utorok 8. októbra 2013

Tim Powers: Spread the nets as widely as possible!


This is original version of interview with Mr. Tim Powers, which was translated in steampunk issue of Slovak SF magazine Jupiter.


* I want start in early 80´s. Authors K.W.Jeter, James Blaylock and you were starting to write first modern steampunk works. Was there some common inspiration or each of you just wanted to write SF about Victorian England?

All three of us were inclined that way, being big fans of Dickens, Stevenson, and Arthur Conan Doyle -- and then Jeter found a couple of books called Mayhew's London and London's Underworld, both by a 19th century sociologist (I guess you'd call him) named Henry Mayhew. Mayhew chronicled the poor sections of 19th century London practically street by street, noting all the details about  the day-to-day lives of beggars, costermongers, letter-writers, thieves, brewers, sailors, prostitutes -- all the research any writer would need! And Jeter showed the books to Blaylock and I, and pretty soon all three of us were mining them for story settings.



* Did you was personally influenced by H. G. Wells or Jules Verne?

Not very much. I read them both as a teenager, but my genre roots are more Lovecraft and Fritz Leiber -- I like that tone of dark alleys and mysterious rivers flowing under bridges by moonlight and cellars with God-knows-what sort of ancient creatures living in them!

* Your most known work is the novell “The Anubis Gates”. It was hit even here, long time before another steampunk work transleted. During the writing did you feel that it will be such influential work?

No, I never imagined that The Anubis Gates would still be in print even five years after it was published! It was rejected by a number of publishers before Beth Meacham at Ace Books decided to try it out. I'm extraordinarily pleased that it is still in print today, and has been translated into so many other languages! And I read it again recently, and I've got to say I'm still very pleased with it!

* Steampunk is generally science fiction in it´s heart. “The Anubis Gates” has lot of magic and can be count as fantasy, maybe historical fantasy. Do you think that steampunk is much larger subgenre as just SF in victorian England?

Steampunk certainly seems to be a bigger and bigger umbrella, yes. As you note, The Anubis Gates was fantasy, not really science fiction at all, and lately there have been steampunk novels set in the Middle East, and the American West! I guess it just needs a sort of 19th century-style society -- and a lot of weird business going on -- to qualify.

* In nineties there were few steampunk works (Difference Engine, Fillipo´s “The Steampunk Trilogy”) and few works with certain elements of the genre (“Diamond Age” is most important). Cyberpunk was much more known, even with end of the Movement. Why it was that steampunk was not such strong in public?

I don't know! Steampunk is a very retrospective genre -- looking backward, always with a bit of nostalgia even when the look is critical -- so maybe it stems from a dissatisfaction with the baffling freedoms and unexpected restrictions of the modern world.

* Do you think that was there ever some steampunk Movement?

There may be lately, at least in science fiction fandom -- certainly there are whole steampunk conventions now, and the fascination is with costume and jewellery and movies at least as much as it's with books.

* What do you think about steampunk today? There are steampunk conventions, steampunk clubs, steampunk music, even steampunk anime... It goes even out of SF community, with steampunk episode of TV show Castle or steampunkish Sherlock Homes movies, for example. It is this what you wanted to create in 80´s?

It would never have occurred to Jeter, Blaylock and I that we were creating anything, aside from some science fiction and fantasy adventure novels. But I think we're all very gratified that the books we wrote then are considered to be core examples of ... something!

* Few words about politics and punkism in this culture. The site tor.com during it´s steampunk month in 2009 declared steampunk as punk in his core, with logical anti-elitism. Do you think that it´s so anarchic and left-winged?

No, I don't think steampunk has any sort of organized philosophy or political stance. No doubt many people in the steampunk subculture do try to mix social or political goals into it, but I don't think they're at all representative of whatever steampunk is. Certainly I never had any social or political points to make in The Anubis Gates (or any of my books, actually.)

* Back to literature. There are tendencies to define not only Wells and Verne, but even Poe as steampunk writer. Everything with touch of 19´s is defined as work of this genre, and there are new subganres produced, such as dieselpunk, atompunk and teslapunk. Do you agree with such tendencies?

Sure! Spread the nets as widely as possible! I'd like to see such a vast variety of "steampunk" stories -- and claimed ancestors of the form -- that in the end it will all break right out of any particular definition, and just be a lot of great science fiction and fantasy stories.

* What are you writing now? Please don´t understand this bad, but were yor works from last years influenced with all this “new” steampunk phenomenon?

No, actually my last novel was prompted by reading about some weird anomalies in the lives of Dante Gabriel Rossetti and his sister Christina -- but it does take place in 19th century London, so if people want to call it steampunk, that's fine with me! And the book I'm currently working on is set now, in Hollywood, so any steampunk elements are going to be ... hard to detect!

* Many thanks for this interview.

 Questions: Martin Kralik