Peculiar Personal Apects of Writing III

Kage Baker felt that the edges of her mind were … permeable. She believed that the non-corporeal aspect of mind – as opposed to the corporeal one of brain – was not entirely secure in her case.

This sort of thing has usually been firmly disavowed by the philosophies of the world, which have mostly regarded the phenomenon of the “open” mind a privilege of the deliberately enlightened. Those who were able to pierce the veil were rare, special; it took specific masteries and mysteries to achieve it, whether you are subscribing to the effects of the Rosary or Zen Masterhood.

Kage paid no attention to the disclaimers. They weren’t relevant to what was happening in her head. It is worthy of note that  often those who don’t play by the local rules of Enlightenment are the ones who achieve it. Usually to the accompaniment of a chorus of disapproving denial. Kage said going for the arts was always safer than espousing religion or philosophy – a writer or a painter can be written off as nuts by the neighborhood shamans, and not risk the fate of Jesus. Or Tommy.

So she evolved her own theories about her mind, and what went in and out of it, and mostly kept them to herself. The analogy she most often used to me was that the windows were all open in the attic of her mind, and other people were constantly leaving their stuff there. Kage always maintained that half of what she wrote was not composed, but remembered; and she was always surprised at what she found up there in her mind among the trunks and bags.

She didn’t place much faith in the inviolability of the brain-blood barrier, either. That had been considered as uncrossable as the gap between the Moon and the Earth – well, (so Kage observed), we all know what happened to that. Every year or so, medical research adds something else to the list of substances that do actually flit unconcernedly across the brain-blood barrier. Some of the more interesting ones are cells from the children a woman carries, which show up especially well when she has conceived sons …

One of the other things that crosses, of course, is cancer. That’s how Kage died of a rare uterine cancer in her brain. As she herself commented, “What a joker, that God, huh?”

Before that unfortunate event, Kage and I had sort of semi-demi-hemi claimed that – due to the bicamerality of the brain – we constituted one total well-equipped brain between us. This is based on the then-standard idea that left-handed people had a dominant right brain, and right-handed people had  a dominant left brain: she and I being, respectively, left and right handed (and right and left brained) therefore could combine our native talents into ONE AMAZING 100% FUNCTIONAL BRAIN!!!! (Cue the theramin music.)

However, this now turns out to be an example of what the Guardian is calling “Folk Neurology”. These are charming little fables and urban myths, things that “everyone” knows – and that are dead wrong. The Guardian article in the link below explains this phenomenon:

Folk neurology. Huh. I know how Kage would feel about this – about the way she felt about The Illuminated Masters, secret creeds, and the blood-brain barrier, that’s how. She would roll her eyes – and she had a killer eye roll; she had a slight strabismus, which let her roll her eyes like dear old Robert Newton. She would be scornful. She would not rant against it – she was much too ladylike to do that sort of thing – but she would quietly cast her own opinion in solid neutronium and set it up warningly on the front lawn of her life. That’s a complicated metaphor, Dear Readers, but I am sure you can figure out what it means – especially if you’ve met Kage.

I don’t quite believe it either. Medical science is always confidently positing some anatomical absurdity, like the brain being nothing but a filter and cooler for the blood. Or the heart powering only the lungs. Or (Kage’s favourite, and mine, too) that the uterus was a mobile organ, and would scurry about the body like a demented possum, wreaking havoc. Kage said it explained the tumour in her brain, except that her uterus had been evicted before the tumour was found; but maybe it left the tumour there on one of its unauthorized perambulations.

Anyway: despite the reverend wisdom of the Guardian, I have no doubt Kage and I shared a brain. Why else would I feel like a lobotomy survivor, except that half my brain is missing? Or maybe we were just both halfwits, and it never showed when we could remain in close proximity to one another. It’s awfully hard to write like this.

How does one precipitate phantom limb syndrome? I need a phantom Kage.

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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2 Responses to Peculiar Personal Apects of Writing III

  1. Allison says:

    Speaking of writing….Short but sweet mention in Locus Magazine’s. New and Notable Books / March:
    Kage Baker & Kathleen Bartholomew, Nell Gwynne’s on Land and at Sea (Subterranean Press Dec 2012)

    The ladies of the upscale Victorian brothel (and front for a secret spy organization) Nell Gwynne’s take a summer vacation by the sea, but instead of relaxation, they find intrigue in the form of a scheming American with a dangerous plot. This novella in the late Kage Baker’s Company series was completed by the author’s sister. ‘‘The story is madcap… steampunk science fiction reduced (or should I say elevated?) to the level of opera buffa…. Baker was a true ornament to our field. She is sorely missed, and all praise isdue to her sister… for preserving and enhancing her heritage.’’ [Richard A. Lupoff]


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