Kage Baker would have been 63 years old today.
She wouldn’t have liked it much, I think. Getting old was not turning out to be as amusing as she had hoped. But time gives us all better perspectives, and she’d have made the best of it. If she had survived the cancer that killed her – as we expected her to – she would have shrugged today, grinned and said, “I’m as old as dirt, but it beats the alternative!” And raised a courteous toast to Death, whom she had managed to cheat.
On the other hand, at 63 Kage would have at last qualified for Social Security. We’d carefully calculated our likely benefits, based on those helpful statements the Gummint sends each year; and being on Social Security would have given Kage a guaranteed income better than most years as a free-lance writer. We’d been poor for so long that living on a fixed income was going to be a piece of cake … and she would still have been writing. Easy Street, man. Or at least, Easier Street.
Also, the fight with the cancer would have left her lean and elegantly skeletal – she had great bones, to my eternal envy – I don’t have any apparent bones, while Kage had cheekbones, and a jaw, and hands like Elizabeth Tudor. By this time her hair would have grown back probably as long as her knees, and be silver-gilt with a sprinkling of garnet: her hair was becoming inhumanly coloured with age, as redheads usually do.
There might have been a third Nell Gwynne novel; certainly a few more stories. There would have been a sequel to The Hotel Under The Sand. There would have a sequel to The Empress of Mars, and in fact that is actually in progress … there would have been more Company stories. And by now, Kage would probably have been deep into the decades-in-the-planning autobiographies of both James Hook and John Silver, whom she loved more than any other sailors on life.
I can’t hope to write those last two. There’s not enough salt water in my blood. I will always be under the oak trees halfway up a sea-facing canyon, watching Kage wade breast-high into the silver, westering waves.
But my goal of making sure her name is not forgotten is succeeding. There are over 1,000 of these blogs, Dear Readers, each one – no matter how peculiar and off-center its topic – beginning with her name fan-fared into the Void. There are all of you and all the others who write to me every month, remembering her. Today, the good folk at Tachyon Publications sent out a lovely In Memorium for Kage, which can be found here: http://tachyonpub.tumblr.com/post/121191933266/the-acclaimed-creator-of-the-company-time-travel
And in Wikipedia, under the heading for June 10th, her birthday is memorialized – right there with princes and princesses of England, Greece and Russia; actors, singers, artists, politicians and other not-quite-respectable geniuses. I don’t know who appended her name to the august roles of Wikipedia, only that it wasn’t me. And that the finding of it there makes me happy.
I couldn’t sleep at all last night, relentlessly awake until the dawn came, going over in my mind all the birthday rituals – wrapping gifts the night before, and putting them out to torment her in the evening (No Peeking!). Sneaking them into her bedroom in the dark, so she’d see them as soon as she woke up. Dinner at The Brambles in Cambria, or Budu’s Kitchen overlooking the Pacific south of San Simeon, or El Galleon in Avalon. Toasting the future with musical comedy cocktails.
I really miss you, Kage.
So here’s to you, kiddo. Happy birthday.