inkwell.vue.48 : Tim Powers
permalink #176 of 250: Undo Influence (mnemonic) Sun 19 Sep 99 20:49
    

Would that be the Malta section, Tim?
  
inkwell.vue.48 : Tim Powers
permalink #177 of 250: Undo Influence (mnemonic) Sun 19 Sep 99 20:51
    

A more serious question:

I'm now reading LAST CALL (which I'm sad to say I did not got around to
when I first owned a copy of it in the early 1980s, 'cause it was burned
up in a moving-van fire).

I now have a sense of how much research you did for it, and I'm wondering
what your timetable was in writing it, Tim. How long did it take you
from the point that you thought of the book to doing the research to doing
the draft that you submitted to your publisher?
  
inkwell.vue.48 : Tim Powers
permalink #178 of 250: Undo Influence (mnemonic) Sun 19 Sep 99 20:55
    

To be more precise about the point of agreement between my comment about
LOT 49's observationalism and Tim's:

Pynchon is heavily influenced by the relationship between thermodynamics and
information theory. So, the more energy you expend trying to abstract a
pattern from the system you're in, the more you randomize that system, and
the more ambiguous it becomes. Which means that it's easy for a paranoid
(which we all are, to some extent) to find confirmation of one's worldview
at the same time that it's less likely that one's observations really are
that confirmation.
  
inkwell.vue.48 : Tim Powers
permalink #179 of 250: Tim Powers (timpowers) Mon 20 Sep 99 00:11
    
Right, Mike -- and I always do admire Pynchon's scientific literacy --
Maxwell's Demon and all.  Actually, to the extent I remember _V,_ the
missing-crux section was a scene on the glaciers in Antarctica (?) in
which the characters see the body of a rainbow monkey through the ice?

It took a long time to do _Last Call._  It takes me a long time to do
every book!  I spent about a year, I suppose, reading all sort of books
& making notes & looking for useful patterns & then visiting Las Vegas
several times with recorder & camera.  I imagine I started right after
I finished _Stess of Her Regard,_ which would have been '88 or '89,
and then I didn't finish _Last Call_ until, I suppose, '91.  Say three
years from first clues to finished book!

This is insane, by the way.  Every time I start out on a book I feel
like one of those old whaling-ship captains, off for two years of
filling the hold with whale-oil and hoping that Edison hasn't invented
the light-bulb before you get back.
  
inkwell.vue.48 : Tim Powers
permalink #180 of 250: excessively heterosexual (saiyuk) Mon 20 Sep 99 01:12
    

Was that in Mondaugen's Story? Man, my memory of that book has taken some
heavy hits over the years. 
  
inkwell.vue.48 : Tim Powers
permalink #181 of 250: Tim Powers (timpowers) Mon 20 Sep 99 09:22
    
I think you're right, Andy -- we do all need to re-read that book
again.  To think that was his _first_ novel!  I'm ashamed to admit I've
never read _Gravity's Rainbow_ -- which, even from the title alone,
sound full of screwy-views-on-physics (an aspect of Pynchon I forlornly
try to imitate) -- but when I tried to read it in college it seemed to
be mainly about people going to the bathroom.  I may have been
mistaken.

Another first novel that's humbling to think of is Sturgeon's _The
Dreaming Jewels!_  I'd be happy to write something like that _ever,_
but knowing that it's where Sturgeon _started_ makes me think I ought
to just get a job.
  
inkwell.vue.48 : Tim Powers
permalink #182 of 250: excessively heterosexual (saiyuk) Mon 20 Sep 99 13:26
    

I think I've written about this in the Pynchon topic, Tim, but I'm with
you on GR. AFter 26 years, I've kinda given up on it. 

Pynchon hadn't yet turned 26 when V. was published. 

Mass suicide time. 
  
inkwell.vue.48 : Tim Powers
permalink #183 of 250: P.DiLucchio (pdil) Mon 20 Sep 99 14:07
    <scribbled by pdil Thu 30 Mar 00 12:37>
  
inkwell.vue.48 : Tim Powers
permalink #184 of 250: Tim Powers (timpowers) Mon 20 Sep 99 14:18
    
Ah!  Interesting you've had the same experience with GR, Andy!  And
I've put off _Vineland_ and _Mason & Dixon_ with the vague idea that I
really ought to clear away _Gravity's Rainbow_ first.  I shouldn't rely
on my college recollections, though -- you should see the movies we
all admired back in '72 (remember _El Topo?_)!  I don't really totally
trust my tastes from those days anymore.

