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.