American science fiction and fantasy writer. His breakout novel was The Anubis Gates
, published in 1983. Other novels include Declare
, Dinner at Deviant's Palace
, The Drawing of the Dark
, Earthquake Weather
, Expiration Date
, Last Call
, On Stranger Tides
, The Stress of Her Regard
, and Three Days to Never
Many of his works show arcane forces at work in the backstage areas of history, revealing the "real" causes and motivations behind historical events.
They also tend to be populated by body snatchers, identical twins, clones, time-travelling duplicates, and other kinds of doppelganger
— Powers has said in interviews that he finds something powerful and worrying about the idea of meeting a person who looks and acts just like somebody you know but isn't
, and many of his works have a scene of that kind. Some of them invert it, with a character meeting a complete stranger who turns out somehow to be somebody they already know; it's not any less creepy that way around.On Stranger Tides
became the basis for the fourth movie in Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean
series, as well as being an inspiration for the Monkey Island
series of games.
Interesting historical note: During the 1970s, Tim Powers spent a lot of time hanging out with Philip K. Dick
Works by Tim Powers with their own trope pages include:
Other works by Tim Powers provide examples of:
- Abusive Parents: Dondi Snayheever in Last Call was walled up inside a giant Skinner box by his father for virtually his entire childhood, surrounded by oversized paintings of playing cards and books about poker. His father was trying to condition his child to be the ultimate poker player, but lack of human contact left Dondi unable to judge other players' intentions, not to mention socially incompetent.
- Badass Israeli: The Mossad team in Three Days to Never
- Beethoven Was an Alien Spy: A recurring feature. See the trope page for a list of examples.
- Blessedwith Suck: Magic rituals in Power's novels tend to be horribly inconvenient or have some horrible side-effect. In The Anubis Gates, magic users can't touch the earth. In The Stress of Her Regard, being under the attention of the Nephilim is great... except you can never raise a family, ever, and all your other loved ones are fated to die.
- Body Snatcher: A recurring feature.
- The Chessmaster: Neal Obstadt. It doesn't work out well for him.
- Creator In-Joke: When Tim Powers and James Blaylock were in college together, they invented a fake poet named "William Ashbless" to satirize the quality of their college's literary magazine. Nearly every novel Powers and Blaylock have written has had a reference to Ashbless in it somewhere — most famously The Anubis Gates, in which he appears as a major character.
- Demonic Possession: In Three Days to Never (though strictly speaking it's a dybbuk, not a demon); Expiration Date has possession by ghosts.
- Disguised in Drag: In Last Call the protagonist dresses in drag to infiltrate a party being hosted by the villain. In defiance of the usual subtropes, nobody is in any doubt about his sex, let alone strangely attracted to him — but it serves perfectly as a disguise in as much as nobody suspects for a moment that it's him.
- Doppelgänger: A recurring feature.
- The Dragon: Vaughan Trumbill in Last Call
- Earn Your Happy Ending: A recurring feature.
- Electromagnetic Ghosts: Ghosts in Last Call, Expiration Date, and Earthquake Weather affect compasses, make telephone calls, and appear on TV sets to communicate important information.
- Energy Economy: In Dinner at Deviant's Palace, the dominant currency in a Scavenger World L.A. is a high-proof distilled alcohol: useable as a fuel, a disinfectant, or as plain ol' booze, hence much in demand.
- Epigraph: A recurring feature.
- Exactly What It Says on the Tin: Dinner at Deviant's Palace
- Eye Scream: The protagonist of Last Call loses an eye in the prologue.
- Fat Bastard: Leo Friend in On Stranger Tides and Loretta deLarava in Expiration Date are both described as extremely, grotesquely fat. Also Vaughan Trumbill, The Dragon in Last Call. The protagonist mistakes Norton Jaybush for a leather beanbag chair at first glance in Dinner At Deviant's Palace
- Fingertip Drug Analysis: Used in Last Call, getting it right about the identifying feature of cocaine being the numbness.
- Fingore: Something horrible happens to at least one character's hands or fingers in each book.
- Fisher King: The legend of the Fisher King is central to The Drawing of the Dark, Earthquake Weather, and Last Call. It is also mentioned in On Stranger Tides and Expiration Date, the latter forming a trilogy with Last Call and Earthquake Weather
- Flying Dutchman, Man Without A Country subtype: An unnamed minor character in the short story "Itinerary", based on the real-life Merhan Karimi Nasseri.
- The Fool: Dondi Snayheever in Last Call
- Former Child Star: Nicky Bradshaw in Expiration Date, who as a teenager starred as a boy ghost in a sitcom called Ghost of a Chance.
- Future Me Scares Me: The plot of Three Days to Never is complicated by the arrival of a future version of one of the characters, who is dangerously determined to prevent the course of events that produced him.
- Gender-Restricted Ability: In Three Days to Never, certain magical powers are restricted by gender; one of the characters is a sorcerer who, it turns out, was born female and went to extreme lengths to gain access to male magic.
- This also shows up briefly in On Stranger Tides to explain why Blackbeard married so many women (what, seventeen or so?).
- Grand Theft Me: A recurring feature.
- Groin Attack: In Last Call, the villain finds out the hard way that if you use a five-year-old boy as a Human Shield you can't protect your head and chest without leaving other important parts vulnerable.
- Historical-Domain Character: A recurring feature.
- Historical Fantasy: A recurring feature.
- Human Shield: Used by the villain in Last Call.
