New Buke!

Kage Baker loved her chosen writing devices. She had to have close personal relationships with them, or her Muse refused to talk to her.

Her longest-lasting relationship was with good pens and bad paper. She was very picky about her pens – she wasn’t so particular about what style of point they had, but she preferred black ink and a medium line. Too fine a point made her nuts, except for tossing at targets like darts. She always claimed a starving writer could probably keep themselves fed with a few good Cro-quills and a moderate pigeon population. Eventually, though, the ease and longevity of roller-ball Pilots won her heart, because it was so much harder to spill ink when you didn’t have to keep dipping the point in an ink well …

As for paper: Kage had a truly exasperating fondness for Eaton’s Corrasable Bond paper. The stuff is thin, typewriter and printer ink will literally fall off of it, and even the sturdiest pen ink will eventually oxidize to a faint sepia ghost of itself. She also liked legal pads, the kind with green paper apparently made of single-layer bathroom tissue; I spent half my life transcribing her scrawl from those things, which have the unique and hideous quality of having both sides readable at the same time.

Since she was also frugal – except concerning books, computer games, chocolate and cocktails – Kage scrupulously stockpiled all printer pages that got messed up in the printing process. Then she wrote her handwritten notes on those, which meant that they were usually folded in half, smudged, partially covered in mangled graffiti, and of a polished surface that left marks on every other page each one touched. She drew arrows and cartouches to show which handwritten parts hooked up with which others; she stuck scribbled instruction on little torn slips of paper in to make it clearer. Which it did not do.

I have pounds of manuscripts that bristle with these little notes. Sometimes, I just have piles of the notes – I’ve spent whole days these last 5 years, re-inserting them where they go in a partial manuscript to make sense of the plot. Sometimes I just find the little slips, like particularly weird fortunes, scattered on the floor: George says, try for more depth, structure. Or: Find out how to transplant a head. Or: A dead man hung from every branch.

Being the typist for this kind of writer is maddening. But, as they say, it’s a good life if you don’t weaken … for sweet sanity’s sake (Kage’s as well as mine) I eventually weaned her off the venerable pen and paper system and onto a computer. At which point, she found her perfect milieu and never looked back. The speed! The ease! The cool accessories!

Kage wanted a portable, a laptop, as soon as she began to attend conventions. (Also, the original IBM commercials with the organ grinder’s monkey using the trackball amused her.) It was utterly necessary; it allowed her to compose everywhere, anywhere, and it got easier all the time as the technology got better and personal computers became universal. When she first got the news that she would lose most a year to cancer – but thought she’d survive – I got her one of the first really little machines: the tiny notebook computer she called her Buke.

I’ve used it myself for the last 5 years, complete with the little wood and polished brass case Kage chose for it. It’s been invaluable. But electronic flesh is no more immortal than meat-suits, and the little darling is fading fast. It has become necessary to replace it while it can still boot up enough to transfer vital files to a new incarnation.

Today, the new Buke arrived! I had to back order it from Fry’s to get exactly what I needed – it has to fit in the cool little case that fits in my knitting bag; and it had to have a good-sized keyboard and not be just a tablet. I need to write on it most of all, so something that played games and texted and sang and could locate Whole Foods markets was not suitable. A form of Kindle Fire was a vast disappointment – it did all those other tricks, but its word processing was a joke. Apparently, it is now commercially feasible to market computers for the semi-literate …  Well, phooie to that.

It has to charge for 8 hours, of course. Sigh. But by 10 PM this evening, I shall be setting forth on the shining shores of a new Buke! And who knows what adventures will lead on from that, Dear Readers?

These writers’ roads, you know – pen and ink, photons, crayons on torn-open paper bags – all, all are infinite.

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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4 Responses to New Buke!

  1. Mark says:

    Reading your description of your sister’s writing process notes, I was struck by a question…. Have you considered which university or research library archivist you are going to drive to drink by leaving the combined notes and manuscripts of yourself and your sister to? Or are you planning to train another family member or writer to continue the narrative? Forward thinking (nosy) historians want to know. 🙂


  2. maggiros says:

    This was such fun to read!


  3. silveraged says:

    Where did the term “buke” come from?


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