Meditating On Spam.

Kage Baker rather liked Spam.

Not porn, which must constitute at least 95% of all unsolicited email. Porn bored her, unless someone came up with something really weird and amusing – but no one ever did, really. Mass mailings are aimed at low common denominators, so not a lot of imagination is expended on any of them. Anyway, the porn was easily banned from Kage’s email by a few custom filters.

Sometimes a search would yield an outre erotic result, and that was always good for a laugh. I remember she got some hilarious stuff when researching miniature horses; and what you get with an unspecified search for “bears” is amazing. And, for her own amusement, Kage made a collection over the years of the various permutations of The Spanish Prisoner Scam that came her way over the aether. They came in from half the world, because apparently the main social problem among the uber rich is forgetting the odd 5 or 6 millions dollars in little backwoods banks.

I think it’s a form of W. C. Fields Syndrome, actually. He left bank accounts under false names all over the country.

A large majority of Spanish Prisoners these days are actually Nigerian. Or Somali – those folks have real staying power, you gotta give ’em credit for that; it’s a shame they can’t seem to concentrate it on establishing a functional government. On the other hand, look at ours …

Kage was amused by most of the general crap that came in, too. There were countless millions of people anxious to have sex with her. She figured it was mostly because they couldn’t tell her gender from her name. More thousands were avidly ready to help Kage find her high school chums; anyone who succeeded in delivering on that promise would have sent Kage screaming into the sunset – she wasn’t willing to dive back into that maidenly sea.

But she liked looking at ads for clothes and shoes and steaks carved from exotic animals (Hey, look, you can get zebra!*) and carburetors that would let the car run on distilled water. Newsletters that promised a full expose on the lizard people now running the Tri-World Commission (What happened to the Jews? Did even the aliens dump on ’em? Sheesh!) Bracelets of copper, molecular silver (As opposed to what – antimatter silver?), vanadium, depleted uranium, and hair from mummies: all guaranteed to cure some ghastly illness. Or maybe all illnesses; the spelling and grammar was a little wonky on these types of offers.

This sort of thing would rather cheer Kage’s morning perusal of her correspondence, especially as she never had to answer any of them. There’s nothing like an offer on discount breeding pairs of pygmy hedgehogs to bring a smile to your face on a grey day, let me tell you.

Kage was rarely on any chat sites or forums, and even more rarely did she leave or answer comments. So she seldom got the sort of spam that is particular to writers – a wide variety of people offering to help you make your writing better. Your blog or site is great, they tell you – except for the parts (most of it, in fact) that is so terrible it’s likely afflicting your readers with eye cancer … But! This person will improve it for you and triple your hits and make you rich! (This’ll only work if I can charge people to look at my site. Can I do that? Thought not … )

Then there are the people who tell you right up front they love your work, especially since they themselves cannot write. But! They have AN IDEA; which, for a modest proportion of the millions it will earn you, they will share with you. To these, Kage  replied: Run! Run like hell! Never EVER tell a writer your great idea! They will steal it! She usually managed to imply that most writers would also track down the innocent idea-purveyor, and eat their faces …

The other side of this coin  – and only barely spam – are the people who write and claim the writer has already stolen their idea. And they want their fair share. Because they just know that you have a cupboard made of solid gold where stacks of money earned by this amazing idea are selfishly concealed. These folks, whether truly demented or just really hopeful, were the smallest proportion of spam Kage got – because she was only a mid-list writer, after all. People like Steven King and J.K. Rowling get metric shit tons of this nonsense, and doubtless retain stables of snarling attack lawyers to deal with them. Kage had me; and while I’m not a lawyer of any sort, I really enjoyed the chance to be rude to some random idiots.

The one kind of Spam that Kage totally abhorred, though, was the kind that came in the pull-tab cans. The edible kind – though she would have argued with that assessment. Spam was a vital part of a Catholic’s child upbringing in the ’50’s, especially if your family was clinging to middle class with desperate hands. I grew up loving the stuff, and regarding it as a genuine treat. But when it was served – whether in lieu of “real” meat, or in speciality dishes with pineapples or bell pepper rings or grits or macaroni and cheese – Kage ate toast.

These days, I like to mince the Spam up fine and cook it in with the amusingly shaped pasta in thematic Kraft Macaroni and Cheese: dinosaurs, Vikings, bats and pumpkins, Spongebob Square Pants. Kage wouldn’t even try the Spongebob Square Pants! And she loved that show.

But I guess everyone has their limits. She went through an awful lot of Nigerian Prisoner letters, and laughing that hard that can stomp your appetite pretty flat.

And now, Dear Readers – I think I need to go out and see if I can find a can of Spam …


*Anything in this that is both italicized and parenthesized is a direct quite from Kage, by the way.

About Kate

I am Kage Baker's sister. Kage was/is a well-known science fiction writer, who died on January 31, 2010. She told me to keep her work going - I'm doing that. This blog will document the process.
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5 Responses to Meditating On Spam.

  1. Jan Foley says:

    I once saw some vinyl floor tiles for the kitchen that were patterned just like spam (the canned variety) and I remember thinking …oh, goodie. Drop a slice of spam on THAT and you’ll never find it.


  2. Miz Kizzle says:

    My mother once served a “turkey” made entirely of Spam for Thanksgiving dinner. It had drumsticks, just like a real turkey. As a piece of sculpture, it was impressive. As Thanksgiving dinner, it was awful.
    Women’s magazines in the sixties were always coming up with Frankenstein nightmare recipes like that. I also recall an apple pie composed of Ritz crackers and (possibly) that ersatz lemon juice that came in a plastic bottle shaped like a lemon.


  3. Carolyne says:

    My views on Span matched yours…until I met Spam musubi in Hilo—finally, a function of Spam that justifies its manufacture! In fact, it’s amazingly delectable…even without a tropical paradise wrapped around it. Hope you have a chance to nibble a bit of well made musubi before you condemn all Spam to pseudomeat hell.


    • Kate says:

      Evidently. my post was not clear. I love the edible sort of Spam, and eat it frequently. And the e-mail variety is at least amusing to me, as it was to Kage. And I have had Spam musubi, and thought it was great. Incidentally, Spam is as much a staple on Catalina Island as it is in Hawaii – canned meats are popular on islands, for obvious reasons.


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