Kage Baker disliked change. She fought it grimly in her private life, and in fact spent a good amount of time replacing things she had lost from her life at earlier dates – candies, art, outre holiday deco, defunct but useful appliances, weird toys. I must presume that EBay was founded by similar fanatics, since that’s where Kage had the best luck finding her lost treasures.
And mine; I’m not innocent in this. The electric skillet I love the best is an old refurbished GE Sunshine model – when the original from Momma wore out, Kage found me this one to replace it. Damn near my whole life long I have made pancakes, egg rolls, ham patties, corn fritters, doughnuts and Sole d’or in it, and I probably couldn’t cook without it.
The sets for our Faire work were all held in similar files in Kage’s memory. She stored them in in her head, and every year at Build, she tried to make sure they went just the way they always had. We took photos and painted lines on concrete floors for markers, buried exotically carven posts and caches of rock to mark the corners – but the final references were always the images in people’s heads: usually Kage’s.
Over the years she managed to infect the Chaos Construction Corps, too; so I’ve been able to rest easy these two weekends, knowing the builders, painters and decorators at the Cow Palace are all working off cloned memories of Kage’s. And they’ve been doing a wonderful job.
However much Kage hated change, she also knew that all theatre (but especially historical or literary re-creation) is organic and alive. It mutates, it breeds with others and itself and produces hybrids that surprise everyone who sees them. As long as the heritage of the annual differences in our sets was obvious and traceable, these all qualify as “just the same as last time”.
It’s a form of logic ordinarily used by antiquities restorers and stock breeders. The handles may have been replaced on an old chest of drawers; the mirror has been re-backed, the marble cracked on the top and was mended: but we knew where it was the whole time, and it is the same piece of furniture it always was! You know the parents and grandparents, etc. for 500 years of that Long Mynd sheep – you know every cross with a Border Leicester the line ever had, you know the farm in Powys it came from; and even though it’s now technically a Clun Forest sheep, it’s the same breed!
Sets are like that. So my Parlour has risen in the Cow Palace, and even though it has the odd new chair, and a restyled nook on one end, and new drapes over the Service Door by the Bar (itself only 2 years old) and the several sets of stag’s horns come and go apparently of their own free will – it’s the same Parlour. I’d know it anywhere, and so will the hundreds of nostalgic patrons who come flooding through it beginning next week.
This is how to survive change. Make sure it doesn’t happen. And if it must, make sure it’s only a slight improvement on the original design, so it actually remains just the same.
It’s the way it works on children. Children of our bodies, of our minds and hearts – they all change but stay the same. The large bearded person who just changed the ink on my possessed printer is still my little wee Mikey, who learned to walk in slippery oak leaves in the dirt Yard of the Green Man Inn. The ringleted, corseted, flashing-eyed Pocket Venus who will come skipping into my Parlour next week in a flurry of silk skirts is still baby Skye Kathleen – she drew chalked flowers all over the front table one day from the safety of my lap …
If you’re careful, nothing changes. It just grows. That’s why Kage hated change, I see now – if something changed irretrievably, it meant it had escaped and stopped. And nothing she loved was ever allowed to stop. It keeps on flourishing.