Transcript of OmniMag Chat

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<FROM omniFreund> Welcome to OMNIVisions. Tonightís chat (from 10:00 - 11:30 PM EST) is a conversation with award-winning writer Tim Powers. being interviewed by Jim Freund. Please wait for a lull in the conversation before joining in.

<Tim_Powers> Jim, should I be taking other folksí questions yet?

<Libtroll> Someone else must like the nom de plume. Sadly, weíve never chatted, but I have long enjoyed your works.

<FROM omniJohns> I thought you were on vacation! You devil, you!/ga

<Tim_Powers> Jim, I can take Libtrollís question...

<omniFreund> To all, please bear in mind that for the nonce, this is a one-on-one interview, and weíll open for your participation in about 20 minutes. Go ahead, Tim, and then letís continue.

<Tim_Powers> I would say yes, I have always found the Fisher King story -- in all its form from the earliest Babylonian mythos right up to its concretization in Christianity -- to be an intensely compelling story:... something in me strongly resonates to it, and I trust the same is true for my readers. Okay, Jim? /GA

<omniFreund> OK...and it did actually relate to my question... Would you tell us about some of the characters in EW? Particularly Plumtree & some of the more unusual aspected (new word) folk who populate the book. /ga

<Tim_Powers> Okay... Iíve always thought it would be fun to use a real Jekyll & Hyde multiple personality as a major character, and thatís why we have Plumtree there;... and then it was fun to be able to put contrasting characters into her, even the disembodied spirit of her killed father... Mary Ellen Pleasant, the ghost of the old black woman, was a real person, and I really didnít invent any of the details of HER life;... and then Sarah Winchester was someone I had been planning to use for awhile, with the intriguing enigma of her always-under-construction house... and the psychiatrist was an attempt to see how bad I could make a character be without him catching on that he had become a "bad guy"./GA

<omniFreund> Theyíre a great set of characters (as yours usually are). What kind of research did you do for this book? /ga

<Tim_Powers> Research, letís see... Well, I knew going in that it would be the tying-up of the previous two books; therefore I knew I would have to research Shakespeareís "Troilus & Cressida" and California wines... but then, of course, dozens of other areas became urgent -- San Francisco history, the real basis of the god Dionysus, and even the secret meaning behind Dickens A TALE OF TWO CITIES... and the movie THE MALTESE FALCON; and I wound up learning enough about mental hospitals, I think to be able to get a job in one --... or, in a pinch, get along as an inmate./GA

<omniFreund> Do you view these last few books of yours as a trilogy, or an open usinverse youíre building? /ga

<Tim_Powers> Good question -- ...for now, I definitely think of them as a trilogy. I had planned them as a sort of yearís cycle, dealing with Spring in LAST CALL, Fall in EXPERIATION DATE, and Winter in EARTHQUAKE WEATHER... But... I have to admit it would be tempting fun to check in on Kootie again in a year or so period./GA

<omniFreund> I would say so. Tell the rest just who Kootie is, and what he represents. /ga

<Tim_Powers> Kootie...is the son of a couple of Theosophists who raised him on fasting-and-meditation regime to be a sort of Hindu holy man;... but the ordeals he went through in EXPIRATION DATE have twisted his holy man qualifications so that in EARTHQUAKE WEATHER he has am unhealing wound in his side and is now an unwilling candidate for the Fisher King crown... he thus has some modest magical power, but he has drawn the attentions of big old sorcerous concerns, most of them malignant... I think right now as of 1998 he is fifteen years old./GA

<omniFreund> For those of us not rooted in some of the stories, could you expand on the original parable of The Fisher King? /ga

<Tim_Powers> Okay... In I think all cultures there is the story of the god of plants and fertility who has to die in the winter and be reborn in the spring... in ancient Celtic mythology this figure is a king rather than a god... he always shows up with a wound in the side or the crotch, indicating that his fertility and generative powers are broken... A young knight always meets the wounded king in these old Celtic stories and for magical ritual reasons must ask him one question rather than another... the young knight always asks the _wrong_ question and therefore lots of trouble ensues... the weird consistency of this story in its Celtic origins and in its French and British and German retellings... implies some sort of Jungian potency in it... which I hope to tape into in my book./GA

<omniFreund> It certainly opens up some of the meaning of the book for me, thanks! ... I have dozens of questions, but we have an expectant crowd here, so weíll open for participation. Please take turns, and if it gets busy, Iíll ask those with questions to "raise hands" by typing a "?". For now, letís try free-form. /ga

<Stephan> Tim, I enjoy all of your work, but am especially fond of your "steampunk" work. The Anubis Gates being one of my top 25 favorite novels. Anything in that area coming up in the near future?

