Kage Baker always harboured a poorly controlled desire to direct. She re-shot movies in her head (usually while watching them) and constantly framed shots in as we drove through the many landscapes of California. She originally started writing because Momma didn’t have the time to make up more of Kage’s favourite story-books, and told her in exasperation to please write her own if she wanted more adventures.
I suspect a lot of writers start writing because of that urge. They want to make sure a certain outcome is attained; they crave control. Of course, once you really get into a hot scene or storyline, the better class of characters have a tendency to get away from you – that happened to Kage a lot, especially with Joseph and Lord Ermenwyr. But then the story goes interesting places. Kage was often just as surprised as her eventual readers about where a story ended up, and who turned up in it along the way.
Other times, she wrote to correct what she saw as wrongs – sometimes huge ones (in the Company universe, she saved the Romanov children), sometimes just small inelegencies and lacks that annoyed her. A lot of missing art, books and candies were preserved simply because Kage refused to live in a world without them – also favourite buildings, lost films, closed roads, dubious islands … and she created backstory to support mysteries and strange phenomena that she liked. Just because there ought to be mermaids and aliens and psychic vortices in town as peculiar as Pismo Beach.
Her own honoured dead were memorialized that way: crafted into a world kinder and more reasonable than the one that took them away from her. And it wasn’t just her own friends and relatives, either: there were people she thought History was better off not losing, and she made them little refuges in her Universes. They aren’t always well-known to her audience, but they mattered to Kage; they were grace notes in the Universe, and she kept an echo of them singing.
Readers are aware Kage would not relinquish Shakespeare to the void – lots of writers have taken the opportunity to keep him alive. How could Kage resist? One of her more questioned choices for immortality was William Randolph Hearst. All I can say about Mr. Hearst is that maybe you have to have lived on the Central Coast to know how well some folks loved him. Or grown up in Hollywood to know how much harm Orson Wells did. Either way, Kage kept Hearst, and lots of other people, closer than Fate had actually permitted.
When a dear old building was taken down, or a beloved writer died, or a species was reported as extinct – Kage would look up from where she was (usually) writing, and comment: “Nope, that would be a Company job. So-and-so would have gotten in weeks ago and saved that.” And when a rare bird was found again in the Arkansas river bottoms, or a hidden closet yielded up a perfect and intact copy of Lost Horizons, Kage would say, “Aaaah, that was that ornithologist friend of Nefer’s.” Or Einar, or Nan, or a team of mixed anthropologists and fashion experts based in the lost Morgan-Pierpont subway station under New York …
It’s an urge to comfort that is very hard to ignore. Sure, it’s contrived – and you contrive it yourself, at that – but one of the cockeyed glories of human perception is the ability to tell fantasies to ourselves. It comforted Kage to know that people and things she loved were saved. Somehow, by some operative’s hand deftly tweaking the warp and web of History, all the really good things and people did not slip into darkness.
It’s why, in the sequel to Nell Gwynne, the Ladies’ new cook has long red hair …