But in any case I'll be forever irremediably torqued by _V_ and _Lot
49._  Right now, drawn in the dust on the side window of my Suburban,
is Pynchon's version of the "Kilroy was here" sketch, done the way
Pynchon did it in _V,_ as a wiring diagram.  (I was illustrating a
point for a friend in a parking lot, and the dusty window was the
handiest "scratch paper.")
  
inkwell.vue.48 : Tim Powers
permalink #185 of 250: Lee Miles (tucumcari) Tue 21 Sep 99 07:59
    
As I believe I mentioned earlier, I'm jogging along in the dust behind
 this enlightening discussion/interview.  Went back to those
interesting-smelling old paperbacks that I have been humping around all
these years looking for anything by Phillip K. Dick or Pynchon.  Found
_VALIS_, which turned out to be pretty heavy reading.  Dick had
obviously been slogging through lots of Gnostic material and other
stuff.  Having read on this screen a tangential reference to his _pink
light_ experience, I was prepared for finding it in VALIS as well.  The
cover blurb indicated that this was his masterwork.  I hope this is
not the case. I felt I had been subjected to a _brain-dump_ of his
obsession-of-the-month.
Anywaaaaay, while looking up your (Tim Powers') books on Amazon.com I
came across a fan review of one of your novels which asserts that you
were one of the characters in VALIS. (Ahh Synchronicity)  Were you one
of Horselover Fat's company, then?   
  
inkwell.vue.48 : Tim Powers
permalink #186 of 250: Tim Powers (timpowers) Tue 21 Sep 99 09:59
    
That's right, Lee.  The character "David" was based on me, and "Kevin"
was K. W. Jeter, "Sherry Solvig" was a young lady who might not want
to be named (she didn't die of cancer in real life, as she does in the
book, though she came close) but who I've stayed in touch with, and
"Beth" was Phil's last wife, Tess.  I was keeping a journal in those
days, like every literarily-inclined college boy, and so when _Valis_
was published I was able to compare the events in the book with the
events I had written down -- and _Valis_ is just about pure
autobiography, up until the point at which the characters go to Sonoma
to find the Savior.  I mean, if Phil says it was raining on the day
such-and-such happened, it really was!

"Sherry" and "Beth" might well have been annoyed or even enraged by
their portraits in the book; "David" gets off more lightly.  He's
described as a dogmatic Roman Catholic who worked at a tobacco shop in
the city of Orange (all accurate), and, as I think I posted above
somewhere, there's a bit in the book, a crisis, in which one of the
characters turns to David and says, "Would you _not_ tell us what C. S.
Lewis would say about this?  Would you just do us that one favor,
please?"

At one point -- I think when they meet the Savior, and it turns out to
be a little girl -- David zones out, just gets glassy-eyed &
zombie-like -- and Phil says something like "the Church had taught
David how to do this, how to go blank for a while when there were
things going on that might threaten his faith."  I remember I asked
Phil, "What the hell is this?  I never did and I never do, and the
Church never 'teaches' any such thing!"  And Phil said, "Hee hee."

(Incidentally, Phil originally dedicated _Valis_ to "the Rhipidon
Society [a phrase from the book]: K. W. Jeter, Tim Powers, and Philip
K. Dick."  Later he changed it to a dedication to his agent, but the
original dedication was used in the French edition.  Excuse me -- a
small bit of showing-off.)
  
inkwell.vue.48 : Tim Powers
permalink #187 of 250: Linda Castellani (castle) Tue 21 Sep 99 13:38
    
I remember reading _Valis_ and being amazed at Phil's self-awareness. 
It was like everything he did and did not seem to be able to
acknowledge about himself in real life was right there in the book. 
Like he had been covertly saving it all up to surprise us with once he
was able to be one step removed from reality to write about it. It was
the first time I knew he was really aware of those things about
himself.  

I can't remember now which character had the knowledge and commented
on it, whether it was the Phil Dick character or his alter ego, the
Horselover Fat character. 

I was really impressed, and called him as soon as I finished it.  It
was the first time I had ever called to talk to him about one of his
books, and as it turned out, it was the last conversation we would ever
have.  He was pleased that I had liked the book.

