Mitch writes, "I interviewed fantasy novelist Tim Powers about how he writes. We talked about working through story problems, using YouTube as a secret weapon, why he avoids social media, and his obsessively detailed outlines and research notes. 'In order to build a building, you put up so much scaffolding that the scaffolding outweighs the building.'" Read the rest
James P. Blaylock's Knights of the Cornerstone is a light, nostalgic contemporary fantasy steeped in legend. Blaylock is a master of this genre.
Cartoonist Calvin Bryson receives an odd package that causes him to return to his family's home in New Cypress, on the borders of California, Arizona and Nevada. Secrets buried for generations come to the surface as Calvin joins the remnant of the Knights Templar to defeat an occultist, and defend what may be the real shroud of Turin.
This isn't the headiest or heaviest of work by Blaylock, but it is damn fine! I read it in an hour or so and was completely engrossed. Blaylock's work solo, and with Tim Powers, adds incredible fantasy to very familiar landscapes. If you haven't read any of his work, this is a good place to start. Then I suggest moving on to On Pirates, I wish I could find my copy.
Tim Powers' novella, Salvage and Demolition, is a film noir love story showing time travel may not be neat and orderly. I read it in one sitting.
Rare book dealer Richard Blanzac receives a several box from the estate of a failed beat poet, Sophie Greenwald. The contents of the books sends him back in time, several times, each trip landing a few hours before the last. Can he solve the mystery, running through time in reverse? Can two people fall in love in a matter of hours? Hours spent out of order?
As always, Powers gives you exactly the right information to make you feel at home in his San Francisco, 1950s or present day. His take on film noir is spot on, not parody. A short story like this leaves me wanting to re-read his other work.
I picked up Harry Connolly's Bad Little Girls Die Horrible Deaths for his new Twenty Palaces story, and found myself thrilled with his collection of modern fairy tales.
I was looking for a new Twenty Palaces installment, and saw this collection of short stories. The titular story, Bad Little Girls Die Horrible Deaths, is fantastic. Eli, a super-natural practitioner in late 1800s Washington, is kidnapped somewhere outside of Seattle. Forced to solve a magical mystery or die trying, three demonic farm girls give him one hell of a bad time.
Connolly writes tales of magic and mystery in more modern times incredibly well. His work reminds me a lot of Tim Powers or Neil Gaiman. I highly recommend this collection.
Tim Powers' outstanding fantasy novel The Anubis Gates has been adapted for the stage and it will premiere at Loncon 3, this summer's World Science Fiction Convention. I've been excited as hell about having a Worldcon in town, but this is some awfully nice icing on the cake!
Keyan sez, "FOGcon is a literary speculative fiction convention in the San Francisco Bay Area. Now in its 4th year, it's big enough to be fun, still small enough not to overwhelm. This year, the theme is Secrets, and the Guests of Honor are Seanan McGuire, Tim Powers, and the late James Tiptree, Jr. It's on March 7-9, 2014." Read the rest
I recently re-read Tim Powers' absolutely fantastic, 1985, Dinner at Deviant's Palace, where troubled musician Gregorio Rivas struggles to extract his former love from the clutches of a mad cult in the ruins of post-apocalyptic 22nd century Los Angeles. It is purely fantastic!
True to his style, Powers takes a quasi-familiar Ellay, some few generations after the fall of our current society into feudalism, and builds just enough familiarity with the environment to get you filling in the blanks on your own. THATS when things get odd! Again and again, expect the unexpected. Hemogoblins, a booze based currency and Venice, California as you've never-seen-it-before but always suspected-it-must-be are just a few of the twists.
Truly a favorite!
The 2013 Locus Awards final ballot has been announced, and as ever, it is a fabulous guide signposting some of the very best work published science fiction and fantasy in the past year -- a perfect place to start your explorations of the year's books.
I am very honored to have been included on the ballot; my novel Pirate Cinema made the Best Young Adult novel list, which is a particularly strong category this year:
* The Drowned Cities, Paolo Bacigalupi (Little, Brown; Atom)
* Pirate Cinema, Cory Doctorow (Tor Teen)
* Railsea, China Miéville (Del Rey; Macmillan)
* Dodger, Terry Pratchett (Harper; Doubleday UK)
* The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There, Catherynne M. Valente (Feiwel and Friends; Much-in-Little ’13)
See the full ballot after the jump.
