Kage Baker was always curious about who her readers were. Not one by one, so much: she was terminally shy, and always dreaded having to talk to fans individually. But she really was interested in who they were in general, and why anyone (other than her friends and family) read what she wrote.
Science fiction conventions were a big help to her in this. She initially dreaded them – she went to her first like Marie Antoinette to the guillotine – but you can really only talk to people one at a time, so she learned how to converse with her fans. Especially since conventions are held in hotels. With bars. Kage was a firm believer in liquid courage; and there was nothing like a little rum to ease her inhibitions and let people hear how funny, clever and erudite a raconteuse she really was.
The internet was also an enormous help. Again, she approached chat rooms like Odysseus creeping into Polyphemus‘ cave, only to discover that the echoing darkness hid really nice people. Also, that it’s very hard to interrupt someone on a chat – which she adored. Kage had a hesitant manner (unless very relaxed) and a soft voice, and was habitually run over in ordinary conversations by loud blowhards (like me). But in the aether, she could hold her own. And she did.
In the end, not only did Kage find out who her readers were – they found out that she was a fascinating person in her own right. As far as I could ever tell, both sides were delighted. She became a determined proponent of talking to one’s readers, of establishing and maintaining communication: the writer, she said, had a duty to fulfill. And Kage was really big on duty.
When I began this blog, shortly after Kage’s death in 2010, I wasn’t expecting an audience. I figured a couple of friends and siblings would read some of it; I expected them to say nice things, because they’re nice people. But the main reasons I did it were for discipline – trying to write something, anything on a regular basis: and because my heart was screaming in pain. And it wouldn’t stop. The blog was an attempt to get it out, get it down in words, so I could finally start to live again.
And it worked, for that. I edited 2 anthologies, and wrote 2 short stories and a novel in that first year. Other things have arisen to slow down my writing, but they’re only health problems – for the most part, my screams and carrying-on here have freed my voice. I can write. I do write. More will be published, too, as soon as my damned body decides not to try and kill me for a few free months … and the blog remains, my constant soap box, where I can yell into the Void and actually get replies from real people!
All sorts of surprises have come my way from this.
First surprise: I have readers. My Dear Readers are, in fact, mostly people I didn’t even know 5 years ago, who have supported me all this while for love of Kage. Second surprise: a lot of my old friends have become readers, people I had no real idea suspected I could write at all. Third surprise: I’ve been implying a promissory contract with all these Dear Readers, and they expect me to fulfill my part.
That’s what floors me most. I have not been shouting into the Void after all.
A good friend of mine died a few days ago; a friend and comrade from the Faire, which has been one of the main cauldrons of my soul through this life. Yestreday, I signed on here to see if I could summon up the strength to say something – something brief, because his death was a hugely unexpected shock and it left me cold and speechless. But, you know – you gotta do something at a time like that.
When I signed on, I found that over 200 people had visited my site before I checked it yestreday. I hadn’t posted in a few days, so what were they expecting? Then I checked on who they were, and I realized – Faire people were coming by to see what I had to say about Gerald. I had an audience, all right. And an obligation. I owed a duty to love.
So I wrote what I could. I can only hope it helped you, Dear Readers, as much s it helped me. I wept while I wrote it, remembering the towering young titan that was Gerald in our shared youth. That gave me an interesting problem in editing and proof-reading later, which I hope would have given Gerald – who edited and proofed professionally – a good laugh.
Mostly, though, I was reminded – and astonished – that someone is Out There. I’m neither wasting nor marking time; despite advancing age and physical ills and the insistence of my friends in freaking dying on me, I apparently still have things to do. I cannot adequately express how that amazes and inspires me. Because I have felt pretty used up and worthless lately … but I’m not dead! And apparently, everyone knew that but me.
Thanks, folks. I really needed that.