Timothy Thomas Powers (born February 29, 1952) is an 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.
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:
- The Anubis Gates
- Dinner at Deviant's Palace
- The Drawing of the Dark
- Expiration Date
- Last Call
- On Stranger Tides
- The Stress of Her Regard
- Three Days to Never
Other works by Tim Powers provide examples of:
- Afterlife Antechamber: The setting of "Down and Out in Purgatory" is a transitional afterlife occupied by people who aren't yet ready to let go of the living world and move on to whatever eternity has in store (which remains undepicted, although several of the characters have theories).
- Back from the Dead: The goal of some of the characters in "Down and Out in Purgatory"; it's rumored in the purgatory that there's a secret method that will allow a dead person to be reborn in a new body instead of going on into eternity. The protagonist searches for it himself, but gives up on it when he learns that it's just a particularly ruthless refinement on ghostly possession—the secret is that instead of possessing an adult body you find an unborn child, kick its soul out while it's still too small and weak to fight back, and keep its body for yourself.
- Canon Welding:
- Earthquake Weather is a sequel to both Expiration Date and Last Call, with characters returning from both.
- "Nobody's Home" is a ghost story using the ghost lore from Expiration Date and Hide Me Among the Graves but set during The Anubis Gates.
- Confessional: In "Through and Through", a priest is visited in the confessional by the ghost of a recently-deceased parishioner, who is unable to move on because he refused to assign her a penance the last time she came to confession. (Not because he considered her beyond absolution, but because he's a progressive-minded post-Vatican II priest and didn't think the transgression she was confessing to counted as a sin requiring absolution in the first place.)
- The Constant: "Salvage and Demolition" involves a Stable Time Loop connecting a day in 1957 with a day in 2012, and features a number of Constants, including an agent of The Conspiracy who appears as a young man in 1957 and an old man in 2012, and a box of assorted junk which contains the MacGuffin that the conspiracy is trying to get its hands on.
- 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.
- Cruel Mercy: In "Down and Out in Purgatory", the protagonist abandons his plan to kill his enemy Deader Than Dead when he realizes the man is terrified of the judgment that awaits him in the afterlife and would welcome oblivion as an escape from it.
- Deader Than Dead: In "Down and Out in Purgatory", the protagonist is out for revenge on the man who murdered his love interest, and when the man cheats him of his revenge by dying, follows him into the afterlife with the goal of killing his soul deader than dead.
- 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.
- Fisher King: The legend of the Fisher King is central to Last Call and its sequel Earthquake Weather. It is also mentioned in Expiration Date, which forms 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.
- Have We Met Yet?: In "Salvage and Demolition", the protagonist is mysteriously transported to the past three times, each time earlier than before. Along the way, he has two encounters with a woman who's also connected to the story's MacGuffin, with reciprocal versions of the "This is the first you've met me, but you'll meet me again later and then it will be the first time I've met you" conversation.
- I Know Your True Name: In "Down and Out in Purgatory", the dead use nicknames, because a person's true name can be used against them by another dead person or by a living spiritualist. Played with when the protagonist attempts to locate his dead love interest using her true name, and it completely fails at first because he always thinks of her by her maiden name, as she was when he first knew her; it works when he switches to using the name of the married woman she had become when she died.
- Loving a Shadow: The protagonist of "Down and Out in Purgatory" spent his whole adult life devoted to a woman who he never had a chance with, and eventually died for her sake. When they meet in the afterlife, she suggests that he wasn't really interested in her as a person, only as an unattainable goal.
- Meaningful Name: In "Down and Out in Purgatory", the overseer of the purgatory, who helps the inhabitants move on into the afterlife, is called Hubcap Pete; he has some characteristics in common with Saint Peter, who is said to stand at the gates of heaven welcoming people in. It's explicitly not the name he was known by in the living world, so he may have chosen it deliberately for the resonance.
- 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 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.
- 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.
- Split Personality: The female lead in Earthquake Weather suffered a trauma in her childhood that has resulted in her having over a dozen different personalities, some of whom like the male lead more than others and one of whom is an actual ghost that attempted to possess her, initiating the fracturing that produced the others.
- Stable Time Loop: Powers's default model of time travel, with only Three Days to Never standing as a significant exception.
- 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.