The Things Are Still People

Kage Baker liked the idea of a staff.

She didn’t want servants, precisely. (She was sometimes in service herself.) But she would have been pleased to have a large household around her – one that was minimally organized, and took orders some of the time. She approved of specialization, and of delegating; it may have been part of why she always played housekeepers and cooks. Those were tough, independent ladies who ran tidy little subdivisions in big households, taking – and giving – orders at need.

A theatre troupe was almost perfect, especially the part about a small part of a large group that  kind of took orders .. and was definitely minimally organized. In her own household, all those special roles that had been delegated unto were mostly filled by electronics; the more advanced, the better, as long as they didn’t try too hard for autonomy. Remember her favourite channels on the TV, yes: but suggesting others she might like was going too far. “I don’t want the remote getting familiar with me,” she would sniff.

Auto-correct infuriated her: she didn’t want her computer to tell her how to spell, especially with all those damned coloured lines popping up all over the place. With the number of ancient, esoteric and outright dead languages Kage put in her books, the Spell Check was fairly psychotic, anyway. However, its ability to remember what font she liked, and how wide she wanted her margins, and to count the words automatically – that was the kind of genie-like efficiency Kage really appreciated.

And anyway – at bottom, Kage was quite comfortable, having relationships with her machinery. She was most emphatically not the kind of person who gives cute names to the car, the toaster, or the Skil saw. She didn’t name her favourite pan, although she would keep it aside and wash and dry it lovingly by itself. She often praised and exhorted the car in its efforts, and would sometimes pat the upholstery and tell it was a good car. But there was nothing twee or Beatrix Potter about it. It was just a kind of animistic courtesy; most things, she felt, had souls, and therefore deserved some politeness.

Kage didn’t even give a name or a gender to her computer, and that was undoubtedly her most intimate tool relationship. She clearly thought of it as an organism – she cooed to it, quarreled with it, cursed it out; that kind of emotion is not spent on mere things. She kept it surrounded with placatory and encouraging juju; she taped a sketch of Lord Ermenwyr to it, and a hand-drawn sigil of Papa Legba, whom she held responsible for the integrity of the aether.

That was her staff. They waited for her orders and did what they were told. They sometimes failed, but never argued. They gazed at her with sleepless blue and green and red and amber eyes; or they blinked awake at a touch and a ritual command. Kage was comforted by the soft gem-coloured glow they gave to the darkened rooms at night: all those faerie lights glowing under the desk and along the baseboard. She said they were the antithesis of rats’ eyes, prettier and brighter and all on the side of safety and reason.

It was just that Kage’s staff all dwelt in an slightly bijou universe, just off to the side of the one she was in.

It undoubtedly contributed largely to the highly individual, eccentric and utterly faithful nature she gave demon servitors. And it was both how and why Captain Morgan the AI was so complete a person. She was incapable of imagining something that was not alive. To Kage, everything was people. That didn’t meant she necessarily liked them – she didn’t even like standard-issue people without reservation. But if she had a relationship with something, that meant they were people. They had souls. She couldn’t write about them any other way …

You could do a lot worse, Dear Readers, than believe that everything has a soul. You really could.






About Kate

I am Kage Baker's sister. Kage was/is a well-known science fiction writer, who died on January 31, 2010. She told me to keep her work going - I'm doing that. This blog will document the process.
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2 Responses to The Things Are Still People

  1. mizkizzle says:

    Papa Legba, open the gate!
    That usually gets the printer working but it does nothing for the toaster oven. That requires swearing and angry glares to make it work.


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