Listening In The Dark

Kage Baker wasn’t a night person. Given her druthers, she was asleep by midnight. Not that she got up all that early, but since she spent all the daylight hours working, she got as much work done as anyone who habitually pulled all-nighters.

I, on the other hand, am pretty much nocturnal. Nonetheless, I work on her stories now by daylight: she comes through more strongly then somehow. This means I save all my regenerative activities for night – I read, I work on this blog, I knit – oh yeah, and sometimes I sleep. Not much. Sleep is for sissies. Also for people who aren’t trying to channel a solar being, and Kage was utterly solar.

She was born on June 10th, a Gemini. Regardless of your feelings on astrology (personally, I take seriously the fact that the LA Times prints the things on the comics page), Kage was a pretty classic Gemini. There were always at least two people running around in her head, and sometimes more. She used to say that her characters had all gone feral in her mind, and her memories all belonged to other people – she just transcribed them into her stories.

Kage loved dawns, and daylight, and red roses. She was loved flames and always had a candle burning: usually one of those pink, rose-scented jar candles with the Virgin of Guadalupe on them, because they last for days.  She loved incense and burned it by the box, until the air was blue and full of drifting shapes. She loved summer fruit, especially Santa Rosa Plums; the ones in the garden were always ripe by her birthday, and they were her exclusive domain to plunder. She loved musical comedy cocktails, with rum and coloured syrups and chunks of fruit on plastic swords. A daughter of light and summer, was Kage.

In the drawers of this big oak desk, and in the bulwarks of cartons that surround me, are her manuscripts. The older ones are all handwritten. The various black inks are fading to interesting shades of brown and grey and green. The pages feel like tissue paper – some of them are 30 years old – and they smell like incense from the decades of smoke that went up from her desk.

These will be my tasks in days to come, as I revise them according to her often-explained plans. They were all saved to be used. Some of them have been mined for the tales in the Anvil universe; but since it is an entire world she built over the years, there is a lot still in there. No one has ever seen it but me. No one else knows these stories: the eventual fates of Gard and the Lady and their brood of sorcerers and saints, the anthropology of the demons, the final disposition of the Children of the Sun. I know all their names. I lived with them for 40 years. I read their histories now to refresh Kage’s voice and vision as I work.

The last months of Kage’s life, she couldn’t sit up long enough to write. I made her up a bed beside the desk, and she dictated to me. We worked over the words together as we always had, but instead of my then waiting for the finished work, Kage wrote it straight through my hands. You know what channeling really is? It’s a voice stronger than your own, moving through you like a flood in a riverbed, like the wind through an Aeolian harp or through a medium’s floating trumpet.

Late at night I take the old pages from their files and go through them, and they whisper like flames in the darkness. Ashes, ashes of roses and incense, and heat comes up off the handwritten lines like the heat of the summer sun. Even here in the darkness where I sit and work alone, the flames from her manuscripts speak. I listen as I always did, though now I wish the voice would never stop. And to keep it alive when the sun comes up again, I write down what I hear.

Tomorrow: moving around the corners in a straight line

About Kate

I am Kage Baker's sister. Kage was/is a well-known science fiction writer, who died on January 31, 2010. She told me to keep her work going - I'm doing that. This blog will document the process.
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1 Response to Listening In The Dark

  1. Roger says:

    A wonderful start! I assume “2919” for the date of passing is a typo, and yet may be more amusing left as is, in light of some of the stories. Wishing you luck and the energy to see this through! It occurs to me that, given your wonderful character sketch here, it might be fitting for Kage to show up in her own story at some late stage. 🙂 Although I cannot imagine what possible help Leslie or I could be, we, like hundreds of your friends and, doubtless thousands of fans, stand ready to help in any way large or small.


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