<Tim_Powers> Stephan... bless your heart! The book I am working on right now... takes place in the 1950s and 60s but at least one editor has been goading me into writing a sequel to THE ANUBIS GATES... so maybe thatís what Iíll do next./GA

<omniFreund> ACTION applauds

<EZGuest35> Tim, Good morning from London. I was wondering if you are aware that the First ( UK) Ed of EW is impossible to get hold of over here. Ironic that I can only get a copy by ordering it from a specialist in the States!!

<FROM omniJohns> "Goading" is such a wonderful virtue for an editor to have!/ga

<Tim_Powers> Yes, I believe they did only 800 copies... and it seems to me most of those wound up over here...

<EZGuest35> Do you have any plans to visit over here? And if so, any chance of arranging some book signing sessions?

<Tim_Powers> I wonder if the British publisher _might_ think of going into a second printing?...

<Beth> (or you could just buy the Tor edition)

<Tim_Powers> at any rate I hope a paperback will be appearing before long/GA

<Mikey> Tim, I would have to say Last call is one of my favorite bks...though I just read EW and loved it. Any truth to the rumor that it will be made into a movie<g>?

<EZGuest35> Legend say itís due out May 7th ?ga

<Tim_Powers> Yes, vaguely...

<Libtroll> Add my vote! Tim, your books dealing with the Romantic poets tell me you were an English Lit major,too. Have any of your works been optioned by Hollywood?

<Tim_Powers> John Jerrold is always forcefully inviting my wife and I to come over there... and we are running out of excuses...certainly while there I would do as many signings as the British public could endure./GA

<Steve2> Any chance of a short story collection any time soon?

<Tim_Powers> As to the movie... I donít know. Apparently an option is being bought on LAST CALL... but I have stayed almost superstitiously ignorant about how Hollywood works...

<Libtroll> As long as itís not Disney whoís optioned it.

<Tim_Powers> certainly Iíd love to see almost any sort of movie made from these books/GA

<omniFreund> Eek (disney) Iíd love to see a film of Anubis Gates...

<Tim_Powers> English lit major...

<EZGuest35> Re: Movies. I would think your some of your stories would be hard to film. With your fascination for body switching, that would need a lot of leading actors to play one main part. ( Iím thinking of Doyle/Ashbless etc)

<Tim_Powers> yes, I was an English major in college and managed to take twice the required number of units... before being finally shamed into submitting to graduation... and the Romantic poets particularly -- Byron, Coleridge, Keats -- have been an enduring obsession for me.

<Tim_Powers> A collection... the trouble is, Steve, Iíve only ever written.. about five short stories, and several of those were collaborations with James Blaylock... Iíd have to writer several more stories to keep it from being an embarrassingly thin book./GA

<Mikey> Speaking of Ashbless....will you ever write poetry outside of background/setting for your stories?

<Steve2> At the very least, we need a hardcover special edition of "The Way Down The Hill"... Iím still holding on to the original F&SF issue it appeared in!!

<Tim_Powers> Poetry...

<Mikey> Perhaps a collection of both poetry /stories/essays?

<Tim_Powers> I did write a good deal of poetry -- sonnets, etc., influenced Housman, Millay, etc -- but at around age 25...

<Stephan> Tim, any plans on attending the W.F.C. in Monterey this year?

<Tim_Powers> my brain apparently locked into the prose gear... I _would_ like to write poetry, but it almost calls for the vast stretches of late night leisure that only younger and more idealistic people have./ga

<Libtroll> I would like to see more of Ashbless after Anubis Gates. Would lamias take an interest in him? Perhaps his dual existence prevented their attention earlier? /ga

<Tim_Powers> WFC -- yes definitely!

<omniFreund> For those not in the know, Tim, please explain Ashbless. /ga

<Tim_Powers> IF I do a sequel to ANUBIS GATES, of course... he would show up...

