Kage Baker will have been dead 4 years as of 1:15 tomorrow morning, a time and date yet to come. Just barely, but at this moment it is still a nebulous unknown; a figment of horological patterning that doesn’t quite exist.
The date and the hour, though, arrive behind an enormous bow-wave. It’s like the searing heat and exotic radiations of a nova blasting through space, destruction galloping ahead of the actual light. By the time the light of a nova blooms in the night sky – a supernal white blossom outshining, for a brief time, the whole of galaxies – the edge of the conflagration has long since passed the observer. But if the distance and the angle and the timing are just right (which means, in this context, appallingly wrong) that observer will have been incinerated by those advance riders. They’ll never see the eventual light, but will have been reduced to wisps of organic ash in the solar wind. It’s all rather romantic, in a deeply morbid way; though not so much to the randomly placed world that might have been swept into sterility by someone else’s cataclysm.
Kage’s death comes at me like that.
But that’s life in the big Universe.
As a matter of fact, a perfectly respectable little nova has just become visible via telescope in galaxy Messier 82. Also known (uninspiredly) as the Cigar Galaxy, it can be seen in the constellation of Ursa Major, also known as the Great Bear. Or, if your granddad was from Britain, the Great Wain. Messier 26 is one of the “stars” that make it up to the naked eye. Right now, one single star is burning as brightly as the whole freaking galaxy, at least through a telescope.
You can get a good look through a 4-inch telescope; in all likelihood, you will be able to see it through a pair of decent binoculars before it fades completely. Go out and look North and a little East, after 7 or 8 PM. It’s only 11,420,000 light years away.
We’re not in any danger from the heart-hollowing fire of the star’s death. We’ll only see its light. And the dust of its passing will settle somewhere and maybe seed a new world with gold and silver and salt and iron, and have another go at making life. That’s how things work.
Like that distant star, Kage is dead; the news of her death comes from farther away each year. It’s never diminished for me, though. It’s a wide wave front that rolls over me from that event, and I don’t think it will ever stop washing round my feet. The sands under me shift constantly, and will never be quite as firm again; this tide never rolls out as far as it rolled in.
But today our agent Linn called me – some lady wants to buy a marketing option, to try and sell the Company stories as a television series. I said YES, of course; selling options on stories is like selling gypsy horses, you see. You can take the buyer’s gold, and like as not the dear horse will come trotting back after a while, happy to be in his own stall again and eager to be sold to the next hopeful gorgio … it’s an industry that delighted Kage no end.
And I found that Linn, being caught between assistants, had not gotten the story nor the novel I sent her. And – lovely to hear! – she wants very much to see them! So I sent them off again, and got confirmation back at once that, this time, they had arrived.
And I’ve worked the bugs out of the timeline for Marswife, so I can proceed with something like a plot and even recognize some of the characters through the red, red dust.
An explosion, a distant light, a wave of star dust curling over us like a comber full of gold. Somewhere a new world is planted with the seeds of diamonds, and in our own sky a million dust motes burn like quick candles and form raindrops round themselves. So life goes on.
Now I’m going to sit here a while, Dear Readers, and watch the clocks tick over to 1:15 on January 31st. Rest well, everyone.