Friday, November 8, 2013

Remembering Joey Manley

Last night I was reading the new SANDMAN OVERTURE comic by Neil Gaiman. After reading it, I decided I might be in the mood for some more Gaiman, or perhaps Lovecraft, or just something unusual to read. The comic had a lot of ads for Gaiman's other works, including his short story collection, Preludes & Nocturnes and Smoke & Mirrors (a collection of short stories). Revisiting the Endless definitely put me in a mood for something unusual, so I went to the cabinet in the back bedroom where I keep those books (along with pulps and a few graphic novels).

Now, I don't go to this particular area very often. Probably not more than once every six weeks or so.  I definitely hadn't been there for more than a month. But there I was last night, around 3 am, looking for something to read. I spotted a few battered old paperbacks on my Lovecraft shelf and spotted some I didn't recall having read, then picking one up I realized it was by Brian Lumley. Despite the many people who have recommended him to me, I just don't like his work. Or at least not any of it I've tried to read. So I skipped over it and moved on to the shelf below. There were a few promising things on this shelf, but nothing really caught my fancy, so I continued to browse.

Then my eyes fell on copy of the novel, The Death of Donna-May Dean by Joey Manley.

Joey was someone I used to know back in the days when I was involved in comics fandom. Back in the 1980s, when you wanted to break out of the confines of your small-town world and actually communicate with other fans of comics, SF, and fantasy, you did it by writing letters. There was no cheap and easy email and long distance phone calls could cost you up to 20 cents a minute. Not an economical way to communicate when you're a kid and you'd need permission from your folks before you could even make a long distance phone call.

So Joey and I knew each other through letters. And through comics. In fact, he was the first person (other than myself) to publish my work in his fanzine, Comics*Trips Weekly. It was a forgettable ongoing strip called "Warriors of Horn" about two modern guys who wound up in another world where magic existed and people fought with swords. Not original in any way, shape or form. I think the only bit of originality came from the bit of "humor" derived from the fact that one of the guys was running around in his tighty whities (i.e. jockey shorts) because his pants had gotten ripped up when the "explosion/wormhole" transported them to the new world. The art was by Kyla Morales, someone I knew from our mutual association in a group called The Collectors' Club. I honestly don't even remember how many episodes were published, but if I find any of them, I'll post them here.

But Back to Last Night
I hadn't noticed this novel in a long time, and I recall actually thinking, "Maybe I should finally read it." But I wasn't really in the mood for "literature" at that moment. I had picked it up only because Joey had written it, but as a coming out novel, it really didn't interest me. I had read a few pages way back when I bought it (probably 10 years ago, if not more), and it's been sitting on a shelf ever since.

I honestly don't know why I thought about reading it last night, but I did. For just a second. And I recall an odd thought passing quickly through my head, "There's still time."

This afternoon when I checked Facebook, you can imagine my surprise when I got the news -- from mutual friend Ben Adams -- that Joey Manley passed away yesterday.

I have no idea when Joey passed yesterday -- it could have been day or night. But I can't help wonder if his energy wasn't still moving about the earth at 3 am  (perhaps one final tour of this earthly sphere before ascending to whatever lies beyond?) and found me at that moment and exerted just enough influence to cross my mind with a soft whisper, "Remember me through the words I've left behind..."

As a writer, I think that's something I would want. To know that when I'm gone, someone, somewhere, will find something I created and benefit just a little from the energy I invested into it. That for just a moment, the words or pictures I crafted will touch someone, even if it's just a soft whisper, and for that small moment, I will be remembered.

I know I'm remembering Joey today, and I'm happy for the little bit of creative energy he left behind.