Kage Baker saw herself as a methodical, orderly person.
Which she was. She was scrupulous about her methods, which she refined throughout her career as a writer. She was dedicated to order, and enforced it ruthlessly – even more on herself than on any of us irritants who shared her space. The only peculiarity was that her style of method and her view of order were at some distinct angle in relationship to consensual reality …
But then, her acceptance of democracy was a polite indulgence at best, anyway.
Lately, I have been thinking much more closely about her methods – the real nitty-gritty of How She Did It. This is because the lovely Stefan Raets asked me to expound on how Kage wrote Garden of Iden for his re-read at tor.com – and refining and clarifying that initial fever dream of creation, so long ago, has cast me back into the depth of memory. It should be posted next Tuesday, by the way; Stefan will send me a link as soon as it is, and I will post it here for you, Dear Readers.
Hopefully, it will amuse. Those of you who knew Kage well will see in it 1) her special form of methodical and orderly, as demonstrated so many years in the beautiful chaos of Faire; and 2) the final construction of her personal style of composition. I hesitate to call it “formulaic”, because that implies a loss of creativity – and that never happened. But it did acquire a pace, a shape, a style of construction: and that all crystallized during the writing of Garden of Iden.
Kage – as attuned to omens as a poker player – stuck to what worked for the whole of her career. It succeeded once; why mess with a winner?
And at the time it succeeded – when Iden was accepted by an agent, and then by a publisher; when the short stories suddenly began to sell – it was against a huge back log of contrary odds. Like all sudden victories, this one had been worked for for a long time; not only the decades of Kage learning her craft, but the several intense and emotionally harrowing years of trying to get published “over the transom”. Classically, this is the time when one re-wallpapers the bathroom with rejection slips – but after a while, the smell of wallpaper paste begins to haunt one’s dreams.
I seem to be on a similar “all of a sudden” crest – short stories in progress, the re-read at Tor bringing increased attention to Kage’s work, a new novel under consideration. And I’ve only been at this for 6 years and 1,170 blogs, after all – do I qualify sufficiently as a flash, a prodigy? I do hope so.
Of course, I lack some important things Kage had. Primary among them is Kage herself, but thanks to the venerable miracle of literacy, I have her memory in physical form all around me. (Literally. I am surrounded by stacks of books and notes …). I don’t have her will of iron or dedication; but I do have my analysis of her methods and habits, and that helps a lot. I don’t have her youth – yeah, I know, starting your writing career in your 40’s doesn’t exactly make you a prodigy. But, leaning on my cane on the edge of 63, I look back at those years and Kage and I seem like sylphs! Nymphs! Gazelles, stotting effortlessly over the beaded ripe grass of the wide savannas!
Still, things are looking up. The IRS no longer thinks I am paying foreign governments, and so I may get paid for some Italian reprints in time to replace the transmission on my car before winter. People – TOP PEOPLE – in publishing are willing to at least look at my stuff. And this blog goes on, keeping Kage’s name alive and me in contact with all of you wonderful Dear Readers; as well as garnering me interesting offers from all sorts of fringe industries online …
And tomorrow is Kage’s birthday. She would have been 64; which would have necessitated a Beatles music marathon and a showing of Yellow Submarine. It also would have initiated our annual ritual wherein I jumped around the living room in a grand display of maturity, gloating over being 2 years younger than Kage …
Well, she’s won the race now. I’m an old crone and she’s still middle-aged. But we still soldier on together, toward those horizons she made me promise to always keep in view.
You’re a spring chicken compared to Anna Mary Robertson Moses aka Grandma Moses. She started painting in earnest, rather than just dabbling at it while waiting for the preserves to cool, at 78. Sometimes late bloomers can outdo the young whippersnappers. If you work with a will at your craft and put your shoulder to the wheel and never give up you can have extremely satisfying results, at any age.
I do not dare compare myself to Grandma Moses! But, you know – I ain’ten’t dead yet, either, and that’s good enough for me.
Well, I’m not sure if it’s a sign or an omen what, but my we got our music for our chamber group and it’s a set of Beatles’ songs…
I love reading your blog posts. They bring back so many great memories. There is your command of the English language, as well. It encourages me to try to be more clever in my day to day conversations. See, you’re improving the world, just by improving our language skills!