Today, I turn the blog over to Kage Baker who has graciously taken the time to field your questions and comments on In the Garden of Iden, this month’s SF BOTMC selection. Truth be told, this is actually Kage’s second appearance here. The first was a quick cameo back in February when she offered some insight into “Plotters and Shooters”, her contribution to Lou Anders’ Fast Forward I: Future Fiction From the Cutting Edge. I so enjoyed that particular short story that I decided to check out one of Kage’s novels as well – this, the first installment in her Company series – and bring you all along for the ride. And, judging from your reaction, it was a great call.
Those of you who read my review know that I’ll be checking out the ensuing titles in this series. Hopefully, many of you will as well. And, along the way, if you’d like to learn more about Kage, her work, and her incredibly diverse background (graphic artist, mural painter, teacher of Elizabethan English for the stage) head on over to: www.kagebaker.com
Now before I turn things over to our extra special guest blogger, I’d like to thank Kage. First, for being incredibly thoughtful by offering to postpone her appearance here out of respect for the late Don S. Davis. (I assured her that Don would’ve good-naturedly threatened me with an Ozark butt-kicking if I’d even considered it.) Second, for being so accommodating, managing to find time for us amid a hectic travel schedule and a Guest of Honor appearance at the Las Vegas Westercon (July 3-6, at the JW Marriott Resort, 221 N Rampart Blvd,Las Vegas, NV – so if you’re in the neighborhood, drop by!).
Over to Kage…
Hello to Stargate fans! And my condolences on our losing Don Davis.
Let’s see if I can answer your questions…
Shirt ‘n Tie writes: “My question to Ms Baker, why did you choose the Spanish Inquisition and the English setting for the book? Both excellent choices for this tale, and a remarkable feat of story telling. Also which of the Company Series did you find the most rewarding and-or difficult to write and why? Thank you for a wonderful creation!”
Shirt ‘n Tie: You’re welcome! I chose the Elizabethan setting because I was throroughly familiar with that era, having taught Elizabethan English for many years and also done living history set in Tudor times. Since the Inquisition was such a powerful force, it made sense that the Company would have agents stationed in its ranks, to enable them to sift through the people and things that disappeared into the Inquisition’s dungeons. As for which was most difficult of the books to write: that would be the last one, the Sons of Heaven. All those plotlines to tie up!
Eva K. I adore the idea that nothing we can do can change the past; it’s very convenient for mucking about in the past without having to worry about stepping on butterflies.
But did you come up with the idea of solid unchanging history first and fit the plot of the book within those perameters, or did you need to figure out a way the plot could work, and thus came up with the way timetravel works?
Eva K.: I came up with the idea of a story involving time travelers first. Having done that, I had to lay out the rules for my own little universe, because I needed consistent parameters or my story wouldn’t be very effective. Time Travel as a subgenre has been handled a lot, so I wanted something a little different from most others. That was why I made the rules stringent: No travel into the future, no carrying objects from the past to the present, and moreover time travel is too expensive to do much of it. Sort of setting my Difficulty level at High. And, after all, no actual time travel takes place in the book!
Bar Stool Babe writes: “My questions for Ms. Baker are did the whole series develop at once or did new characters demand more time from you once your introduced them (I’m thinking specifically of the residents in Mendoza in Hollywood)? And did you have the whole mortals versus immortals tension when you started writing the Company books or did it evolve as you wrote more of the series. I also must applaud the way you show the inevitable progression of “political correctness” in the future. Yech!”
Bar Stool Babe: The main characters—Mendoza, Nicholas, Joseph—were in the series outline from the beginning. However, the others just popped up as the books went along and took on lives and opinions of their own, much to my surprise. The tension between mortals and immortals was always there. Mendoza is a deeply wounded person, and one of the series themes is her journey from complete alienation back to some kind of reconciliation with her humanity. As for ‘political correctness’—only last week I read that kids in the UK can’t call study sessions ‘brainstorming’ anymore—it might offend epileptics. The approved term now is ‘Thought Showers’….
Narelle from Aus writes: “The questions I have for Kage Baker:
1. Is it an equal interest in both History and Sci Fi that motivated you to write this series of books?
2. Why do so many Sci Fi authors have a fascination with Warner Brothers cartoons (and I’m putting my hand up as a big fan of them)
3. Do you find it difficult to switch from one character to another when writing each book? Ie: Mendoza for Iden, Joseph for Sky Coyote?”
