Tim Powers (timpowers) Fri 10 Sep 99 14:19
Well, right, Martha -- I always insist on that. [Squinting shrewdly:] "Whoa now, you're gonna have a _binding_ on this thing, right?" In fact, I think I used the wrong word in describing the 300-copy binding -- it probably wasn't "tie-dyed" denim; maybe acid-washed? Tie-bleached? It's blobby blue-and-white streaks, anyway. If I've got a blue pen when somebody asks me to sign it, it's fun to see a face or something in the blobs & streaks and then add to it to make it explicit. Even if the owner would prefer that I not ("Aw, look what he's gone and done to my book!"). I should quote Flo & Eddie, you're right. Do you remember a song of theirs called "Becky"? Woof! One of my four-or-five favorite rock songs of all time.
Tim Powers (timpowers) Fri 10 Sep 99 14:24
"Flo & Eddie", by the way, for anyone who might not know, is the name the two Turtles-founders performed under when they had somehow lost the rights to the name "The Turtles." They've got it back again since.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Fri 10 Sep 99 14:34
Wow, are they still performing?
Linda Castellani (castle) Fri 10 Sep 99 14:36
Heh. One thing I will tell you about the WELL, Powers, is that people here definitely know their music. Have you had a chance to drop by the music conference, g music? I think you'll be impressed. That limited edition sounds more and more wonderful. I'm sure that even if I found one it would be way out of my price range. But now I definitely want one! So how was the booksigning for _999_? Any interesting characters? Any interesting moments at other booksignings or other opportunities for contacts with your fans?
Linda Castellani (castle) Fri 10 Sep 99 14:38
Undo Influence (mnemonic) Fri 10 Sep 99 15:03
'Wow, are they still performing?' I guess they're so happy together.
Martha Soukup (soukup) Fri 10 Sep 99 15:07
I know "Rebecca", which is a great song and more Turtles-like than most of the F&E repertoire. Is "Becky" different? I haven't seen them play since I moved from Chicago ten years ago. Their audiences were always strange--half the people were obviously there for the Flo & Eddie weird stuff, and half the people for the Turtles classics, and they sat uncomfortably together. I liked it all so I was just fine.
Tim Powers (timpowers) Fri 10 Sep 99 15:17
Martha, of course it's called "Rebecca," you're right. I was just thinking of the first word of the song!
Tim Powers (timpowers) Fri 10 Sep 99 15:45
The 999 signing went off fine. At first it had been planned that William Peter Blatty would be signing there too -- he's got a long story in the book -- and I had been looking forward to meeting him, having heard he's a good Catholic boy like myself. But as it happened it was just me. But it was a sociable good time, which is what signings are supposed to be. (I never imagine that they have any effect on one's "career.") I had been worried about some kind of short-circuit in our truck, a battered '72 Suburban with one headlight, and I unhooked the battery and put in on a charger in the bookstore's back room while I was signing, but it got us there & home again, and even turned the engine over this morning, so all's well. (In times of bad electricity we generally travel with a charged spare battery in the back seat, ready to switch it in whenever the truck dies; I remember having to do it in front of Dean Koontz's house once, disconcerting his elegant neighbors.) (And one time the truck was so crowded that Roger Zelazny had to sit _on_ the spare battery.) Yeah, Linda, I've done signings where nobody showed up -- in which case the embarrassed bookstore owner buys several copies, just as a gesture -- and ones for which the bookstore forgot to actually order any copies! I remember one owner calling me and saying, "Do _you_ have any copies of this thing for us to sell?" (Well, I got a copy I was gonna give to my _mom_ ...) Blaylock and I always used to try to do signings together, with lots of beer, in case of developments like this. There are a number of SF & F readers who we mainly get to chat with at signings, so we're always asking about each other's cats and things like that. And the owners of this bookstore (Art Cover & Lydia Marano, Dangerous Visions, Sherman Oaks, great bookstore!) are old pals of ours. My wife Serena generally goes outside to smoke & talk with the other smokers, and we drift down the street afterward to a nice Italian restaurant ... I wish I wrote books quicker than once every two or three years, so I could do this more often! Powers readers always strike me as a genial, well-mannered lot. I've never seen a mumbling, scowling guy in a trench-coat halfway down the line, for instance! ("Mr. Powers, God wants me to kill you ...")
