Hath not an Aspie hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions?

Kage Baker had Asperger’s Syndrome. She was what is usually called “high-functioning”, a label that incensed her. It was her opinion that she was always high-functioning, no matter what she was – and for the rest of the world to label her so cavalierly and condescendingly was an insult that drove her to rage.

It annoyed her so much that, in her late 40’s – after a  lifetime of hiding, avoiding triggers, finding compensatory habits, forcing herself to find safe ways to communicate: Kage threw all her armour to the winds and outed herself at a convention. From then on, she identified herself firmly as an Asperger person and fought online and in person for those less fortunate or gifted than herself. And also to let people know that she, herself, was not a genetic freak nor an aberration, but a talented writer whose brain was simply wired even more differently than most.

Funny thing. Most of my birth family has Asperger’s, as well as Kage. Maybe it’s why she and I were instant sisters from an early age; I was used to it. Kimberly has Asperger’s – her husband has Asperger’s – and their son, my nephew Michael, has Asperger’s. They are all “high-functioning”  -really, that is such a loathsome phrase! – and I have spent my life defending those I love (when necessary) from strangers who think there is something wrong with them. It’s not usually needed, because my family is intelligent, well-mannered and fierce: but I’m the one who can stare into your eyes like a basilisk, and am never rendered speechless. Eye contact? Cutting repartee? I am your woman.

My sister and brother-in-law are now retired – but before that, they were both teachers. She taught kindergärtners, and early education is not an easy field. He taught physics – is there anyone who thinks that is a field for the sub-average?  Michael is currently an in-home assistant for his ailing father, a vocation that requires both brains and empathy. Like Kage, he also works Fair with me; being someone else for a few weeks a year in the company of friends is apparently quite beneficial.

Kage and Kimberly both enjoyed the nickname “Aspies”. I find it unnecessarily cute, but it’s not my nickname, so I figure it’s basically none of my business.

And that is, really, part of my musings on this subject. It’s none of my business. Not for anyone, not for anything they want to call themselves. It’s no one else’s business, either. This is a subject I honestly thought was solved a few years ago – but now it appears that one of the new targets of our evil-addled government is going to be those citizens who happen to have disabilities. And for lots of people, alas, Asperger’s is a disability. The reason it was not for Kage, nor for my family, nor for people like Temple Grandin nor Stanley Kubrick nor Darryl Hannah nor (most likely) freaking Leonardo da Vinci – is that those people had adequate support systems. And those are not easily come by, Dear Readers, which is a large part of the tragedy of Asperger’s Syndrome.

Asperger’s can be an immense disability, all too easily. In some cases, it always is: where there is intellectual impairment, or neurological deficits; where there is non-verbalism, or crippling fear, or obsession – then, yes, it can be a dreadful disability. And those who suffer at that depth are truly helpless, and must be taken care of a lot more than ordinary people. Not dismissed! Never dismissed!

Would you dismiss someone who had trouble with their legs? Well, yes, come to think of it – there a lots of people who would, and far to many of them are working in the government. My point is that it is evil.

Does anyone you love have Asperger’s? Do you, yourself, know or suspect that you are not just shy, but actually an Aspie? Regard the title of this blog , then, and take it as the battle cry it has always been for the different and the outsider. Shakespeare gave the speech from which it comes to the most recognizable outsider of his world: the Jew. Its universality is such that it has remained a banner for anyone, everyone, who finds themselves cast out of society through no fault of their own.

Read the rest of Shylock’s immortal speech. Hear in it the despair and passion of someone who knows themself to be human, and knows as well that the rest of the world does not see them as such. Consider the implications of disabilities being reduced once again to non-persons, second class citizen, inhumans – and consider, too, the last line of this speech …

“I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? Fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?”

Blood-curdling, isn’t it? All of it. Just think about it.

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Joys and Perils of Eating the Past

Kage Baker was an avid historian. She was also a good cook. At the intersection of these two passions were the period recipes she liked to recreate and serve t0 her friends. The main goals were curiosity and attention to detail: how did bread taste with peas, beans and boiled rye in it in it, and would it play better to the eye than a hunk of sour dough?

