Kage Baker never wanted to be famous. She had a deep aversion to being a public person; she considered that the most ladylike display of fashion was to be invisible.
She was pretty good at it, too, considering that she spent so much of her life performing. But of course, when you are a performer, you are not usually yourself. Kage had a nice wardrobe of personae that she put on, depending on what the emotional weather was like in her excursions. At Renaissance Faires, she was a version of the Wife of Bath, a calm and interested tourist viewing the world through amused eyes. At Dickens, she concocted a combination of Preserved Killick* and Long John Silver (and still managed to portray a warm, maternal cook). And when she went to science fiction conventions, she channeled her own Aunt Anne, whom you Dear Readers might remember as the elegant, cocktail-imbibing Marion Kerby in Topper.
If you hung around with her at conventions, you might get to see the real Kage – usually at a table in the bar, late in the evening. But that was a private show, only for her intimates; she stayed in character with an adamantine will in public.
I’ve never been half the actress Kage was. The characters I have portrayed at various Faires (which have enjoyed a small bit of local fame) were successful and memorable in so far as they were because they were designed by Kage. My entire career as a performer has been built upon the scaffoldings she wrote for me to fill.
I’m still working at perfecting the last character she wrote – her heir, the writer, the finisher of stories. I have made a little progress – but I am old now, old and stiff and slow: it’s not the easy trick it was in the days of yore, and ale, and glory in the golden dust of Chipping-Under-Oakwood, to transform into some lithe and lively Merry Wife. I keep trying, though, because it was what Kage wanted.
Tonight, I’m packing for BayCon, which was Kage’s favourite convention. I have tons of panels, so I am very pleased – I like to be useful and I LOVE to pontificate, and the lovely folks at BayCon always indulge me. I will have minions (my ever-resourceful entourage – Michael and Neassa – will be there to keep me on track); I will meet lots of old friends and hopefully some new ones. There will be too much coffee, not enough sleep, and a weekend spent on endorphins. I do like that … and if I am good form, I will manage to be the wry, wise, maternal nerd Kage intended me to be at this point.
That will be better that the whiny old woman into whom I all too frequently morph these days. The excellent company I anticipate having will help no end. Unlike Kage, I actually kind of enjoy being in the spotlight: as long as I know my lines. And Kage left me lots.
In actual fact, though, neither of us really liked being public persons. Our alter egos liked it, some of them – not us, so much, though me more than Kage.
A good friend recently sent me a link to some wonderful quotes from Will Durant, that wonderful historian. (Thank you, Steve!) One of them was a perfect description of what Kage (and I) always really wanted to be:
“And last are the few whose delight is in meditation and understanding; who yearn not for goods, nor for victory, but for knowledge; who leave both market and battlefield to lose themselves in the quiet clarity of secluded thought; whose will is a light rather than a fire, whose haven is not power but truth: these are the men of wisdom, who stand aside unused by the world.”
This is not to assert that I have any right to claim I am a man/person of wisdom – quite aside from Dr. Durant’s antique usage, for which we can forgive him at this distance. Kage had a much better claim to this state, and it is most certainly what she wanted to be. It’s what she was, as much and whenever she could be, in the Embassy she built of our home.
But bright and early tomorrow I shall head off once again to the wide stage of the world. Time to leave behind my Ivory Tower for a little, and make some art.