Kage Baker actually enjoyed the processes of editing and re-writing.
She had expected to hate them. (I had expected her head to explode.) But what happened was that she happily accepted direction, correction and changes. In fact, she said she enjoyed the process of re-writing; all the real work had been finished, she said, and it was relaxing to just polish the results.
Since I had long been the only person she suffered to read her work, I was astonished. I really had thought she would have a hard time letting an editor tell her what to do, no matter how gently. But in that, Kage was blessed with some remarkable editors. Chief among them were Gardner Dozois, who is a god among editors, for Kage’s short stories; and then Michael Kandel,Marty Halpern and David Hartwell for many of the novels. Michael was Kage’s editor for the first three Company novels, and David oversaw the resurrection of the Company series at Tor Books; Marty has stepped in on so many of Kage’s books since then – mostly for Golden Griffin, Subterranean and Tachyon – that I’m not even sure which ones he did. But all of them are gentlemen of the first water, who dealt kindly with Kage and taught her invaluable things.
Along the way, they taught me, too; because I went over the changes they wanted with Kage, and served as her sounding board when she worked out how to accomplish them. At the very, very beginning, I read the edits and translated them to Kage. She was too wrought up to read them herself. Ultimately, she came to trust her editors and would read their notes herself, if she knew them well. But if she didn’t … that was my job, to paraphrase the editors’ plaints and prayers, and then translate Kage’s answers back into prose.
Now, of course, the whole thing is in my hands. I am favoured by fortune most extraordinarily in this, as I know the folks at both Subterranean and Tachyon; I’m used to them. And Marty is handling the copy edit for the new collection – so there am I lucky as well. When and if it comes to someone new – well, I’ll read my own notes (I’m tough enough for that) but if they render me insensible, I can always pass them on to Kimberly to tell me what to do. When you, Dear Readers, made suggestions on the beginning or “Pareidolia” (the portion that is now “Ikons In Babylon” and being redone as a stand alone ….) it was my friend Neassa who translated for me to figure out what Show, Don’t Tell meant. I recognized all the words but I couldn’t translate them into any language I knew.
That happens sometimes …
Every writer needs a Constant Reader, you see, someone to soothe and calm and (at need) whack them about the ears to keep them on track. Sisters are incomparable at this. I recommend the Bronte Model to any aspiring writer. Without Kimberly to urge me to keep writing, to make it possible for me to have a comfortable place in which to write, none of this would be possible. And if you’re low on literal sisters, you can always acquire one: my dear friend Neassa is an acquired sister, and she is nonpareil.
The only problem that has so far arisen is the unexpected pain. I am re-reading stories of Kage’s that – in some cases – I haven’t read in years. when Marty has a query for a specific tale, it would be wrong to rely on memory alone to answer the question and suggest a solution. I have to read the story. Sometimes, that hurts most amazingly.
Yestreday, I had to read “The Carpet Beds of Sutro Park”; hardly an onerous task, it’s only 3,700 words. But when I had finished it, I sent Marty his answer with tears dripping on the keyboard. Then I lay down and cried for half an hour. The heroine, Kristy Ann, is not Kage and when Kage wrote Kristy Ann’s ending, she had no idea she would herself die of cancer … but, you know, she did. And so Kristy Ann is very hard for me to take. It’s all the sorrow and despair of that night Kage died, forged like Gronw’s year-wrought spear to fly true and strike me at this impossible distance.
That’s the hardest thing. But I know it will happen, again and again. If the pain of missing Kage lets me carry on her work, then I don’t mind if the wound never heals. It reminds me I am still alive.