The Dead Zone

Kage Baker felt that the first few days of any new year were a huge let down. All the wonderful madness of Christmas built up over weeks and weeks; the tide carried one right up to New Year’s Day and over the calendrical hump in a wash of tinsel and leftover cookies.

Where one was abandoned. Worse, one had to go back to school or to work, and somehow believe that the new toy or blouse or whatever made up for floating belly-up in the backwater of Winter. About the only thing that got Kage through the first week was games. Especially pirate games, where she could shoot things, and cheer madly in the sword battles she convinced me to fight for her …

Oh, and writing. Eventually,  Kage got into the habit of starting a new story right after New Year. That kept her alert and involved enough to – well, do just about anything but  writing. Shooting cannons, especially.

Luckily, we always celebrated Christmas right through 12th Night. As you have heard me pontificate before, Dear Readers, the famed 12 Days of Christmas do not end on December 25th: that’s when they begin. They then run until the Epiphany on January 6th, which is a last, grand blowout until Imbolc, Valentine’s Day, and Presidents’ weekend.

That lets you down a little easier. It gives you a reminder to take down the Christmas lights before the neighbors get up a petition. And, in Kage’s firm belief, it provided an opportunity to give people the presents that had slipped down under the desk while you were frantically wrapping on Christmas Eve.

The Aztecs, you know, reserved an entire block of days at the end of each year, to provide a bumper between one year and the next. Those 5 days or so just didn’t exist – and since they were also extremely bad luck, most people did as little as possible. What they did do wasn’t counted. Unless you committed some blasphemy, in which case the gods were always thirsty … but even then, you probably had to wait until the government opened again and could get around to peeling your skin off for the greater glory of the goddess of Spring.

Not much has really changed since the ancients, you know?

Anyway, we are now in that quiet place where the New Year hasn’t really begun. It’s a few nights yet until 12th Night, and by then the stuff I ordered but which has not yet arrived may actually be delivered. I’m down to the chocolate coins and apple butter from my stocking, and with luck the batteries will last a few more days in the insanely-blinking varicoloured epilepsy lights strung on my desk. The nephew is still playing his new computer game, and Kimberly is working her way through her half-dozen new hedgehog socks. Everyone is marking imaginary time.

And I am back on the old soap box, filling this annual Dead Zone with my own version of hope. It’s mainly just stumbling on until the grey blur ahead resolves into an actual light at the end of the tunnel: but hey, that works. As long as we all get there, all will be well.

It’s much nicer to stumble on in good company, anyway: until we reach that fresh new point where everything we do counts again.


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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5 Responses to The Dead Zone

  1. buggybite says:

    I’ve given up ‘celebrating’ the 12 days of Christmas, because here in Scotland people just don’t get it. Most folks will have taken down their holiday decorations yesterday—Wednesday. (They put them up at the end of November, and by Christmas time they’re sick of seeing them. The greenery has died, the flowers have wilted, the tree, if they have a real one, is shedding needles like mad.) It’s a shame. And of course here in Scotland, the New Year dominates anyway.

    I’m like you. I prefer Christmas to START on the 24th of December, not end the next day. Maybe in this age of perpetual indoor light and warmth, not to mention our isolation from the rhythms of nature, we just don’t feel that old collective need for the long, indulgent holiday that begins around the solstice time. Christmas and New Year just interrupts our working world.

    It’s hard to celebrate what should be a culturally convivial time if nobody else shares it with you. So I do my own thing in private. I’m still reading Christmas-related books and stories, etc. Still sitting in front of my lit tree during the day, or early morning with my coffee in hand. I will stubbornly stick to this activity till 12th night. And I’ve even saved a cake to mark the occasion. (No beans in it, though. No point in getting crowned queen of myself.)


  2. Charles Albrecht says:

    It’s great to have you back!!!
    That slug that criticised you brought pain to someone who has already suffered so much pain and yet works so hard to keep her sister’s memory alive. One good thing came out of it: when I thought you had died I started rereading the Company novels. Don’t worry, I won’t stop.
    Best wishes for 2019

    Chuck A

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pamela Duncan says:

    We keep our decorations up until 3 kings and for years put p the tree on Christmas eve ( IE once the wonderful insanity that is Dickens was over). But truly, I was brought up that way and when Tim and I got together it worked out well since as you know he’s basque, basque from northern spain so we had to celebrate 3 kings! Glad to be quietly marking time with you at this lulling time of year

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Kara says:

    So good to see you back! Woo hoo! Perfect start to the new year! Yay! Bring on more of the awesome philosophical musings!

    And I think the Aztecs had the right idea of ending the year with a little do-nothing time (which, they understood, was completely different from a ‘holiday’ which means ‘celebrating’, which means a lot of work for someone in the back doing all the dishes and laundry.)

    Shame about all the blood, but at least the Aztecs were up front and honest that they needed your blood to keep the universe running. Unlike other people today who smile at you and lie through their pointy teeth that: ‘we’re here to help’.

    Speaking of Aztecs, I highly recommend ‘Servant of the Underworld’ by Aliette de Bodard, which is best described as “Aztec Urban Fantasy Detective Noir”.


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