Kage Baker was an serious accessorizer.
She liked to compile whole suites of clothes, music, foods, scents. She arranged and re-arranged lares and penates, fetishes and souveniers, in order to create just the right atmosphere for any given project. The mass of holy gewgaws on her desk surged in and out, closer and farther from the front edge, like a weird tide; it all depended on her mood, her emotional need, and how she was feeling about lighthouses or sand from Devon or Mr. Krabbs on any given day.
She had special writing clothes, too. None of them were just general writing: if she needed special clothes to write at all, it was because she had a specific tone she was trying to achieve. Same with special menus; we tried out a lot of interesting and peculiar foods in Kage’s determination to be possessed of and by the correct sensory input. Medieval recipes cooked over the living room fire; strange meats and spices stewed according to colour and scent rather than measurement; pease porridge in the pot … which is not as bad as you might think.
I was reminded of this recently in a conversation with my nephew Michael, discussing this very topic. Mike is a devoted nephew; he’s read all Kage’s stories avidly and knows long passages by heart. He listens to the stories about the stories, too – he’s almost a history teacher, and has that species’ great hunger for details and source. And so he suddenly asked: “Aunt Kage hated fish. How did she try out the sardine tacos Edward eats in Mendoza In Hollywood?”
I had to admit that Kage herself was unable to manage the trick: she handed it off to me. I like anchovies; sardines in corn tortillas were no great stretch. Salty and greasy but, you know, basically tasty. I was the experimental subject for the virtual reality experiment, too, with a running narration as I slaughtered my photonic enemies – our narration and speculation so amused the proprietor of the dubious little arcade at Fisherman’s Wharf that he let us do it for free.
That’s how Kage was: hands-on, with an audience and feedback if at all possible. And, of course, the correct shoes and purse and jewelry for the occasion, too. She’d fret if her white Chuck Taylor Converses were not a perfect snowy white, or if she had to wear black sneakers for a daytime event. She drank Coke with red meat, Bubble-up with fowl, and Schwepp’s Bitter Lemon with sweets. She wore jade and turquoise for conventions, because she said clear gems made her feel like her head was transparent.
Kage picked her mouspads for treasured obsessions: the Beatles, the Temple of Ephesus, an illustration of the molecular structure of theobromos. I’ve been using her last one, which has the logo from Pirates of the Caribbean, out of simple missing her … but I’ve worn through the fabric so badly that the jaunty skull only has one working eye socket. His bony grin is now a featureless blur that can’t even be called a gaping maw. And the mouse is sticking to it now.
So I’ve ordered a new one. I cannot express, Dear Readers, the spiritual struggle it took to make the decision to buy a new pad. I spent hours looking over the offerings online – and let me tell, you, there are some very strange minds designing computer accessories … but I finally found The One. It will be the perfect accessory; it will fit in with every writing project, and keep my mind on track.
It’s printed with a Ouija Board design.
Open wide, o doors of all other worlds! I have work to do.