Kage Baker, for all that she lived largely in her fantastically furnished mind, liked tangible links to things.
To reality, if she had already established that a particular reality was acceptable and should be maintained. But if not reality, then some phantasmal bit of architecture that she could designate as reality. Then she would scour the worlds to possess physical reminders of its existence. Anchors, links, talismans – just, you know, fabulous things that evoked a particular world for her. Sometimes these were classical objects like jewels, books, maps, pictures; sometimes they were a time, or a light on the sea, or a specific angle of NNW on a road in April where silver lupin bloomed no less than 20 feet away …
Dwarves and elves had nothing on Kage for specificity of time and place.
All of this was in service of the stories, and their casts. Kage needed to invoke a world totally in order to write about it – she defined what that totality could be, and how little of it we could get away with in order for her to bring more of it to life. Wherever a red wine and a good pizza are gathered, she sometimes intoned, there are also gathered the Children of the Sun. True, usually – but sometimes that pizza had to be cooked on Catalina Island or in Pacific Grove; or summoned – somehow! – to be eaten hot in the fields of wild oats 100 feet above the surf at Plasket Creek. And it was.
Kage had cups she drank out of while she wrote about specific people; food she prepared to eat while writing of special places. Sometimes the place she wanted to use didn’t exist where she wanted it, or even at all anymore: no problem, she’d shift a restaurant or an inn or a Vista Point anywhere, as long as she had the drink or snack or incense or plastic action figure that typified it in her mind. And anyway, all Vista Points are connected to one another through R-Space; park in one, you get free parking forever in all the others, no matter where they are.
While Kage wrote about time travel, and had to eventually invent some machinery and mathematics to explain it – her own heart did not believe it really worked that way. Not until she came up with the way to free Mendoza from Time, which turned out to be suspiciously spiritual and practically require sex with Alec or Nicholas or Edward Alton Bell-Fairfax … that was how she thought Time was actually turned on God’s Big Bow-lathe, and how she thought it should be travelled, too. And then all those magic items she had designated – all her Time festishes, as she admitted once – came into their own as useful tools.
I thought of this at once when I found the photo below. Know what it is? Not a clerestory window in a dormitory for for fairies; nor yet a chapel door in the cliffs below Tintagel (both of which leaped immediately to mind. Really, they did.) It’s not even the stone arch in which Edward lurks on Kage’s Page for Graveyard Game, limned in Crome’s Radiation.
It’s a zircon.
Yes, a zircon, that gem of burlesque dancers and cheap engagement rings. But also, in its natural state, a tiny marker of time wherever it forms and can be examined; these little bits of glass can be dated pretty precisely, and have been used to identify all manner of fascinating antiques.
This one is 4 billion years old. The freakin’ Earth is only 4.6 billion years old. This sparkly formed in the ground as soon as it was physically possible for ground to form at all; it is a scale from the first World Serpent, a piece of the oldest bit of dirt that anyone has ever found. When the planetary crust was brand, sparkling new, this little gem formed amid the mud geysers and soft-serve lava and the rocks still deciding if they were going to settle down and be igneous some day.
It looks like a door. I choose to consider that significant, as well as just downright beautiful. So here it is for you all, Dear Readers: a shining door more than fit to be one of Kage’s talismans and eternal portals, leading directly to the new, green bones of the borning Earth. All one need do is step into that long blue hall. Or if the step through the crystal door onto a new-minted Earth is too scary, or high a doorstep, or just nowhere you’ve ever longed to see: why, indulge the universal urge through some less perilous doors. They might be less perilous – I don’t have the actual specs, but I do have endless faith in Kage’s idea that the doors to new worlds are everywhere … so try some of these, Dear Readers, just for fun.
And be sure to make note of what you eat or drink or kiss or pay. You might need it to find your way back again.
I can’t tell you how much this story means to me. But maybe you know. 🙂
I think I maybe do. And I am damned sure you understood my story!
So true. Olfactory memories are the strongest, I think. There’s a certain smell (exhaust fumes, wet pavement, wet wool, moist earth) that my brain interprets as London, even when I encounter it in Maine or Pennsylvania.
And the zircon is a marvel. What the proprietors of the various Creationist museums would make of it is anyone’s guess, as they insit the Earth is only 6,000 years old because science is a big fat lie.
Ever been to a Creationist museum? They’re astounding in their willful ignorance and quite funny, in a disturbing kind of way.
I have never been to a Creationist museum, theme park, seminar, pheasant shoot, hot dog stand or anything else. It’s in the interests of public safety, really – because my head would explode, and who knows how many people could get hurt?
Seriously, you should go. If you like history and science, it’s like falling down the rabbit hole into a bizarre and troubling world where weird creatures appear and frenzidly yammer nonsense at you. There’s one in Santee, Calif. Maybe you can take Amtrak there?
I would go to Santee with you. And buy the very large, very stiff drinks afterward. If we survived ourselves.
Chris, I just can’t. Unless I have the stiff drinks before I go in, but then I would certainly Say Something Out Loud. And that would be a great rudeness, because even though the ideas in a Creationists Museum are wrong and stupid to the max, and the motivation behind them is narrow-minded and selfish, and the proponents loudly believe I am going to hell for not agreeing with them … well, I was just raised netter, that’s all. I’ll stay out of their temple to ignorance.