I’ve had a long history reading Tim Powers.
Turn on the wayback machine: view a picture of a teenage girl just at the cusp of a golden age (12) for reading science fiction.
I was just drifting away from reading horror (having devoured Lovecraft, Poe, Straub, and King), and was rediscovering my love of mythology. I was weaned on the d'Aulaires, and to my delight, I found that there had been a minor renaissance of mythology-based science fiction and fantasy. Springer, Walton, Petaja, and Zelazny became my boon companions, when I stumbled across an Egyptian-themed work that seemed fairly interesting: The Anubis Gates, by Tim Powers.
I spent the afternoon completely glued to the book, unable to put it down until I had finished it. Powers has a way with words, and he can spin a tale so all-encompassing, that you can lose yourself with reading his prose. With that book, he had a convert in me, and I’ve been reading his books on first publication ever since, even when those first publications proved to be difficult to track down.
Powers was my gateway drug into limited edition collecting. As of The Stress of Her Regard, first publication frequently meant buying a limited numbered or lettered edition. I wasn’t really able to start affording these until I hit college, but I jumped on the limited edition bandwagon with the Ziesing publication of The Anubis Gates and haven’t much looked back. Powers did not publish very frequently, and I had the “cannot wait a year for mass market” syndrome in a very big way.
As I started to be able to afford them, additional states of the various books became very, very attractive. Ostensibly, at first, I needed to have spare paperbacks on hand, so I could loan them out to friends. Of course, I realized that perhaps I simply liked having alternate states on my shelves, particularly if those states involved different art, or slightly different text. To this end, I started tracking down numbered limited edition states that I wasn’t able to get at initial publication (The Hypatia editions of Drawing of the Dark, Charnel House editions of Last Call and Stress of Her Regard), I also reread Powers frequently, necessitating buying replacement versions to read when the original paperbacks became damaged.
That would have been enough for starters, but I have been lucky enough to see Powers on a handful of occasions, and have asked him to inscribe the various books in my collection. He is an inveterate doodler, and will frequently draw little snippets as well as write inscriptions.
Fun tidbit: Powers signs works in person upside down. Presigned-to-publication editions will have the signature right-side up, as Powers can sign the signature sheets before they are bound.
Note: if you wish to read other tidbits, or if you are interested in collecting Powers at all, then you really must read übercollector John Berlyne’s utterly amazing bibliography: Secret Histories (a collectible itself!) He details all of the various states of the books, including the limiteds (in lettered and numbered states), foreign editions, mass markets, and covers all of the tidbits and details. (Preview it here.)
Someday, I may even be able to afford some of the lettered states that Berlyne teasingly shows in this book: the Charnel House Lettered State of The Stress of Her Regard (with each of the 26 being bound in a different colored leather) or the Charnel House Lettered State of Last Call (with each of the 26 featuring a different Tarot card on the cover!)
In the future: I may have to stop collecting the limited editions, as they are getting dearer and dearer on initial publication, or at least budget for only the novels. I had to skip Deliver Us from Evil and A Time to Cast Away Stones due to the cost. I did manage to pick up the latest book, Hide Me Among the Graves, but with initial publication costs at $350 and rising, collecting Powers is becoming increasingly expensive.
Regardless of what level you wish to begin collecting Powers, you should at least be reading him. He makes historical poets come alive, and will show you the histories that the textbooks won’t include. Give him a read… you won’t regret it!
Arin’s Top 5 Recommended Powers Reading List:
- Last Call
- The Anubis Gates
- The Stress of Her Regard
- Dinner at Deviant’s Palace
Arin Komins is personally responsible for hooking a lot of nice people on the drug that is book collecting [Editor: like me!]. With her husband, Rich, she runs Starfarer's Despatch, an independent online bookshop specialising in "previously-loved" science fiction and fantasy books. If you're looking to start a Powers collection of your very own...