When she began writing, those same urges applied to the foods she described in her books. If it was ancient or exotic, she had to try it; not just tasting it, but sourcing the ingredients as accurately as possible, and making it as close to the original fashion as she could.

There are plenty of cookbooks out there these days with period recipes from various ages. A lot of them are in translation, though, with the original instructions translated into something a modern cook and kitchen can manage. Kage considered that cheating, even though the best of them are successful in achieving a non-modern taste treat. However, Kage liked to play it as close to the original as possible – even if it meant learning to joint a rabbit (which differs anatomically from, say, a chicken, in interesting and hilarious ways), or stewing turnips in a ceramic pot on the edge of the living room fireplace. Cream of soot, yum.)

This mania is common to the more creative kind of re-creators, by the way. In our own group, it has led to learning how to bake bread and perfect scones over a wood fire (we will never forget them, Shannon!), and discovering that parsnip tarts are a pastry worthy of the gods (thank you, Neassa!), as well as one memorable afternoon where Kimberly produced Yorkshire pudding over the open fire in the Innyard: she had tourists leaning over the fence drooling around their cameras.

It can be taken too far, of course – one of our dear friends, the late and much-lamented Kevin Brown, managed by dint of cleverness and iron nerves to reproduce Roman fish sauce, aka garum. Go ahead, look it up on the aether, Dear Readers. But make sure you pick one of the really authentic recipes, not one of the sissy versions that say it’s not as bad as you might think. Those always leave out the entrails and the solar stewing in a clay jar. But Kevin did all the traditional things. It was an historical triumph, and every bit as ghastly as you might expect.

Kage drew the line at garum, but only because she hated fish and didn’t want to share houseroom with extravagantly undead bait fish. Many of her experiments were divine. I still adore her pottage of leeks, which is guaranteed to curl your toes with delight and initiate serious cholesterol poisoning. However, as I have mentioned before, a lot of the foods in the Company books were tried out on me – sardine tacos. Maize pancakes with creme de leche. Creamed turnips, and eel soup with poppy petals. Oranges  in brine, ham with buttercream frosting, marzipan locusts. Maraschino liqueur.

Maraschino liqueur, incidentally, is disgusting. Forget sweet little cherries on ice cream sundaes; maraschino looks like vodka and motor oil and tastes like rancid buttered Brazil nuts. There is nothing remotely cherry-esque about it. Kage resorted to trying several brands, and then making it herself finally; the only person who could drink it was her, but mirabile dictu! Kage loved it!  So she drank maraschino and I ate sardine tacos, and we sneered at one another and she got to write really authentic food scenes.

In illustration of the kinds of things Kage liked to try, here is a link to the many fruits and vegetables that are believed to have made their way across Asia into Europe via the Silk Road. ( https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/what-fruits-grew-along-the-silk-road). There are lots of interesting things to try here. Kage was always fascinated with the idea that apples and roses – so quintessentially English! – were brought into the Blessed Isles by the Romans: who, as it turned out, got them in turn via the Silk Road.

A slight turn to one side from the above article brings us to a recent tragedy, which happened because people forgot old food information. (https://tinyurl.com/y3wo3pvr). This involved a Mongolian couple, whose people – like most folks near the Silk Road – once had very specific rules about when it safe to eat marmots. (Hint: it’s not.) Evidently forgetting this, and relying instead on imported Chinese traditional medicine, they ate a marmot’s kidneys in order to ensure good health. But, guess what? The marmots along the Silk Road are the natural reservoir for bubonic plague! Did Chinese traditional medicine know this? Nope. And this couple promptly died of plague; and I don’t think most of their friends and relations know the connection to the ancient lore …

This is the other reason to find out how and what and why people used to eat. Sometimes something fatal is mixed up in the old stories, and it’s nice to figure out what it was before we chow down on the local rodents, or wet rye flour.  Or before we condemn all moldy bread to the waste bin, when it might cure syphilis. Or even hang on to the blue moldy cheese, because it just might taste lots better than that 2-week old crap made with rennet and a cow’s stomach fat …

Just steer clear of the garum and and the maraschino liqueur.

