYTH – by Joel Lane

(28 Jul 11): Do Not Pass Go – by Joel Lane

(2 Sep 12): Instinct – ‘poems of desire’ by Joel Lane

(12 Dec 13): Where Furnaces Burn


(30 October 2015): SCAR CITY by Joel Lane

(4 September 2016) SOMETHING REMAINS – Joel Lane and Friends

(8 December 2016) This Spectacular Darkness


And links to my reviews of individual JL stories:

Black Static 13Where The Heart IsNull ImmortalisBlack Static 19Crimewave 11BFS Journal Winter 2010The Horror Anthology of Horror AnthologiesBlack Static 28This Hermetic LegislatureBlack Static 34Rustblind and SilverbrightThe Grimscribe’s PuppetsA Season In CarcosaHorror Uncut: Tales of Social Insecurity and Economic UneaseBest British Short Stories 2012Murmurations.


Joel Lane has a story in NEMONYMOUS TWO (2002) (and Joel later wrote a novella explicitly inspired by an anonymous story in that edition of the Nemonymous journal), and also stories in NULL IMMORTALIS (2010) and THE HORROR ANTHOLOGY OF HORROR ANTHOLOGIES (2011).

His connection to Emmanuel Escobada HERE.

My thoughts when I first heard the news of Joel’s sudden death: HERE

My current Joel Lane book collection of his fiction and poetry:



Never Before and Never Again
Will there be somebody like Joel Lane.


Plus some personal letters.

“Then it came out that Fitzworth was really Padgett himself, writing under another name. He sort of faded out after that.” — from ‘The Witnesses Are Gone”

I also have many anthologies each with a single Joel Lane item.

From ‘The Witnesses Are Gone’ novella and the ‘Rain Dog’ poetry anthology, respectively, below:


I am very proud of the few handwritten letters from Joel in my possession from the 1990s and inscriptions in books such as this one:


Joel and I didn’t always see eye to eye on, say, political theory (although I deem myself to be a working-class bred socialist) and on literary theory such as the Intentional Fallacy and on synchronicity…  There are many feisty debates HERE over the years including an enormous number of wonderful posts by Joel himself.
A dedicated Joel Lane thread on TLO HERE.
And HERE is where Joel placed his own ‘Nemonymity’ poem in 2004.
My story ‘Entries’ appeared in ‘The Last Balcony’ collection as a result of Joel’s encouragement to do so, eg: here.

I last met Joel in July (2013) at a book launch in Peckham. He seemed on good form.


Some of the Joel Lane tributes (thanks to Rosanne Rabinowitz in her own tribute HERE):

Lynda E Rucker

Simon Bestwick

Nina Allan

Mat Joiner

Gary McMahon

Peter Tennant

Andrew Hook

Jon Oliver

Adrian Middleton

Emma Audsley

Tim Lees

Mark Valentine

Stephen Jones

Thomas Ligotti

Quentin S Crisp

Allen Ashley

John Howard

Peter Coleborn

Mike Chinn

Jeremy Lassen

Martin Sketchley

Michael Kelly

Simon Strantzas

Tindal Street Fiction Group

Tony Richards

Socialist Party

Conrad Williams

Nine Arches Press
EDIT (23.1.14): There is a substantial and highly fitting obituary to Joel Lane in the latest issue of BLACK STATIC (issue 38 as published by TTA Press): THE CONSCIENCE OF THE CIRCUIT by Nicholas Royle




20 thoughts on “*

  1. Joel here:

    [[ I was thinking of Leonard Cohen: “I told you when I came I was a stranger.” But the idea’s not that unusual. Nor is it really a paradox unless we accept the word ‘stranger’ at face value. What we get ‘close to’ in people is not the inner person but a kind of intermediate socially responsive layer. Which at the present time is becoming so thin you can not only see through it, but breathe through it. What’s inside is the unknown.

