Kage Baker, like most writers, kept an eye on several topics in news and research. Being a science fiction writer, a lot of them were science aggregators; for the same reason, others were purveyors of Weird News.
The eyes were usually mine. Kage had sites she checked regularly (Pirates. Also ghosts, sasquatches, and old candies) but that was for personal giggles; the hard science and the weirder news were usually my responsibility – I was her clipping service. When I found something interesting, I alerted her. She’d add it to whatever was currently frothing around in her head, and then wait to see what bubbled up …
That was the root of “The Bohemian Astrobleme”. And the room temperature superconductor gittite, in “The Unfortunate Gitt”. Kage’s fascination with Mount Everest provided the plot point of low-oxygen-induced sterility in Empress of Mars. My interests in textile history led to the carbon fibre corset stays in Nell Gwynne II.
Since you never know what will spark an idea or connect the first links in a logic chain, it was Kage’s method to keep looking everywhere, all the time, at everything. She said it was the antithesis of Sherlock Holmes’ metaphor of the mind as lumber room – store in it only what you need, he said, and ruthlessly toss the rest. Kage said, No, keep everything you find and move it around constantly to see what becomes visible.
She didn’t think much , either, of the famous statement: “Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever is left, no matter how improbable, is the truth”. Her disdain for that arose from her conviction that you never could eliminate the impossible – that was a task beyond the human brain. If you ever decided you had succeeded in doing so, you were a victim of your own limited viewpoint – because there was always something else just waiting for a space in the queue on belief to open up. Whatever you thought you had eliminated just made room for another ‘impossible’ thing.
“Artichokes! Penicillin! Flint and steel! Solid circuits!” she would enumerate, hands flying in animated discourse. “Somebody gave up and tried the impossible, and changed the world!”
Lots of you, Dear Readers, send me such goodies nowadays, and they are always appreciated. Some of them have already crept into stories here and there. More of them will, too.
Now, just at this moment, I am looking around and realizing I need to settle down and do some work, fast and hard. I just got the copy edited pages for Company of Thieves, and the ever-patient Jill at Tachyon wants them back in a reasonable amount of time. I lost Monday to the new Steven King – it was grand, too, but not even glorious reading gets my own parsnips properly buttered … plus, I stayed awake until 4 AM to finish it, and was thus walking into walls a lot yestreday on Tuesday.
And today – why, I do not know; it was not the most sensible thing to do – I went prowling through the dim caves and orchid-scented clearings of the Interwebs to find strange articles. For your amusement, Dear Readers, they are listed below – they entertained me, they may entertain you. I miss having someone to share these with, which is why I like it so much when one of you sends me something.
So take a gander. Glass is not a liquid after all, which would have disappointed Kage; though maybe its actual status as an amorphous supercooled non-crystalline solid would have been as fascinating.
There’s a vortex in Brighton – Kage expected those in beach towns and wrote about them more than once. Brighton’s would only have gotten a wise nod from her. Atoms switching bonds actually do look like Tinkertoys. Another extinct amphibian is actually not – some Company dude or dudette got to clean out the vivarium tanks in their bathroom, I suspect. And there is a site on line where you can wander through endless random doorways …
I already have an idea for that last one. Nothing like having to copy-edit something to make a story idea pop up. In the meantime, folks, enjoy!