- If I Do Not Return: Twice in Last Call; both times, the end of the sentence is some form of "assume I'm dead and get the heck out of here".
- Immortality Immorality: Shows up again and again in his work.
- Instant Drama, Just Add Tracheotomy: An emergency tracheotomy performed by a non-professional is a key plot event in Three Days to Never. It's not a neat Hollywood tracheotomy, though, and has serious repercussions.
- Literary Work of Magic: In Three Days To Never, it turns out Charlie Chaplin worked symbolic imagery into City Lights as part of a magical ritual to attempt to bring his son back from the dead. An earlier movie he'd worked on but never shown to the public is part of the MacGuffin; Albert Einstein had to talk Chaplin out of showing the movie, as the mojo generated by the imagery would likely fry some audience brains.
- Living Memory: In Expiration Date, ghosts are not the souls of the dead, but psychic copies created in the trauma of death. (They can also be created by other traumatic events, but they usually merge back into the person if the person survives.)
- Lost Him in a Card Game: Last Call features a particularly twisted variation.
- No, Mr. Bond, I Expect You to Dine: Dinner at Deviant's Palace
- No Questions Asked: After Kootie Parganas's parents are killed and he goes on the run, advertisements start appearing that offer a large reward for his whereabouts, no questions asked.
- Not Blood Siblings: Happens in a couple of Powers's novels. See the trope page for the list.
- One Steve Limit: Inverted in the short story "Pat Moore", in which it's a plot point that all the main characters have the same name.
- Our Ghosts Are Different:
- In Expiration Date, ghosts are not the souls of the dead, but psychic copies created in the trauma of death. (They can also be created by other traumatic events, but they usually merge back into the person if the person survives.)
- In Three Days to Never ghosts experience time backwards, so if one has the proper apparatus (involving the specially prepared mummified head of someone chosen to be a medium) they can talk to ghosts to get hints of the future.
- In Hide Me Among the Graves ghosts are just fragments of people's souls and memories that eventually wander into streams and rivers and are carried out gradually to the ocean where they join and decay with other ghosts.
- Pocket Protector: In Expiration Date, Pete Sullivan is shot by the villain in the final confrontation, but is saved by a memento of his father he's carrying inside his shirt.
- Professional Killer: Al Funo in Last Call
- Psychic Link:
- Between Scott and Diana in Last Call, which lets each know when the other has been injured.
- There's one between the protagonist of Three Days to Never and his daughter, that grows stronger over the course of the novel.
- The twins in Expiration Date frequently know what each other is thinking and can finish sentences in unison, but it's explicitly stated that they don't have a psychic link, they just know each other really well.
- Psychic Powers: Several characters in Three Days to Never have versions of Remote Viewing ability.
- Punny Name: Powers occasionally gives characters names that are puns on ecclesiastical Latin catchphrases, apparently just for the lulz. Examples include "Neal Obstadt", who appears in Last Call and Expiration Date, and "Libra Nosamalo", who appears in Three Days to Never.
- Ret Gone: The villains of Three Days to Never can do this to a person.
- Scavenger World: Dinner at Deviant's Palace
- Seeing Through Another's Eyes:
- In the short story "Pat Moore" a man meets the ghost of his wife, who, having no eyes of her own, can see only what he can see.
- One of the characters in Three Days to Never is blind, but can see through the eyes of people near her. The ramifications and limitations are explored in some depth.
- Serial Killer: Al Funo in Last Call makes his living taking money to kill specific people, but it's clear he'd be killing people even if nobody paid him.
- Shapeshifter Baggage: In Expiration Date, a fugitive ghost is briefly able to disguise the body it's inhabiting by adding biomass to increase the body's height and shape. The question of where the extra biomass comes from is addressed, and it's not pleasant.
- Shoot The Hostage Taker: In the prologue of Last Call, the Big Bad uses his young son as a human shield when his wife threatens to shoot him, and finds out the hard way that holding a small child so that his head and chest are covered leaves his groin exposed.
- Spontaneous Human Combustion: In Expiration Date, ghosts sometimes burst into flames if they are suddenly alarmed. It's suggested that human combustion happens when a person dies, but their ghost doesn't immediately notice and keeps walking around in their body for a while before suffering some shock (such as, often, the shocking realisation that they've been dead for a while and hadn't noticed).
- Spy Fiction: Declare, and the Mossad subplot of Three Days to Never
- Spy Speak: Declare involves lots of code phrases and recognition exchanges, some of which turn out to have occult significance.
- Stable Time Loop: Powers's default model of time travel. Demonstrated most triumphantly in The Anubis Gates.
- Steam Punk: The term "steampunk" was coined by K. W. Jeter to describe the speculative fiction stories in a Victorian setting that he, Powers and James Blaylock were writing in the early 1980s.
- Stolen Good, Returned Better: In Earthquake Weather, fugitive Cody steals a car, picking one that's a few decades old because it's easier to hotwire. She does some work on it while it's in her hands, so when the owner eventually gets it back it's in better condition than it was when she stole it.
- Tarot Motifs: Last Call
- Tarot Troubles: Last Call
- Time Travel: Most centrally in The Anubis Gates and Three Days to Never
- Trapped by Gambling Debts: An inverted version in Last Call where the character is trapped by winning.
- Urban Fantasy: A recurring feature.
- Virgin Power: Played with in Last Call.
- Who Wants to Live Forever?
- You Can't Fight Fate: A recurring feature on any occasion that involves time travel.