Life Is A Game of Mad Libs

Kage Baker, when faced with the necessity of fashioning a segue where none easily presented itself, would usually remark, “Speaking of camels …”

I don’t remember why. At some point, it must have been something that cracked us up, because we both still snickered when she said it decades later. But the provenance has vanished in the corrosive mists of time; unlike some of the other life-long private platitudes that made us both guffaw … “Put that in your smipe and poke it” was a self-righteous Spoonerism dating back to high school; to the end of her days, though, neither one of could say or hear it without giggling helplessly.

Another one, indicating an egregious non sequitor, was “Look, a bust of Micky Mouse dancing on the lawn with an evil-minded baby prune.” That one was born of a game of Mad Libs in our early teens, and never died. Especially when it got conflated with Creedance Clearwater’s Looking Out My Back Door in Kage’s mind; she would often insert the evil-minded baby prune in with the dinosaur Victrola and the flying spoon.

Kage loved Mad Libs. On long car trips we would often grab a pad of them from some gas mart featuring ways to keep your kids from going postal in the car, and proceed down the highway howling with hysterical laughter. It was a game of Mad Libs and a poorly made date shake that once left us facing backwards on the traffic island in the middle of a Santa Barbara street, covered in ice cream and macerated dates …

Being, as she was, a lover of language, Kage couldn’t resist playing with words. Lewis’s horrible science fiction novel, outlining the adventures of a hypothetical Edward into the future, was something she wrote out in great detail and glee. She loved being asked to write pastiches for special collections – one of her personal favourites was “The Leaping Lover”, wherein she postulated an ill-starred romance between Springheel Jack and Dickens’ ingenue ogress Fannie Squeers, from Nicholas Nickelby. Kage had a wonderful time coming up with Fanny’s voice.

Sometimes we’d play Mad Libs with the cities and characters in stories – trading nonsense syllables back and forth until some selection proved euphonious. The languages of the Yendri and the Children of the Sun had rules of composition and grammar, known only to Kage; but a lot of the music of them arose from just juggling sounds until a dozen shining names stayed in mid-air …

I have lists. Lots of lists. Kage’s indecision on spelling (and my inability to spell in any tongue, real or imagined) led to a dichotomy around 1970 – from then on, most of the lists show what we came to call the Yendri spelling side by side with the sort preferred by the Children of the Sun. Kage spoke her own fantasy languages with an accent suitable to Troon or Flame City; some inland town of artisans and runners.

I still write the names Gard’s kids with the older, Yendri spelling. But then, for decades I’ve had to change my spelling for business letters and reports anyway – as you may have noticed, Dear Readers, I use mostly English spelling in my personal discourse. It’s what I learned first.

Anyway, speaking of camels … I think I have a touch of flu, a soupcon of salmonella, a wee bit of narcolepsy today. The tertiary fever is acting up, or something; and CVS doesn’t carry any Jesuit’s bark, the slackers. At any rate, I entered into this today with nothing to say and determined to just maunder on so as to fulfill my minimum blog post obligation. Instead, it’s been a rather amusing ride through the games one can play with words … enhanced and made interesting by the mild fever I’m running right now.

Time to finally post this, secure a slice of Philly cheese steak pizza, and then go to bed. Harry is singing Spongebob Squarepants to me, and the little black cat is lighting the way to my pillow with her beryl-green eyes.

Unless she’s an evil-minded baby prune in disguise.

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 Life Is A Game of Mad Libs

  1. athene says:

    I will never again be able to listen to “Lookin Out My Back Door” without hearing “evil-minded baby prune” (it scans perfectly). I don’t know whether to curse you, or thank you.

    • Kate says:

      Athene – well, you remember how good Kage was at harmony and alternate lyrics. She liked messing things about. I still hear “Gimme a Ticket On An Airplane” with the line “misten, Leicster” … And Kimberly says she always hears “Bad Mon On The Rise” with the line “There’s a bathroom on the right.”

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