Kage Baker was not a great fan of real life. It was full of trivial discomforts, and unpleasant people whom you could nonetheless not kill. It gave small pleasures, small hurts – so that one could not even strike an heroic pose, nor rise very far above the mud.
It wasn’t even deep mud. It was just a thin slick on the road of life; enough to suck your shoes off, or provoke a pratfall onto your ass. It’s hard to be a hero, in real life. The stuff is flat out boring. Kage preferred a day to day existence with sharp contrasts – life in chiaroscuro, with velvet drapes and carven furniture, deep shadows and sunlight like the glance of a god.
“I want to be dazzled and blinded,” she would declare. “I want to achieve heights and depths and widths, damn it!”
Which she certainly did. Though that is not to say that she scorned the joys of domestic tranquillity, either – but even there, Kage liked the delights of life at home to be bold and bright. She wanted joy, passion, an intensity to her comforts; she liked to be snug in a small haven while winds howled in the eaves and the threat of storms and power outages was always looming … just the threat, mind you. When Fate got too obstreperous and actually killed her computer access, she was mightily peeved.
On the other hand, she could cope well with actual disaster. You may prefer to quaff ale on the swaying seat of a gypsy wagon, or breakfast on champagne and fried oysters – and who would not? – but when you actually get to sometimes do those things, it can make it easier to cope with a mere leaking window. Dealing with thirsty warlords and foaming maniacs (even when you know the foam is produced with Alka Seltzer under the maniac’s tongue) makes handling a cranky postal clerk a snap.
And if, along the way, you learn to be alert for drama and high magic, your life is enriched wherever you are. Learn to always keep a cheeseboard and cloth serviettes in the glove box, and you are prepared for picnics anywhere. Always travel with ripe peaches, or imported chocolate, or a split of champagne. Drink out of crystal and eat off pewter or porcelain: eating with your fingers then becomes a fashion statement, not a loss of dignity. Keep friends who can quote Shakespeare and the Táin Bó Cúailnge, sing O Salutaris Hostia, and take a few stitches in a knife wound or a torn sleeve. Cultivate acquaintances who can juggle, or shoe a horse, or juggle shoes … or horse shoes. Or horses.
Kage maintained these habits her entire life, and never ever dwelt willingly in a world she didn’t help make. When corporeality proved too thin or too tiring or too scarce, she built entire universes and inhabited them; she did it so well, she convinced thousands of others to live in her universes, as well. She was lauded by queens and captains; she knew real magicians and walked with real gods. Her last day of life, a friend drove 300 miles on impulse to hold her in his arms when she died.
Just about all her friends juggled.
I was the luckiest of her audience – I lived in her universes all the time for half a century. I still live in the vicinity of them, and from time to time I can walk right into them and cohabit again with all that glory and passion.
Which brings me to the hideous mundanity of the current day, and why mumping is the best choice right now. The world is a sewer. Real life sucks like a vacuum cleaner with a vampire in it. The government is a belly-ache, Congress is a paper cut; the President is a rotten tooth I keep biting on when I try to eat. Fuck ’em all.
I feel a period of frenzied mumping come upon me now, to be followed by a prolonged creative flowering. I can feel my seed pods getting ready to explode – mump blossoms procreate by explosive incendiary. I may try for umbelliferous , this time. I may go for the frank voluptuousness of an orchid. Baby’s breath, though, is right out.
It’s starlight roses and scarlet cannas or nothing, now. Real life has had its chance.
“Make no small plans,” said Daniel Burnham – and so was born Chicago. Myself, I’d like to see your Mars again, with miraculous great blossomings as far as the eye can see.