    We’re reverting to the pre-20th century social communication model that the telephone broke down. The internet is only written correspondence, though it’s quicker than letters (which have slowed down greatly since the late 19th century, when letters might be received within three hours of sending). Now people have close friends and even lovers whom they have never met, and we spend 90% of our supposed ‘social time’ alone. Just like the Victorians. In the days before mass communications and easy transport, many people had sexual relationships through letters. Now people do so online – quicker but very much the same. The phone is another modern idea that is now being phased out, like democracy, literacy and universal education.

    It’s not that social networking sites are intrinsically ‘bad’ – it’s just necessary to understand that no major cultural change occurs without some things being erased to make room for others. We’re losing any sense of the primacy of offline life – not just in terms of how we experience culture (the book industry is in steep and terrible decline) but in terms of how we experience each other. ]]

  2. ‘We’re losing any sense of the primacy of offline life – not just in terms of how we experience culture (the book industry is in steep and terrible decline) but in terms of how we experience each other.’ That made me think about my isolation in New Zealand and then something wonderful happened today. A reader in America sent me a voice mail to try and cheer me up. I smiled and cried.

  3. Joel here:

    [[ And I’m afraid the idea that Pinter’s drama is bogus is rather reminiscent of someone pointing to a mathematical equation and saying “Just random scribbles, it’s all fake, doesn’t mean a thing.” Pinter requires his audiences to know things and to make connections. I don’t tell you as a scientist that you’re making up random nonsense because I don’t understand your language or methods of analysis. We don’t expect science to be dumbed down, so why should we expect that of the arts? ]]

  4. Joel here:

    [[ Stevie, crime fiction fans tend to define Hammett and Chandler as ‘hard-boiled’ rather than ‘noir’, because their approach is realistic and pragmatic where noir was more paranoid, fatalistic and symbolic. Classic noir authors – Woolrich, Thompson, Goodis, Raymond – are writing dark psychological thrillers rather than mystery novels. However, I think there’s a streak of early noir in Hammett, because of the allegorical and despairing quality of his stories. Great though he is, Chandler isn’t noir. ]]

  5. Joel here:

    [[ John, collecting second-hand books is a fundamental part of being a reader, and a fundamental part of what happens to real books over time. I owned hundreds of second-hand books before I owned more than a dozen new ones. I educated myself in genre history through second-hand books. It’s not piracy, it’s an aspect of literary culture. Scanning a text into a computer and making it available online is not the same as selling second-hand books, because it does not involve publication. It does not use the resource of published books, it bastardises and supplants them. No writer has a problem with second-hand booksellers, but this kind of digital buggerfuckshit is intolerable. ]]

  6. Joel here:

    [[ It’s certainly true that Lovecraft’s writing has subtle moments. It also has ill-considered and gauche moments that a good editor would have addressed – but he never worked with a good line editor. For example, in ‘The Call of Cthulhu’ the narrator speaks of a “glimpse of forbidden aeons”. Who forbids aeons, and how? How do forbidden aeons differ from those allowed? In ‘The Haunter of the Dark’ we learn that the nave of a derelict church is “almost eldritch”. One imagines Lovecraft shaking his head, thinking: “Nearly, but no cigar.”

    So I don’t feel the original texts are perfect things. But Lovecraft didn’t work with a good line editor to polish his stories – he polished them himself, with variable results. The first-published versions are not superior. Edits inflicted on an author without their approval are no more valid than posthumous edits. In some cases, notably ‘The Shadow Out of Time’, the MS version is so far superior to the first-published version as to prompt a reassessment of the story. In other cases, the differences are minor and the restoration of archaic usages is faintly annoying. But the MS texts are the best available option in a difficult situation.