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Pupae

Kage Baker always said she could feel her blood thinning in the Spring, thickening in the Fall. I always said that was nice poetry but lousy biology; but as Kage also believed for most of her life that raw potatoes caused trichinosis, she dismissed my cavil as mere persiflage.

But I have really a felt a thawing and a stirring in my blood these last few days, and I think I am actively pupating. Kage would not be surprised. She knew she was right.

She was also of the fixed opinion that one can always be reborn. In fact, she was fairly sure that there was no way to avoid it; it happened all the time, as far as she was concerned. All one could do was to:  First, be ready to change at any time; and Second, have a good grasp of who you are to start with, so as to reduce the inevitable period of confusion.

She held a similar opinion regarding the Apocalypse. Every Apocalypse. According to Kage, the prophecies of the end (s) of the world (s) were always true. And they happened, every one of them. It was just that almost no one was equipped to notice, because they got renewed, too; or because very few people were  wired to notice; or because the few people who did notice covered it all up as quickly as they could.

When I inquired as to the provenance of this idea, she said she learned it from an interview with Jim Morrison – in, I think, a 1964 issue of that renowned End Times journal, Tiger Beat. Another time she claimed she had heard it from the yoga instructor who rented one of the rooms of the ex-wildcat movie studio in the house next door.  She blamed it on Mother Shipton, once; and on the Rosicrucians, too – although I don’t think she ever knew any.

In the end, Kage used the idea to disguise the End of Time, the Great Silence, and lots of peculiar natural disasters; and so put paid to the Company while no one noticed. I might have attributed this to desperate fatigue as the original trilogy expanded into 7, 8, 9 books. However, Kage first expounded the idea when we were 14 and 15, eating Smith Brothers Softish Cherry Cough Drops while hiding under the curtains of grape ivy that veiled our decaying Alma Mater … so it had been on her mind for a looong time.

That was at Immaculate Heart High School. This week, the junior bacchantes of that student body are leaping for joy around the leftover May Day poles, celebrating our mutual alumna, Meghan Mountbatten-Windsor nee Markle. Talk about renewals, about the world totally changing and no one noticing! That little boy is an astonishing new chapter in a millennium-old book, and only the immediate participants have really noticed. But the little May Sussex boy is really a firedrake across the skies of British history, as bright and blazing as his Dad’s hair.

New times, Dear Readers, new times. New worlds, new magics, new flowers coming up through the winter thatch of the front garden – what was a lawn is now a waving sea of (mostly) oats. It’s green and silver and it moves like the sea, whatever it is. The oats and the wildflowers are keeping company with tomatoes, poppies, roses, a baby maple tree, a floral fountain and the stone Crocodile that swims through the lower lawn. And of course, the whole place is alive with squirrels and finches, raccoons and ravens, looking to make the next generation.

I feel like I’ve been taking a year off dead for taxes purposes. But now, I am alive again. I can actually reach above my head with my right arm, which has been a magic trick completely beyond me since last May. To celebrate, I replaced the laptop I fell on last August, and now I can once again type with two hands!

My desktop is still difficult of access, due to a year of not being able to sort or use my yarn stash; skeins of wool and linen, feral needles, are all still obscuring the desk. But I have at least partially emerged.

For your amusement, I give you as a gift the cocoons of the  orange spotted tiger clear-wing, which is none of those things – it is a butterfly that somehow spins a cocoon of silver. I also commend to you the exquisite Luna moth, into which I wish I could pupate; and the little brown bat, which is what I suspect is closer to my style.

The moral is that you never know what will hatch out of what, or what you will become, or what cycle of life you are actually illustrating. Kage may have known – I know I never will.

But all choices have their charm, Dear Readers, eh?

