Tandem Synapses

Kage Baker maintained that we – she and I – shared a brain. She was left-handed, I am right-handed; together, she reasoned, we were one fairly competent brain.

Our friends and family, I think, were willing to accept the idea that it took the pair of us to make up one brain. It was generally considered that, on our own, neither one of us could find useful portions of our anatomy with both hands and a Google map.

I believe various parental units were astonished when Kage actually left home – not only because it hadn’t been expected she would, as they say now, launch; but because she was the first one to do so. It was always a source of wonderment to some older relatives as the years rolled on and we appeared to be successful adults – Momma, I know for a fact, thought we were more like Laverne and Shirley (or Thelma and Louise) and was always on alert for the moment when we’d get tired of “playing house” and end up in jail or an asylum or a convent. When Momma died, she made each of us promise to take care of the other. We’d at least won her confidence to the point where she believed we could manage as a team.

If nowhere else, that symbiosis was used in Kage’s writing. When she needed extra brain power, she claimed, all she had to do was hook up her own brain in sequence with mine. The brain storming that underlay every one of her novels and stories was how we did it. Long hours tossing ideas back and forth, trying out story lines and characters; psycho-babbling and taking parts and arguing imaginary histories and fantastic technologies until something cohesive arose stood free of all the murk.

“Like the primordial island rising from the retreating ooze of chaos,” I opined once.

“Eeeuw,” replied Kage. “Less ooze, more ideas, please.”

She was right, of course. Sticky icky horror was never anything she wanted to write. Even when she did break down and write a Cthulu pastiche, Pismo Beach and chowder and beach-front buskers got mixed in.

Anyway, running our two brains in harness was how Kage processed the final stages of research into writing. I have all the notes she wrote down from those sessions; I have all the memories of having done it in my mind.

And this last week, I’ve been trying to explain this in an interview with the charming Stefan Raets, of  http://farbeyondreality.com/  . Stefan is a science fiction and fantasy reviewer, and has been interviewing me via email this week. He sends me well-thought-out questions, and has been very kind about accepting my verbose explanation of how Kage wrote. His focus has been largely on the “how and why”, and on Nell Gwynne and the Company series. It promises to be a very nice interview, and I’ll be happily blatting its publication date as soon as I know it.

It’s really made me think about how Kage did what she did, and how she included me. That matters an enormous lot to me, engaged now in trying to hack more of her stories out of the slowly-hardening wax of memory. (Hopefully with less purple prose than that last bit of description …) Consequently, Dear Readers, I am taking off this weekend and heading to Pacific Grove, where I shall immure myself in a Victorian B&B for a writing weekend.  It’s what Kage used to do when she really needed to work, and it’s where we used to go for her to do it. I’ve finally worked up the courage to try it myself …

It’ll be weird as hell to be there without her. I’m fetching knitting, too, in case my Muse deserts me totally for the local bars. And the heroic Neassa is meeting me there, so I don’t just cut and run when faced with trying to write where Kage found so much inspiration.

I’ll let you know how it’s going, Dear Readers, as it goes along. In the meantime – keep your eyes peeled for Mr. Raets’ upcoming interview, and light a candle for Neassa’s patience.

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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11 Responses to Tandem Synapses

  1. johnbrownson says:

    I don’t know. I rather liked “…the slowly hardening wax of memory”. I hope you and Neassa have a lovely time together. If you want a decent bar, though, you’ll probably have to head into Monterey.
    Love- Buff


  2. Kate says:

    Well, what the audience likes cannot be wrong! Neassa, bless her heart, does not drink – but there are several nice bars in Monterey, and even more restaurants with good bars. Oh, and hotels, too. And all of them have the sort of musical comedy drinks Kage liked … me, I like brown booze.


  3. Kate says:

    Oh, and I almost forgot! The wonderful Forge in the Forest in Cambria – good wine, decent beer, interesting cocktails, and killer garlic fries, in a setting right out of “Bird of the River”. Great place!“““


  4. Persephone says:

    Good luck! I hope you have a wonderful time. Find your muse and channel your sister for company.


  5. Neassa says:

    Killer garlic fries and “Bird of the River” sounds good to me. I’ve been looking forward to this trip for weeks and the only patience I’ll need is between now and Friday afternoon…


  6. Medrith says:

    Whoa, if a lefty and a righty add up to a functioning brain, a bothy like me should be SO efficient! Where are my glasses, and have you seen my coffee anywhere? Have an excellent weekend!


    • Kate says:

      You’d think ambidextery would be the best of all, wouldn’t you? I don’t know .. maybe the placement of the corpus callosum makes a difference. I don’t think our virtual brain had one. When that happens in a real brain, the brain usually finds a new path to allow communication between the two paths – I thinks ours was routed through the giggle centers …

      Kathleen kbco.wordpress.com


  7. Have fun in Pacific Grove, I lived there in 1968/9 after I got back from Viet Nam. No liquor there then, It was an oddly dry town, due to its religious founding, with failing restaurants. One went to Monterey or Carmel where one could get a drink with dinner.


  8. Kate says:

    I think of you, Stephen, whenever I am there – it must have been a lovely place to spend your post-active duty. The restaurants have improved considerably, by the way.


  9. Devin Helmen says:

    Hi Kate
    I have been following your blog since I discovered it, at least a year ago, and very much enjoying it. I am SO GLAD that you are carrying on Kage’s stories!
    I am a spinner and would love to send you a couple of hanks of handspun yarn to work with if ever inspiriation flags for a bit. How can I send this to you?


    • Kate says:

      Devin – so sorry, my email filters sent your email to my “knitting” folder and I didn’t see it until today. My gosh, what a wonderful offer! Especially to a hand knitter who is fighting writer’s block … knitting is my “alternate creativity” of choice. Are you sure? Because hand knit … well, that’s a huge expenditure of your creativity. If you are sure, though … I’ll send you my mailing address via private email. Wow!


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