Season of Change

Kage Baker used to say that part of her success as a writer was that she had been privileged in the things she saw. And the people she knew.

She happily admitted that the very idea of the Operatives – brilliant, eccentric, obsessed, historical mavens that they are – was born from watching her fellow performers at the Renaissance Pleasure Faire. Never has there been such a troupe of genius loonies as we were, back in the dear dim days of the 70’s and 80’s and 90’s. Doubtless every theatre troupe feels the same, but really – we were amazing. In and out of costume (though most of us were always in costume. We just had “going to the grocery store” costumes as well as courtiers and yeomanry.), day or night, before, during and after performance – Kage spent her adult life with the sort of people who usually only inhabit picaresque novels.

The ones she loved the most, she immortalized. Like the Faerie Queen stealing away a talented musician, or True Thomas, or Tamlin – Kage wrote many of her dearest friends into her Company stories. Once she had them pegged as Operatives, they tended to lead their own lives in the plot. And just as the originals always had with the directors and producers of the Faire, the Operatives based on them proceeded to run rings around their masters of the Company. And Kage. She couldn’t control them, didn’t ever want to. She just gave them immortality and let them run.

But Time has no concern for our plans. No matter how clever our bon mots, how delicious our poses and sparkling our costuming, Death has little patience and no sense of timing. He’ll yank anyone out of anything, leaving the rest of us stumbling around on the darkened stage, trying to improvise business around a sudden sucking vacuum and pick up the missing dialogue.

That’s how he got Kage.

Last night, he took another old, dear, brilliant friend. Kevin Brown … words fail me. He was a walking, talking superlative. He was funny, kind, inventive, a wide-ranging scholar for knowledge’s sweet sake alone. Kage always maintained that Kevin was one of the three people for whom she wrote In The Garden of Iden; an act of such detailed devotion that she had to re-write the entire book – trimming out most of the Latin, Greek and Aramaic – before a publisher could make sense of it.

And she used Kevin as the template for Victor: red hair, white skin, pointed beard and all. That man turned into a tragic hero over the course of the Company series, finally bringing an exquisitely crafted doom to the Plague Cabal among the Operatives. Then he went to his long sleep, armoured in virtue and honour, to sleep out the next age of the world with Arthur and Roland and Beowulf, and others men of like kidney. Also Popeye, Mr. Micawber and the Coroner of Munchkin City … Kevin was a complicated guy.

Last night, I dreamed of Kage. I was bustling around like a hen on her way to the chopping bloc, trying to get a beer, a bathroom break and an Inn built, all at once. I saw Kage come and sit down on the edge of the pre-Faire chaos, and I was so amazed and relieved and grateful to see her – I ran over and threw my arms around her, wanting to know how she had come back, if she would stay, how long? And Kage told me she was only passing through, that she had an errand to run.

“I’m taking this kid home, ” she told me. And I saw she was with a small, red-haired boy. He was wearing a styrofoam pith helmet, and clinging to Kage’s hand.

I have never had a dream like that before, not in all my life. But though I’m unfamiliar with portents and visitations, I can sure as hell see them when they come up and sit down beside me.

Good journey, Mr. Brown. Your going tears holes in what’s left of my heart, but you have a good guide.

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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18 Responses to Season of Change

  1. Mark says:

    It’s good to know he left with a friend… Doubtless they are somewhere pleasant, drinking gin with other members of the fair eternal.

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  2. As soon as I heard of Kevin’s passing, my *secondmost* response was “OHMYGODHASKATHLEENHEARD???!!!”. By the time I rolled on the scene, “the prim had receded” to quote the King, but there were still sparkles here and there, mostly in the twinkles of the eyes. Your eyes, Kage’s, Gillan’s, David Springhorn’s, and naturally, Kevin’s. They were definitely in his eyes, as well as sprinkled throughout his beard I think… I never knew him well, but oh Lord did I know what he was, and what a presence he was. My love to you, and to your peers who built a dream out of dust, burlap, love and whiskey. Thank you and Kage for being the storytellers and truthsayers, and always taking me along for our rides through history, theater, fellowship, and load-bearing burlap.

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  3. Lynn says:

    Knowing Kevin had a good guide makes me feel better about this, yet another major loss of friend/co-worker. There’s a quartet of gin and music: Kage, Kevin, Ricker and Cheryl.

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    • Kate says:

      You told me to expect stuff like this.

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      • Athene says:

        Mostly I’m right about this stuff. Even when I don’t want to be. Also, Kevin didn’t drink gin. Vodka martini, dirty, in case anyone pops around in the netherland between waking and sleeping and wants to know…

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      • Kate says:

        Athene – I know. But I don’t drink vodka. G&T’s have been my major hot weather drink at Faire that isn’t a beer for … oh, several decades. What I really WANT tonight, though, is room temperature Bass Ale, gently flavoured with dust retardant and hay …

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  4. Bill Batty says:

    Thank you as ever for continuing to write in this realm Kathleen. Like so many today I’m more than a bit stunned in the wake of Kevin’s passing. I never knew that he was the template that Kage used for Victor but it definitely fits.

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  5. Holly D says:

    Oh dear, I just burst into tears at my desk. Thank you for sharing this little bit of magic with us.

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  6. Larry H says:

    Well written. I cried all over again. Thank you for the magic.

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  7. Pax says:

    Tears all over again. That was an amazing portent, and worthy of the man. Thank you Mother.

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  8. Janet Winter says:

    Thank you so much for helping add another dimension to the Kevin I knew, worked with and worshiped at the feet of through our many years at the Faire. He was well beloved.

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  9. Luisa Puig Duchaineau says:

    I can ‘see’ Kage leading the child, Kevin, and helping him on his way. God/dess bless her for helping him on this journey. I know they will both welcome us to the table when our journeys go there.

    Thank you so much, Kathleen. I can never really say (or write) how much your carrying on the tales means to me.

    All I can really do right now is just give you a teary, cyber hug and love.

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  10. Anna Benincasa says:

    So beautifully written. Thank you.

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  11. Greg Bell says:

    Thanks, Kate, for this missive. It does my heart good to know Kevin had Kage as a guide to ‘the other side.’ The more to welcome us when we set out for the undiscovered country…

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  12. Chris Springhorn says:

    Thank you Kathleen. Perhaps now I can sleep.

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  13. Neassa says:

    Dear Kathleen, my heart hurts for you and all his loved ones, and for all of us blessed, amused and challenged by his astounding performances. We will miss him in the Parlour this year.

    I’m glad Kage managed to stop and visit, even if all too briefly.

    All my love,
    Neassa

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