Kage Baker made some pretty elaborate plans for what I should do with my life after she died. Some of them I have only discovered well afterwards.
Most of her motive, I am sure, was natural sisterly concern for me as a survivor – we’d been one another’s primary support systems for a long, long time. Some of it, though, I am equally sure, was her deep conviction that – although I was quite intelligent – I had no common sense and should not be running around without a keeper. She was probably right. I’m pretty sure Kimberly agrees.
One of the things Kage told me, over and over, was not to try to live alone – I’d forget to pay the bills, or eat, or something. I would die and mummify; or worse, do it the other way around : I’d be found dead amid a sea of books, with an empty coffee cup beside me and dust on my staring eyeballs …
She told me not to stay in our old apartment, either, but to light out for somewhere with no ghosts. Even though that is what I did – I was back in Los Angeles within a month – I didn’t understand for some time what Kage had meant. Only when I realized that I could only remember her alive here; that I could only see her young, and strong, and madly in love with the world – only then did I figure out why she’d sent me home. If I had tried to live these last 4 years in Pismo Beach, I would have shrivelled, like the Little Mermaid, into strands of sea foam and blown away on the waves.
Don’t pick out your own clothes! warned Kage. You’ve got the taste of a four-year old. Cruel but true, that – but Kimberly picks out most of my clothes, so I only display my appalling taste at home, while I’m writing. Or at science fiction conventions, where my fondness for Gothic black and Hawaiian shirts is de rigueur.
Put your books away occasionally, or they’ll collapse on you! was another good order. She was a fine one to talk – I could have built her a tomb out of her own books – but I have managed to prevent my living space from murdering me. The best aspect of this is that I have acquired a Kindle! My books now reside largely in the aether, and I can carry hundreds of them with me in convenient L-space.
Write. I know you can write. You better write! Kage told me. It’s more than I know, but so far she is seemingly correct. I haven’t written as much as I think I should, but I do write. My name is on published works. I dream of plots. I’m wearing the “e” off the computer keyboard that was new 4 years ago.
Kage said she would haunt me if I didn’t obey her orders and write. I admit to being tempted, too. But I couldn’t resist writing; I think she knew that, knew that I would be too selfish to try and hold the stories to ransom. After all, she produced some of them. (Lots of them. As long as we’re being honest.) I want to see them as much as anyone else. And also, the act of writing itself is more than I can resist – and Kage knew that, too, although I hadn’t put pen to paper in a decade before she got sick. She knew that old solitary habit was just waiting, and that before long I would find a quiet place and indulge the sweet, sweet vice again.
Kage made it easy on me, though. She told me to do it. She let me pretend I was doing it as a favour to her, out of loving memory, as a tribute or something. But, Dear Readers, it hasn’t been. I write because nothing else is so fine, so satisfying. Nothing matters but the work – true enough. But you know what? I don’t care! I don’t write because I have to, but because it give me joy.
I haven’t written anything here for a week, which is shameful. I apologize, Dear Readers. But that little contretemp regarding Company of Thieves has been settled with less sturm und drang than expected; none of your copies will be rarities, I am afraid, but none of them will be tracked down and seized, either. And a few days ago, I got an invitation to submit a story of Kage’s to a podcast due to air in March – stories about aliens, by women, to be read aloud. So I’ve been pondering what of Kage’s might do.
I settled on either “Indian Tony” or “Pueblo, CO Has The Answers”. But I did wish there was something new – and after staying up too late reading through Kage’s notes and Steven J. Gould’s Wonderful Life, about the Cambrian Explosion and the Burgess Shale … I had a dream and woke up with an idea.
For the last 3 days I have been writing frantically. The finished product has been run through the assessing eyes of Kimberly and Neassa, relying on Kage’s own method of using as beta readers one’s sisters and sister/analogs. Besides, they can both spell much better than I can.
And, behold! It was accomplished. The story is done and has been sent out, and we will see if the podcast people want it. And if they don’t, we’ll see how the magazines might feel. I know how I feel. Satisfied.
I think Kage might be, too.
Glad you’ve gotten yourself over the “I’m not a writer” bump in the road. It’s one of those things people can tell you and tell you (in the affirmative), but until you claim it for yourself the tattoo washes right off.
And it gives me chills when I read Lawrence Block in his blog talking about retiring, ” . . . having come to that age when one is advised against purchase of green bananas.” Yeah, like he’ll ever quit having ideas . . . and you’ve got Joseph and Ermenwyr to contend with. Those two, quiet? Never!
Ermenwyr alone could keep an author alive and sleepless with his adventures. Those two guys have kept me company for years, and I doubt they’re going to settle down any time soon.
Your sister was right: you don’t want to end up crushed by a collapsing mountain of books, your mummified corpse found amid a litter of empty tuna fish cans, unpaid bills, and sundry squalor.
Because that shit really happens. One of my mother’s favorite cautionary tales, riight up there with “Don’t ever ride in a convertible because you’ll get your head chopped off just like Jayne Mansfield” was “Clean your room, so you don’t end up like the Collyer brothers.”
As far as I can tell, Homer and Langley Collyer were America’s first publicly recognized hoarders.
And yeah, nothing beats writing. It’s magic.
Kage was tremendously moved by the tale of Collyer brothers. They were so clearly trying to take care of one another under the weight of a dreadful compulsion, and they ended so sadly.