Through Kage’s Brain With Gun & Camera

Kage Baker arranged her brain eccentrically, but with great deliberation. She didn’t agree with Sherlock Holmes, about carefully stocking it with only what you needed – like a well organized lumber room. Hers was more the used-by-six-generations attic sort of brain, room after room, full of everything she’d ever come across. Plus, strangers had shipped things to it from time to time (a box full of gorgets; sealed trunks with labels from Singapore and Mombhasa) and it was all still up there. And the windows were open, too, letting in whatever was floating by on the breeze or needed to hide from the moonlight. Or the sun.

Sometimes she went straight to the room she needed up there, using her Memory Mansion to find a specific fact. But she also liked surprises and chance encounters, and she trusted her mind to work away out of sight when she was busy. That’s why she left it arranged with such seeming confusion.

Seismic tremors and air currents kept it stirred, so you never knew what would have come to the front when you went to take a look. Kage liked it like that. She rather depended on convention currents to bring fresh nuggets of precious metal up from the core, and layer them accessibly in the mantle for her to find.  She valued the power of free association highly, and lots of her ideas first formed that way.

Rocketing along the California Coast in the Pacific Flyer one December night (we were between cars then), Kage observed aloud that there was no stop for the tiny town of Summerland. “Why not, do you suppose?” she wondered.

“How the hell should I know?” I said in my usual helpful way. “The town is barely there anyway. All that’s there are antique shops.”

“No, there’s the Big Yellow House restaurant. It’s supposed to be haunted,” Kage said. “And the dining room walls are all hand carved out of eucalyptus. The town was founded by spiritualists, you know. Come on, speculate – what would the station be like in a town called Summerland?”

“There wouldn’t be one,” I said. (This was our habitual game.) “The train would stop by the empty side of the tracks.’

“Where the trees come right down to the rails. But not eucalyptus like everywhere else along here – they’d be oaks.”

“Not on a schedule. On nights with no moon .”

“In the autumn. And a limousine would be waiting, and the Faeries would get off the train and drive off in it.”

“In a limo?”

“Yeah, they drive limos now. They’ve evolved.” said Kage. “They’re The Beautiful People now, the perfect Ones that pass you on the road in classic cars, and all you see are white faces and furs and glittering eyes that look at you like you’re a bug on the windshield. Which they never have, by the way.”

“Windshields?”

“Bugs on the windshields. Baked-on bugs do not happen to the Fair Folk.”

A long silence while we both stared out the black windows. I am sure we didn’t see the same landscape.

“And sometimes,” Kage said finally, “there’s a child with them.”

When we got home, she wrote for 14 hours without a stop. The eventual story was called Her Father’s Eyes.

Tomorrow: more inventory. Thanks to Becky Miller for inspiring today’s title.

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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9 Responses to Through Kage’s Brain With Gun & Camera

  1. catharine says:

    As one with a lot of family history tied up in Summerland, I must say that Kage’s theories make a lot of sense! That is one odd town.

  2. Tom Barclay says:

    A painful story; I wondered about its befinnings, and the cruel Fair Folk in it.

  3. Tom Barclay says:

    ‘beginnings.’ Jeez, quite the day for typos. None were befinned, even by cruel fairies.

    • Kate says:

      Nope, not in the one. But we meet the heroine again in a later story, Caves of Mystery, and there someone does get befinned …

      • Teri Pettit says:

        I read His Father’s Eyes years ago in the Mother AEgypt collection, and really wished we could find out if the little boy ever escaped from the Faie.

        Did Kage ever talk about a sequel from his point of view? If so, I’d love to see what you could do with that.

        Also, it looks like Tales of Dark Fantasy, where the Caverns of Mystery story appears, is one of those frightfully expensive out-of-print books. Are there any plans for an all-Kage story collection that will pull together some of the stories that have appeared only in magazines or out-of-print multi-author anthologies?

      • Kate says:

        Thanks for the kind words, Terri. Yes, there are plans for a Kage anthology in the near future. News as it arrives.

      • Kate says:

        Re: “Her Father’s Eyes”: if we encounter that little boy again, it will be through the girl’s vision, I think. Hers is the pertinent viewpoint. I actually have notes on two versions of their meeting again (neither of which is the classic Tam Lin tale, interestingly) and who knows what will happen?

        But I can assure you he survived.

  4. Teri Pettit says:

    I just discovered this blog a couple days ago, and have been reading through the archives.

    It is very encouraging to hear how much you and Kage shared together about her fantasy worlds and the stories percolating in her head, and also to see how much of her talent in setting a scene that you share. It is very sad that we no longer have Kage with us, but what I read in this blog gives me hope that we’ve not entirely lost the fruits of her fertile imagination.

    I’ve already pre-ordered Nell Gwynne’s Scarlet Spy from Amazon.

  5. Katie says:

    I must talk to you, Kathleen, because I am so very afraid of forgetting. My mind leaks and drips somwhere between a sea sponge and a placenta. Please e-mail me immediately and I’ll give you my new cell.

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