Tim, do you remember the part where Kevin's cat was killed?  Wasn't
that also based on a real-life experience?  Wasn't there some allusion
to the movie _The Man Who Fell to Earth_ which we were all going to
see, you guys in California, and me in Arizona, or am I conflating two
separate events here?
  
inkwell.vue.48 : Tim Powers
permalink #188 of 250: Linda Castellani (castle) Tue 21 Sep 99 13:40
    
I should add that Phil was also going to dedicate a book to me and
sent me a copy of the letter to his agent, with the wording of the
dedication.  Then, when I fell out of favor, he sent me a copy of a
letter to his agent revoking that dedication and dedicating it to
someone else.  I don't think my dedication went into any edition,
unlike yours, Tim.
  
inkwell.vue.48 : Tim Powers
permalink #189 of 250: Lee Miles (tucumcari) Tue 21 Sep 99 14:00
    
Those sound like _interesting_ times you both had.  

Poking around in the library I also came upon a 1983 or so collection
which included Blayless's _Paper Dragon_.  If you've done nothing else
with this discussion you have definitely gotten one old reader hooked
again after a long absence from the SF/Fantasy world.  Thanks.  
  
inkwell.vue.48 : Tim Powers
permalink #190 of 250: Tim Powers (timpowers) Tue 21 Sep 99 15:14
    
"Paper Dragons" is good stuff -- and check out Blaylock's _The Last
Coin,_ too.

Jeter and Phil went to see _The Man Who Fell to Earth,_ and it was the
basis for the movie the characters all go to see in _Valis,_ right.  I
had already seen it, I believe; anyway, I _have_ seen it, and I didn't
see it with them!

Jeter did have a cat that got run over, and as I recall he did
consider it evidence that God either didn't exist or was malevolent. 
Actually, all those conversations in _Valis_ did take place -- and
plenty more -- and in them he was both Phil Dick and Horselover Fat, as
it were.  You're right, Linda, he _was_ skeptical, and even derisive,
of his own conclusions and obsessions!  And, at least in the period
from '76 to '82, he was always ready to see them as funny.  I remember
several times being convinced by his arguments for some outre thesis or
other -- and, just as I had become thoroughly convinced, he would see
flaws in it and begin to make fun of it; I always found this
disconcerting.  I wanted to say, Let me enjoy believing it for a _few
minutes,_ at least, will you, before you start tearing it down?
  
inkwell.vue.48 : Tim Powers
permalink #191 of 250: Linda Castellani (castle) Tue 21 Sep 99 15:52
    
One of the things I did with Phil during those periods when I was in
favor was to go to science fiction conventions.  I always found them
intensely weird and populated by fringe characters and I swore off them
in the early 70's, although every now and then I'd go to one, which
would remind me why I had sworn off.  (Oddly, I think cons prepared me
well for the WELL.)

I know that you still attend many, and that certainly makes sense,
since the attendees are really your market, but I'm curious - is there
a point to it besides that (not that one is required, as I can
certainly see the need for marketing oneself)?

What's it like when you are a guest of honor or featured speaker
versus those cons when you aren't?  Or do you even go to cons when you
aren't?
  
inkwell.vue.48 : Tim Powers
permalink #192 of 250: Tim Powers (timpowers) Tue 21 Sep 99 16:40
    
Oh, sure, we go to a lot of conventions, whether I'm a guest or not. 
I've been going to them ever since '71! (long before I ever got
published) -- and Serena's been going ever since we got married in '80.

There are a whole lot of friends we only see at these things -- you
walk into the bar, and it's like, "Well, I remember palm trees outside
the window last time, rather than snow, but there's the old crowd right
where we left 'em."  Lots of gossip & funny stories & crowded dinner
tables & late night parties.  And continuity -- "Remember in '75 when
so-and-so got drunk and fell off the rail of the _Queen Mary?_" -- "Oh,
that's nothing, you should have seen what's-his-name at the worldcon
in '47!"

When you're guest of honor you've generally got to make a speech, and
be on some panels.  When you're just an attendee, you don't have to
make a speech and you might or might not be on panels.  (Oh, and if
you're G of H, of course, your airfare and hotel bill and meals are
covered, and you get a ride to & from the airport!)  (God bless
convention committees!)  

