I Shout Into The Void … And It Answers

Kage Baker had faith in the over-seeing sentience of the Universe. She felt the Universe was naturally inclined to be responsive to the behaviour of the living things in it – like water is sensitive to the splash of a stone. And if the lesser sentient minds that made up the Universe just paid attention, they would notice the Universe reacting to them. Much could be anticipated by being observant.

This has nothing to do with religion, by the way. Kage was a fairly pious, mostly Roman Catholic person. These last several decades, it’s been rather fashionable to describe one’s self, if not an active member of a church, as an agnostic or a deist – but Kage found that mealy-mouthed and bloodless. Her relationship with God was deep and personal and passionate: she just didn’t like organized religion very much. But there was no doubt in her as to the existance of God. It was just a private affair. If she hadn’t had a living to make, she’d probably have been an ecstatic, an anchorite.

No, her  faith in the sentience and aliveness of the Universe was like her belief in the reality of birds, pavement, pizza, rum. There they are – they are real. Actions performed on them will result in equal and opposite reactions, in accordance with the Third Law of Motion. You do need to pay attention to get the full effect. But it’s that way with everything – if you don’t pay attention to the  sleeping dog upon whose paw you have just trodden, it will be a surprise when the dog lunges up and bites you. You won’t know where it came from. It will be a Mystery.

This happens all the time. Thousands of people every day are bitten, run over, beaten up, served with papers, presented with awards, proposed to, descended upon by aliens, etc. – and they have no idea why. They were just sitting there, “minding their own business”, and this guy shot them. Or gave them a million dollars. Or flapped his arms and flew away. Doesn’t matter; they weren’t paying attention, and so have no idea of what the perfectly logical chain of events was that led to the final action.

Kage always tried to keep her eye on that. It was the Universe, moving all around her, aware and responsive. She liked to get the jump on it.

Me, I operate more on a less instinctual level. When Kage was with me, I relied on her radar and her mythotropic senses to let me know what the cosmic tides were doing; nowawdays, I must admit, I am more stumbling along the beach and hoping I don’t encounter a tsunami or a jellyfish. I am trying not to mind my own business too much, because that seems to be the classical path to disaster: so far, though, all I have managed to achieve is not knowing what the hell I am doing most of the time. But hey, it’s a start, right?

Anyway, today my patient legacy agent, the amazing Linn Prentis, sent me an email asking me for the original copyright provenance of one of Kage’s last stories: The Books. Gardner Dozois – Editor Supreme, Wizard Deluxe, one of the Great Gentlemen of Science Fiction, Live Forever, Noble Lord! – wants to use it in his coming 28th Year’s Best Science Fiction. So where was it printed first? inquired Linn.

Hell, I didn’t remember. I could picture perfectly what the cover looked like  – though not the title, just the Eiffel Tower melting in a huge swollen sun … I racked my brains, I plundered the mansion of memory, trying to recall. I asked Harry (he sang me the Spongebob Squarepants theme). The little black cat rose up behind my chair and massaged my aching scalp. The Corgi initiated a running fit back and forth through my room, barking insanely, cornering like a ferret on speed round the edges of my desk …

And, turning to smite the little bugger, I saw the book. The book with The Books in it, the author’s copy sent to me after Kage’s death. It was sitting there, not 6 feet away, with a  plastic box of African animals on top of Kage’s retro turntable that I keep so I can listen to old vinyl. Beside my sewing basket, which I ransacked last night looking for a tape measure and beside which there were no books of any sort at the time.

The Universe had flexed its muscles and tossed me a major breadcrumb. Or Kage is still waving her hands through its substance from somewhere, and sending me a ripple of response. A ripple with a rubber ball on it, to hit me between the eyes and say Wake up!

Thanks, kiddo.

About Kathleen Bartholomew

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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4 Responses to I Shout Into The Void … And It Answers

  1. Kara says:

    >I asked Harry (he sang me the Spongebob Squarepants theme).<

    Heh. That made me smile, thanks.

    Also, was Harry the inspiration for Pippy in 'The Green Bird' ?

    Like this

  2. Kate says:

    Yes, Harry has been the inspiration for all the clever, wicked birds in Kage’s stories. In “The Queen In Yellow”, there is a parrot who burns down a guy’s house … Life with a parrot marks you deeply. Sometimes literally.

    Like this

  3. widdershins says:

    Ravens and crows are my ‘pay attention’ messengers. I learned early on in my life never to ignore that raucous call.

    Like this

  4. Kate says:

    Corvidea are my second-favourites, after Psitticines. But I can’t claim any connection. I just like them.

    Like this

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