Kage Baker was a devoted researcher. Obsessive is not too strong a word to use when describing her devotion to topics that interested her.
Some of these topics were short-term, the sources and results of research for stories. When Kage decided she needed to know something about something else, she wanted to know everything. The wisdom there, is that by learning everything she could, she often discovered new and yet more fascinating aspects of the topic. Sometimes it gave more depth to her writing; sometimes it altered altogether, and she ended up ditching the original idea to pursue something even better.
A lot of the ideas she left me in her notes were things that popped up while she was researching other stories, stories that got finished and published. Other times, the entire thrust of certain plots was re-routed by one of her topic-to-topic odysseys through Googlespace – skipping blithely from cyber stone to stone, somehow never falling into the roaring river but coming home with pockets full of gems, polished glass and caddis-fly shells.
A note to all, Dear Readers: never neglect to pick up the shinies chance-come-by in your travels. It’ll make doing the laundry hell for whoever has that job in your household – chalk in your pockets, for example, really adds excitement to the final rinse even if it is fossilized clam shells you dug out of the seaside cliffs with a pocket knife … likewise razor blades, dross from the nail forge, or bits of finishing hardware you salvaged to decorate knife hilts.
On the other hand, the mere fact that I can fondly cite all these examples now proves how really memorable the habits of the determined and acquisitive researcher are. How much they add to life; how they ornament both recollection and art as the years go by.
The contents of other people’s pockets and notes have always enriched my life. It is one of my goals to pass the favour on. Hence the obsessive topics of many of these entries – but I watched Kage weave such huge and enduring tapestries out of dryer lint and fallen leaves, that I can never forget to go through my metaphysical pockets every time I do some mental laundry.
Kage was fascinated with art, for instance: not too surprising in the daughter of a classically trained portraitist and landscape painter, and herself a competent water colourist. But it wasn’t so much art appreciation that drew her, but the odd bits: the forced medieval perspective in films like Henry V or The Cabinet of Dr, Caligari; the proportions of icons; Vermeer’s use of camera obscurae.
BTW, how those really work (icons, that is) is partially written; it will be a Joseph story, set in Constantinople. And it really is no one’s business but the Turks – but only because they stole a secret from ancient Persia.
Anyway: never quit researching is one of the commandments of my life. Also, always pick up the shinies on the road. Consequently, I was recently hilariously surprised to find fresh news about the Lord Howe’s Island Stick Insect! I am sure you remember those, Dear Readers, even the furious young (presumably) human resident of the Island who blasted me for implying that the place has too many rats.
Well, apparently it does. It also has people very interested in keeping the population of Boobook Owls extant. And other people probably even more interested in finding a home for the 41,000 + juvenile Stick Insects now hatching out in their Australian nursery. The rats have been targeted for extermination or export. (There is no shortage of Rattus rattus in the world.) In the meanwhile, special enclosed pens are being built on Lord Howe’s Island to house the insects while they get re-acclimated to their native isle. And somewhere, a relieved Company Operative can soon look forward to no longer being godparent to a horde of foot-long bugs.
I simply had to keep up with this story, and share it. For one thing, stories of a successful recovery from extinction were one of Kage’s favourite things. For another, her own method was to keep track of these strange and fascinating stories. And besides – how often does one find stories about giant stick insects? This kind of thing should simply be shared.
So below, for your delectation, is a link to the story of the triumphant return of the Lord Howe’s Island Stick Insect. For those who found them creepy, I’ve also included a baby picture of one of the new hatchlings! Isn’t it cute? Such a tender shade of apple green – there is a certain Cthulu-oid air to it, but really, those aren’t tentacles. They are adorable floppy baby antennae.
Though I must admit, they’re apparently bigger than I thought. Who knew they hatched out of cantaloupes?