Kage Baker believed in dreams.
Every writer does; every writer of fiction, anyway. You have to believe in a dream with a certain precision, tenacity and detail in order to turn it into a story. And that’s pretty much what fiction is: whether it’s about the socio-sexual-political situation among intelligent molluscs on a planet orbiting Sirius, or the coming-of-age saga of your introduction to payroll taxes, it begins with a dream. A daydream, at the very least.
But Kage believed in dreams in a very old-fashioned way. Perhaps if she had not been so subject to repeating dreams, or vividly coloured dreams, or flat out prophetic dreams … but she was. Curiously, although she had unnervingly accurate dreams from earliest childhood, she never professed a belief in psychic abilities. She would roll her eyes and say solemnly: “I got the Sight. I’m psychotic.”
She told famously spot-on Tarot cards, too. On which her comment was always, “The cards never lie. The old gypsy woman, she’s full of shit: but the cards never lie.”
Nonetheless, Kage monitored her dreams closely. She thought about them. She recorded them, which was sometimes useful for story ideas; it’s a technique a lot more common among writers than is usually admitted, I bet. She would never tell a dream before breakfast, because somewhere she had formed the opinion that that would actually force it to come true – and since she didn’t always want that, she just refused to tell any. Not that that trick actually worked, exactly …
Kage thought it was what she talked about before breakfast that came real. It wasn’t. It was what she wrote about.
Have you ever become interested in something – something new and unknown to you – and then suddenly found yourself bombarded with references to it? Almost everyone has, once or twice – you’ve never heard of, say, Variated Coloured Katydids, and then you get pictures, emails and articles from National Geo all over the place in one week. (Try this on Google Images – you will find green, white, yellow, blue, khaki and hot pink. Really.) Like that: only with Kage, it happened with all sorts of topics; and they were often ones she brought up herself in her stories.
It went far beyond the stories Kage wove around the finding of “lost” animals, art and cities. It was the verification of things she made up in the first place.
Her vision of the future in the UK was so peculiar when first published that some British fans asked her what she had against England. Absolutely nothing – it was merely what she feared would happen to a place she loved. The demented progress of the Nanny State has developed in the last 20 years into a frighteningly close approximation of Kage’s satiric critique; I found a reference only today about a woman in Britain whose child was taken from her in a forced Caesarian when she was diagnosed with panic attacks … and look at the recent revelations about the habits of PETA, if you think Beast Liberation is only a product of Kage’s fevered brain.
Not to mention the amazing things of which chocolate is now suspected.
I must admit, I’m impatiently waiting for fusion power and anti-gravity to surface. My hopes are bolstered by the continuing progress in artificial intelligence, cybernetic augmentation and the unfolding history of water on Mars. Those are all subjects dear to Kage’s heart. And at my last count (only last week!), 4 new species of human have been added to Homo sapiens’ family tree: something Kage was sure was the case. For all I know, the Little Stupid Guys are still out there in their hollow hills, raising their rare daughters to shake up human society in unimagined ways.
That last would be neat. It’s exciting just to find out that there are purple squirrels and giant fruit bats and two species of tigrino (I didn’t even know there was one); that Europa has warm geysers taller than its atmosphere; and that there really is water at the bottom of the ocean. Every little bizarre factoid that gets revealed is like a note from Kage.
And that’s a dream I really wish were real.