Kage Baker believed in her dreams. Not the factual veracity of them so much – though often they did seem prophetic – but that they were at least significant input. She didn’t subscribe to the idea that dreams are random static. If, she said, they were just the brain processing waking moments, it still mattered what her brain was processing: because she was never too sure what it was doing while she was awake, and she needed all the clues she could get.
Believing this, Kage took her dreams seriously. She tended to act upon them. It was a dream of hers that sent us to Catalina Island for the first time, where so much of the Company story ended up happening. It was another that led us on the walk that showed us the old mine adits behind Avalon, and – on our way back down, panting for margaritas – through a garage sale on Sumner Avenue, where we found a century-old map of the island that showed features that have since vanished from every subsequent map … a whole chunk of alternate history arose out of that.
A dream convinced Kage to try and write for a living: George Harrison (whose birthday it is today, or would be had he not escaped the Wheel) wrote on her hand, telling her to try for more structure and character. So she did. That dream led her through hundreds of thousands of published words, and is still leading me along the same path. She wrote several short stories in dreams, essentially intact; after that it was just a case of sitting down and writing it out until she reached the end. But she woke up with the whole story line intact and whining to be let out.
I remember, so many mornings over coffee, her looking thoughtful in a particular way and saying, “I had the weirdest dream …”
“Tell me,” I would say.
And she would relate it over breakfast – hardly eating, hands flying through the air as she delineated the story, until the pressure grew too great to get past her lips fast enough, and she would retreat to the computer. When stories came on her like this, she just dove right into the monitor screen – I went back and forth as quietly as I could, filled her glass when it was empty, made her eat something every 8 hours or so, answered questions like “How deep is the carotid? Is the jugular deeper?”
So Kage wrote stories even in her sleep.
Personally, I enjoy my dreams, but I don’t place a lot of faith in them. They are usually vivid and detailed, and I get a lot of viewing pleasure from them – but since I can often dream lucidly and thus influence the plots, I can’t take them very seriously. I mean, consider the source … the only really useful thing is that I can plan in my dreams: and once you realize you can do that, you can devote a lot of your time sleeping to solving the problems of waking life. I’ve puzzled out a lot of problems while asleep, and woken with solutions fresh in my mind. They are often pretty odd, but they generally work. I am aware, though, that no divine inspiration is involved -this is my brain on overtime and with the speed governor removed, spinning friction-free and coming up with new applications of things I already know.
Last night I dreamed repeatedly, to the point of tedium in fact, about the Fibonacci series. It’s hard to achieve tedium with the Fibonacci numbers, as they are an amusing and important series of numbers – even for a mathematical dullard like me. It is easy to calculate them; they yield all sorts of fascinating artifacts like the Golden Mean and the Golden Ratio of antiquity; they are instrumental in marketing statistics and search algorhythms. They can be used to plot the breeding patterns of rabbits – badly.
And! They occur everywhere in nature, especially in patterns of plant growth. What are sunflower seeds, an uncurling fern, the shoots of a pinapple (already weird, as the pineapple is actually a bromeliad – usually found in the upper stories of the rain forest canopy) doing displaying Fibonacci series? I don’t know, but it’s marvelous to see.
Still, I don’t know what it means; other than a random bubble in my production of neurotransmitters. My dreams really are static; sometimes I can tune them in to a station, but the station is really mine as well. Except for a few dreams I have inherited from Kage, mine are just a carrier wave. No god is whispering to me in my sleep. I think they did, to Kage.