 

 

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I Screaming Out Loud All The Time I Write

Kage Baker thought the description of the Squeers family, in Charles Dickens’ Nicholas Nickelby, was about the funniest family ever committed to paper.

They are a sort of ghastly, but affectionate, ogre family who run an appalling boys’ school wherein the titular hero of the novel is an unhappy schoolmaster. Briefly. It all ends in tears, bloodshed and hyperbole, because the Squeers are only affectionate to one another. To everyone else, they are absolutely horrible – except for the daughter of the family, Miss Fanny Squeers, who is convinced she is a deathless beauty and falls in love with anything in trousers …

Fanny was Kage’s favourite. She even used the character in a bespoke story about Springheel Jack, and laughed her ass off the entire time she wrote the dialogue. It appeared  in, I think, The Mammoth Book if Dickensian Whodunits, edited by Mike Ashley; Carroll & Graf, October 2007. 

Since I have been mistaken about where I published my own stories lately, I could be wrong about this. My brain is leaking out my ears … but I think this is the one.

My day has been a long, long sled ride today, on a broken sled, over a morass of flaming shit. I have had severe problems with online systems which I desperately need to access, in order to pay bills and prove to the state of California that I am not dead, not in good health, and still in need of my disability benefits. ALL these systems refuse to acknowledge my user names or passwords, most have informed me I do not exist, and I have had it with all of them. Absolutely nothing has been accomplished.

The one time I got a  live clerk, she sent me a verification code via phone – and then told me her system could not recognize it when I repeated it back to her. And by then, I had tried too many times to be accommodated until another 12 hours goes by.

Hence the title. For context, and for your amusement, Dear Reader, I attach here the original letter from NN, which so entertained Kage. You should have heard her acting it out …

 

“Sir,

“My pa requests me to write to you. The doctors considering it doubtful whether he will ever recuvver the use of his legs which prevents his holding a pen.

“We are in a state of mind beyond everything, and my pa is one-mask of brooses both blue and green likewise two forms are steepled in his Goar. We were kimpelled to have him carried down into the kitchen where he now lays. You will judge from this that he has been brought very low.

“When your nevew that you recommended for a teacher had done this to my pa and jumped upon his body with his feet and also langwedge which I will not pollewt my pen with describing, he assaulted my ma with dreadful violence, dashed her to the earth, and drove her back comb several inches into her head. A very little more and it must have entered her skull. We have a medical certifiket that if it had, the tortershell would have affected the brain.

“Me and my brother were then the victims of his feury since which we have suffered very much which leads us to the arrowing belief that we have received some injury in our insides, especially as no marks of violence are visible externally. I am screaming out loud all the time I write and so is my brother which takes off my attention rather, and I hope will excuse mistakes.

“The monster having satiated his thirst for blood ran away, taking with him a boy of desperate caracter that he had excited to rebellyon, and a garnet ring belonging to my ma, and not having been apprehended by the constables is supposed to have been took up by some stage-coach. My pa begs that if he comes to you the ring may be returned, and that you will let the thief and assassin go, as if we prosecuted him he would only be transported, and if he is let go he is sure to be hung before long, which will save us trouble, and be much more satisfactory.

Hoping to hear from you when convenient

“I remain

“Yours and cetrer

 

“Fanny Squeers.

 

“P.S. I pity his ignorance and despise him.”

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Off Weekend

Kage Baker rests in the Garden of Sleep, Drake is in his hammock and a thousand miles away, and I have some sort of gastritis.

We are taking the weekend off. See you all tomorrow.

 

 

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January 11th, Mark I (Maybe)

Kage Baker enjoyed her modern technology, and depended heavily on it for her work and her play.

Being Kage, however, she also expected it to betray her, eventually. She didn’t really trust technology, at least of the sort that did not depend on the skill of her own hands. She didn’t even really have confidence in her bottle opener, and that was just basically a lever. There’s not a much simpler tool than a lever …

Anyway, she was consequently not surprised when the complicated tools of the Internet failed. The aether was as close to magic as Kage knew, and she was not a magic user. When the computer crashed or the modem failed or some even more mysterious component went tits up, Kage was infuriated but resigned. Much cursing occurred, then she handed the problem off to someone who could handle it.

