August 5, 2014

Kage Baker sold her first short story to Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, under the editorship of the redoubtable and reverend Gardner Dozois.

She almost didn’t realize he wanted to accept her submission. He returned the first story, with notes on improving it. Kage didn’t realize that meant she was supposed to make those changes and re-submit it. Luckily, her agent enlightened her; Gardner sent Kage another note explaining what it meant when an editor made change suggestions … and not too long after, Gardner bought “Noble Mold.”

It was the first Company story. It was the first Joseph story. It was also the one story she made up on the spot, complete and ex tempore, beside Momma’s bed in her final illness. Momma knew Kage wrote, of course; she bought all those legal pads that Kage filled during adolescence, all that typing paper and White-out. But “Noble Mold” was the only story of Kage’s that Momma ever heard, since Kage always had refused to let the parents see anything she wrote.

After that, she faithfully gave a copy of everything she published to Daddy – who I doubt read them, though he treasured every one of them. But the first story, the one for Momma … that was the one Kage acted out next to a hospital bed for her audience of one, taking all the roles and doing all the voices, just as they came from her burning heart.

In Kage’s final week of life, she dictated tons of things to me. Some were long passages, especially of the beginning of Nell Gwynne II. Others were just a few sentences, or the title of a painting I needed to see, or reminders of conversations about stories she’d never had the chance or time to complete. It was a damned To Do list, was what it was, of the things she wanted me to write when she was gone; additions, I must explain, that were just the final stratum on the multi-layered tell of notes she left for me.

“And make sure,” she told me quite seriously, “that you sell the first story to Asimov’s. It’ll bring you luck.”

“How do you suggest I guarantee that?” I sniffed.

“You’ll think of something,” Kage said. “I’m not worried.”

Well, that was just grand. I fretted and worried and wrote a lot of crap; and as a matter of fact, I did think of several things – bribery, kidnapping the editor for a ransom of publication, claiming I’d broken out in automatic writing … Time got rather busy, what with finishing a couple of things that were, essentially already sold; and up until 3 weeks ago I had never had time to submit a damned thing. Then, inspired with all the new oxygen I’ve been getting lately, I set out to finish and polish a story, rewrite it several times, force a few people to read its every weary incarnation, and finally send it off to Sheila Williams, the current and fine editor of Asimov’s.

And today that lovely lady bought the story. It’s my first cold sale, the previous two having been bespoke and done at the request of publishers. The title is “Paredolia”.  And it’s a Company story, and a Joseph story, and I’ve sold it to Asimov’s.

So, I did it, kiddo. Be happy, please.

I am.