On Masks

Kage Baker, as all you Dear Readers know by now, loved Halloween. She loved the build-up, she loved the ancillary activities, she loved the deep philosophical questions of what to be that year. Even in those years where she spent most of her life in a costume, deciding what to wear at Halloween was a profound and engaging question.

She liked to look … cool.

However, since she really preferred to be invisible at all times, she usually contented herself with large, attention-diverting props. If  the audience’s attention was distracted by the cloak, the single string of glowing pearls, the head-sized gourd tucked underneath her arm or the martini glass wired to hover invisibly beside her ,,, well, then, Kage could step back and be  disguised as the background to the special effect.

Very subtle costuming. She was so clever that way.

Frequently, she engineered me to be the special effect. I could be, essentially, wound up and let loose to scamper along the sidewalk, distracting everyone. When she began to go to science fiction conventions, I hovered at her side, obsequiously omnipresent: checked schedules, made notes, hustled her away when an energy vampire cornered her and she gave me the SOS  signal. Her clothes were chosen as distractions to the audience – hence the multiplicity of Hawaiian shirts. Also, she did love them …. but they and I were part of her overall mask. All for coolness!

Few people realized that they were most likely to meet Kage without a disguise when they talked to her online. Behind the obscurity of the aether, she felt quite relaxed and safe; she let her hair down, as it were (which was actually kind of dangerous, with her hair …) and relaxed. Her correspondents saw her more intimately than most of the people she met at conventions.

Her last Halloween we spent at the World Fantasy Convention. We were working our up North – after the Convention, it was off to Santa Rosa to stay with generous friends, and the first weekend of rehearsals for Dickens Fair. Then her surgery was due,  in San Francisco.

Kage had a lot of fun being pushed round the WFC in her wheelchair, a bag of chocolates in her lap and me and Neassa being her Amazon guard … we bumped into furniture and ran into walls, and she could hold court wherever she wanted. She claimed her Halloween costume was a cross between FDR and Miss Haversham.

I got to be Igor the Faithful Semi-human Assistant a lot – fun, except it’s hard to push a wheelchair when you’re trying to lurch at the same time. There was much giggling … Neassa kept leaking Hershey’s Kisses, which she habitually keeps in her purse at all times.

I’ve been masquerading since then as a modest middle-aged lady. I needed the rest, but it’s gotten boring. But with Halloween posturing on the horizon, and Samhain being the Celtic New Year and all … I think I need a new mask. Time to decide what I want to be for the next year.

Probably time to fasten that writer face a little more firmly over my own – I just got the proofs for Nell Gwynne II, so that is certainly approaching reality. And I did 50,000 words on a book in last November’s Novel In A Month contest, which is pretty much half a novel – I intend to write the other half this November. And there are those scraps of stories that you all have been kind enough to encourage …

Yeah. The writer mask. With the feathers and rhinestones and mirrored eyeholes.

That’ll be cool.

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 On Masks

  1. PJ says:

    I would definitely encourage that writer’s mask, as this blog has become one of my favorite things to read.

  2. Tom says:

    You go, Kate! Go for the glitter . . . and the ink.

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