Kage Baker loathed endings. She avoided them whenever possible.
She liked long, long movies. And she liked to watch a film several times in close sequence. The invention of DVDs was made for someone like Kage, who could happily watch a favourite film over and over and over. When entire television series became available on disk, she went nuts with delight – finally, she could sink into a series and float along for its entire length. She loved the REPEAT functions on record players, tape players, cassette players, CD players … put an album on, whatever was her favoured one that moment, and set the play function to Forever.
She came by the habit honestly. Momma used to do the same thing, even back when the only available medium was brittle varnish records made for needle-and-groove playback at 78 RPM. She was once kicked out of her apartment – which was, oddly, in the same Hollywood Hills neighborhood Kage and I lived in for 20-odd years – for playing the 1812 Overture (with a chorus of real cannon!) over and over. And again. And then once more.
Kage thought Momma’s broadcasting antics were completely logical. It was only my insistence on turning the sound down that prevented the same thing from happening to us once in a while. Though a patient downstairs neighbor – nice Irish gentleman – once did ask if we could please not play Rule, Brittannia quite so much: it was not his fave rave tune, and our recording was really weird … when I explained it was not a recording but a parrot, he just sighed and asked if we could try teaching him A Nation Once Again, or something.
Her first writing attempts were fanfic – though the term did not yet exist, and what she wanted was more Melendy books, Edward Eager stories, or a longer ending to The Jungle Book. And a single issue of Martian Manhunter with which she was inexplicably enamoured. She wanted more of the stories she liked – Momma, who was a good reader but needed time to paint, told Kage she’d have to write them herself if she wanted them so badly.
So that’s what Kage did.
I think Kage’s determined opposition to entropy was something formed at a cellular level. She hated to have things end; she didn’t believe that the Arrow of Time runs in only one direction – that, she maintained, was an artifact of our eyes-forward sensory input. Of course, her eyes didn’t do that – face forward, that is; and she claimed it let her see how the ripples and whirlpools and fish ladders and otter slides and abandoned boogie boards and lost rubber horsie-floats actually moved in the matrix of Time.
This, after all, was a woman whose effort to write a trilogy turned into 8 novels.
She put people and things she loved in those books, too; what she loved best, she made immortal. Kage felt better if she could write happier endings for what and who she loved: she was aware the solutions were just fiction – after all, it was fiction she wrote – but she said it was a loss coping mechanism. A lot of writers insert cameos into their book; and, as Kage righteously pointed out, hers were a lot friendlier than Dante Alighieri’s consigning all the people he didn’t like to Hell.
This has all come into my mind because I’ve had an uncomfortable and tiring week. I keep falling asleep – a wise friend has informed me that naps are how a wonky heart strives to reset itself; so I should be glad it’s the narcolepsies rather than that hollow just-missed-a-beat sensation in my chest. And tomorrow I shall go whine at my cardiologist, so he can fine tune my meds again.
Also, I’ve been reading a book about the warming, de-oxygenating and acidification of the oceans. I’m not sure why I’m reading it, but … It’s a corker of a book, about all the horrible things happening under the surface of the sea. Many of them are amazing. One of them is the conversion of fishery after fishery to barren ghostlands populated only by enormous and steadily increasing shoals of jellyfish. Which are of no commercial use, in case you didn’t know, and are also – despite their gauzy appearance – ruthless and effective predators. If you want some really scary reading, take a look at Sting by Lisa Ann Gershwin.
And the Western Black Rhino has been declared officially extinct. It’s old news, apparently originally released in 2011, but I only found out today. Doesn’t make them any less dead, of course.
Somewhere out in the emptiness of the Wazo National Park, though, Nefer is standing by a boma watching this spring’s calves frolic around their mothers. Rhinos don’t really frolic for shit, and even the babies are astoundingly ugly – but Nefer loves hoof-stock. So she’s the best guardian for them.
And Kage was right. Again. It does make one feel a tiny, tiny bit better.