And Kage, temper satisfied, could continue writing. With a sensible pen. On sensible paper. By sensible candle light, if the problem went far enough.

Last night, my computer service went down several times. Not for long, at any one time: but I was repeatedly unable to access the aether for a few minutes. I’d go off and do something else, then return to find I could only get to some sites; others stayed dead to me for the night.

It was probably some glitch in ATT’s network servers, but what it boiled down to for our purposes, Dear Readers. was NO WORDPRESS.  (There were others, but not as important. Except to me.) It’s something to which WordPress is especially prone. I suspect that any diminution of its contact with the wider aether gives it a TIA. My using  a VPN probably doesn’t help, either; but one must be safe, you know.

So, anyway, no post last night. This one may be a placeholder. It may be the first chapter in today’s blog. It may also be all I get done today, because my darling nephew found me pumpkin chocolate chip cookies, AND I got my latest shipment of Mullah coffee. So I may eventually retreat with coffee and sweeties.

But in the meantime, today is the anniversary of the Nika Riots in Constantinople, in 532 CE. Which means that even as I write, Joseph is lurking around Byzantium, running a safe house for treasures of the ancient world, and about to encounter the power of icons in a very close and personal way.*

And that is certainly good for a grin.

 

 

*”Pareidolia”, from In the Company of Thieves, Tachyon Publishing

 

 

 

 

 

 

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In Praise of Athena Ergane

Kage Baker was a proud working woman. She honored Athena Ergane, which was Athena in her aspect of the patroness of workers and artisans. Kage dedicated one of her books to Athena Ergane, though right at the moment, I shamefully cannot recall which one …

If one of you, Dear Readers, does remember, do please let me know.

Anyway, Kage also took Athena Ergane as a patroness. It fit in nicely with her personal life efforts, as a scholar and as a woman of her hands; Kage never abandoned purely physical arts entirely. She always had her pens and brushes to hand should something need illustrating. She took up carving in her 50’s, producing (among other things) faux bluestone pylons carved with cup and ring marks for the garden of the Inn at Renaissance faires. In her last couple of years of life, she was experimenting with casting little figures in rubber and plastic: also, lots of her own hands … we had some freaky pot holders for a while, but they had a tendency to melt.

Most of the ladies in Kage’s stories were likewise artisans; certainly, all the female Operatives. She favoured practical, self-sufficient women in her distaff characters – except when being a disaster was a plot point, as with Mendoza and her cataclysmic love life. Most of them were more like Nefer and Nan among the Operatives, and Mary Griffith, the Empress of Mars.

That was Kage’s idea of a true heroine. From an early age, she admired Dorothy Gale of Kansas; whom Frank Baum made utterly practical and unflappable. “No help for it!” cries Dorothy, falling from the skies with a talking hen, and manages to both land on her feet and catch the chicken.

Today, a dear friend (and likewise a determined woman of her hands), sent me a fascinating link to an article. See below:

goo.gl/GxJ2CD

This relates that a medieval nun’s skull has been found with ultramarine pigment between her teeth. As this was an insanely expensive pigment, made from crushed lapis lazuli and worth more than gold, it was only used by skilled and honoured scribes. Which means this lady, a nun in a cloister a thousand years ago, was very much a skilled scribe.

This is a nice snoot cocking, as well as a poke in the same, for all those who deny medieval intelligence in general and the abilities of women in particular. Puella virtute!

This is especially nice because I will shortly be inquiring as to the status of a novel I dropped off with a publisher over the summer. One of the main characters is a scribe-nun … at least until the world gets weird and she runs off for a life of adventure, cocktails and really wild things. She was modelled on Kage, by me, long ago. Also last year, when I rewrote the entire damned book for submission.

I am taking this as a fortunate augury. Praise to Athena Ergane!

And thank you, Stacey Jo.

 

 

 

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