I Still Live!

Kge Baker was fond of that iconic saying of the immortal John Carter of Mars (which is, strange to say, never used in the recent movie).

It’s appropriate whether you are thanking God or giving the finger to the malicious universe. It nicely handles situations ranging from being surprised you’re waking up at all, to deciding on the order in which you  must slay today’s monsters. And it’s also, as the very practical Kage observed, a reminder that other embattled heroes often had it worse than you do – you might be rising to face cold water and a deadline, but John Carter usually woke up and belted on his sword over sheer stalwart nakedness. And thought himself lucky to have the sword.

Anyway, I too still live. I have signed my name 1,500 times in the last three days, and they are on their way back to the publisher. And my name may never look like human language to me again. I dreamed about the penmanship paper the nuns made us use in grammar school –  wide and triply-lined in turquoise, with the middle line in dots so you knew how tall the half-sized risers had to be.  Put a proper pi-shaped angle in your small r, make sure the t is shorter than the upper stroke of the h, don’t give three humps to the n or 4 to the m and w. The good ladies of God who taught me cursive told me finally to learn to type, as my handwriting was appalling – and Kage’s, left-handed scrawl that it was, was anathema.

And yet, in this modern age where public schools are about to stop teaching cursive at all, my eccentric signature has been garnering admiring praise for the last 20 years. Just because I do remember (and try to use) a few of those rules the nuns gave us; because I can still see in my mind that blue-lined beginner’s paper and recall what the lines were intended to do.

Kage realized before the turn of the century that cursive was a passing fad. She simultaneously mourned its grace, and triumphantly excused her own handwriting. Of course, when your printing looks like a machined label and you can doodle in Celtic Uncials, sloppy handwriting is much easier to excuse. But she really did think it was on the way out, and she wrote it so in her future history – and she was right.

People will always want something like autographs, though, even if authors use a stamp, a chop, or an electronic hash tag. I already know quite literate authors who nonetheless sign books in printing: because cursive takes too long. But most still happily whip out the pen and demonstrate the increasingly-exotic skill of hand-writing, inspiring cries of admiration from their readers. (We all hope …)

I certainly will continue to sign. My 1,500  signature pages will be bound into the deluxe hard-cover versions of Nell Gwynne’s: On Land and At Sea. With the helpful suggestions from you, Dear Readers, I was able to sign half of them in sepia, and half in a delicious burgundy. But no sooner had I gotten confirmation from UPS that my finished efforts were on their way, than a new box arrived for me. And in that …

Three Advance Uncorrected Copies of the new book! Paperback, but with the back blurb, and the beautiful cover and internal illustrations by J.K. Potter, and even the comic sub-title neatly in place on the title page. Just as Kage wanted it. And on the front and on the spine – her name. And mine.

We still live.

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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6 Responses to I Still Live!

  1. Jane says:

    Congratulations in triplicate with plums and cherries on top! Wish I could choose the type font here that looks like cursive…

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  2. Tom B. says:

    “We still live.”
    You bet yer sweet fitherdweebles, missus! An’ not all’s sae fortunate, nor had cherries fer breakfast, neither.

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  3. Elaine says:

    I really don’t say this to be critical, but there are two things I honestly don’t understand. One, why does everyone always insist that it takes longer to write in cursive than to print? And, two, why do people (some the same ones, some not) keep trying to convince me that it takes longer to purl than to knit?

    Really. I can write faster, and more neatly, in cursive than in printing, and I can purl at least as fast, and probably faster, than I can knit. Maybe it’s just me. I’ve always been weird.

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  4. Kate says:

    Elaine – no, you’re not weird, and those are good and valid questions. I too can write much faster in cursive than I can print, and while I am not a fast knitter in any style – I can certainly purl as quickly as I knit. I think the answer is that one must have received adequate training, along with lots of practice, when initially learning the skills. Penmanship is no longer taught in the first 6 years of grammar school; it was a daily exercise when I was a girl, and it has kept my cursive both readable and speedy all my life. (Kage just didn’t give a hoot; she was left-handed, and took that as license to write like a palsied snail track.)

    Likewise with purling. I spent an entire weekend learning to do nothing but purl – so that I would be able to knit cables, which I love. I then undertook a project that was, essentially, just diverse cables held together with stockinette; a month later, I was as fast with a purl as a knit stitch. You’ve doubtless had a similar experience. I really do think that is the basis, the necessary foundation, for completing these delicate hand-eye maneuvers at speed.

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  5. L Kelly says:

    As I understand it, cursive developed as a form of secretarial shorthand because someone who was good at it could write faster than someone printing individual letters. Later on, official documents had to be in a “fair hand,” which meant highly legible cursive. Jefferson’s handwritten version of the Declaration of Independence was written in a mix of cursive and printing, but the official version had to be re-written in full-blown cursive. I’m less concerned about the eventual extinction of cursive than about a future of people able to express themselves only in grunts, very short sentences built of words drawn from severely limited vocabularies, and wiping their fingers on glass surfaces. Your sister’s The Life of the World to Come described that world very well.

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  6. Kate says:

    L. Kelly – Thanks. Kage’s vision of a post-literacy world was one of her personal fears, and one she thought she could see coming clearly. And she never even really found out about Twitter. I am a staunch supporter of general literacy and cursive writing, personally. However, I can see that it might be a passing fad, or at least something currently falling out of fashion. It has before, you know.

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