Change May Be Good Medicine … But It Tastes Bad

Kage Baker disliked change. Intensely. She avoided it whenever she could, she ignored its implications and machinations whenever possible, and if it was extreme enough – she worked steadily afterwards to blot it out and put back what had been altered.

The efforts of the Company operatives are all slightly warped images of Kage’s determination that puffins should not be dead, that Scotch Broth should be available for dinner, that Glass Wax should not vanish from the face of the Earth. Any lost works of art, priceless jewelry, miraculous antibiotics and super grains that wanted to come along for the ride were welcome, too. But her main concern was that the world should, in some private room and garden, be the world of her childhood: just the way she had first comprehended it.

This obsession drives a lot of people into a kind of intellectual Amish-ness. Not Kage. She wanted things to be right, the way she remembered them – succeeding in that required research, skills, resources, esoteric supplies and power sources … so she readily embraced most modern technology, at least as a stepping stone to whatever antique food or environment she was presently trying to reproduce.

She was an enthusiastic and avid computer user – that’s where the really detailed Past lives these days, so that’s where she learned to hunt for it. Ebay, historical societies, the carefully scanned inventories of specialty museums: only electronically were these open to her, and she dove without hesitation into the electronic seas in her search for the pearls of her memories.

It was directly because she hated change that she learned how to deal with its leading edge: information technology. Learn your enemy and then recruit ’em, was her philosophy. So she infiltrated The System. She wasn’t interested in bringing it down, though – she had no concern, really, with what it did with itself. Kage just wanted The System’s resources so she could loot the past and carry it home with her.

The last couple of days, a sizable portion of the electronic world is in a tizzy over changes. I am sure everyone’s inbox, Stream, Walls, Newsfeeds, Magic Mirrors – or whatever you call the particular interface between yourself and the Interwebs – is choked with anguished cries, please for help, and outraged denouncements of both the old and the new. One friend has declared that Big Brother is looming over him, and retreated to some unplugged redoubt. Another has joyfully announced that she’s drunk the Kool-aid and loves it! Proponents of various social networks are squaring off and condemning one another like Cathars and the Inquisition.

Man, it’s nuts. Kage would be laughing her ass off, as yet once more the shadow of change shorts out everyone’s common sense and the Tower of Babel wins again. It’s just faster today. And electronic. And no one can interrupt you when you rant.

But she would, I think, do pretty much as I have done. Back off. Fort up. Wait it out. See what she liked best of all the glittery toys on offer, and go with that. If it helped her find an original, real Cootie Game, or a box of wax skulls full of sugar syrup – she would praise it. Kage was results-oriented.

She wasn’t one to embrace change. She didn’t believe it was good for one, or vital for keeping society going. Until her forties, Kage always maintained, all change had ever done was take away things she loved. The last 20 years of her life, technology finally got it together to begin restoring some of those missing treasures – but very late, and fairly little. She was not inclined to forgive it yet for all those things it had let slip into darkness.

And, of course, it eventually also dropped her. The party line in medicine these days is that it is constantly improving, saving more people every year; that the human race currently lives in a Golden Age of  ars medica unknown since Atlantis sank into the sea … except that when it was Kage’s turn in the barrel, all her doctors made faces like the scientists in a monster movie and cried out that they had never seen anything like it!

So, despite all the changes, not everything is solved. Not everyone is saved just because you have a new tool or toy. You need to wait and see, you need to try things out carefully and log some results. Then you can either make your choice, or realize you’re screwed. But until then, you’re wandering around in the dark making guesses about whether you’ve grabbed the horns of a dilemma or Death’s bony fingers.

But that’s the nature of change, right? Me, I’m gonna go see how much like my old network I can make my new network look. There’s only so much change I can take, too.

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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4 Responses to Change May Be Good Medicine … But It Tastes Bad

  1. “But she would, I think, do pretty much as I have done. Back off. Fort up. Wait it out.”

    One of the best lines (and soundest advice that I’ve taken to heart many times since) was when she wrote “Keep all arms and legs inside until the ride has come to a complete stop”
    I’m still waiting for the Facebook Rollercoaster Ticker of Doom to come to a complete stop before I freak out too completely!

  2. Kate says:

    Yeah, me too, Allison. I see no reason to freak out just yet. It’s a free service, and we can always vote with our feet if we really don’t like it.
    But I must say, the idea of the Timeline does not appeal. Aside from having a handy record of what the heck I did for ME – which is getting more and more useful, I admit – I don’t like the idea of anyone else tracking me that closely. I value occasional invisibility.

  3. As the sand shifts under our feet, there’s a small chunk of bedrock at the Vermont Country Store ( Woodhue cologne. Turkish Taffy and Zagnuts. Lanz nightgowns. Fuller brushes. All that and more, waiting for us to inhale the fragrance of our childhood one more time.

    • Kate says:

      One of Kage’s favourite stores, Carolyn – she kept asking them to find a re-issue of Herbal Essence Shampoo (the original green stuff). And just before she died, they did! It smells wonderful, just like it always did; I’m still using it.

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