Kage Baker, like all writers of fiction, lived in several worlds. Some were simultaneous, some were sequential; some were even consanguineous. Whether any of them was actually the ordinarily-agreed-upon “real” world, I have never been sure. Nor confident of it – she found the real world rather dull, and may have decided to permanently live elsewhere before I was even born.
Kage never gave a tinker’s dam for majority opinion.
Myself being her main audience, as well as an addicted reader from the age of 7, I gave up on caring what world I was in early on. Or maybe I couldn’t decide which one I was in – it’s hard to tell, when you’re a kid. The world you think you live in will become increasingly less relevant as you age, unless you are very stubborn indeed; you’ll be encouraged and required to choose one of the more popular group models on constant display all around you.
The Worker Bee World – the Executive World – the Mommy World – the Peter Pan World. Step right up and choose, there are dozens available, and every one of them is approved by thousands of other people! And you wouldn’t want one that wasn’t. Would you?
Maybe. Maybe not. Anyway, I had some difficulty figuring out who was my peer group. Long before puberty, I had more or less decided that the people I wanted most to live with, to emulate, to share my life with – were the people in books. That was how life was supposed to be! Heroism, true love of all kinds, adventure, joy and despair and terror and delight. Pure colours and strong feelings, and nothing grey but the eredawn and evening that framed each day.
That was what I wanted. And, amazingly, that was what I got, for over 50 years. That was the kind of world I lived in, larger than ordinary life and much brighter. Life turned out to be much more like my books than I had any right to expect, and it was a glory. Living part of the time in Kage’s head was a big help. I found the roads that lead off the edge of the known world, out of the lands we know, round the corner and a sharp right turn from everything else. Huzzah!
Today I sat down with every virtuous intention of working hard and long. And then someone turned the telly on, and it was the middle of The Two Towers. The Battle of Helm’s Deep was about to start! I sat down for just a moment, to watch the Uruk-hai breast Helm’s Dike in the flame-lit darkness – and I was lost. TNT was showing the entire LOTR trilogy. I’ve been sitting on the couch cheering and yelling and crying ever since. That’s life, damn it!
As I type this, I am listening to the end of The Return of the King. Frodo is bidding farewell to Sam. Sam protests that Frodo cannot leave – Frodo hands him the book filled with his writing and Bilbo’s before him. He tells Sam, “The last pages are for you.”
Was that enough for Sam, I wonder? Did it ever fill the hole left in him by the loss of Frodo, and that wild world of magic and legend? Tolkien implies that it does, and that Sam is glad of it; but he also suggests that Sam himself may one day go into the West. When he grows tired, when the world grows too dim, when the last colour leaches out of it -who knows? I can believe that Sam grows content, with Rosie and their children, because Sam is the most practical and sensible of Hobbits. But is he glad? I have never been able to decide.
Kage was glad. Not just relieved, as one might expect after the long, hard struggle with cancer. No, she beat that and dismissed it; it was in the past, to her, by the time her last day came. Her eyes and mind were on something else: on The Next Big Thing, she said, and she was happily anticipating what it might be. She set out joyously.
I stayed on the pier, holding a book …
I’m not glad, I’m afraid. It seems that the world will never be bright or dark in the same way again. It will never be … as much again. I miss that horribly, as much as I miss Kage. Maybe more, sometimes; I’m a selfish old lady, set in my ways, and I long to ride out again for honour and adventure. This world has grown so heavy and so dull sometimes.
If I can’t go into the West just yet, I want to find that road that turns off 90% from everywhere else. I used to know the way – hell, I knew every gas station and steakhouse and campground.
And I want to go back.