Kage Baker held obsession as an old friend.
She was much given to it – as a tool, as an escape, as a recreation. As an outre form of personal discipline. It was always her approach to any project. She felt the best results could be achieved by making what she had to do into what she ardently desired to do.
“In a perfect world, we’d all be given tasks we adore to make our living,” she observed. “But it’s not a perfect world, and we have to carry crap to get a paycheck. The best way to deal with it is to get really, really interested in handle design and the history of the bucket.”
That was what she was naturally inclined to do, anyway. When something intrigued Kage, she researched it long, high and wide. For instance, a type of pottery might grab her attention: she’d find out all there was to know about it, read all the books available, find ex-potters and interview them. She’d hunt down examples in antique and thrift stores, saving up for months sometimes to acquire a perfect piece. She’d track the history of the clay to the original quarry, and then go to the abandoned site of the original factory to sift through fallen bricks and the incoming tide for shards of rejected cups and tiles.
It was Catalina Island Pottery. And she really did all that, including hiking into the interior of the island in search of clay slicks and played-out cinnebar deposits … and we found ’em, too. Along with lots of other very peculiar things. The search went on for years, growing wider and stranger all the time; but eventually Kage had a nice little collection of Catalina Ware, and knew enough about the Island’s strange history to make it a central location in the Company series.
Every one of Kage’s novels was written in a state of white-hot obsession. Sometimes she had to provoke that high-focus attention, with immersive trips and research and brain-storming and evocative foods and signature candies; but usually, obsession was the natural course of an idea for her. She got that way on her own. “It’s a natural high, man,” she’d croak, and mime drawing on an imaginary joint until she hacked. Only Kage could get high on pretend pot …
It’s how she wrote so many novels and stories in her brief 13-year career. Laser focus, single-mindedness. Obsession. She had an FTL drive in her brain. Fire in the head, the Celts (and William Butler Yeats) called it. And when Kage was hunched over her keyboard, writing insanely, raking her hair into upstanding flames on her head – you’d believe that fire was burning its way right out of her skull.
Of course, there was a downside. Obsession could also suck her away from the writing; not often, but with an irresistible geas. It was usually research or video games, and the games were the worst. When a fit for Monkey Island took her, she’d play through all the games, one after the other, nor stop until it was complete. Old cartoons could do it, too, or the entire ouvre of a favoured actor. Did you know, Dear Readers, that Harry Houdini made movie serials? Well, he did. And I have seen every damned chapter.
I don’t have Kage’s focus, or her tendency to get shanghaied by her own obsessions. Nonetheless, the Irresistible Object can come roaring out the sky and plop down, flaming, in front of anyone from time to time. I’ve had a couple of those consuming my time and attention lately, and it’s just not been a productive week.
First, I have this ZIO cardiac monitor literally glued to my collarbone. It’s aqua-coloured soft plastic, and looks like a couple of gummy teething rings stuck together. It records whatever errata my heartbeat produces – oh, and I can press a button sunk into the squishy plastic to notate when I feel something funny. A palpitation, an incident of SOB, angina; presumably aliens in my chest cavity, or a sudden syncopation in my systolic beats would be included. I keep a log of what I notice, which will be synched to the record this doohickey is recording. After two weeks, I mail it to the lab for analysis.
I don’t know precisely what happens then. What I do know is that it pulls with every breath or movement, and cannot be ignored. The glue itches maddeningly. And I find myself anxiously aware of every heartbeat, every cramp in my left side, every hiccough. It can’t really be determined if I am obsessed or the ZIO is – it doesn’t make much difference, since the damned thing has taken over my life. And there’s still a week to go.
And it looks, as my dear nephew observed, like the worst Borg cosplay in the world.
Oh, and I have suddenly discovered a hitherto-overlooked television series: Sherlock. I am very fond of The Canon, and so very picky about dramatizations; I’ve ignored this show while most of my friends developed swoons over Cumberbatch. But since seeing The Desolation of Smaug, I must admit he has a marvellous voice … and Martin Freeman is adorable. Anyway, I finally gave in and began to watch episodes on my Amazon video feed.
Well, that was a stupid thing to do. Now I am hooked. The first night, I stayed up until 4:30 in the morning watching the first season repeatedly. Oh, the horror when I realized there were only 3 episodes per season! Who the hell came up with that one? It’s fiendishly cruel, and now I am rationing Season 2; which is equally, inhumanly brief. Last night, I watched A Scandal In Belgravia …
Oh. My. God.
Kage would be entranced. Feverishly enchanted; pulse-racing, pupil dilating, breath-catching fascinated.
Not to put too fine a point upon it … obsessed. And oh my goodness! So am I.