Actually, the people at conventions don't really represent the
readership, I don't think; any more than people who go to the wineries
in Napa represent the wine-buying public.  I mean, if I totally
disgraced myself at a convention somehow, or conversely did or said
something so brilliant that everybody's hair turned white, I don't
think sales figures would change perceptibly!  I said somewhere above
that I don't think book-signings actually help one's sales at all; it's
true of conventions too.  Business-wise they wouldn't make sense.  But
as a social thing they're a great time.
  
inkwell.vue.48 : Tim Powers
permalink #193 of 250: Martha Soukup (soukup) Tue 21 Sep 99 17:19
    
Basically, it's more fun not being a guest, also not being on panels,
because you can hang out catching up with old friends more.  But if you're a
guest they pay your way and that's hard to beat.
  
inkwell.vue.48 : Tim Powers
permalink #194 of 250: Undo Influence (mnemonic) Wed 22 Sep 99 07:37
    

I've found it to be more fun to be a guest and on panels, myself, because
I'm not a regular conventiongoer, and being a guest means that people will
come up and talk to me even though I'm in a room full of strangers.
The only convention I've ever enjoyed just as an attendee was AggieCon, and
that's because I hitched a ride down with Chad Oliver and knew everybody
there.

Tim, I just finished LAST CALL, and I note that once again you've played
with the idea of swapping bodies to stay young, as a certain character does
in THE ANUBIS GATES. Does this idea hold a fascination for you? LAST CALL
also reminded me a bit of Dan Simmons's story (later a novel) "Carrion
Comfort."
  
inkwell.vue.48 : Tim Powers
permalink #195 of 250: Tim Powers (timpowers) Wed 22 Sep 99 09:22
    
Just by the way, in the third paragraph of post #190 back there? --
"he" is supposed to refer to Phil Dick, not to Jeter, even though the
first sentence _is_ about Jeter.  Sorry.

Mike, I envy you driving to a convention and hanging out with Chad
Oliver!  I never met him, but of course I've read his stuff, and I
gather he was a great guy.

You're right, that notion does show up in a lot of my stuff -- the
idea of an old predatory guy staying young by bumping people out of
their rightful bodies when the one he's been in has got too decrepit. 
It's in a short story of mine, too, a thing called "The Way Down the
Hill."  (I haven't read Simmons -- though I mean to! -- he's a
contemporary!)  I think it's a nicely nightmarish idea, that a bad guy
can take your body and identity, and use it for his own purposes; that
you can barricade yourself, watchful and armed, but he'll suddenly be
_inside your head,_ taking the wheel and shoving you out into the dark.
 You always knew that your possessions were transitory, but it's a new
shock to realize that even your body & identity might get repo'd.

I believe I got the idea from Lovecraft -- "The Thing on the
Doorstep," which is a great story.  Now that I think of it, it's also
in his short novel, _The Case of Charles Dexter Ward._  And of course
it's a great moment, in such a story, when the evicted personality
briefly struggles to the surface again, and gets to look around and
gasp out a few bewildered, horrified words, before disappearing again!
  
inkwell.vue.48 : Tim Powers
permalink #196 of 250: Linda Castellani (castle) Wed 22 Sep 99 15:01
    
With all these books you read, those you own for research and just
because, I can't help but wonder if you have favorite places to look
for books.  Do you have bookstores that you haunt?  If you do, are they
the same ones you haunted in your youth, or do you have a whole new
wider range of them now?

Do you find yourself doing booksignings at stores you might have
frequented in your youth, and at which you perhaps attended signings
for other authors before you became one?

Didn't you also have your own personal rare book dealer at one time?
  
inkwell.vue.48 : Tim Powers
permalink #197 of 250: Tim Powers (timpowers) Wed 22 Sep 99 16:22
    
Blaylock and I have been going to Acres of Books in Long Beach since
college -- it's supposed to be, I think, the third-biggest bookstore in
the country, after the Strand in New York and Powell's in Oregon.  A
of B is a truly great old place -- it's like two or three
airplane-hangars in size, and the shelves are so close together that
you've got to move sideways and so high that there are whole rows you
can't get to even with a ladder; and the books have moved glacially
over the decades, so the age-yellowed "M-N" sticker you see on a shelf
is likely to be under books by "K" authors now.  And they're in order,
but you can't really go there looking for anything in particular;
you've got to just see what you stumble across.  (The city of Long
Beach used to be a real gold-mine for used bookstores and dark old
bars, but now A of B is all that survives -- and the city vainly tries
to close _it_ every few years.)