<EZGuest35> Re: Anubis Gates. Was Dog Faced Joe your own creation? Itís such a bizarre and brilliant idea, did you come across something in your research that sparked it off? /ga

<Tim_Powers> in the meantime he appeared in Blaylockís THE DIGGING LEVIATHAN... Blaylock and I co-invented Ashbless in 1972... so each of us is free to use the character... I have always included at least a reference to Ashbless in each of my books, though lately I have translated his name into Spanish; Guillermo Ceniza-Bendiga, which means... William Ash Bless/GA

<Mikey> Any chance of a collaboration between you and Blaylock soon?

<Tim_Powers> Ashbless question first... When Blaylock and I were in college in Ď72, the school paper published a lot of post-hippie crappy poetry... and we decided to write portentious, heavy-sounding poetry to make them all look stupid.. we made up the name William Ashbless for this... and then ever since, whenever Blaylock or I have wanted to include a crazy bearded poet... in our books, weíve used him. For THE ANUBIS GATES I cooked up a thorough biography of Ashbless, and hoped that people would be fooled into think he was real. GA

<Tim_Powers> Dog Faced Joe... I guess I got the idea for Dog Faced Joe... from Lovecraftís "The Thing on the Doorstep," ...

<Tim_Powers> the idea of him killing the old body before shifting and then having to shift again soon because of growing hair all over himself I guess I just made up... thatís about it/GA

<Tim_Powers> Collaboration ... Weíve plotted a couple of short stories which weíve even promised to Gardner Dozois and Ellen Datlow... and weíve always thought it would be fun to do a while novel together... but I guess weíd need an advance on it big enough to support us both/GA

<EZGuest35> Tim, Will you ever return to writing more futuristic stuff along the lines of DINNER AT DEVIANTS PALACE?

<Tim_Powers> Good question... I have thought it would be fun to write a novel involving L5 colonies,... with weightlessness and rocketships and all, but I frankly donít see getting to it any time soon/ga

<omniFreund> Tim, how does the process of collaboration work for you? What good/not good aspects are there to it? /ga

<Tim_Powers> Okay...

<Libtroll> What are you working on right now? Oh, yes, Deviants Palace is another book begging for a sequel. Oh, course we want you to do new material--how would the Fisher King competition handle being moved into space?

<Tim_Powers> for one thing, I canít think of anyone I could collaborate with besides Blaylock... us having known each other for about 25 years... basically I write 3 pages.. he rips up and re-phrases them down to 2... and adds three of his own... which I then rip up and re-phrase... it IS a real...advantage to see half the work appearing without me doing it... and great ideas appearing in the story without me having to think them up... luckily Blaylock and I never take offense when the other person ravages our work/GA

<EZGuest35> Which is your personal favourite amongst your published works? ... and why? :-)

<omniFreund> Is there ever any angst in this process? /ga

<Tim_Powers> Libtroll -- thatís a lot... hold on... Working on right now... Iím doing a book centered on Kim Philby who was the head of counter-espionage for the British secret service but who turned out to have been working for Moscow all along... and who fled there in Ď63... I am taking the whole intricate history of the Cold War and cooking up a supernatural secret explanation for everything... it is sort of Le Carre characters in a sorcerously torqued spy setting... tradecraft meets Lovecraft/GA

<Steve2> I have a question about the "Ms. Right" theme that comes up in several of your books...

<Tim_Powers> Favorite work and then angst... Favorite work -- to the extent that it is one work, which I think it is a BIG extent, this FIsher King trilogy is my favorite... as individual novels... I think LAST CALL is the best thing I have done, ever...

<Tim_Powers> Angst...what did you mean by angst?

<omniFreund> I meant that when you collaborate... you have to give up the complete control over the characters and story you have when writing solo... so Iíd imagine this can be a bumpy road for some. /ga

<Tim_Powers> AH, that would be true, Jim... that is it could be frustrating with anyone BUT Blaylock...

<Stephan> Tim, thanks for so many hours of reading pleasure and hopefully for many more. Hope to see you in Monterey in Oct.

<Tim_Powers> but he and I have read each others work in manuscript and commented and advised for so long , that I almost think each of us even feels a little proprietary about the others books/GA

<Tim_Powers> Steve, I owe you a drink <G>

<omniFreund> Tim, have you ever considered writing for other media? /ga

<Steve2> What a memory! Anyway, many times the hero begins the book pursuing a particular woman, then discovers some fatal flaw in her...

<Tim_Powers> Other media... actually, no...

