Monday, January 25, 2010

An Appreciation of Kage Baker

About a week ago, the news came out that Kage Baker, a fine writer and great storyteller, was gravely ill with cancer. I saw the story first through Jeff VanderMeer, and full details are available here. Her loved ones have asked for letters and messages of support from anyone who knows her or her work, since the prognosis is very bad. The message below is what I'm sending, and I encourage any of you who've enjoyed her work to take the time to write as well.

We've never met, and I won't say that I know you from your books -- any person is much more complicated and interesting than their work. Even someone who's written such wonderful, zippy, cram-packed books as you have. But I do know your writing, and it's given me a great amount of joy for the past decade.

I wish I had met you, especially since I bought the eight novels of the main "Company" sequence for omnibuses at the Science Fiction Book Club, and got to e-mail back and forth with you a couple of times about titles for them. It was also one of the consolations when I lost that job that I had just managed to finish up work on the fourth of those omnibuses before I left -- those are books I loved, and kept insisting that people read, so it was important to get them done right.

The Company books are just so full -- of life, of verve, of energy, and of a thousand little facts and side-thoughts. I had an image in my head of the woman behind those books, and you always seemed to live up to it, with an interestingly varied life before turning to writing and a long list of quirky, fascinating interests. You took two very old and well-worn SFnal ideas -- the time machine and the immortal -- and did something new and fresh with them, at the same time writing deeply historical novels that didn't feel like history lessons and near-future thrillers that were excitingly historical.

And then your short fiction was even better than the novels, with amazing stories like "Mother Aegypt" and "The House at Harlan's Landing" and "The Angel in the Darkness." Your novellas were your best work; I've come to believe that's a sign of the very best genre writers, that they can take that very tricky, mid-length form and bang it into breathtaking shapes. And you are certainly one of them.

I was also inspired because you started writing later in life -- much like another magnificent writer of short fiction, Lucius Shepard -- and I assumed that you'd be a fixture of the SF scene for at least as long as he has been. And I'm enough of a believer in hair's-breadth escapes -- and I remember the ending of The Sons of Heaven well enough -- to believe that still could happen.

You have all my best wishes, Kage, for the books and stories you've already written and for all the ones you might yet write, and my most fervent hopes that somehow there can be a happy ending to this story of yours. You deserve it.


Andrew Wheeler
Listening to: Fountains Of Wayne - All Kinds Of Time
via FoxyTunes

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