Kage Baker was always curious about what her legacy would be.
For most of her life, it never occurred to her it might be anything, you know – loud. Fond memories by her family members, maybe; some good stories from Faire, where she spent some of the most creative moments of her life. The Green Man Inn, at whatever Faire I was still doing in my old age – she was fondest of that idea, as the Inn in all its permutations came pretty much out of Kage’s head entire.
As it has turned out, however, what she is most remembered for are her stories: especially, the Company tales. Novels, novellas. myriad short stories – all comprising the special Universe of what is now regarded as a remarkably popular and successful time travel series.While this is no surprise to me, Dear Readers, it really was to her. And she considered herself incredibly fortunate to be able to know, for certain sure, that these stories would live after her.
In a singular honour, the splendid Tor Books – long one of Kage’s publishers and champions – has just selected her work for one of their wonderful Re-Read Projects. Have you followed any of these, Dear Readers? They are great. Whoopie! Stefen Raets, a long-time friend and supporter, has been chosen to conduct the re-read, and I know he’ll do a wonderful job. He let me know about it some time ago, and asked me to wait until today’s announcement on tor.com – which I did, with nail-biting impatience. (It’s why you notified me first, Medrith!) You can read the initial description, along with Stefan’s plans and intentions, here:
He’s going to be posting on a weekly basis, Dear Readers, and I heartily recommend it to all of you. I’m certainly going to be reading it! I happen to think Stefan has an interesting view and grasp of Kage’s work, and I look forward to seeing what he has to say. (He has kindly implied I may get to say a little myself, too.) Huzzah for Stefan Raets! Three cheers and a tiger!
Kage would be completely zooed. To be remembered as a writer, for her stories – that was always the utter height and depth of her desire.
It only became obvious to Kage that this would stand as her primary legacy in the last few months of her life. That was when she finally permitted the news of her illness and approaching death to be made public, and when I spent every single evening reading the grateful, affectionate, tender letters that flooded in from her fans. There were hundreds, most with intensely personal stories attached. Kage was so thankful, so honoured, so amazed and delighted, to learn that she had pleased all these people … that her own Dear Readers had understood what she was trying to say. She said, 4 days before she died, “Hey, my life was not in vain! Not everyone gets to know that, do they?”
“Oh, you dummy,” is what I said (sensitive as ever) at the time. “Of course your life was not in vain! Look at the shelves! Look at the piles of letters! Are you fishing for compliments at this late date?”
“Ah, screw you,” Kage replied, unperturbed. “I’ve got to take my fun where I can get it these days. Most people don’t get to know they did things right, do they?”
No, kiddo – they don’t. Even fewer of the fortunate few get to know that they succeeded on their own terms, as well; doing something they wanted to do, something they insisted on doing, something that won them a life lottery with worse odds than betting on a 3-legged horse in the Irish Sweepstakes. You were, as ever, an anomaly blazing bright in the mundane firmament of a world that you forced to listen to you.
Though I will tell you in your ear, in a whisper, now … I had rather you had lived in doubt a few more years, before finding out for sure your name would be immortal. I’d be proud of you anyway. I’ll admit, I am so proud today, I keep leaping up and dancing round the room with Harry. Did you need to die, though, to be assured you would live forever?
Maybe that’s the way it works. But – I wish that it did not.