Kage Baker admired architecture. She was a part-time artist, and she never abandoned practicing the graphic arts. Her maternal grandmother was, in fact, an architect (among many, many other accomplishments); a paternal great-grand-etc uncle was an engineer for Napolean, and in fact earthworks of his design still stand in Egypt. At least, they did in WWII, when a later member of the family was there guarding Churchill on a state visit …

She used the memory mansion system of organizing memory. It consists, in its simplest form, of envisioning a building and then furnishing each room with chosen objects; specific memories are in turn associated with the rooms, the objects in the rooms, and the architecture in general. It’s sometimes recommended to choose an historical building as your memory palace, one that you can hold clearly in your mind; but the shape and the style are ultimately up to the user.

Search online and you will find proponents of the system triumphantly memorizing long series of answers for tests: complicated charts of relationships, like king lists or the periodic table of elements. Other people just use it as a way to improve their everyday memory.

Kage’s memory was just fine. She remembered nearly everything she saw, or heard, or did, or read – an almost eidetic memory, that grew larger and larger as the years went on. Her problem was not retention, but recovery – she needed a system that would let her easily pull up what she knew from the depths of her memory, and bring it up to the forefront where she could use it. Hence the memory mansion.

I came across the idea in some book when I was a teenager, and passed it on to Kage as a curiosity. I didn’t try it myself until my 30’s, when it finally dawned on me that I, too, was very likely to be mortal and prey to the ills of the flesh … but I suspect Kage had been using it since the day I told her about it,  and that the edifice of her mind had grown steadily over the years.

It had gardens, I know that. They were extensive and carefully cared for; even the areas deliberately left as wilderness. I don’t know everything she kept there, although one suspects things related to Mendoza and the Yendri. It was actually a compound, rather than a single mansion – I know that it had some free-standing outbuildings. There was a perpetually vacant lot in the Hollywood Hills we used to drive by, and she frequently described the building that stood there in her mind. It was three stories of moon-green porcelain, shaped like an egg, with a huge crescent-shaped window in its front. It was called Crescent Dome. She kept a lot of music in there.

A few of the actual rooms and passageways have made it into her stories. Parts of Gard’s Dark Fortress blend into Kage’s Memory Mansion in some of the back corridors, and I think the gardens conjoin here and there. The hidden Company bases are all parts of Kage’s compound. And there is a garden path that leads down to the shore, which looks at first glance like Pismo Beach … until the faint fog clears a little, and you see what floats in the harbor …

Tomorrow:  inventories

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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