<Steve2> and ends up in love with a much less likely soulmate. Is this based on any real experience? (hope not)

<Tim_Powers> I grew up with reading prose as my main vice and any skill I have in writing is specifically calibrated to the printed page.. when it comes to movies or TV, I get to be just a happy consumer and not worry about how they are made/Ga

<Tim_Powers> Steve... No I canít think of any real experience I could have derived that from.... I think it is a fictional device I learned from Kingsley Amis... making an admirable character become tiresome by the end of the book, and making am initially alarming character become attractive./GA

<Steve2> Thanks, Tim.

<Mikey> Tim, excuse the trite question....what authors/writers would you say have influenced you?

<Tim_Powers> Tim... Fritz Leiber...C.S. Lewis... John D. McDonald...

<EZGuest35> Re:Movies. Tim your writing is sometime quite "filmic", but you pack so much into your plots and write such rich and intricate characters that a movie would only diminish your story. I mean, the whole of ANUBIS GATES or LAST CALL in two short hours!

<Tim_Powers> Heinlein...Kingsley Amis...Raphael Sabatini... off the top of my head.

<Tim_Powers> Well, as to movies...

<Mikey> Interesting combination, that.......thanks.

<Tim_Powers> I would hope that a movie person would simply disattach one liking looking thread my admittedly complicated books... and base a movie on that; I certainly wouldnít be insulted if they had to leave most of a bookís components out/GA

<omniFreund> At the risk of being truly trite, thatís a great combination of influences, but your style is nothing like any of those. Is your style something youíve completely invented, or do you think it has its antecedents? /ga

<Tim_Powers> I would have to guess... that it is really mostly a blend of all of them, with maybe some... Tom Wolfe and Hunter Thompson thrown in...

<cbranch> Tim, Iím most impressed with your historical detail. Any plans for another book set earlier than the 20th century?

<Tim_Powers> no particular Powers-voice that Iím consciously aware of doing anyway/GA

<Tim_Powers> Yes... I have done a fair amount of work on outlining a book set in England in 1848... that COULD fairly easily work out to be the sequel to THE ANUBIS GATES... /GA

<Beth> so it could.....

<omniFreund> Hey Beth, you might introduce yourself. :-)

<Beth> er. Beth Meacham. Iíve edited some of Timís books. And admire him extravagantly

<omniFreund> Thanks!... (Donít we all!) ...

<Tim_Powers> Yes, Beth has made any number of my books a whole lot better than they would have been without her advice... Hello Beth! Thank you again.

<omniFreund> Well, our official chat time is over, so Iíd like to thank you all for being here, and of course, especially you, Tim, for all your past and future work.

<Libtroll> Three cheers then, Beth. I think every author needs a good editor.

<Tim_Powers> Jim, thanks it has been lots of fun, and I hope e do get out to New York soon.

<Beth> Thanks, Libtroll. Itís an interesting job.

<EZGuest35> Yeah. Thanks Tim. Itís a pleasure to talk with you. Keep Ďem coming <g>

<omniFreund> I hope so, so I can also get you on the radio. Of course the great advantage to these is that they endure as readable archives...

<Mikey> Jim, will you get him to Dixon Place too? If you donít mind a live reading, Tim<g>.....

<Beth> Tim reads really well

<omniFreund> Well,, I donít produce Dixon Place--I just record and broadcast it. Of course, I think Amy might well consider it, though Tim has never done a public reading. He has the voice for it though.

<Tim_Powers> If thatís what it takes. <G>

<omniFreund> Youíd be great, Tim. Iíll pass this along to Amy (the curator of the series).

<Tim_Powers> Swell, if that gets us to New York <G>

<Mikey> Thanks, Jim....and Tim, thank you for your stories!

<Beth> Talk to you soon, Tim. Did you get the package of reviews?

<omniFreund> Thanks Mikey!

<Tim_Powers> Beth -- oh yes, thank you! Sorry to be so anxious!

<Beth> Not a problem -- just thought Iíd take this opportunity to check. Iím gone now. Bye!

<Libtroll> Thank you, Tim, and omniFreund, for hosting this conversation.

<omniFreund> OK well, Tim seems to have logged out, so I guess the official part is officially over. Donít forget next week Ed Bryantís guest will be (February 26) Thomas Tessier on his new novel, Fog Heart

<omniFreund> (I prefer Jim to omni. :-)

<cbranch> Jim, where is this session archived, by the way?

<omniFreund> The archives are edited and then posted at Omni Magazine at http://www.omnimag.com ...

<cbranch> Great, thanks!

19-Feb-98