This past Sunday, Kage Baker lost her year-long battle with cancer. We science-fiction readers have lost a brilliant author and a dear friend.
Ms. Baker will be long remembered for her Company series: a wonderful collection of eleven novels, two novellas and scads of short stories that began with In the Garden of Iden in 1997. These relate the exploits of immortal cyborgs, plundering history for greedy corporate masters in the 24th century. I cannot do justice to this highly entertaining and satisfying body of work in this short post, but rest assured, I will be presenting a more in-depth overview of the Company and its tales of time-traveling adventure, humor, conspiracy, romance and chocolate in the very near future.
Until then, here are my previous reviews of Empress of Mars and two shorter pieces. I also mentioned her last Company-related novel Not Less than Gods in my rant about Steampunk. The latter will coming out from Tor in March with this spiffy new cover.
I met Kage Baker twice, and only in the capacity of Gushing Fanboy. She was extremely gracious and funny, we spoke on such topics as the space program, the Breton language, theater, dopey neo-pagans and of course History. This woman lived and breathed history — she, with her close community of loving friends, was a re-enactor at Renaissance and Dickens' Fairs for many years, dedicated to getting the look and feel of those periods just right. She taught classes in Elizabethan English as a Second Language. She spoke to me about her misgivings with "authentic" Wiccan ceremonies at Ren Faires and the silliness of Steampunkers. In her writing as in person, her biting wit was always razor-sharp but never unduly vicious. The foibles of the self-righteous, the arrogant, or just plain addle-pated were a never-ending feast for her satirical skills.
For a more knowledgeable and intimate tribute to Kage Baker, please read this post by her friend and editor Marty Halpern.
I wanted to write this earlier, in hopes that Kage would know of my deep affection for her writing before she left us. But it's difficult writing something while so emotionally torn up about the subject and well — I totally blew it. In her introduction to the very first Company tale "Noble Mold", Kage reveals that she first told the story to her own mother who was on her deathbed. Reading it now is especially poignant. That story can be found in the Highly Recommended collection Black Projects, White Knights. Go get it. Right now.
None of us is an immortal cyborg. We all die, usually a lot sooner than we'd wish. There is however, the chance that some of us — by our works, the lives we've touched, the friends we've made — will continue on through History to be remembered and continue to inspire others. Kage Baker has achieved that goal.
This still sucks.
Commenter Grey_Area was known to Kage Baker as Chris Hsiang. He is consuming massive amounts of chocolate, it's not helping. Top image by Coy Underwood