From Beth Meacham, Senior Editor at Tor Books, on the acquisition of this short story:
Several days before Jay Lake’s death on June 1st, I was talking to Ken about his unfinished novel, science fiction, the universe and related subjects. He said he’d just run across the third of the stories about Jay that he’d written for Jay’s birthday parties. He wondered if I wanted to read it. I said “sure!” It was funny and loving and contained much of the essence of Jay.
And then three days later, Jay died, just five days before his 50th birthday. No party this year. I asked Ken what he thought about having Tor.com publish the birthday story, which has never before seen print. Somehow, it seems like a good idea. Jay would walk an extra ten miles uphill to get a good laugh, and there’s no reason not to honor that in his passing. Here’s Ken’s own description of how the story emerged into existence:
“I wrote ‘The Last Temple of the Monkey King’ for Jay’s birthday in 2007. I’d written two previous stories, ‘Jay Lake and the Inscrutable Alien Story Device’ and ‘Jay Lake and the Mole Men of Mars’ in the years prior. With this one, I did a Tuckerization contest for best title. I think Jay was the judge and I recall that Scott Roberts, one of my Writers of the Future cohorts, won and was written into the story as a hired assassin. I also wrote myself (Trailer Boy) and Frank Wu into the story with lots of inside jokes. Jay and I had met because of his review of my story “Edward Bear and the Very Long Walk” and my orange bicycle story was one of his favorite bar con tales. This was in that last year before Jay’s cancer showed up and so many of my family members started dying in a mad rush. Lamentation was written and had just been submitted to Tor. It was a golden time in our friendship. And as I had in previous years, I delivered the story to Jay—and read it—at JayCon, where it was received with much laughter by a crowd of celebrants. Jay was larger than life and full of good humor in everything that he did. He lived honestly in madcap pursuit of what he loved with eye for adventure (or misadventure as the case may be) and helping others along. I think it’s fitting that this tale of derring-do—Jay Lake, action hero—be published on his birthday. I wrote it to make him laugh. Of course, I cry now when I read it. But I also smile because my friendship with Jay was really like no other. It had a sense of play to it that often reduced us to snorting and laughing—along with whoever happened to be around—or writing like fiends from the spark of our imaginations when they got into the same room. There will only ever be one Jay Lake. Happy Birthday, Pal.”