    Nowhere near as difficult, however, as that faced by editors and critics of W.H. Auden, who mutilated his own early poems in late editions. Posthumous editions have reverted to the originally published texts – as approved by Auden at the time – rather than the versions he substituted decades later. A difficult decision but surely the right one. ]]

  7. Joel here:

    [[ More self-publicity I’m afraid, but this one is my best shot – 13 years went into it.
    I’m very happy to tell you that my book ‘Where Furnaces Burn’ will be launched by PS Publishing at Fantasycon in late September.
    WFB collects together a series of 22 supernatural crime stories, all set in the West Midlands. It’s my attempt to blend the occult detective and urban noir traditions, revealing the myths and terrors buried within the industrial landscape.
    Four of these stories have appeared or are forthcoming in ‘year’s best’ horror or crime anthologies. Six appear in this book for the first time. ]]

  8. Joel here:

    [[ Not so much a joke as a mildly amusing juxtaposition of Des and teenage skateboard culture. But maybe you really are a sk8r boi.
    COP: “Get your skateboard down off the monument. What do you think you’re doing?”
    DES: “That question implies an intentional fallacy…” ]]

  9. Joel here:

    [[ Stevie, you’ve identified a core aspect of the ‘Cthulhu Mythos’ that separates it from real religious traditions. The Mythos deities are actual creatures that happen to be worshipped by certain cults, but are aliens from other worlds. Our deities are a matter of pure faith: you can believe in them, but they’re only there if you believe in them and not otherwise. The Mythos deities are there whether you believe in them or not – Johannsen doesn’t have a religious ‘vision’, what he sees is like really there. All the religious paraphernalia of holy books and sacred rituals are valid in Lovecraft’s world, but not for religious reasons. I would describe his mythology as a kind of high church atheism.
    Yes, but as concepts, not as real creatures. In Lovecraft’s writing they are actually there. You don’t need faith to believe in them, they are physically there. That’s not religion at all.
    And no, atheism is not a form of faith, any more than it requires an effort of faith for me to believe that there no shoggoths in my back garden or night-gaunts outside my window. I don’t struggle to maintain the faith that they are not there. I don’t need some catechism to keep believing they aren’t there. I just don’t see any reason to think they are there. Religious faith requires a huge effort and investment of energy. Atheism doesn’t. When I look at the sky I don’t fight to convince myself and others that God isn’t looking back at me. I just see clouds or stars or both. Where is the effort of faith to convince myself that what I don’t see or hear isn’t actually there? Just how many mythical beings do I need to struggle to convince myself are not there when… they are not there? And how is the absence of such fantasies ‘blindly comforting’?
    I don”t think I’m Napoleon. Am I blindly comforted by the belief that I’m not Napoleon? Do I require a daily effort of faith to believe I’m not Napoleon? Or could it just be that actually I’m not Napoleon? How about the Borrowers, the Wombles, the Clangers? How hard am I working to convince myself they don’t exist either? Am I lying awake at night struggling to disbelieve that the moon is made of green cheese? Am I blindly comforted by the protective faith that the moon isn’t made of green cheese? Or is just, like, not made of green cheese at all? ]]

  10. Joel here:

    [[ This is the second great crisis of global capitalism. The first, the Great Depression, gave us the rise of fascism (as the European ruling class pulled out the stops to prevent the people of Germany, Italy and Spain from building a socialist alternative), the Second World War, the atomic bomb, the Cold War and very nearly the end of it all.

    The current global depression will bring at least as much change and destruction, and it’s impossible to predict what will remain in a decade’s time. But we can’t expect little things like book publishing, or film-making, or us, to survive it all.

    The only compensation is that, for the first time since the 1930s, it has become socially acceptable to be rude about capitalism. When someone says that the free market is the only way to ensure our social and economic well-being, it’s now OK (indeed, it’s the only decent thing) to reply: “STOP LYING NOW.” ]]

  11. Joel here:

    [[ Frivolity isn’t any form of criticism, Stevie: it’s just a natural reaction to the underlying sadness of existence. 🙂

    I’m intensely sceptical of what might be called the capital letter themes – Humanity, Destiny, Time, Infinity, Evil, Sin – they all seem to me rather adolescent. That kind of writing is offering readers an escape from the finite. But the finite is what we are and where we are. I don’t want a book to waste my time with some notion of the ‘eternal verities’. It’s far more useful – and far more difficult – to address more concrete questions, such as: How should our society be organised? Who should be in control? If the author answers those questions by saying that the status quo is just fine, nothing he or she goes on to say about human nature or cosmic infinity will cut any ice with me. ]]

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