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Older rants
September 9, 2018   Perimeter - an eBook thriller
September 3, 2018   Take Back the Sky Starcraft Evolution
August 11, 2018   Idaho Dunes Awesome soda Ethanol-free gas an awesome Bald Guy card Our rough dig Harry Potter Interlude story
July 21, 2018   The Cup in the Shadows (The Forbidden Powers Book 1)
June 24, 2018   Jake, Lucid Dreamer
June 13, 2018   Troll-stalking
May 23, 2018   Another badbartopia email spoofer, A sunny-day Disney adventure, Raymond E Feist book signing
May 15, 2018   A rainy-day Disneyland trip The Bassoon King
Apr 28, 2018   Down and Out in Purgatory
Apr 13, 2018   Operation Hail Storm
Mar 4, 2018   American Exodus
Jan 22, 2018   Christmas, Didn't Get Frazzled, The Sea People, The Rooster Bar, Last Burial Night, Doctor Who and the Krikkit Men
Dec 15, 2017   Mistrial, City of Death and Disneyland
Nov 14, 2017   Grace Vanderwaal - Just the Beginning
Nov 11, 2017   Tim Powers Signing at Mysterious Galaxy for Down and Out in Purgatory
November 4, 2017   Return to Disneyland, Halloween at the office, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, The Long Cosmos Maximus One year After War Dogs, Killing Titan Daddy, Stop Talking
October 29, 2017   Bruce Campbell Signing, Hail to the Chin, Further Confessions of a B Movie Actor
October 20, 2017   Meg & Dia, Imagine Dragons in concert, 2 Years 8 months and 28 Nights
October 17, 2017   All Apologies
October 16, 2017   Thrawn
Septempber 7, 2017   The Rage of Dragons, The Lincoln Myth
August 10, 2017   The Molly Ringwalds, Dia Frampton Musical awesomeness, Beauty and the Feast
July 28, 2017   The IT Sweatshop revisited, How to Talk to Girls at Parties, American Gods and The Magicians, Rogue One, Camino Island
July 24, 2017   CRV glovebox difficulties, San Diego Comic Con rant
July 11, 2017   Beauty and the Beast at the Lyceum, Earthweeds, Sons of Neptune Book 1, Aftermath, Empire's End, If Chin's Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor
June 30, 2017   Eastwood: No Direction Home book 2
June 23, 2017   Excellent Adventures on the PCH (part 4/4) - The PCH family vacation tale concludes, my new record, record player, and Emeli's site is live!
Jun 14, 2017   A noteworthy eBook mention before I return to my vacation ranting - No Direction Home
June 9, 2017   Excellent Adventures on the PCH (part 3/4) - The PCH family vacation tale concludes...almost. More pictures of spooky old houses, trees, rocks, and other things that nobody cares about! Plus, Goonies stuff
June 2, 2017   Excellent Adventures on the PCH (part 2/4) - The PCH family vacation tale continues... And more pictures of trees and other things that nobody cares about!
May 31, 2017   Excellent Adventures on the PCH (part 1/4) - Way more detail than anyone wants about our vacation up the coast of California and Oregon. And lots of pictures of trees!
Apr 26, 2017   Resurrection America, Pizza Studio art, AmandaLynn, Emeli art, and Disney art, and Gifted
Apr 14, 2017   My San Fransisco OSI PI adventure & "Thanks for the Money: How to Use My Life Story to Become the Best Joel McHale You Can Be"
Apr 12, 2017   Neil Gaiman speaks, Norse Mythology, American Gods comic adaptation, The Magicians TV series, and Dirk Gently on TV
Feb 2, 2017   A trip to the ever-less-magical land of Disney, The Prince of Outcasts, the Whistler, and a brief mention of The Magicians.
Jan 21, 2017   An update to my nerd wall at work, Found out about Richard Thompson (Cul De Sac) being gone, A list of all the stuff (or most, anyway) I've given up to new homes, A review of Dave! and Warp, and a couple of new doodles.
Dec 23, 2016   My final visit to Potterland and a couple of doodles
Dec 11, 2016   Books and related comics, and free/cheap stuff. Not taco Bell Material, President Me, A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms, The Hedge Knight (comic), The Sworn Sword (comic) Ooma, Ringplus, Amazon prime and other money-saving stuff.
