Kage Baker: 1952- 2010

By Editor David Hartwell

We are saddened by the passing of our esteemed author and loyal friend, Kage Baker (1952-2010), at home in Pismo Beach, California, after a difficult battle with cancer. A fine career has been cut short, and we and all SF and fantasy readers are poorer for it.

She describes her background thusly: “graphic artist and mural painter, several lower clerical positions which could in no way be construed as a career, and (over a period of years for the Living History Centre) playwright, bit player, director, teacher of Elizabethan English for the stage, stage manager and educational program assistant coordinator. Presently reengaged in the above-listed capacities for the LHC’s triumphant reincarnation, AS YOU LIKE IT PRODUCTIONS.” She was nominated for a number of awards for her writing, and in recent years was a weekly blogger for Tor.com, where her Ancient Rockets series on early fantasy and SF films has been a popular feature.

Kage Baker was best known for her series of novels and stories about The Company and its time-traveling agents, ransacking the entirety of history for lost treasures to enrich the future. But whatever she wrote, she told a superlative adventure filled with characteristic wit and humor, often with a touch of romance. Baker was a preeminent storyteller, and her works are engaging and compulsively readable. Her recent novel, The Empress of Mars (2008) was an expansion of a 2003 novella that won a Sturgeon Award and was a Hugo and Nebula finalist. And her forthcoming March 2010 novel, Not Less Than Gods, is a steampunk extravaganza featuring one of the characters from The Company universe. After that, there will be an all-new fantasy novel, The Bird of the River, set in the same world as The Anvil of the World (2003) and The House of the Stag (2007), in July 2010.

Two years ago, I had a plan to get together with Kage Baker. After several years of knowing her only through phone calls and the occasional meeting at a conference, I was pleased to have the opportunity to better know this witty and imaginative author. I was in Southern California at the Eaton conference in Riverside, and she and her terrific sister Kathleen were supposed to drive over. But their car broke down and I didn’t get the chance to spend time with her that day. We tried again last June, when I was out to Los Angeles for World Horror, but in the end she couldn’t make it over (I didn’t know she was already ill).

And now it is too late.

A couple of business meals at conventions, and a bunch of phone calls, mainly about editing and brainstorming books, are all the opportunity I had to get to know Kage’s fine mind and keen intelligence. We were crazy about her at Tor and wanted her to be read by everyone. And now we miss her.

Her books and stories will continue to give pleasure for a long time to come, and we will miss her good-humored optimism.