Kage Baker held two equal and peculiar convictions about me in our life. They were the sort of convictions that only a sibling can hold and maintain in the face of ongoing life experiences.
The first was that I badly needed a keeper. I was an accident-magnet, and needed someone to protect me from myself. She had an utter faith in my bravery, self-confidence, and tendency to walk off the edges of cliffs while following a star or a rare bird. Those who know me well must admit there’s something to this theory.
On the other hand, Kage was convinced I could do most anything if I set my mind to it. She absolutely supported me in anything I tried; she was always sure I would find a way to get us out of any trouble that found us. I just had to be watched to make sure I didn’t cut my foot off by accident while wielding some heroic blade in defense of Truth and Justice.
Curiously, she had no such faith in herself. She thought of herself as incompetent and cowardly,and never realized the enormous lottery she had won single-handedly by becoming a published writer. Kage never saw that as an accomplishment, exactly: it was just what she had to do, what she wanted to do with all her heart: and Kage never, ever gave up on what she wanted.
I don’t think she ever realized the depth of her own talent, or what it meant to her fans. Not even when, in the last months of her life, I had a dozen letters every day to read aloud to her from worried fans. They told her how they loved her work, how it meant something special to them; how such and such a tale had helped them in a tight spot or gave them inspiration or even changed their lives …
“I write fairy tales, for God’s sake,” she said one evening.
I was reading her (no kidding) a single mother’s explanation of how the travails of Emma in The Hotel Under The Sand had thrilled her recently-fatherless daughters. The lady was writing to thank Kage for giving Emma a happy ending without magically reversing her losses. Emma went on through her troubles to eventual joy in a new life. That hit her daughters with the ring of truth and reality, and did more to convince them that happy endings can happen than a platoon of faerie godmothers could have.
The family was on their second reading aloud of the book.
I was reading the letter through snuffly tears. Kage, as pale as her pillows, lay there with a ferocious scowl on her face, too weak to even turn over on her own. She had thirteen days to live that night, though neither of us knew it.
“Still – that lady got the point. And her little girls, too. They understand what the story’s about,” Kage said finally. And she grinned. “So I guess my life had a point after all.”
“Your life has about a thousand points, you jerk,” croaked I, the constant comforter.
“Yeah, but getting an idea through to three strangers on a printed page? That’s a good one,” she said. “You’ll find out, when I’m gone.”
“You are not going anywhere!’ I insisted. (I lettered in debate. You can tell, Dear Readers, can’t you? That piercing argument and all.)
“Oh, screw you,” said Kage. “I got the Sight and I tell you: you’ll pick things up when I drop. Now read me another letter, please.”
That was her determined wish. It was her conviction – when (if) she died, I was to keep the stories going. And I would do well, because that was the way she wanted it. She wasn’t worried at all about how it would all happen – she just knew it would, believed I would accomplish what she had planned. Of course, selling books and stories is a little harder than building a Victorian Parlour in a cow barn …
But not to Kage.
So I’m stuck with what she planned, and was firmly convinced would happen. And, to my continuing amazement, we’re already on Phase Two of her Famous Plan and so far it’s working. Nell Gwynne II will be released December 31st, and the publisher just emailed me that my copies – author’s copies! – are on the way to me. And I am even now embroiled in hacking out the plot of a new Company story, to enrich a new collection hopefully coming out next spring.
It’s about icons, Joseph and Lewis, Constantinople and Hollywood, See’s Chocolates and tree rats. I think it’s called “Pareidolia”. I think I can glimpse Kage nodding approvingly when I labor over the notes these past 3 or 4 days, so I guess it’ll happen.
She told me so.