Kage Baker just wanted to tell stories, you know?
She was a born story-teller. Speculations, ideas, alternative endings and plots bubbled constantly to the forefront of her mind, and she was one of those people whose brain automatically cast it all into clear sentences. She was a raconteuse nonpareil. She could enthrall an audience, make them laugh, weep, despair and look fearfully over their shoulders into the suddenly menacing dark …
But Kage was also shy and had a quiet voice. Oh, once she knew you and relaxed in your company, she was a lively and energetic conversationalist – but she was always easily drowned out. It was easy to talk right over her. And since years of this had left her with a “hit and run victim” reaction, she just withdrew into her super-watchful shell whenever it happened. You might find yourself caricatured in a story sometime in the future, but you might never hear a tale from Kage again.
She hated it with a passion. A quiet, low-voiced, muttered passion. “I hate it with the heat of a thousand electric candles!” she yelled once in frustration at a riotous family party. It cracked me up, but I was the only one who heard it. Which pretty much proved her point.
It was one of the big reasons she became a writer. That was the only way to not be interrupted. Oh, anyone could refuse to read, or put down the book, or dislike it even if they did read it. But they couldn’t get in the way of the story. They couldn’t stop the narrative flow. They could only step out of that particular river, losing their part in it entirely – cutting off their ears to spite their head*, as Kage put it.
Her brag shelf – which was an entire 4-shelf bookcase by the time she died – was her personal shrine to uninterrupted conversations. She had said all this, the way she wanted to say it, and no one could put a stop to it. It would always be there.
She gloated over the Library of Congress numbers in the fronts of her books.
Nonetheless, in her last weeks, she repeatedly asked me to make sure she was not forgotten. If I was somewhat insane by the time Kage died, (and I am pretty sure I was) this is one of the larger reasons. Every time she asked, it was a knife in my heart.
However, actually doing it has been … good. Not always easy, but a grand old time. And there are so many people – like you, Dear Readers – who want to join in!
Today is Tuesday. That makes it Stefan Raets Day at tor.com, where the second edition of his Kage Baker Company Reread (Chapters 2-4) posted today:
He’s doing a lovely job – I especially like the way he first gives a tidy recap of the basic plot, then analyses its details, foreshadowings, implications and twists. I appreciate the way he ponders the confusing bits (they do exist, and tormented Kage). I like the way he gets the jokes. And not once has he used the phrase “wry wit”!
Go read his post. It’s cool.
And Kage’s voice goes on.
*The actual phrase is cutting off your nose to spite your face. But Kage’s books didn’t come with Smell-O-Vision, so she changed it …
Thank you for the kind words, Kathleen. I’m having so much fun with this reread, catching all the little details I missed on my first reading… and the second one… and even the third one. I think I may end up being able to recite some of these chapters verbatim by the time I’m done!
I think I can do that, yeah. Though sometimes, I find I’m remembering parts that got trimmed out 20 years ago.
These recaps by Stafan Raets are great! He raises some of the same questions about Mendoza that puzzled me (surely she would have known her name?) The censer incident involving poor old Cathy of Aragon is absolutely true. I remembered it from reading a biography of her mother (who may or may not have refused to change her drawers until all the Moors were out of Spain.) That one seems doubtful, but I Googled it and the censer really did break off from its chain as Catherine of Aragon stopped by the cathedral on her way to England.
Poor Cathy. Henry VIII may have been the most handsome young prince in Christendom but he turned out to be a monster. Divorced, beheaded and died, divorced, beheaded, survived!
Believe me, the research that went into “Garden of Iden” was insanely extensive. Kage was careful with all her research, but that first one was astounding. The plot outline was 25 feet long, and ran around three walls of the sewing room/library in our house, on sheets of typing paper taped together … as for Mendoza not knowing her name: no, it really happens all the time. Very small kids always know A name for themselves, but before school age (and Mendoza is only maybe 3 or 4) it’s as likely to be a nickname or endearment as a real name. Especially for a child raised in a crowd, as Mendoza (and in fact Kage) is.
“It was one of the big reasons she became a writer. That was the only way to not be interrupted.” That puts into words why I’ve always been a writer rather than a talker.
It drove Kage nuts to be talked over or interrupted. Being ignored is the risk everyone takes – being stepped on or run over, though, is just rudeness. So she built her own soapbox.