POWERS, Tim(othy)
(1952-)
   US writer who began publishing sf with The Skies Discrowned (1976 Canada as Timothy Powers; rev vt Forsake the Sky 1986 as TP), a fantasy-tinged sf adventure much influenced - TP stated in his introduction to the revised version - by the work of Rafael Sabatini (1875-1950). Epitaph in Rust (1976 Canada as Timothy Powers; textrestored, vt An Epitaph in Rust 1989 as TP) somewhat more vividly sets the adventures of its protagonist, a reluctant monk, in a post- HOLOCAUST California. Already some features typical of the mature TP novel weretaking shape: protagonists who have been lamed by symbolic wounds but who are depicted with a sustaining dark geniality; plots which mix genres with elegant facility but without bleaching out or calling into philosophical question the various worlds which are flung together (so that TP cannot be described as an author of FABULATIONS - differing in this from his colleague and sometime collaborator, James P. BLAYLOCK); and settings described with florid clarity and great devotion to detail. But the first 2 tales - written as they were for LASER BOOKS - only hinted at theseriches; it was not until his third novel, The Drawing of the Dark (1979), an outright FANTASY, that TP began clearly to demonstrate his complex gifts. The title refers to the drawing of a beer which has been brewed in one location - atop the grave of Finn Mac Cool - for several thousand years, and which must be drawn by Merlin in the middle of the 16th century to allow a reborn Fisher King (and the protagonist, who is an avatar of Arthur himself) to save Europe from the Turks. Vienna is vividly depicted;the story, told in a slangy but unmocking manner, is gripping.THE ANUBIS GATES (1983; rev 1984 UK), which won the 1984 PHILIP K. DICK MEMORIALAWARD and is a central example of STEAMPUNK, may be the easiest of all TP's books to admire, though it is less daunting in scope than his later work. While tracing the career and work of early-Victorian poet William Ashbless - both TP and James P. Blaylock have written "Ashbless" poems,including "Offering the Bicentennial Edition of the Complete Twelve Hours of the Night" (1985 broadsheet) by both authors - the soon-to-be-wounded protagonist Brendan Doyle is sent by TIME TRAVEL to the London of 1810, where he is trapped, and the plot thickens with virtuoso speed; Egyptian MAGIC (intricately described in terms of the precise techniques necessaryto operate it) intersects with a compulsive and feverish vision of the underground life of the great city (patently derived from the work of Charles DICKENS), while haunted MONSTERS roam the aisles of the city andDoyle ricochets backwards through time and forwards into the body of Ashbless, whom he becomes. Fantasy, sf, horror and historical fiction all marry here with an ease which seems entirely natural.TP's next novel, Dinner at Deviant's Palace (1985), which also won the Dick Award, marked apartial return to the comparative simplicities of his first work, though its use of post-holocaust California was markedly less genre-bound than that of Epitaph in Rust, especially in its protagonists' re-enactment of the Orpheus and Eurydice legend, and in the confrontation with an ALIEN, who is both a fake MESSIAH and Lord of the Underworld. On Stranger Tides (1987) is a hugely enriched pirate yarn, set in an ALTERNATE-WORLD 18thcentury and concerning (in part) a search for IMMORTALITY. The Stress of Her Regard (1989), possibly TP's most sustained single novel, is set inthe early 19th century of THE ANUBIS GATES, focusing not only on Byron (who appears in the earlier book) but on Percy Shelley and Mary SHELLEYand John Keats as well, in a story involving lamiae and vampires (SUPERNATURAL CREATURES), culminating in the sf-like revelation thatnon-carbon-based forms of life have survived and are the secret masters of the Austrian Empire. Last Call (1992) is a complex contemporary fantasy novel in which Bugsy Siegel is one of a series of Fisher Kings; its protagonist must avoid being sacrificed in a ritual of succession.Though his fertility of invention occasionally (as often with Blaylock) impedes the flow of story, TP is at heart a storyteller, and ruthlessly shapes his material into narrative form. The result is one of the few genuinely original bodies of work in the modern sf/fantasy field.
   JC
   Other works: Night Moves (1986 chap); The Way Down the Hill (1986 chap).
   About the author: A Checklist of Tim Powers (1991 chap) by Tom Joyce and Christopher P. STEPHENS.

Science Fiction and Fantasy Encyclopedia. . 2011.

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