More manageably, Bookman in Orange, on Tustin Avenue, is my favorite
used bookstore; here you _can_ go looking for something specific with
the hope of finding it.  When we lived near there, I bet Serena and I
brought home ten pounds of books a week from that place.  I still hit
it fairly frequently.

And yes, you're talking about Roy Squires!  Until he died in '88, his
house in Glendale was an absolute haven.  (I remember Phil Dick said
that going to Squires' house was the only reason good enough for
driving to L.A.)  I first met Squires when I was 17, in 1969, and his
old Spanish house, with wood floors and dark old furniture and Mugnaini
paintings and classical music, just _imprinted_ itself in my mind as
the perfect sort of place to live; he introduced me to great beers
(i.e. Noche Buena, Ballantine Pale India Ale), great Scotches (i.e.
Laphroaig), great tobaccos (Balkan Sobranie #759 in the black can) ...
and he had the most astonishing lot of books I've ever seen.  Lovecraft
letters, Clark Ashton Smith manuscripts, rare James Branch Cabell
first editions!  And he had been an engineer and was scientifically
literate (he once re-chromed the bumper of his '53 Austin Healy in a
trench he dug in his lawn) and he convinced me that my English-major
expertise wasn't any good if I didn't know who Gauss was, or Planck, or
Bohr.

And he was also a small-press publisher.  He had a workshop out back,
with a hand-press and shelves & shelves of type that he would hand-set,
and all sorts of fine paper, and over the years he did a number of
elegant printings of Smith, Lovecraft, Leiber, and Bradbury.  It's a
lasting regret of mine that he never lived long enough to do an edition
of some Powers thing!

Altogether Squires probably had more to do with who I am now than
anybody except my parents.  I'm glad I dedicated my first book to him,
rather than to whatever girlfriend I had in '75!
  
inkwell.vue.48 : Tim Powers
permalink #198 of 250: Reva Basch (reva) Wed 22 Sep 99 16:53
    
Here's another question, via the Web, from Karen Meisner:

Hey Tim,

Your description of Roy Squires' house (it sounds like someplace I'd
want to spend time, too) makes me wonder about something.  A lot of your
stories take place in Southern California, where you've got the real
places set against a Powers backdrop of secret history and magic.  Do
you think this affects the way you look at your surroundings now?  I
mean, do you drive down the road and think "Oh yeah, that's where the
king got beheaded"?  Do you look at objects and places that used to be
mundane, and now see them imbued with the strange magical histories
you've created for them?
,
  
inkwell.vue.48 : Tim Powers
permalink #199 of 250: -N. (streak) Wed 22 Sep 99 18:56
    
        Tim, glad to hear you're another Laphroaig aficionado.  I've been
unable to afford the 15-year-old stuff for a while, but the 10-year is
adequate, I've found. :-)
  
inkwell.vue.48 : Tim Powers
permalink #200 of 250: Tim Powers (timpowers) Wed 22 Sep 99 19:27
    
Hi, Karen!  Well, I always remember the places in which events from my
books occurred, just because (if they're local) Serena and I have
climbed all over them.  Seeing them again takes me back to the time
when I was writing whichever book it was, the way music will do.  (The
Pet Shop Boys, in my head, provided the theme music for _The Stress of
Her Regard,_ for example; I know it sounds nuts.)  So yeah, I always do
note the place.  The _Queen Mary_ is practically like some old school
we went to, we spent so much time roving in & on it!

And I do think of the fictional events I wrote -- "Here's where
so-and-so got shot, in my book," say -- but not nearly as much as I do
when I come across a place some other writer has used!  At the places
where Sam Spade was in San Francisco, or Phillip Marlowe in L.A., or
whatever unhappy Lovecraft character in Providence -- there I really
get a thrill, almost like seeing the places in Paris where Hemingway
really did hang out!  I guess I can pretend for a few moments that
Spade and Marlowe and the Lovecraft character were real -- but in the
case of my own stuff, I'm too aware that I made it all up.

You'd have loved Roy Squires.
  

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