Narelle: Actually I’ve always been much more interested in History than in Science Fiction. But if you’re going to write a time travel novel, it’s gonna be science fiction. I can’t speak for other SF writers, but I grew up with Warner Brothers cartoons, and really—could you find a better symbol for human futility and eternal hope than Wile E. Coyote? As for the point of view switch: it was a little difficult, from brooding superteenager to crafty old field agent. Joseph is based on a friend of mine, and one of the things I did to get his voice was put on a tape of a class he had taught and listen to it as I wrote, to memorize his speech rhythms.
Anti-Social Butterfly writes: “My question for Ms. Baker concerns her use of anachronistic speech throughout the novel. What led to your decision to use it? Were you concerned that it might pull the reader out of the story? How did you draw the distinction between the jarring, over the top speech (exemplified by everything said by Joseph) and the casual, fluid speech (i.e. the conversations between Nicholas and Mendoza)?”
I won’t get spoilerish for those who haven’t read beyond the first book, but I would like to know if Ms. Baker created her own “Temporal Concordance” to keep up with all the characters and the convoluted plotting with changing times and locations.
Anti-Social Butterfly: Anachronistic speech was necessary to give each character his or her characteristic voice; after all, it isn’t a straight historical novel, but a time travel story. My editor begged me to keep the Elizabethan to a minimum, and I was able to comply with a certain amount of cheating; a lot of Elizabethan is actually pretty straightforward, and it’s possible to get the right voice without a lot of “beholdeths” and “walkests” and awkward grammar. Did I keep my own Temporal Concordance? I wish! As the series progressed I’d have to grab up previous books and frantically leaf through them to see what I’d written before about, for example, how old I’d said Joseph was.
Honshuu writes: “If I was to meet the author and ask questions, I would have only one, at this point. “Why did you choose to go with cyborgs as opposed to full androids? Was it to keep a human connection to the world they were supposed to help save/preserve?…or to add that human fallibility to the characters?””
A.Honshu: Yes indeed, because most of the series is about the human pull on people who are developing into posthumans. If I’d gone with androids… well, about the only story you can tell with androids is about an android trying to become human. The old Pinocchio game. Though of course there was Marvin the Paranoid Android!
Michelle writes: “I would ask Ms. Baker to explain more about what parts of the immortals are still human, though perhaps that’s more explained later in the series.”
Michelle: It is covered to some extent in the later books. Unbreakable ferroceramic skeleton, drastically modified spinal chord, brain augmentation by way of installed wetware, muscles and tendons reinforced with biopolymer, nanobots engineered to reside in the tissues and repair anything that’s compromised, organs modified to manufacture pineal tribrantine III, training to develop hyperabilities… the rest is all human, pretty much.
Sylvia writes: “Questions for Kage Baker
1. Early references to the people who bought the young girl, was a comment that “he, …likes young girls..” and this kinda rang a bell with the recent events of the FLDS – polygamy.
Why were children sought by the adult Mendozas?
The text implied the adult Mendozas wanted the child for sacrifice; or was there another reason?
2. The child (Mendoza) could not remember her or her family name, yet she was adamant stating she was not a Mendoza. Yet, she ended up with that name.
What was your thought process for giving the child the name?
3. Given the assumed normal morals for that “time,” I wondered why she was never taken to task for her relationship with Nicholas which became widely shared.
4. Did you intend to write a series of books when you started In the Garden of Iden? Or, did you decide at some point later?
5. Perhaps my sense of “timing” is warped, but as I read, I had the feeling that there was a sense of urgency as the operative Mendoza told her story. It comes from the very beginning. Like she had to get the story out before…something stopped her. Of course I have not read the other books…so, may I ask if this was intentional? Or, just a case of my perception?”
Sylvia: For questions 1 & 2: the implication is that the aristocratic crowd who buy Mendoza are into devil worship, or at least some kind of late-medieval neopaganism, and intend to offer her as a child consort to the Lord of the Fields. FLDS sex? Human sacrifice? Who knows? The Inquisition comes to the rescue first, and promptly arrests the cult’s intended victim too. A very small child in a largely illiterate rural environment might well not know her own family name, and any uncertainty would only be made worse by Inquisitorial terror tactics. “Mendoza” was simply the name that popped into my head the first time I ever saw her in my mind. 3: The morals of the day were actually pretty easygoing; the Puritans and Victorians were a ways off yet. A young couple shacking up wouldn’t have raised too many eyebrows, especially if the girl’s father seemed to tacitly approve. 4: Yes, I did intend a series, though not as long a series as I ended up writing. 5: No, I think it’s your perception. Mendoza is writing from a place from which she can’t escape, and has enough time on her hands to review her past. You’d find out why in the third book, “Mendoza in Hollywood”.