Rick Kleffel sez,
Tim Powers is one the founding fathers of steampunk, and a writer whose every book is superb. I drove down to San Bernardino City College to talk to him about his latest work, Hide Me Among the Graves, a secret supernatural history of the Pre-Raphaelite poets and painters.
He has a rather unique perspective on writing, history and fantasy that involves identifying events that seem as if they might have some supernatural aspect and then creating a backstory that ties them together. The Rossettis; Dante Gabriel Rossetti (poet and painter), Christina (poet), William and Maria are a perfect set of subjects.
We had a great time talking about how he put it all together.
The Library of America is publishing a two volume treasure of science fiction next September 27, in which great contemporary science fiction writers introduce classics of the field from the 1950s. The handsome, slipcased edition includes:
Volume 1: 1953–1956 * Frederik Pohl & C. M. Kornbluth, The Space Merchants * Theodore Sturgeon, More Than Human * Leigh Brackett, The Long Tomorrow * Richard Matheson, The Shrinking Man
Volume 2: 1956–1958 * Robert Heinlein, Double Star * Alfred Bester, The Stars My Destination * James Blish, A Case of Conscience * Algis Budrys, Who? * Fritz Leiber, The Big Time
The LOA site for the books has the essays and other supplementary material, including work by William Gibson (writing about "The Stars My Destination"), Neil Gaiman (on "The Big Time"), Kit Reed (on "More Than Human") and Connie Willis (on "Double Star") as well as pieces by Tim Powers, James Morrow, and Peter Straub.
Tim Powers's latest novel is Hide Me Among the Graves, and it is a fine example of the work of a much-beloved author, and a spooky ride through Victorian London to boot. In Hide Me, Powers retells the lives of pre-Raphaelite sculptor Dante Gabriel Rossetti and his siblings, notably the poet Christina Rossetti. Powers is justly famed for his secret histories, fictionalized accounts of real historical persons that turn the coincidences of their lives into deep mysteries to be plumbed for stories. Here is a near-perfect example of how well this trick works, especially for Tim Powers, whose special gift is to be able to write about superstition and the supernatural in a way that literally raises the hairs on my neck and puts gooseflesh on my arms, though I am as staunch an atheist materialist as you will ever meet.
Here, the spookiness revolves around two ancient vampires -- one of them having started her life as Bodicea -- who haunt London, and whose bite and blood grant poets and painters access to surpassing beauty and art. These two beasts are working to destroy London, to call down an earthquake that will kill everyone in the city, and their plan requires the blood and cooperation of the Rossettis, who are -- at times, and always motivated by access to the numinous -- willing accomplices to this plan. As a variety of personages fictional and real chase each other through the superstition-steeped cobbles of London, and through the ancient and haunted cloacae that run beneath the streets, we're exposed to a dreadful and terrifying Victorian world. Read the rest
I just got through re-reading Tim Power's World Fantasy Award-winning 1996 novel Last Call, which is truly one of the triumphs of modern fantasy literature. Powers, one of Philip K Dick's three proteges (the others are James Blaylock and KW Jeter), is a tremendous writer, and his whole catalog deserves your attention, but even against the field of standout Powers novels, Last Call stands out further.
Last Call's premise, at its core, is that Bugsy Siegel built Las Vegas in order to become a living avatar of the Fisher King, but that he was prevented by doing this when a French mystic named Georges Leon assassinated him, stole his head from the morgue, tossed it into Lake Mead, and set about turning his sons into mindless soldiers in his mystic army by conducting dark rituals involving a handpainted Tarot deck that could drive you mad.
One of Leon's sons survives, though he loses his eye to his father's violence, and his dying mother smuggles him away from his father and tosses him, blindly, over the transom of a passing yacht on a trailer. He is found by a professional gambler, Ozzie Crane, who raises Scott as his foster son, and later adopts another girl, Diana, and raises her as his foster sister. From Ozzie, Scott learns of the gambler's mysticisms and superstitions: fold out your hand when the smoke gathers in the middle of the table or the drinks in the glass start to sit off-level, lest you buy or sell more than what's in the pot. Read the rest