Kage Baker used her writing as her final refuge from all pain and sorrow. She believed, with that particular iron faith she possessed, that it was possible to enter into another world through the screen of her computer. That she had to make that world herself was no problem at all; she’d been making new worlds since her cradle days, and all the passing years had merely given her new portals through which to enter them.
So she would sit down and create. Sometimes, if the pain was very bad, she would want to move and create – then we would go on long drives and talk. The sight of the road unravelling, the white line sinking perpetually back beside her, was a fool-proof goad to both speech and composition. Sometimes it took a few miles; sometimes it went on so long we had to keep moving. That led to some weird and extended trips, that went on for days and ended up hundreds of miles from home. Amazingly, neither of us ever lost our jobs due to calling in Lost In Pumpkin Center … probably because we didn’t do it that much until we moved to Pismo Beach, and began trying to retire.
This wasn’t for writer’s block, you understand. Gardening did for that, on the rare occasions it lasted more than an hour. It was for relief of pain, to find the Way In when despair and grief blocked the way. And if not even that worked – or we had already used up all our grandmothers’ funerals for that year – Kage would in the uttermost extremity turn to someone else’s world.
That’s when The Wrong Box came out. That’s when she played Monkey Island games for a week, or found a new pirate RPG; preferably, one with cannons. Explosions always cheered Kage up. If things were really bad, she would even resort to what had been her primary refuge as a child – she would read favourite books, over and over.
Her time for reading had decreased geometrically, in relation to her time spent writing, as she got older. She would stop for a good new book (anything by dear, late Sir Terry Pratchett) or for a particularly fascinating research book; she seldom re-read things, probably because she seldom forgot a word she’d ever read in the first place. But she could always turn to seasonal fare, like A Christmas Carol or Hogfather. She could always settle comfortably into the Aubrey-Maturin novels again – she read all 20 and 1/3 of them at least 4 times through. She could always read damn near anything by Robert Lewis Stevenson or Herman Melville. Melville, though, was a sliding scale – Moby-Dick or White Jacket were signs she was cheering up; if she worked her way down to Pierre, I worried she was suicidal. (Read it and you’ll see why. It stinks.)
As for me … well, reading has always been my refuge. There are entire years of my life I remember as visual effects over the edge of a book. I do reread things, a lot: not because I don’t remember them, but because I need to experience once again whatever moved me the first time. It’s not all Bobbsey Twins and happy kittens, either – there’s many a story I read again, knowing it will tear me up, because I know the relief that follows will be real and healing.
I turn to the writing when I can. But I turn to it secondarily, because when I am hurting that badly, it’s harder for me to write. People are different, after all; much of what Kage taught me about writing is solid gold. But some is custom-fitted gold, and I am too short for her measurements …
Pneumonia is not giving up as easily as I had hoped. My agent got inescapably busy, and has not finished reading “The Teddy Bear Squad” (though I am sure she will.) Tor ditto, ditto for Knight & Dei. I’ve encountered 3 instances of unbridled public hate since the election, and I’m not even in a target population! Royalties from Europe are delayed; not inexplicably, oh no! – because most payments from Europe are being delayed, as Europe disbelievingly asks itself just how fucking stupid the US can possibly be? And this is a question that worries me quite a bit, too, since for the first time in my entire life, I am beginning to suspect that the government could contribute to the end of my personal life.
Not that I’m afraid of that. But it would cause so much mess and trouble! And I object strenuously to dying because of such low-class gummint fuckery as seems to be heaving on the horizon.
Still, as Tolkien reflects on the innate nature of Sam Gamgee in The Two Towers: “Being a cheerful hobbit, he had not needed hope, as long as despair could be postponed.” Right now, I am postponing despair. The world is a mess; not just out there in the distant, exotic bits of it, like Tennessee and Indonesia, but the close up parts as well. I’ve never felt the future looked as bleak as now.
But I persevere. I’m reading Terry Pratchett books. I’ve got my writing hat and my writing necklace on. I’m eschewing Facebook, the local news, even Rachel Maddow; my friends can email me, and do – in fact, I just got a visual bouquet of bunnies, which was a huge lift. I have red and green M&Ms, walnut divinity, hot coffee and warm socks. The Christmas lights are up on my desk and in the yard.
Sam got by with a leaf full of lembas and a memory of potatoes. I can do no less.