Kage Baker buttressed her personal vision of time travel with the invention of the Event Shadow.
This is one of the key tricks that allows The Company to save, hide, and later resurrect … things. People, books, statues, recipes for magic antibiotics and famous contraceptives. All the fascinating animals that people regret having eaten once they are extinct – and the horrible ones, too, that no one regretted doing in – until it turns out they fertilize barley or chocolate, or are the only natural enemy of the bug that carries 21st Century Purple Fulminating Brain Rot. (Identified in late 2013, in Washington DC; vulgarly referred to as “The Zombie Apocalypse, Finally!”)
It works like this: something happens in the world. It is a huge event, one that totally monopolizes the news media and records for wherever it is that it happens. Sometimes these really are global events; sometimes very local. What matters is that they get all the attention for a given area and date. Hence, other things that happened in that place and time become invisible, and can be … altered. Enhanced. Used.
Because, while history cannot be changed, this can only be observed to function in recorded history. And as Budu says, one can record lies.
Kage adored Event Shadows. She kept lists of them, and perused them as carefully as Dr. Zeus must, looking for conveniently shaped and timed Shadows where all manner of productive shenanigans might be accomplished.
Disasters are very handy Event Shadows. For instance, other things did happen around April 18, 1906: but what most papers reported and what most people recall, is the San Francisco Earthquake. Kage herself pointed out that, at the very same time, Vesuvius was erupting. It was a major mess – thousands lost their homes; many people died; villages, and an observatory and a funicular railways were destroyed; the top of Vesuvius itself blew clean off. And unless you lived in Italy or have read “Son, Observe the Hour” carefully, you probably don’t know this.
And because of the Event Shadow, no one knows the very strange observatory records and photographs that vanished when the observatory was destroyed in April 1906; or what they showed rising from the depths of the caldera.
That’s how Event Shadows work. They are Snow Days, Sadie Hawkins Day, and Double Secret Probation for time travellers. Dr. Zeus’ inventory depends on them, and their skillful manipulation. Sometimes they can be used to essentially circumvent themselves – there is so much confusion as to who destroyed the Library of Alexandria, and when, and what clever bastardly thing they said when they did it, that the Company Operatives who saved the manuscripts had years of Event Shadows in which to make sure they got all the goodies.
Today, July 12th, is a very nice Event Shadow, if somewhat specific. In 1973, a full third of the National Personnel Records of the United States burned: the entire 6th floor of a facility in Missouri. Whoosh, all those military records gone! All those identities that could then be stolen, all those actions and decisions and peccadillos that could be altered, all those missing soldiers that might be re-assigned throughout time. That was a goldmine.
In 1970, the home of composer Geirr Tveitt burned, destroying his ouvre. (It’ll show up later, in a box originally full of Moon Pies, in an attic in Tallahassee.)
In 1806, Lichtenstein gained its independence. This is the only notable thing that has ever happened in Lichtenstein. Consequently, Dr. Zeus has a long-term storage facility there, with an especial emphasis on ivory and combustible plastics. It’s easily hidden in the vast Event Shadow that is Lichtenstein, and by its sole industry of making pool balls, false teeth, and … artificial ivory.
In 1562, Fray Diego de Landa, acting Bishop of Yucatan, burned the holy books of the Mayans. Except, of course, he didn’t. And there are things in there a lot more alarming that the supposed end of the world this coming December. Oh, and this is what he apparently looked like …
Or it might be some monk in his entourage – it’s hard to tell, at this temporal distance. Kinda Basque-looking, don’t you think?
And this is how Event Shadows work. And why they are so vital to the workings of Dr. Zeus and its many, many Operatives. Not to mention its surreptitious and often befuddled chroniclers and amenuenses.
Why, in 1961 the Pune flooded. Who knows what secrets of Mother India were discreetly removed to safety during that disaster?
Only Dr. Zeus …
I feel that you’re teasing us in advance of new stories. I just finished (and I mean today at lunch) the new collection of Kage’s stories. Are there more Company books or story collections coming soon?
Lynn – not soon, alas. But coming – yes. Most of these popped up, demanding attention, as I wrote today’s blog. So you see them freshly grabbed from the fires of creation. Ideas for stories are a lot like hunting Pokemon …
I’ve always been curious how the Company would have handled the Titanic…
That wasn’t a teaser; that WAS a Company story! Thanks, Kate!
Kara – the Titanic was crawling with Operatives, most of whom had a very pleasant cruise. Except poor Kalugin, who went down with the ship – but even he had a nice few days and evenings, escorting his lady Nan to posh dinner dances.
Thank YOU, Buff. That whole crazy process just came over me like a tsunami …
I, too, love the idea of Event Shadows. It’s fun to fill in the shadows around a Big Event with fanciful invention. Your sister Kage was one terrific science-fiction author! This fan, one of many, misses her.
Thank you, L. Kelly!
How about the disappearance of the Amber Room? Was that a company job? If so, it may reappear someday after being “discovered” in a salt mine in Germany.
Yes, the Amber Room was made off with – but not by the Company Proper. One of the evil Facilitators, Aegeus, adds it to his art collection under the Alps just ahead of the Bolshevicks. It isn’t seen again until after Dr. Zeus is defeated, and is among the looted treasures that are returned to the mortals: anonymously and almost completely secretively, of course. It is reconstructed in the course of one long Russian night (they can be 16-20 hours long there) under the direction of Kalugin: with music by an itinerant fiddler arrested by the palace guards, who are stoned on mushrooms and vodka and think they are watching friendly dibbuks at work … Russians can be very sentimental.
Oh, yes, please DO save the Maya books from the sanctimonious attentions of Diego de Landa. We want so much to know what was in them – some actual history (of kings, naturally) or more instructions for ceremonies and religious practices, like the three pitiful survivors.
Landa’s portrait be Joseph? Nah! I can’t imagine him ever contriving to look so po-faced.