King of Cups: Rereading Tim Powers’s “Last Call”

Fantasist (and mackerel-snapper, if we're counting) Tim Powers does high-concept tales in which hard-bitten characters struggle to learn to love one another and escape complex, unforgiving systems of magical dark forces. Last Call is probably my second-favorite of his fantasies of salvage--the greatest is Declare aka "the one where demons fight the Cold War"--and as I reread it I loved it even more than I did the first time around. The high concept this time is "war for succession among the gods … [Read more...]

What Are the Right Questions About Catholic Fiction?

Eight thoughts on Dana Gioia's "The Catholic Writer Today." It's a listicle, because we live in a degenerate age. * Look, let me get this out of my system: We all know that First Things publishes basically this same essay once a year, right? Here's me teething on the last one I can remember. Gioia's is the best one I've read so far, but I have read way too many of them, and they all have the same GIANT FRUSTRATING LACUNAE. Stop publishing this article. You've published Gioia's version now and … [Read more...]

Gene Wolfe, from SF writers’ 1987 time-capsule predictions for 2012

The Thumb—Power: America and the U.S.S.R. preserve an uneasy accord, each testing the other's will within well-defined limits. No major nuclear war has taken place. Soviets are more like Americans (and Americans more like Soviets) than anyone else. --read the rest here; Tim Powers's answer sounds eerily like the kind of thing my grandfather would have written! Link is probably via Jesse Walker. And I made the case in that final sentence here! … [Read more...]

From Tim Powers, “Declare”

"My f-f-father--initiated, t-tried to initiate me--into--" He let the sentence trail away. Elena clicked her tongue impatiently. "If you're going to be evasive about the supernatural element of your story, the SDECE is not buying." "Evasive." Philby laughed shortly, aware of the weight of chunky steel on his ankle and wondering if he might ever be faced with the necessity--and have the courage--to turn the gun on himself. "It is v-vaguely shameful, though, isn't it? Didn't you feel that, … [Read more...]

Hot weather, Cold War

I'm one of the people talking about summer reading over at the University Bookman. … [Read more...]


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