Kage Baker was born on June 10, 1952. Today she would have been 60. I’m not sure she would have liked that much, either, despite her Beatlemaniacal desire to make at least 64.
But if she’d beaten the cancer, she would have by now morphed into a lean, white-haired lady (she was working hard at it when she died), which would have delighted her. She always wanted to look like Granny Weatherwax when she got old; a notion that was bolstered by my own increasing resemblance to Nanny Ogg. We would have had the best Halloween costumes ever.
Paul Kidby, an artist whom Kage adored, has illustrated tons of Discworld stuff; one of his sketches is of a young Esme Weatherwax. It bears a startling resemblance to Kage … I tried to locate it in his work but failed, or I’d have a link here for you, Dear Readers, to see. I wouldn’t just post it, of course, because it’s original artwork and Kage would haunt me viciously were I to violate Kidby’s copyright so egregiously.
But she would have made a great Granny Weatherwax.
I’ve thought, since she died, that I would miss her more on her birthdays. Oddly, I don’t. There’s a kind of amazed peace in realizing that she’d by 60 today (and the suspicion she’d have complained about it), because – really, you know? Sixty! Man, how the hell does that happen? No, I miss her most in little things, ambushing me. A bit of news I want to share – a sudden scent that reminds me of her (you were right, as usual, Steven; sudden smells can be devastating) – an inspiration that is automatically followed by the thought that I must tell Kage. Those happen all the time, and continue to cut like razors.
But the constant soul-sucking pain of her absence has, yes, grown more tolerable – just as people told me it would. I’m grateful for that, too, I really am. There are times now when I go along quite happily for long periods of time; I felt guilty at first, but then I could hear Kage in my head, saying, “Don’t be stupid! You think I want a weeping boneless amoeba of grief for a memorial? Think again, kiddo. I want books.”
Well, there’s one so far, and there will another in the Fall. And there are a couple of anthologies coming along with her stories in them, too (details as I acquire them, Dear Readers.) And I will finish more. So Kage will have what she wanted. Specifically, what she wanted for me. That’s what has slowly dawned on me, and makes me miss her even more and feel guilty to boot. She told me to continue her work not for her own benefit – she was packed, ticket in hand, eager to step off the pier onto the deck of the waiting schooner: she wanted nothing for herself at the end. She wanted it for me.
I realized that when I saw the cover of Nell Gwynne II, and my name printed thereon below Kage’s. It was such a thrill.: a literal, visceral, predatory frisson of power and triumph. And Kage knew it would be, too. We all wrote – madly, badly and incessantly – when we were kids; she was the one who kept it going and did something with it. When she told me to keep writing after she was gone, I wept and said I couldn’t. She told me I could and must.
“Because what I really want to do now,” she said, grinning, “is direct.”
I guess maturity does set in a little when you near 60. Maybe.
Happy Birthday, kiddo.