Kage Baker loved the collecting of diverse facts.
Any facts, on any topic. If the topic was peculiar, that gave it bonus points. If it wasn’t weird to begin with, she sought strange facts with which to burnish a dull subject. It was all prime entertainment, for her.
She could happily spend whole evenings tracking strange trails and footprints through the Internet. If a topic turned out to bore her, or confound her, or just not be accessible, she would usually assign it to me. I will read anything; I’m never happier than when immersed in the printed word. I’m a junky. Sooner or later, after all that work, we’d turn on all the Lava Lamps in the living room and brainstorm – which meant just opening the stopcocks on our mouths and babbling until Kage grabbed hold of a plot.
It was like playing darts with live dragonflies. I miss it.
Sometimes the facts Kage hunted were in the initial pursuit of a story point, in the course of research. She was a steely-eyed researcher, always in search of a fact so odd it would put the most lurid story in the shade. Luckily for the world in general, I think, she was honest to a fault: she hated lies, had half a hundred tells to give her own away, and just found it easier to never, ever lie
“But, hey -” you say, Dear Readers, ” – but, hey, she wrote fiction. Isn’t fiction falsehoods?”
Well, no. Not the way Kage did it. Not when she was doing it. If it turned out to be fake later, that was neither Kage’s doing, nor her fault. Everything she wrote was based on a true story, when she wrote it down.
That was how she composed. It was the premise behind her conception of time travel. It was the base line of her reality: which was, reality is situational. Being situational, it was in the control of whomsoever had the most facts. Or the loudest ones. Or maybe the ones in ultraviolet or infrared, or woven of shantung silk, or chocolate flavoured. And there was never a map or a menu on offer. All you could do was hang on and wait to see how Kage was interpreting a fact.
That included Kage, too. She was often surprised (and occasionally appalled) at how characters insisted on behaving, or how plots designed their own evolution. I suspect all writers feel that way from time to time, especially the ones who let themselves get immersed in their stories.
What made the surprises so startling to Kage was that she was absolutely not one of those artisanal writers who let the Universe flow unhampered through her hands. Kage kept stern control of her hands, and a jaundiced eye on the damned Universe. This stuff just happened. Which was why she was always on the hunt for good, cold, hard facts. She knew they were going to turn to melty cobwebs and moonshine as soon she took her eyes off them.
But they certainly were good cobwebs, and splendid moonshine, weren’t they? And that’s a fact you can trust.