An Interview with Tim Powers

So, here’s an interview with Tim Powers.

Where he gets his ideas

Powers’ books start with his recreational nonfiction reading. “I’ll be reading some nonfiction just for fun, a biography or history or a book on sailing or something. And some detail will snag me and I’ll say, well, that’s enigmatic. And then if I come upon one or two more snags, I think there are enough oddities here that there is probably room to hang a book on it.

“And then I’ll start reading obsessively on whatever it is, as opposed to just recreationally. While I’m reading, I’m looking at it as if I’m a cold case detective. Except, while a normal researcher would be trying to figure out what really did happen, I’m looking for an imaginary supernatural story.

Tim Powers is one of those uncommon writers whom I like a lot, but not as much as he deserves. I really enjoy his books while actually reading them, but seldom feel any desire to re-read them or pick up more of his backlist. I don’t know. It’s one of those inexplicable things.

Though he doesn’t make my personal top ten favorite author list, as I said, I’m not sure why not, because objectively I think he is probably one of the top fantasy authors writing today. He writes secret history, the kind of story where the real facts about what happened often have unknown, secret, supernatural cause. His books are dense and complicated. I really should put DECLARE on my re-read list. I mean, listen to this:

Philby “had been seen on the Turkish-Soviet border under really unexplainable circumstances,” Powers said. Philby had been very close to his father, who had been an early explorer of the Arabian desert and possibly discovered the lost city of Wabar (also known as the “Atlantis of the Sands“). Both Philby and his father “had a real weird attitude toward Catholicism and baptism.” Philby’s father converted to Islam.

Despite their close relationship, Philby “wasn’t terribly upset” when his father died. But Philby was “devastated” when his pet fox died.

“And the fox used to drink whiskey and smoke a pipe,” Powers said.

“And so I figure, you’ve got a lot of stuff in the Arabian desert, you’ve got the facts of Philby and his father both being very averse to baptism, you’ve got the lost city of Wabar, you’ve got possible reincarnation of the father into a fox.

Obviously, reincarnation of his father into a fox! Yeah, I really should re-read DECLARE.

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2 thoughts on “An Interview with Tim Powers”

  1. Oh, my word yes, you really must re-read Declare, it’s quite wonderful. And then, do what I accidentally did (because I finished the book on the tram and didn’t have any other reading matter to-hand) and when you’ve finished it (but not before), go back and re-re-read the first chapter. Talk about an eye-opener.

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