Kage Baker loved the internet for the opportunity it gave her to talk to people on her own terms. She didn’t blog, because she didn’t feel she had the time – but she answered every email she received, she participated in online forums, she gave interviews. And, as she said, every book was another lecture; and the Q & A period had no expiration date. If a reader had a question, ever, it got answered.
But for a lady who didn’t like eye contact, or being touched; whose privacy zone was half a mile wide; whose voice was low and who really considered invisibility the most elegant of fashion choices – the aether of the Interwebs was the ideal medium for social intercourse. Many a friend who would have found it well-nigh impossible to engage her in conversation in an open room discovered that – secure in her electronic zenana – Kage was the the wittiest, most intimate and most open of companions.
She enjoyed startling questioners. It’s why, on being asked the inevitable “Who are your favourite writers?” she always replied, “Dead white guys.” Mind you, it was mostly true, as well – she had a classical education, and few of her personal favourites had been born in the 20th century. But she also enjoyed the wide eyes her statement produced. She enjoyed it even more when someone told her it was politically incorrect – as a quarter-breed Native America (red hair and freckles don’t show on the level of your genes), Kage figured she was entitled to have any opinion she bloody well wanted of dead Europeans. And she liked some of them.
She had wonderful time in her last year of life, shocking the kind of people who ask those soft-center, stupid questions of the actively dying. You know, things like: “Now what did you do to yourself?” or “How are we today?” or the ubiquitous and enraging injunction to “Smile!” Kage told the truth (as she always did) with no frills or protective wrappers. If someone didn’t want to hear that the gaunt redhead with the burning black eyes was, yes, really really sick, they shouldn’t ask her how she was doing – that was Kage’s opinion.
I remember her turning to an especially vulgar and noisy roommate (who was, frankly, having a tantrum) and saying, “Listen, lady, it’s past midnight and some of us are trying to die over here. Would you please shut up?”
She had little time for social prevarication at the best of times, and she pretty much jettisoned it at the end. Too much to try to say, do, complete; too much to begin, even, as the fact of her own imminent demise did not stop Kage for a single moment from beginning new projects. It’s why I’m working on a Mars story, and why I’m picking out stories and essays for two new compilation volumes, and why there will a sequel to Nell Gwynne. Around the world or between a couple of them, it made no difference to Kage.
She had stories to tell, queries to make, questions to answer.
That offer to answer all questions still stands, too; it’s part of the geas she laid on me on her death bed. I know where it all came from, I know what it all meant to her: it’s my duty to explain it to anyone who wants to know. I am an oracle once removed; a recycled sybil. I’m Cassandra’s message machine.
Did you or Kage ever think of a suitable reply to the people who tell you to keep ‘thinking postive’ even when the situation has clearly got beyond that? Yeah, I know they mean well and are having a hard time thinking of anything to say, and they’re not as annoying as the ones who say “God never sends us any burdens too heavy for us to bear” – what?! It’s an test!? But still…
Margaret – well, Kage did tell several advisors of positive thinking that she was, yes, absolutely positive she had cancer. And would eventually die. And not only that, so would the dimwit currently telling her to think positively … especially if said with a smile, this tends to utterly unman one’s opponent; who stammers and stares and then hurries away. As for those who informed us that God never sends us burdens too heavy to bear … oh my, I’m afraid neither of us ever hesitated to correct them. Because He does too send such burdens; His own son begged to have his burden lifted from him in the Garden at Gethsemane, which scene Kage quoted frequently. And once she asked someone “How do you know? All you know is, you’ve borne them all so far. So have I. But we don’t know what’s coming.”
I must report that Kage was in no mood to comfort strangers over her own suffering. Being ladylike, she worked hard not to get into situations where she would have to be rude to some fool; but when she could not escape it, rude she was. She didn’t suffer fools willingly when she felt *good*.
Thanks, Kate. That’s very helpful – I will save those up.
And now for something completely different in the question line: Will we hear more about Wenekla, or, now that you’ve tempted us so expertly and fiendishly, will we have to wait for her book? Where does the line form, please?
No, I won’t leave people hanging, Margaret. There will be more of Wenekla’s story. In fact, I hope to lay it all out, in its new entirety, for the speciality audience that is you Dear Readers. I have been distracted lately by dealing with publishers, agent queries, a request from a little girl about Hotel Under The Sand, and my new Kindle.
I’m pleased to hear that a little girl is asking you about The Hotel Under the Sand. My third copy is already in the mail – for my 9-year-old niece. I will await more of Wenekla with great eagerness.
Re: Hotel Under The Sand. It’s a total success as a children’s book – in that children actually like it. it means whoever gifted their personal kids with it probably made a happy kid. That being what the author desired, I count it as a triumph. Kage herself was a life-long fan of certain children’s books, things she treasured for decades and pressed on every child of our acquaintance.
Can we hope that she left some other children’s books for you to finish?
Margaret – I have notes on two. One is a sequel to Hotel; the other is more along the lines of the old Edward Eager books, in that it is about a herd of children. They are on my list …