Kage Baker enjoyed technology. She just didn’t understand it much. Nor was she interested in theory – Clarke’s Law*, she often averred, worked just fine for her. All she needed were clear instructions on use, and access to a repair person when everything blew up.
I’m sure this blithe assumption of ignorance was a front. For one thing, when faced with necessity, she could usually manage to coax her electronics back out of whatever coma into which they had slipped. She just preferred to have someone else do it – her clever hands were a lot more comfortable with tangible tools than her mind was with programs and buttons.
“This isn’t even a real button,” she would complain, trying to turn her last two hours of composition back into a recognizable Western font. “It’s just a trick of the light inside the monitor!”
“Yeah, but the computer doesn’t know that. And if you don’t tell it the button isn’t real, you should be fine.”
“Oh, screw you …”
Still and all, things usually worked. Most of the time Kage no idea why, and was happiest that way. She didn’t want to worry about how the words formed on the screen; her primary job was to free them from the confines of her own skull. She expected them to fly, damn it, once they cast off the edge of that nest of Oriental pearls.
But she loved techno toys. Whenever we upgraded the home computers, she spent a blissful couple of days customizing her desk top – some things had to reproduced exactly, but she also wanted to try out all the new stuff. She loved computer games. She loved her Buke, the netbook I gave her for her last birthday. The ability to take photos with her phone thrilled her – not because she didn’t have a camera, but because the idea of the combined functions was so intriguing.
She was fascinated with the rumours of e-readers. That was all she ever saw of them: rumours; she died just before they became common on every bus and beach. She quite hated reading off the computer screen, because the wide scale made her eyes ache from all that switching back and forth. So the idea of a book-sized screen cajoled her.
I got a Kindle last year, and have been very happy with it. I am now spoiled by the ability to carry around thousands of books in one slim volume. Man, this is magic! I think about Kage every time I turn it on, and how thrilled she’d have been with it.
But the basic Kindle is black and while. That’s fine by me; the austerity of the written word is soothing. Kage, though – Kage loved colours. And covers. And illustrations. And touch screens. My memory of her fascination has been tempting me since the New Year, whispering in her voice that I really need a Fire … but I don’t. So it runs games apps, so what? That’s just what I do not need, another way to waste time on Plants VS Zombies.
But Kage would never be denied. A toy was designated for purchase each time a royalty check came in – budget the luxuries first was another axiom she cherished. Well, I got a payment last week. And today, I bought a Kindle Fire.
Okay, it’s wonderful. I am lost in its glassy gaze, its gliding movement, its promise of music and movies and dead zombies … in an attempt to justify my caving, I spent this afternoon clearing my own books off my original Kindle. I stocked it with Terry Pratchett and Henry Turtledove, and I gave it to my nephew. He’s thrilled. His earnest study of the French Revolution has been derailed in favour of a very strange football game in Ankh-Morpork.
And I am now off to read a new volume of genetic anomalies. I can hear Kage chortling in glee, and in my head.
It’s like champagne bubbles.
*Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.