Kage Baker was a successful mid-list science fiction author. That doesn’t mean tons of money. It meant she was was able to support herself with her writing, in a state of genteel poverty. Since her practical goal was to earn her living with her writing – to escape the cubical ghetto of the middle-aged female office drudge – she was pretty damned happy about that.
More money would have been great, of course. Sometimes enormous amounts came in, and she spent happily and freely. Not to mention insanely … But, in the last couple of years (before her cancer was diagnosed and began its remorseless blitzkrieg on her body), it finally became obvious she was going to Make It: she could earn her living with her pen. It was an enormous satisfaction to her. Kage never wanted a life of indolence – she wanted to write. Making money by writing meant she didn’t have to stop writing to make money. As it were. And between Kage’s large but irregular checks, and my small but every two weeks paydays, we managed a comfortable life.
Kage’s needs were few and she was not generally indulgent. She was happy with her standard of living if she had enough to buy books and music whenever she wanted them – that was about her highest goal, that and prezzies for friends and family. I kept the budget for the mundanities of rent and groceries and utilities, and when she saw something she wanted – a special volume of Robert Louis Stevenson, a specific recording of The Threepenny Opera, a pearl-white laptop for a collage-bound niece – she would simply say, “I need this fill in the blank. When can I get it?”
And I would say, “Now,” or “With the next royalty check” or “After I get paid on Friday” or “When Lemuria rises again.” That last one would get me a scowl and a thoughtful look – then she’d write another story and point out that whatever impossibility she had so desired was now within reach. It usually worked, too.
The week she died, she told me that at least her tiny estate would be easy to handle. I bravely agreed. Oh, were we wrong …
Kage’s estate consisted mostly of books – her own books in boxes from the publishers (rather a lot of those) her private personal library, which was mostly sea novels and Stephenson and Shakespeare (even more of those). An amazing wardrobe of hoodies and Hawaiian shirts and high-topped Converses. Odds and ends, bits and pieces, memorabilia and souveniers. The most important part was the notes, on works completed and yet to come.
Money? Nope, not much. Not by the time she died. I spent it on her health care; and then I spent it on her comfort. And then I spent it on what are so euphemistically called “final expenses”, of which an inordinately large part has been fees to the state of California and some foreign countries to accept Kage’s Will and Executor … it’s not enough to die. You have to be able to prove you’re dead. You have to be able to prove you died in the right way. Your choice of heir must be approved – and I think thrones may be inherited with less fuss than Kage’s estate has required. You must have your papers.
At the moment, I am arranging a road trip to San Luis Obispo. Kage’s Will passed Probate some months ago, but now the Court want an inventory of her estate. What I’ve just shared with you, Dear Readers, a few paragraphs ago, is just about it – but I guess I have to tidy it up some before I present it to them.
Item: a blue velveteen ring box containing half a dozen tickets to various Hollywood Bowl concerts from the 1970’s.
Item: 14 hooded sweatshirts, all black, many with cartoon insignia, one jeweled.
Item: 8 pairs of high-top tennis shoes: pink, white, blue, blue, blue, red, green, red and green
Item: a mayonnaise jar full of blue beach glass
Item: a shoebox full of bubble wrap ….
What they will do with it, I cannot begin to imagine …