Kage Baker felt that attendance in the “real” world – the world put together by majority societal consensus – was pretty much optional. She was not alone in this outlook; many classical philosophers have felt similarly. Some abjured their followers to avoid the general reality, others advised them to embrace it. I guess it all depended on just how grumpy any given philosopher was on any given day.
America bred its own variety of this kind of abstainer. Thoreau ran off to the woods and seemed to feel it was best to go to town only when one had an opportunity to annoy authority. Emily Dickinson stayed indoors, but ranged through a variety of worlds of her own devising – her “soul’s society”. John Humphrey Noyes (and many like him) solved the problem by starting his own society, and establishing consensus reality by his private rules.
The solo act seemed to work best, on examination. Thoreau and Dickinson are revered and remembered as inspirations; Noyes was arrested on sex charges, and his communalist idealists eventually became a silverware company … philosophically, a bit of a let down. His emotional successors include survivalists, and the communes of the ’60’s (most of which have either failed or gone the Oneida route), while the image and practice of the lone sage has remained an icon.
Kage viewed most communities from the outside, and only joined the few that appealed to her. She actively resisted being included in anything against her will – she took no membership for granted, and in act tended strongly toward Groucho Marx’s viewpoint. Being born in a given society did not mean you were suited for it, and she held to the opinion that if water could seek its own level, so could she. When I pointed out that this phrase was generally taken as a description of someone sinking to a coarser habitat, she responded: “Nope, because water also evaporates and becomes clouds!”
Very hard to argue with Kage Baker. Reality was not only personal, it was arbitrary. And she had the storyteller’s gift of convincing her auditors that her reality was realest.
There were societies Kage not only enjoyed, of course, but set out to join. Even there, though, she was a Maker. The few communities in which she counted herself were changed by her participation: she altered their reality. Science fiction itself was one of those. Societies are always changed by their bards, and she ended up in that section of the choir.
Kage’s other, older, oldest and most beloved community of choice, though, was the Renaissance Pleasure Faire. When she joined it, there was still only one – the original Faire in Agoura, California and its brand new harvest edition in Marin County. The founders – Ron and Phyllis Patterson – were still young and lively and moved through the Faire as the spirits of the place, Master and Mistress of the Revels. The Faire was born out of their brains: whatever else it became, however many it became, no matter whose hands it passed through – Ron and Phyllis started it. And we thousands who have lived in it – some of us for all our lives! – owe a portion of our souls to the Pattersons’ reality.
Kage never forgot that. She acknowledged it often. Parts of her own stories were formed and influenced by living in the Faire community Ron and Phyllis not only devised, but kept alive.
Yestreday, Ron Patterson died. He was full of years, and love, and honor. And he was wrapped in the communal arms of his society, the reality he helped to shape. Our consensus was informed and permeated by his, like life’s blood.
Ron Patterson: November 1930 to January 2011. Requieset in pace. Merry meet, and merry part, and merry meet again. Be born again, Ron, to us.