Wednesday, January 27, 2010

In the Company of Kage Baker

Update: January 31, 2010: Sadly, I have just learned that Kage Baker passed away this morning. My thoughts are with her sister Kathleen, her niece "Emma Rose," her extended family, friends, and readers. If I may borrow some words from Jeff VanderMeer: "I would like to think that this is not the end, that instead [Kage has] merely been assigned by The Company to some new mission." Regardless, rest in peace, Kage. I am so grateful for the time -- and the projects -- we've shared together.

My friend, author Kage Baker, is extremely ill. I knew last year that Kage was ill, but it wasn't until we spoke together at the World Fantasy Convention in San Jose, California, over Halloween weekend -- Kage in a wheelchair while her sister Kathleen looked after her -- that I learned that the evil culprit was cancer. At the con, Kage informed me that she had surgery scheduled, but the prognosis wasn't as dire then as it had become by Christmas eve, when cancer had been found in Kage's brain.

Kage had chosen not to publicly announce her illness and, respecting her wishes, I kept this knowledge to myself. But that silence has now been broken with
this announcement by Kage's caregiver and sister, Kathleen Bartholomew, in which she states: "If we are lucky, the therapies will win [Kage] a few months; if we are incredibly lucky, 6 months to a year. If she gets more than that, it will be a literal miracle...."

But then, isn't that what our genre is all about: miracles, both fictional and real?

Kathleen goes on to say: "[Kage] is not giving up, though, and neither -- obviously! -- am I. I have been her caregiver for 8 months now, and am not going to surrender as long as there is the smallest chance of her living through this."

What Kathleen is asking for is your support: "Please send cards, thoughts, prayers and all the healing energy and love you can!" You can send your prayers and thoughts via email to and they will be printed and read to Kage immediately. Letters, notes, cards and anything else you can think of can be sent to her home:
Kage Baker
331 Stimson, Apt. B
Pismo Beach CA 93449

Back in 1997 I started hearing rumblings of a new time travel novel that was soon to be published -- a story about a group of immortals who traveled back in time, saving (read: salvaging) artifacts in the past for later "discovery" in the future. Sounds like a good thing, right? Saving pieces of the past so that they are not lost and thus can be appreciated by those in the future? Except that most of the saving was being done for future profit, and many of these immortal cyborgs -- and the masterminds behind them -- were not so virtuous, or, let's just say that things weren't so black and white as they initially appeared. The novel was In the Garden of Iden by Kage Baker, and it was first published in the UK by Hodder & Stoughton in 1997. I purchased the UK hardcover edition because I didn't want to wait until the following year for the US Harcourt edition.

That group of time traveling immortals -- and the masterminds behind them -- became known as "The Company" -- officially Dr. Zeus Incorporated (or Jovian Integrated Systems, if you are familiar with the Alec Checkerfield stories) and, its Victorian-era precursor, the Gentlemen's Speculative Society. In the Garden of Iden was followed by Sky Coyote in 1999, Mendoza in Hollywood in 2000, and The Graveyard Game in 2001, all from publisher Harcourt.

Though I had read the first two novels, the one story that really made me take notice was novella "Son Observe the Time," originally published in the May 1999 issue of
Asimov's Science Fiction and reprinted in Gardner Dozois's Year's Best Science Fiction: Seventeenth Annual Collection, which is where I first read the story. The events in this story take place just before the 1909 San Francisco earthquake; living in the San Francisco Bay Area, earthquakes are near and dear to my heart. [We just had a 5-pointer about three weeks ago.] After reading this one story, I then tried to read all the "Company" short stories that I could find. In May 2001, I contacted Kage Baker via email about the possibility of a short story collection; at the time I was acquiring and editing for Golden Gryphon Press. Kage responded the very same day, stating that she was intrigued with my proposal and that she has forwarded my letter to her agent Linn Prentis1; they would get back to me on this soon. On May 9 I received an email from Linn: "We are thrilled that you are interested in doing a Baker Company collection. Kage has put together a list [of stories] and we are checking it for possible conflicts." Linn went on to ask about terms and a possible publication date.

My plan was to publish the collection in time for the 2002 WorldCon, which would take place about six or so miles from my home, in downtown San Jose, August 29 through September 2 [my birthday and my anniversary!
2]. And since Kage resided in Pismo Beach, about 190 or so miles south, this would allow her to hopefully attend the convention as well and help promote the book. That may sound like a lot of time -- May 2001 to August 2002 -- but that was typical for a Golden Gryphon Press book; much of the lead time had to do with scheduling certain aspects of the publication process to coincide with the distributor's (Independent Publishers Group) twice-yearly marketing catalog. Of course, the contents had to be determined, the selected reprint stories formatted and copyedited, the original stories formatted, edited, and copyedited, original cover art commissioned, ancillary material written, and so forth.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

December Links & Things

Here's to a new year (with hopes that my regimen of antibiotics helps me feel a bit more human in a few days)! And to catch up, following are my links and such for the month of December. I've listed them here, all in one post, and with additional detail and comment. You can receive these links in real time by following me on Twitter: @martyhalpern.

  • Ah, the dream of spaceflight... Virgin Galactic has unveiled its SpaceShipTwo (SS2) -- "the world's first commercial manned spaceship.... Thousands of private astronauts will be heading to space once the testing and licensing is finished, with up to six passenger astronauts on each trip." Some great photos of this unique spacecraft. [Note: Well, there used to be some great photos on the Virgin site, but the original link I have no longer works, and the one link that I did find under "Press Releases" shows only one photo. The Virgin website sucks anyhow, since a search of the entire site for "Virgin Galactic" or "SpaceShipTwo" yields a "404" error page. Evidently their webmaster doesn't know how to code a search! Note the visible code at the end of the press release, too.]

  • I mentioned in my last Links & Things post that every month there appears to be some type of blow up/controversy in the writing and publishing world, and this month is no exception. Canadian science fiction author Dr. Peter Watts (2007 Hugo Award finalist for novel Blindsight) was accosted, pepper sprayed, beaten, and jailed by US border guards on Tuesday, December 8, when he passed through the US-Canadian border on his way home from visiting friends in Nebraska. You can read the article, which is where I first heard of it, which links to Peter's own words on the incident. I met Peter at past ReaderCons and I cannot picture this man inflicting bodily harm on a uniformed border guard. Peter's assault charge on a federal officer is undoubtedly to cover their asses. A legal defense fund has been set up, because a) Peter is not a best-selling author, and b) such a defense, to avoid the potential of spending two years in prison, is going to be very costly. If you want to support Peter's efforts to fight these heinous charges, then please donate. If you're not personally into the legal issues and/or politics, then read Peter's Hugo Award-nominated Blindsight) -- available for free download on his website -- and then donate what you feel the novel is worth. Please donate via PayPal to this ID:

  • In other sad publishing news, PoynterOnline reported the demise of publications Kirkus Reviews and Editor & Publisher, by reprinting a letter from Greg Farrar, President of Nielsen Business Media, owners of the two periodicals. Kirkus has always been a tough nut to crack, so to speak; when my co-edited anthology Witpunk was reviewed in Kirkus I was absolutely thrilled; and to have the review end with the words "ringingly brilliant" made all the hassles I had to deal with while putting that anthology together seem inconsequential at best.'s eBookNewser reported that the Twitterverse was all abuzz with the demise of these two publications: "Ron Charles (@roncharles) of The Washington Post sounded a note of regret for the loss of Kirkus's critical eye: 'Everytime we lose a rare independent voice we grow more dependent on publicists, authors' friends clogging blogs w praise'"