Interview with fantasy writer Tim Powers about being a "secret historian"



I wish Powers had been saying this back when I was wanting to be a writer.

“Declare” is one of my favorite books, for pulling back the curtain and showing an explanation for the world I’d never imagined. It mixes WWII spy story, Lawrence of Arabia, 1001 Nights, Kim, modern horror/fantasy and more. If you like any of the genres I listed, or, say, Stross’ Laundry books, or F Paul Wilson’s Repairman Jack, you’re likely to love this.


Absolutely. I’m kind of obsessed with Kim Philby and read a number of non-fiction accounts of his double-agent career. The thing is, “Declare” actually makes more sense at explaining why people did what they did than the real story, the ideal result of any “secret history” story. Powers has done other good secret histories (“Last Call” did it for Bugsy Siegel and the founding of Las Vegas), but “Declare” is probably his masterpiece.

I am Gilbert Wham and I endorse Tim Powers’ works. I’m just re-reading ‘The Stress Of Her Regard’, after reading the sequel, and wondering why the hell it’s never been picked up by HBO or the like to make an awesome vampire series. It’d kick the arse of all the other turgid supernatural bollocks that’s been done. Bah.

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Declare was great. I actually haven’t read anything else he wrote. I picked up one book after Declare, (I don’t remember which one) and was so bored I didn’t make it more than about fifty pages. Can anyone recommend any other of his books that are more on the level of Declare?

My favorite secret historian is Procopius.

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It depends what you want. Probably his most famous (and quite good) book is “The Anubis Gates”, but it is quite different from “Declare”, being more about time travel and the British poets Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Lord Byron. “Last Call” (about the secret history of Las Vegas) is probably the closest to “Declare” in tone. I didn’t care much for “Earthquake Weather”, which tries to do the same thing for the California wine industry, though.

Now that you mentioned it, “Earthquake Weather” was the one that I quit reading and tossed in the garbage.

Similarly, I went on a big Powers kick, reading all his stuff I could find (Anubis Gates, Declare, Last Call), until I hit Earthquake Weather. It put me off his work for years, until a friend shoved The Drawing Of The Dark into my hands.

I agree with the others. I’ve read most of his books and “Earthquake Weather” was the one I almost didn’t finish. It’s somewhat of a sequel to “Last Call” and “Expiration Date” which were much superior. As for what to read next, I’d recommend “Dinner at Deviant’s Palace” if you like sci-fi and “On Stranger Tides” if you like nautical stuff.

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