Back At The Pop Stand

Kage Baker was fascinated by extinction. And cryptids. They sort of go hand in hand.

She was well aware that all species go extinct eventually (so far anyway) and that most manage it without human intervention; but she was also concerned that so many are helped over the edge into the abyss by humans’  cleverly-evolved hands. The survival of the supposedly extinct was, of course, part of the foundation of her Company series. It was part of her personal desire to find a pattern and a point in all the “now you see ’em, now you don’t” carryings-on. And then, she also cheered happily when some determined species was discovered not to have died out after all.

She was also intrigued by cryptids – organisms assumed to be mythical, that then turn out to be real. The big flashy ones get the most publicity, of course – not only because they are just plain easier to see, but because people place more emotional value on animals that are large, or furry, or romantic. Cryptid plants turn up from time to time – but what gets the  big spreads are cuties like the Columbia crested rat (which resembles a ginger tribble) or the giant rat found a couple of year ago happily still extant in a dormant Papuan volcano crater … I mean, how can you beat a giant rat in a volcano? Even multi-coloured extremophile Archea in hot springs can’t compete with that.

A butterfly found to still exist in one meadow next to an oil refinery. The horses painted in the caves of Lascaux – heavy-headed, potbellied, striped – found still being bred in Basque mountain villages. Twenty-five thousand lowland gorillas living unharmed in a jungle separated from everywhere else by insanely martial humans. The eastern Atlantic right whale, occasionally surfacing among its western brethren, persists in being not quite gone.

There are tons of other examples – the bongo, the giraffe, the okapi, the giant squid. All of those were considered mythical at one point, and then found to be ever so real. And of course, the totem animal of extinct/cryptid/unexpected beasties: the coelocanth.

All this started for Kage because Momma mistakenly told her that puffins were extinct. They weren’t – and Kage was delighted find this out – but her first personal experience of extinction was thereby the “returned from the dead” model. First impressions were very, very important to Kage. They affected her strongly. The story of the puffins just convinced her that nothing ought to be gone forever; and with a little care and luck. nothing needs to be.

And from there, it was just a matter of working out a method to save things. In her own mind, anyway; in an alternate world, in another dimension. In a story, where she could tell the careless world: “Look, you morons – you don’t have to kill everything! If you just hold back your hand a little bit, all these things want to live!”

She really, really hoped for proof of Bigfoot. Partly it was the monster-story giggle of it; the tales of Sasquatch encounters range from ludicrous to blood-curdling, which appealed to the story-teller in Kage. The physical evidence is so peculiar as to be fasinating; indeed, the fact that there is any physical evidence (and there is, Dear Readers, damned weird stuff, too) intrigued her all on its own.

Kage always wanted to see a Bigfoot … I, on the other hand, was pretty sure I would first wet myself and then die of terror. So it’s a good thing we never encountered one.

Anyway! During my brief waking moments the last couple of days, I found some interesting comments of the resurrection of lost species: very heartening, really. I am coming back to normal broadcasting here, I promise.

Things like a little article on io9 ( which is not only heartening and fascinating, but a good springboard to further research. This is just the sort of thing that stirred stories in Kage, when she could find some such creatures strange enough to provoke a plot device.

I mean, who knows what could be made of the Cuban Solenodon’s survival? There are very, very few venomous mammals in the world, and the solenodon is one of them … on that island of mystery, ideology and frantic spies, who knows what a tube-nosed ferret with poisoned fangs might get up to?

Well – Kage, obviously.

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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2 Responses to Back At The Pop Stand

  1. Mark Shanks says:

    A few more for your list…

    I especially like the “rediscovered” elephants. How the heck can you lose an elephant? Even a “small” elephant is not exactly inconspicuous…


  2. Kate says:

    It’s amazing what people do not see. Malaysia this last year yielded that new iguana – 6 feet long, lived in the tree tops. No one had noticed it before. Likewise the big pink iguana in Tierra del Fuego – islands are swarming with Darwin fans, and it took almost 200 years for someone to find a bright-pink lizard. Kage loved stuff like this as much for their inherent hilarity as the re-discovered critters.


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