Linda Castellani (castle) Fri 10 Sep 99 15:55
And if you did, you'd find a way to work it into a book! Sounds like a very good time... Since I'm reading _Earthquake Weather_ right now, I can't help but notice that certain cities often appear in your stories, like Santa Ana, Long Beach, Las Vegas. Is there some significance in your work or in your life to these cities? There are a few that I catch on my own. Like in _Itinerary_ some guy calls and identifies himself as someone the character knew from back at Neff High School, and I know that you, in fact, went to Neff. Was the name the caller used that of someone you actually went to high school with? In _Expiration Date_ one of the characters likes to go to Miceli's in Hollywood, which is a place that we used to frequent ourselves way back when. Also, Koot Hoomie, the main character, comes from La Mirada, which is also where you grew up. I confess that when I read the book, I pictured your parents' house in La Mirada to the extent that I wondered if the mantel where Koot Hoomie's parents kept the Buddha containing Thomas Edison's ghost was the same mantel where your parents kept the multi-volume lives of the saints. So, what's up with the places?
Tim Powers (timpowers) Fri 10 Sep 99 16:14
Yes, Linda, it was exactly that mantle and that house! In fact we used to have a bust of Dante there, as in the book. Las Vegas was dictated by the logic of the plot, but my default-mode is to use places that I'm familiar with -- Santa Ana, Long Beach, L.A., San Francisco -- and now San Bernardino, in the case of "Itinerary." And cars too -- in the course of the last three books I've used a Ford Torino, a Dodge Dart, and a Ford Granada that were actually cars I owned. And of course our '72 Suburban has been prominent in both _Last Call_ and _Earthquake Weather._ Yes, Neff High School -- right, again by default mode I tend to give characters my own background; and my friend's name was actually "Oney," not "Olney." Neff High School's been torn down now, and the grammar school I went to was changed to a school for mentally-retarded students right after I left. (When I'd mention that I went to school at Charlotte Anthony, people would always take my hand and say, "You're doing _really well!"_)
Linda Castellani (castle) Fri 10 Sep 99 16:33
<chortle!> Yes, that's right, it was Dante, not Buddha. What a mistake to make! How could I possibly confuse those two? (I think I could word that a little better, but I am enchanted at the moment by the literal question it asks.) You did some remarkable research on Las Vegas and environs for _Last Call_. I believe you discovered that the original Flamingo was full of hidden passageways and false walls and the like, didn't you? What else did you learn about Bugsy Siegel? And please explain about how he is a Fisher King? (You could also say what a Fisher King is, for the unitiated among us, like me, for example.)
the real Andrew Alden (alden) Fri 10 Sep 99 17:25
What a feast this topic is! And I'm looking forward to the Dick course...
Tim Powers (timpowers) Fri 10 Sep 99 19:25
Bugsy Siegel was fascinating. When I realized that the book had to take place in Las Vegas, I read _The Green Felt Jungle,_ and I really found myself wondering, What the hell _was_ this guy up to, really? I mean, he built the Flamingo way outside of town, with walls a yard thick and a sewer line for every room, and he opened it the day after Christmas, closed it on (roughly) Good Friday and re-opened it on (about) Easter! And he just committed suicide, financially and ergo literally, to build it. And then he got killed on the day the god Tammuz's death is celebrated, in Babylonian myth. And on the night he was killed, a sandstorm stripped the paint off all the cars in Las Vegas, leaving just bare metal. When my wife and I went to Las Vegas to do research (first time I'd been there), the central part of the original Flamingo building was still standing. I found the hotel's publicity person and gave her a stack of my previous books, and begged her to let us see Siegel's penthouse (with its escape-hatch inside a linen cupboard) and his tunnels (to which the escape-hatch ladder led) under the building. Luckily no one was staying in the penthouse room right then, and she got somebody from engineering to give us a tour of the whole building. It was all just as I described it in the book. (On the way out, we wandered around the outside of the building, and behind a bush we found a deeply-recessed niche, the inner surface of which was still painted the original 1946 pistachio green! It was all cracked, so I busted off a big piece and took it home with us. ((It's framed on the wall now, and somehow everybody thinks it's a relief map of Oregon.)) I felt a bit guilty about that, until they tore the whole building down in, I think, '96.) We wandered all over Las Vegas, with me talking into a recorder and Serena leaning out the window with a camera; and I'm glad we did, because that Las Vegas is already gone! At one point we were introduced to an old woman who had run an Italian restaurant on the Strip in the 1950s -- Luigi Baker; the restaurant, which is mentioned in the old books, was called "Luigi's" -- and she and her husband had known Siegel. Among a lot of questions, I asked her if Siegel had had a sense of humor; "I don't know," she said, after a moment's thought; "nothing funny ever happened."
