Islands and Edges IV; January 10th II

Kage Baker tried to make sure she had an outline before she began a story. That sounds like the most logical thing in the world to a non-writer, I’d imagine; but really, it can be something you have to remember to plan ahead. Sometimes inspiration is not only sudden, it’s insensible – you write in a frantic white heat, and by the time the ripples in the air die down, you’ve written yourself in to a corner.

Then you need to get a plot ASAP. Characters are nice, too, though some may obligingly be precipitated out of the energy of the story. Kage’s solution to this was to always have a few characters and plots in storage – bits and pieces she scribbled down and socked away, and tossed into stories when she needed extra texture. Sometimes they even turned into the point of the story; “Old Flathead” ended up like that.

And I am now in a similar position with the Aussie story. Luckily, I have this cupboard full of bits and pieces …

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Now it’s time to focus in on Australia Base, time to drop down and drop in and see what has been growing here.

The staff was drawn from all ages. As soon as there was a need and a destination, they began to arrive; it didn’t matter where they were born, there was plenty of room for them to work in the past.  Some were from the original European field stations, but most were future graduates of Australia Base; they circled back into a past before their own births, to make sure the cycle got started properly.

By Year 20 or so, there were home-grown Staff as well. But we still got neophytes from all the disasters of human history – small confused children from all over, who were delivered to the huge open-air nursery of Australia Base.

As soon as the facilities were complete, the saved showed up.  Botany and Biology began to differentiate like bacteria in a growth medium – projects arrived from every where and most whens, and were settled wherever was convenient for their keepers: small herds took possession of dozens of small, customized meadows. The native beasts and plants were sheltered on the edges, the imports in the center – there was some trouble with the aurochs and the carnivorous kangeroos, I remember, but they learned very quickly to leave one another alone.

It gave the place an aura of permanence from the very first. Traditions came pre-installed. There have always been people here who remember it. This made the mortals from the Future nervous as hell, but they only got to see inventories, graduation lists and pictures – they never saw the Base itself, not once the children began to arrive.

There were sensors and alarms on the perimeters, but no walls. Earth and air flowed through the Base, maintaining the shape of the land under it. The white walls and red roofs grew softened with dust – in dunes, and lines, and curtains on the wind. It made patterns on the walkways, when it didn’t just bury them. On the walls of the dormitories, there were always dozens of little red hand prints, after the custom of the country – neophytes’ hands outlined by the blowing red dust, constantly erased and re-drawn.


And so there we were! The first crop planted was children. Baby cyborgs played in the new fields, followed their elders into the new barns and paddocks, and learned to use their new senses on the rows of exotic seedlings and strange animals.

Australia Base was the home of transplants. Rare plants, extinct animals, little-known peoples, and nothing but empty space for miles and miles: all that was needed to make a Garden in the emptiness of the Northern Territories was power and water. For the Company, those were easy to supply. It gave them a Paradise guaranteed unseen for 50,000 years, where no one who came afterwards would ever even think to look. Except for the Anangu – and we were waiting for them anyway. But we had a thousand years or so to get ready for them.

For Central Australia, it was a well-watered place; but where the borders of the Base fields ended, the colours changed. Our fields were all greens and bright flower hues – beyond them, everything look like hot metal and molten glass. Eucalyptus made the ridges and stream beds look like California to us kids, like Disney cartoons and Little Rascals films. The spinifex grass added to the illusion, since it’s a bunch grass and it spends most of its time dried to a deep gold. It glitters, too, from the silica it stores in its leaf tips. They can break off in your skin and cause all sorts of trouble, but it was awfully pretty when the wind blew over it in sparkly waves.

Sometimes we made crowns and antennae out of it, and ran around being space aliens. Especially after surgeries, when some of us had to wear sensor caps and monitor harnesses. It was easy to invent just about anything to play, especially with all the contrasts between  what was growing on the Base – like us – and the native plants and animals all around us. You can make cows look as strange as kangaroos and goannas, if you get into the right mind-set. Or fool around with the settings on your brand-new retinal implants.

I’m Charlotte, by the way. I was born in England, about 40,000 years ago, and raised on Australia Base.  I was there when the People finally came. I remember them.


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Caveat: the foregoing is the intellectual property of Kathleen Bartholomew.          





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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9 Responses to Islands and Edges IV; January 10th II

  1. Neassa says:

    Hello, Charlotte! Pleased to make your acquaintance.


  2. Carol says:

    Ok, I’m hooked. More, more, more!!


  3. Marc Bailey says:

    This is great stuff! Consider me happily addicted.


  4. Lynn says:

    Just sucked right in…..
    Hi Charlotte.


  5. Tom says:

    Charlotte. Not Charlie. Not ever.

    “The white walls and red roofs grew softened with dust – in dunes, and lines, and curtains on the wind. ” That’s just breathtaking, Kate. And what a metaphor for the ‘lifespan’ of The Company.


  6. maggiros says:

    Reading this just makes me happy. 🙂


  7. Kate says:

    Thank you, all of you. You’re inspiring!


  8. Brad Campbell says:

    I enjoy being back in a “Company” frame of mind, so naturally, the tale of old Australia is wonderful. Added to that, I tracked down Asimov’s, bought it, read it, and doubly felt back home with the Operatives. The magazine now rests in comic book plastic on the shelf with all my works by Kage & Kate. Nice. Thank you.


    • Kate says:

      Oooh, Brad – comic book covers! High praise indeed – my sister Kimberly swears by those! I’m so very, very happy people are liking both these stories …


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