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Jay Lake papers

Identifier: SCA-RBSC-SFWA-063

Scope and Contents

The collection chronicles Jay Lake’s interest in science-fiction from childhood to his development as a prolific science-fiction author. Series I, Personal Papers, contains personal history materials such as school assignments, yearbooks, and correspondence. Sub-series B, Medical History, documents Jay Lake’s battle with colorectal cancer. His cancer diagnosis greatly affected him and his writing career. Lake’s budding interest in science-fiction and fantasy is noted in Sub-series C, Role-Playing Games. This sub series contains an assortment of notes, research, and game materials for tabletop games such as Dungeons & Dragons and other games in the science-fiction genre.

Series II, Professional Papers, focuses on the administrative aspects of Lake’s authorial career with Series III, Manuscripts, containing his drafts, manuscripts, and galley proofs. Additional drafts and manuscripts were saved by Lake in a digital format which are recorded in Series V. Jay Lake’s dedication to the science-fiction world can be noted in Series IV which documents his attendance at various science-fiction conventions both as a spectator and fan as well as panelist. Of special interest to researchers interested in the lived experience of authors is Series VI which contains objects collected throughout Lake’s life including his life mask, created just a year prior to his death.


  • Creation: 1964-2015


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research under the terms of the NIU Rare Books and Special Collections. Photographs and photocopies of collection are prohibited.

Restrictions, where applicable, are noted at the folder level.

Conditions Governing Use

Property Rights are transferred to the University Libraries per the signed Deed of Gift Document. Literary Rights are retained by the content creator. Any copyrights so stated in the materials remain in force.

Biographical Note

Joseph E. Lake Jr. was born on June 6, 1964, in Taipei. During his childhood he visited and lived in Taiwan, Nigeria and Bulgaria. After graduating from the Plan II Honors Program at the University of Texas at Austin in 1986, he pursued work in advertising and marketing in the IT industry. He holds a patent for a system to manage multimedia communication and had another pending for a system for managing leases of property. In 1993, Lake married Susan Fawcett and in 1998 they adopted a daughter from China.

Lake made his publishing debut in the science fiction and fantasy genre in 2001. He published more than 300 short stories and 10 novels. He was a regular precence at annual science fiction conventions and authors' workshoops. Lake was a first-place quarterfinalist in the Writers of the Future Contest in 2003, and he received the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 2004.

When diagnosed with colon cancer in 2008, Lake took to his blog to write about the emotional and psychological toll of a terminal diagnosis, and his journey through traditional chemotherapy and experimental immunotherapy treatments. He also raised money to have his entire genome sequenced for the study of potential future cancer treatments to help others. Lake’s battle with cancer is recorded in a Waterloo Productions documentary, “Lakeside”, which was released in early 2014. Jay Lake lost his battle with cancer on June 1, 2014.

-Excert from Lake's obituary, 2014.


45.38 Linear Feet : (15 record boxes; 28 archival document boxes; 21 object boxes)

Language of Materials


Source of Acquisition

Initial donation by Joseph E. Lake, Jr. on March 21, 2013. Additions donated by Lake on July 22, 2013 and December 10,2013.

Subsequent additions donated by Mary Elizabeth Lake, trustee for Lake's Estate and Trust, on July 24, 2014; October 08, 2014; January 13, 2015; January 21, 2015; and October 12, 2015.

Separated Materials

10 titles catalogued in the Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA) collection. These titles can be found in the NIU Libraries catalog.

Processing Information

Finding aid completed by Nora Jiménez, NIU Academic Archivist on April 2024.

Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Northern Illinois University Repository

Founders Memorial Library
Northern Illinois University
DeKalb IL 60115 US