Tim Powers (timpowers) Fri 10 Sep 99 22:17
I did mean to spell "mantel" correctly up there. I hate when I do that -- like confusing its and it's. Anyway, the Fisher King is an enigmatic figure that shows up most directly in Welsh mythology, though a lot of cultures have versions of him. He's always injured in some way that renders him sterile or impotent, and his lands are barren. There's a connection -- if you could cure him, the lands would be fertile again, and vice versa. And he's the caretaker of the Grail, which is a number of things but eventually encompasses or is encompassed by the chalice that Christ used at the Last Supper. For some reason, when the Fisher King is first encountered, he's fishing in a river. I guess that just stands to reason. When you read these stories -- the best books on the subject are Jessie Weston's _From Ritual to Romance, Norma Lorre Goodrich's _The Holy Grail, and Roger Loomis' _The Grail_ -- you get the impression of some tremendous old antediluvian story, profoundly important, lost or at least dispersed in these conflicting, half-remembered fragments.
Tim Powers (timpowers) Fri 10 Sep 99 22:35
When I was researching my recentest book, I found this same figure in the _1,001 Nights,_ in a story called "The Fisherman and the Genie." Very briefly, a lake is found with fish in it that will stand up and recite poetry when you put 'em in a frying pan; this intrigues the local king so that he goes out into the desert to find an explanation, and soon he finds a black castle, and in it a young man sitting & weeping. The visiting king asks him to explain "the mystery of the lake and the fish," and the young man "lifted the skirt of his robe, and behold, he was stone from the waist downward." And the young man says his country wasn't always a waste-land, but used to be green & fruitful. Now this is pure Fisher King, I swear.
Tim Powers (timpowers) Fri 10 Sep 99 23:08
I'm always fascinated by stories that insistently show up everywhere, in every culture; like the shadowy proto-Christs you see in mythology -- Balder, Osiris, Dionysus. In fact, for that feeling of getting only enticing fragments of a vast old lost story, read Euripides' _The Bacchae!_ At every turn you get that feeling ... well, that feeling that Oedipa Maas got, when she was watching "The Courier's Tragedy" in Pynchon's _The Crying of Lot 49_ -- the impression that audiences of the time recognized a whole lot more heavy stuff in this than we can. The older I get, the more the world seems like a Pynchon story.
Linda Castellani (castle) Fri 10 Sep 99 23:22
Speaking of your recentest book, we've been threatening to talk about it, so let's make good on that, shall we? All I know about it is that it's called _Declare_ and will be published in 2000. And that you encountered this fascinating story while doing research for it. I am now officially intrigued. Please tell me more.
Linda Castellani (castle) Fri 10 Sep 99 23:22
Powers himself slipped in...
Undo Influence (mnemonic) Fri 10 Sep 99 23:48
Tim, could you say which writers you have wanted most to be like?
Linda Castellani (castle) Sat 11 Sep 99 00:31
I did a search for the book you mentioned, now that I have it in my head that I need one, and at the following URL http://easyweb.easynet.co.uk/~jberlyne/powers/lccharnel.htm I found a photo and the following description: 'Only twenty-six copies were manufactured by Charnel House in April 1992. Originally priced at $400, this lettered state was issued with the ISBN 0-927389-04-5. Very occasionally this edition appears on the collectors market. I recently spotted one offered with the following description. '"Charnel House, Lynbrook. 1992. First edition, lettered state. Limited to 26 lettered and signed copies. Hand bound in full green Morocco (goat skin) with a tarot card and two authentic Flamingo Hotel poker chips recessed into front cover, gilt lettering on spine, endpapers made from uncut sheets of one-dollar bills, limitation page made from an uncut sheet of two-dollar bills signed in silver ink. With a piece of a two-dollar bill laid in for a bookmark. Tarot card illustrations by Peter Richardson inside borders by J.K.Potter, with tissue-guards laid in." Offered last year in the catalogue of Barry R. Levin - Science Fiction & Fantasy Literature, this edition would have set you back at least $3000! The above description fails to mention that this edition also features an extra poem and a slightly different text to the Morrow edition.'
