Kage Baker had, where her writing was concerned, a will of iron. Nothing was allowed to interfere when she wanted to write; which, like breathing, was all the time. Chez Baker, in the Hollywood Hills, had a cupola on the top of it; that tower was her den, and the roof outside it was her private courtyard. She used to retreat from the riotous family life by climbing out on the roof; there she’d sit, enthroned in a lawn chair under the canopy of the oak trees, and let the tides of parents and siblings rush around ignored at her feet.
That was her technique – retreat, observe, write. Life lived in a duck blind; life observed, analyzed, recorded and ultimately bagged from ambush. No professional hedonist or dedicated party-girl lived more thoroughly through their senses than Kage. They certainly never remembered a tenth as much.
She started writing around the age of nine; by her early teens, she was writing every single day. I was her Constant Reader, and I spent most of high school going through half a dozen pages of her handwritten stories every day. I carried them around with me and read them at every opportunity; at night, we discussed and refined what she’d done.
When we were adults, I entered the job market years before she did – she stayed home and wrote and painted. At night, I’d read the day’s work over dinner; the brainstorming was for dessert. Weekends we went to art shows, where she scribbled in her beloved steno pads between selling water colours to bored West Hollywood yuppies. But the itinerant art scene was tough, and she eventually had to join me in what she called “the pink collar ghetto” – those clerical jobs that paid the bills and could in no way be construed as a career. (www.kagebaker.com/bio.html)
Nonetheless, everything she saw and heard there was stored away in her treasure-chest of a brain. She observed corporate ethics in scathing detail, and formed a deep and abiding hatred of them. Eventually that dislike formed one of the energy sources for her Company series. Why does Dr. Zeus, with so noble an initial goal, go so thoroughly bad? Why does the full mindless force of the British Arean Corporation focus on one little bar on Mars? Because Kage Baker really didn’t like corporate culture.
And then we found the Renaissance Pleasure Faire, and our weekends became dedicated to another kind of art: mad world-building, theatre in the 360-degree round where you were never, ever off stage or out of character. Our friends made or juggled knives, played lutes and shawms, were Queens of England and Kings of Thieves. We built an Inn in the greenwood, and for 25 years the whole universe came to drink under the oaks in our yard. Just about anyone will come when you have the cheapest beer in the Faire. Or the only beer on the Tharsis Plateau, as Kage recast us years later in Empress of Mars.
Everything she saw and heard there got stored away, too. All the glorious loonies who pranced through that group delusion, Chipping-Under-Oakwood, were immortalized in Kage’s mind. She never forgot anything. She had the blueprints for everything. Why do the Children of the Sun in her Anvil universe, honor artisans as aristocrats? Why does Gard get his formal training as a Dark Lord in a theatre troupe? Because Kage Baker loved the company of actors and makers.
Everything decorated, accessorized and expanded the world that grew up, spontaneous and original, from the fertile field of her mind. If she really loved or hated you, some reflection of you might end up in a scene in one of her worlds. It was how Kage made immortals. It was how she tied time in a Mobius strip. In her mind, nothing was ever lost or allowed to end: time all happened now, and what you saw was merely a matter of perspective.
I know how she did it. Let’s see if it will work on her.
Tomorrow: forcing bulbs