On Stranger Tides

Kage Baker loved the Pirates of the Caribbean – the ride, the movies, the tie-in toys, the art. Pirates were a passion of hers anyway – as most of her readers deduced – and the POTC were among her favourites. (She had the BIG talking Captain Jack figure, the one with the motion-activated speech function. He scared several visitors to her bedroom.) Yeah, POTC are fake and silly: she loved them nonetheless, for all her unabashed admiration for the truly rotten real pirates of the Golden Age.

Going to the movies, as each came out, was a ritual event for her. We usually went at least once  to each film in a great herd of similarly piratically inclined friends, (HI, Mike and Kelly and Garrett and Patrick and Meagan and Neassa and Wayne and Shannon and Giova! Missed you!) so we could all sit and cheer and carry on in the theatre together. It was great fun, and Kage always came home pink-cheeked and sparkly-eyed as a small girl from her first pony ride.

Except Kage didn’t like ponies. She loved ships. The wonderful vessel Lady Washington has had a role in most of the POTC movies, suitably tarted up. But she also sails San Francisco Bay, and Greys Harbour, and takes trips up and down the California coast – Kage went sailing on her whenever possible, especially on the cannon-firing runs off Morro Bay. No amount of garish pirate costuming or prim Royal Navy insignia could disguise the Lady‘s lines from Kage’s eyes. We have come in to Morro Bay at sunset more than once on the Lady, singing The Grey Funnel Line or Black-eyed Sailor or some other chanty, our hair reeking of black powder from the smoke of the cannonades. Best of times, those.

Kage loved cannons. She had a lifelong desire to be a gunner – and I suspect she’d have been deadly good. Her aim with simply thrown objects was laughable, but she had an apparently natural grasp of range and windage for artillery. If she threw a ball or a pie or a ripe peach at you, you were probably quite safe – unless you were standing 6 feet to one side of where she aimed. But what she aimed at with a gun, she hit.

So: Kage loved the Pirates movies. We saw them all, and re-watched them frequently. One of the few things she admitted she regretted, in the last few weeks of her life, was that she would not see the 4th film when it came out. She was especially sad since her colleague and fellow SF writer Tim Powers had had his novel, On Stranger Tides, bought for the movie. Big time for Tim, Kage earnestly hoped, and was delighted he had sold it. He’s a grand writer and deserves all fame and fortune.

But, of course, she knew long before the first stills even came out that she herself would never see it. She made me promise to go, knowing perfectly well that I would be inclined to avoid the grief of seeing it without her. She said to go see it opening weekend, before the copy got all scratched up … which they don’t get anymore, but I knew what she meant.

I went today, with my family. We went to the Vista, one of the best indie theatres in Los Angeles. It has THE best popcorn, bar none; good seats, perfect sightlines, and the manager dresses up frequently as characters from the movies. He does an excellent Captain Jack Sparrow. Two weeks ago, he was also a pretty good Thor – as you can tell, he is a man of many, many parts and props.

The movie is grand, maybe the best since the first. Don’t let negative reviews keep you away – it’s a wonderful time and very satisfying. Kage would have loved it.

It was weird being there without Kage, weird and painful. I cried, but theatres are nice and dark and you can do that without fear. I still cheered for the heroes when it was ended. I’m glad I went.

But that’s a as much emotional intensity as I can manage right now. I’m gonna go eat comfort food, and read about squids. Time for some nice objective science. I’ve over-indulged a little in dreams and visions today.

Though later, I think I will have just a little bit of rum …

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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3 Responses to On Stranger Tides

  1. Tom says:

    Ya’arrrhhh! We’uns’ll jes’ keel-haul us somma they’s desklubber-critics!

    Kage wrote beautifully about ships – an enthusiasm we shared. Kate, do you have a copy of Kage’s article about watch The Hawaiian Chieftain in San Francisco Bay? I seem to recall her description of sunlight pouring through the Golden Gate, painting the Chieftain’s sails with flame . . .

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  2. Kate says:

    Tom – oh, critics aren’t worth the powder to blow ’em to Hell. Or so says I.

    Kage wrote of ships with all the passion in her soul. I probably have the article you mean, but it was something she wrote about more than once. And saw a hundred times, coming in to San Francisco on Friday evenings, on our way to Novato … we’d come across the Bay Bridge, or the Richmond, or the venerable Golden Gate: and the Chieftain would be out there on her evening cruise. At one point she had red sails as well, and the sunset on her rigging was unbelievably beautiful … Kage would hang out the window of our truck as we chugged across the Golden Gate, like an Irish Setter with her face in the wind, laughing and waving …

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  3. Kara says:

    The boats are one of the best parts of the Company series. Seriously – a time traveling yacht? Brilliant. Also, one of my favorite lines Kage Baker ever wrote was the description of Alec’s mega yacht being “as beautiful as a dream from which one awakes weeping.”

    Daaaaaaamn.

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