Thornyrose writes: First, what appealed to you about the time period you set “In the Garden of Idun” in it? When you first started writing about the Company and its time travel adventures, did you originally approach it as a one shot, and build on the concept, or did you already have some idea of what direction it would take? When writing, what sort of envirement do you do your work? cozy office with no outside distractions, some sort of background music, regular hours at the computer or as the mood hits you? Which genre and format do you most enjoy? Fantasy/Sf/straight fiction/ short story/novels/series? And in the company series do we see any of the Immortal agents turning on the Company?
Thornyrose: See above for why I chose the Elizabethan time period. I did actually have the whole story in my mind from the beginning, with the idea that Garden of Iden was the first movement, as it were. The story just expanded in a few unexpected directions as I wrote it. As for where I write: In my living room, at a big rolltop desk I bought with my first royalty check, generally with a screaming parrot on my shoulder. From time to time he sidles down and tries to steal my pens or bite through the mouse cord. The desk is cluttered with notes on scraps of paper, reference books, good luck writing juju, and St. Jude candles. Generally I listen to classical music as I write, because anything with song lyrics is distracting. My favorite reading matter boils down to 3 authors in 3 genres: Robert Louis Stevenson, Terry Pratchett, Patrick O’Brien. And as for whether the Immortals rebel against their masters: that would be telling! Read on…
Mercie writes: “My only question for Kage Baker is: Being an aspiring writer, myself, I was wondering if you ever end up writing a story and realize at the end that it is a completely different story than the one you intended to write? My stories tend to have a life of their own, and twist out of my grasp to become something entirely different. Not bad, mind you, just different.”
Mercie: Yes, very often! In fact, usually. The story takes on a life of its own and goes where it wants.
AMZ writes: “I haven’t been able to read In the Garden of Iden but I have a question for Kage Baker based on some of her short stories I’ve been fortunate
enough to read: How important do you feel humour is to your stories? “
AMZ: I never set out to write a story with humor in it; it just happens. Life, while perfectly horrible and tragic sometimes, can also be hysterically funny, often at the same time it’s tragic. My experience is that the SF field frowns on humor, as being lightweight and frivolous, but clearly they’ve never read Hamlet carefully enough…
Fsmn36 writes: “What was your inspiration for the subject matter? And in labeling it a bodice-ripper, was that your intent? Was writing something more romatically-based your goal, or merely a product of the universe and characters?”
Fsmn36: My inspiration for the subject matter was a scene I imagined once on a bus rolling through Central California, and it had nothing to do with the book I ended up writing. I was on a bus with about 50 other actors, coming home from a show we’d been doing in Northern California. We were traveling along I-5, which crosses a lot of what was then empty backcountry, and there were these lion-yellow hills rollling off to the western horizon, here and there dotted with oak trees. The image of a woman walking along through them came into my mind, a woman alone, walking purposefully to cover a lot of distance, in this searing heat under a hot blue sky. She stayed in my imagination; I wondered who she was and how she had come to be there, and the whole story of her life just sort of unfolded for me. The term “bodice-ripper” was a joke, because I was having a bit of fun playing with the tropes of romantic fiction. Those stories always end happily, and of course in Mendoza’s case real life intervenes instead. Did I mean to write something more romantically-based? Not really; but love makes the world go round, as they say, and love stories are powerful.
Dyginc writes: “My questions to Kage Baker are the following
> > 1)Why Queen Mary? Is that a time you are interested in?
> > 2)How much research did you have to do for the dance?
> > 3)I would like to know if you had to edit the down the Cabinet of Curiosities or did you not feel it would add another level to the eccentric behavior of Sir Walter?
> > 4)What authors inspire you?
> > 5)Are you a fan of historical fiction and if so do you read Philippa Gregory?
> > 6)Now that she is a cyborg and a young woman does she actually start to age?
> > 7)Is the Company more of a science verses faith idea?”
Dyginc: As above, I’ve always been interested in the Tudor era, and Mary Tudor is a particularly tragic figure– hated, and for a good reason considering how many people she had killed, but you can’t help but feel pity for her. For the dance– I didn’t have to do any research, because I knew people who did courtly dance and also I own about a dozen albums of period dance music. I did have to edit down the Cabinet of Curiosities! It was fun to write, but it slowed down the story a bit. What authors inspire me? As above, Stevenson, Pratchett, O’Brien. Read them and find out why. I read some historical fiction, yes, O’Brien for example, but I’ve never read anything by Philippa Gregory. No, Mendoza will never age physically past the age of young adulthood. If Immortals need to appear older, they have to wear padding and appliance makeup, or at least grey their hair. No, emphatically, the series is not science versus faith. I am on the side of science, I guess, being a secular humanist, but I’ve seen a lot of scientists who are idiots and a lot of religious people who are wise and humane. So I’d prefer both sides to live together in peace.