Kage Baker loved the work of Diana Wynne Jones. Kage never lost her affection for children’s books, not her whole life long – she read Ms. Jones’ books avidly as an adult, because that was when a lot of them were published. (During Kage’s putative maturity.) Her favourite was Archer’s Goon. She was pretty thrilled by Howl’s Moving Castle, too: both the written original and the wonderful Miyazaki animation.
Kage sent Ms. Jones her own, only, children’s book for a review about 2 years ago. We were collecting cover blurbs for The Hotel Under The Sand, which was in pre-production after a long, insane fight with an editor who shall remain nameless (because Kage refused to say his name out loud after a while … ). Jacob Weisman (wonderful man!) of Tachyon Publications finally took over and brought out a perfect edition of the book.
Kage was tremulous about sending it to Ms. Jones, partly because she hated asking for blurbs from anyone; but also because she genuinely revered Ms. Jones’ writing and was in terror that she wouldn’t like Hotel. But what Ms. Jones said about Emma’s story was this:
“Wow! I read The Hotel Under the Sand with delight and joy. It’s wonderful, wacky and spooky and serious and FUN . . . it wouldn’t surprise me if it turned out to be a classic and went on down the ages along with Alice and Oz and the very few others that have become immortal.”
Kage danced around the room.
She danced slowly, because she was already becoming ill with what turned out to be her own, fatal battle with cancer – but man, she danced! It was one of the best moments of her writing career, to win such praise from a writer she had loved since her youth. In fact, Ms. Jones’ is the very first blurb on the blurb page, at Kage’s specific personal request.
One of the last things Kage did professionally was a reading in San Francisco, at one of Rita Weisman’s (she is Jacob’s lovely wife, BTW) highly wonderful SF In SF readings. Rita and Terry Bisson put these on monthly at the Variety Arts Building on Market, and they are grand events. It was Kage’s only reading from Hotel – she died only 4 months later – but it was in the company of our niece Emma Rose, for whom the heroine was named and the book was written.
Emma was thrilled. She loved the book her aunt wrote for her, and was also pretty zooed to be asked to autograph copies of it that night. There are a few folks up in the Bay Area who have very rare copies signed by both the author and the heroine of Hotel Under the Sands … Kage kept opening the book to the blurb page and saying excitedly: “Look! Diana Wynne Jones! And she liked it!”
Now Diana Wynne Jones has died. Aged 76 – a goodly age – after the traditional long battle with cancer. The world is a poorer place whenever a songbird or a writer dies – it is a much poorer place when a children’s writer of such skill and delight as Ms. Jones dies.
My deep condolences go out to her family and friends, and my enduring gratitude as well: you made my sister Kage very happy, many many times. Best of all was when you liked her book.
Sleep well, gracious lady.