Time Like A Wheel. Or A Pretzel.

Kage Baker rather enjoyed losing track of time. She’d spent so many years of her life nailed – like most people – to the clock … she collected classic photos of clock abuse (to and by), and kept them on her hard drive as a slide show.

There’s Charlie Chaplin’s battle amid the factory clock gears in Modern Times. There’s the emo hero Freder from Metropolis – it’s not exactly a clock he fights with, but it works like one, the levers having to be laboriously hand-pointed at randomly burning lights. There’s Harold Lloyd hanging above a busy street from a clock in Safety Last. There’s the clock in the crocodile in Peter Pan, and all the deadly bomb-clocks ticking down to destruction in spy movies.

When Kage came to create the internal symbols of the worlds in her novels, the sigil for the Operatives was a sudden but obvious impulse: the clock face with no hands. Then, once the idea was in her head, Kage had to have one: and it had to be a specific size, and have gold Roman numerals on a white background … we searched hobby stores until she found what she wanted at a Micheal’s craft store, a clock face with no works behind it, intended to be appliqued onto home-made clocks in dolls’ tummies and other such whacked-out fancies.

Kage took it home, removed the hands in delicate horological surgery with her Exacto tools, and mounted it on her monitor. It was always in her sight when she wrote. I asked her it wouldn’t have been more effective to have a clock movement, that would twitch and tick as it tried to move its amputated arms around the dial? Kage said No.

“The clock with no hands has a soundless tick,” she said, grinning.

So, having disarmed Time, Kage settled into her maturity as a writer ignoring it as much as she could. She liked not being sure of what day it was. She liked marking the passage of time by whether or not we were packing for a Faire, or needed a Christmas tree, or wanted to string new lights on the porch railing. “Dinner time” was as precise as she wanted to get.

Bad enough she had to think about deadlines, which she solved by just not doing so. I got a white board and some neon-coloured felt tip pens, and wrote up a timeline of her deadlines, conventions and commitments to hang on the wall next to her barometer. She couldn’t not see that; she looked at the barometer every day and the bright colours naturally attracted her, he he he. Even when she wasn’t sure what day it was there in our apartment, the reminder that someone on the outside was going to care very, very much about the 25th of a given month was enough to make her check in temporally.

It worked. She only ever missed two dates in her career. For one, she ended up adding 2/3 again as much plot to Empress of Mars in a mere 6 weeks: she’d mistaken June for January as the due date. She did it in a sort of reverse upside down basket-weave that was amazing to see: no seams showed by the time she was done. The other one, we came home from a jolly weekend at a Renaissance Faire and found a note on our front door: Dear Ms. Baker – your publisher needs to know where you are. Regards, the Pismo Beach Police Department.

Turns out we’d been supposed to be in San Diego at Mysterious Galaxy bookstore. Kage had forgotten it, we’d blown it off, and after an afternoon of frantic calls between San Diego and New York, they all called Pismo Beach; the cops in our little town left that gently admonitory note on our door. Kage called everyone involved and explained she wasn’t dead, just senile. And we took a box of See’s Chocolates to the PBPD.

Hence the white board. And hence her enjoying floating unmoored from the relentless stream of time when she could manage it. When the police come looking for you because you missed a signing, you take schedules a little more seriously, and rejoice a little more when you don’t need them.

So, anyway, Kage liked losing track. As long as I knew where we were, or where we were supposed to be. I need someone like that now – Kimberly tries, but she’s got a husband, a son and a job to coordinate as well. Harry is no use; he likes me right where he can see me. As for the cats -!! Never make a cat your social secretary; they have no sense of time, no scruples and can’t write notes anyway.

So I plug on. The Corgi at least helps me be worried (Corgis do worried very well), which kind of reminds me I need to do something or other … today I just lost my grip, though, and that’s why I am writing this so very late in the evening.

On the other hand, remembering some of Kage’s wrestling matches with Time rather makes me smile. She won, in the end. Slipped right out of that bugger’s grasp, and strolled off the clock face entirely.

Good for her.

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 Time Like A Wheel. Or A Pretzel.

  1. Tom says:

    In the movie we shall make of your adventures together, and based on that last sentence, I think it would be best if Kathy Bates were to play you.

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