Linda Castellani (castle) Sat 11 Sep 99 00:37
Joe Stefko's page: http://theturtles.com/bios/joe.html With photos of Joe and a brief mention of his Charnel House imprint.
Tim Powers (timpowers) Sat 11 Sep 99 00:58
Hi, Mike -- my heroes were always Lovecraft, Sturgeon, Dick and Leiber. They wrote stuff I wished I'd written -- especially Leiber! -- but I don't really want to emulate their _lives,_ I suppose. I hope I don't. As far as writers whose _lives_ I wish I had -- I think Robert Louis Stevenson, or William F. Buckley, or Tom Wolfe; or _selections_ from the lives of Byron or Hemingway. The fun, sociable parts. Linda, right, _Declare_ -- it's based on the life & career of Kim Philby, who was the chief of counter-espionage for the British Secret Service until 1951, and who turned out to have been secretly working for Moscow since college. Vast scandal! He lived in Beirut from 1956 until January of '63, when he was finally cornered and fled across Turkey to the USSR. I read about a dozen books about him, and a book he wrote and one his last wife wrote, and I began to see the sort of clues I look for -- he was SIS Head of Station in Turkey in '48, and spent a suspicious amount of time around Mount Ararat; and in Beirut he had a pet fox that drank whiskey and sucked on smoking pipes, and Kim fled to Russia shortly after the fox was killed; and Kim's father (a Lawrence of Arabia figure in the early years of the century) made sure Kim never got baptized, but fretted about the properties of baptismal water from the Jordan River, and even sent samples to the British Museum to be tested for occult potencies ... and so forth. I probably wound up reading a hundred books, on Russia, and Bedouins, and espionage, and every damn thing. Kim Philby's life was tied to the Middle East, through his father's influence; and I found plenty of clues to justify reading the whole Burton translation of the _1,001 Nights,_ too; and of course I found tons of great stuff in there! It turns out (according to my story, that is!) that the Soviet Union was supernaturally sustained, and the highest levels of British Intelligence had been aware of it right from the start -- T. E. Lawrence was working on this problem, and incidentally found the Dead Sea Scrolls back in 1917, and took the wildest ones away; Alan Turing learned more than he should have, and got killed; Feliks Dzerzhinski was sustained as a kind of haunted effigy in a KGB office in Moscow ... And so forth! It was fascinating, putting a supernatural back-story to occupied Paris, and post-war Berlin, and the Suez Crisis. Lovecraft meets tradecraft. I've always wanted to do a Le Carre-style book ... but with agents who have to carry ankhs as well as fake passports. Hey, I just saw the last two posts -- the book you're describing is a copy of the Charnel House edition of _Last Call,_ actually, not _Stress of Her Regard_ (which was also gorgeous). Stefko puts books together the way Michelangelo painted ceilings.
Tim Powers (timpowers) Sat 11 Sep 99 10:08
Mike, back to what we were saying, I think Kingsley Amis had the life & career I'd most like to have had. Check out his _Memoirs_ -- and I've loved all his books. Jon Lebkowsky was asking if the Turtles are still touring -- yeah, Jon, hit the Turtles links at the bottom of Joe Stefko's page, which Linda has kindly given above! Also, that's a hell of a complete Powers page, that "easyweb" thing which Linda also provides up there. It's put together by a guy named John Berlyne, in England -- I e-mailed him a "fan letter" when I found his page, and we got to meet him recently, and he's a fine fellow. (I was saying Powers readers are a nice crowd! -- which is gratifying; it would have been dismaying to find that they were a bunch of rude clods.)
Tim Powers (timpowers) Sat 11 Sep 99 15:49
Mike -- having given it undue thought -- John D. MacDonald, definitely.
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