Dec 4, 2016   I'm sharing my sad doodles with the world again. They're not very good, but I'll bet they're better than your scribbles!
Nov 12, 2016   Yet another trip to The Wonderful World of Harry Potter!
Nov 7, 2016   Blathering on about a few of the books I've read recently - Spire, The Check, and Dangercide, Pirate Detective
Oct 7, 2016   Yet another Visit to Harry Potterland. Oh, and my lease-mileage calculator.
July 25, 2016   Another Visit to Harry Potterland, a new car, a new shirt, a new dog, and a whole lot of the same old complaining
May 17, 2016   Email spoofers, Phishing emails, and scammers galore!
Apr 30, 2016   Winter's Edge and a Management zombie attack
Apr 23, 2016   Harry Potter land re-visited
Apr 9, 2016   Xenia...again
Apr 2, 2016   Sing Street, Batman vs Superman, Craigslist griping
Mar 1, 2016   The Wizarding World of Harry Potter Hollywood preview, fun at work, Xenia's new song, A Vanishing Glow, Our Fair Eden, Race Wars, The Force Awakens
Jan 27, 2016   Text Wars, Books I've read... Yup, that's pretty much it
Jul 30, 2015   Xenia Martinez news Still selling stuff on eBay, Hyperbole and a Half (the book), The Path Between the Seas, Trigger Warning, In Fifty years We'll all Be Chicks
Mar 17, 2015   Selling my treasures on eBay, Hyperbole and a Half, the Long Mars, Gray Mountain, Anathem, The Golden Princess, The Given Sacrifice
Mar 12, 2015   You'll be sorely missed, Sir Terry
Jan 21, 2015   More BBC 4 radio dramatizations by Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett: The Amazing Maurice, Guards! Guards!, Neverwhere, Night Watch, Small Gods, Wyrd Sisters
Jan 10, 2015   JabberWocky, Neil Gaiman style!
Dec 24, 2014   The Good Omens BBC treatment
Aug 03, 2014   Every hobby has to end eventually, right?
Oct 8, 2013   Warning: Extreme Geekness ahead!
Oct 1, 2013   The Bloody Crown of iGoogle
Aug 26, 2013   Headphones at work
Aug 22, 2013   The guvmint is gonna getcha
June 25, 2013   Dweebs vs Big Bang vs IT Crowd
Jul 3, 2012   Xenia Martinez & Dia Frampton concert
Feb 24, 2012   Reading...just not much
The Reluctant Fundamentalist
Being an idiot with Lev Grossman
Jan 7, 2012   If it ain't broke...
Aug 22, 2011   non-ComicCon report 2011
A Thousand Splendid Suns
An Act of Self Defense
May 5, 2011   On Stranger Tides
vs.
On Stranger Tides
March 2, 2011   I'm a gigantic slacker...
Ikariam
Wild Guns
Lord of Ultima
Metin 2
Lord of the Rings Online
Dec 15, 2010   Bring out your dead!
Aug 17, 2010   San DiegoComicCon 2010
August 11, 2010   I'm not dead yet...
May 3, 2010   Hero Comics
Liberty Comics
Dr Horrible
Neil Gaiman & Sam Keith in Batman
The Guild, Felicia Day
April 27, 2010   Mean Gene Wilder! Grrr!!!
April 24, 2010   If it's not one Jihad, it's another...
April 20, 2010   The Satanic Verses
March 15, 2010   Unseen Academicals
Feblueberry 8, 2010   The un-reading shelf (from most of 2009)
Feblueberry 2, 2010   Emily the Strange, the Lost Days...a novel
Nov 25, 2009   Happy Halloween, Mom!
Nov 18, 2009   Summer Vacation in Idaho
Aug 20, 2009   San Diego ComicCon 2009
Aug 12, 2009   I'm a big, fat slacker
June 05, 2009   The networks are helping me cut back on my TV viewing
June 04, 2009   Mandy Moore's Amanda Leigh,
Chris Isaak's Mr Lucky
and
My name is Bruce?
and Emmy Rossum? Where am I going with this?
May 21, 2009   Randy would have really liked Fanboys...sigh
May 3, 2009   The Spring reading shelf
Apr 21, 2009   Holidays On Ice (a little late for Christmas)
Apr 18, 2009   Leviticus Cross and other Hector Sevilla comic book stuff
Apr 16, 2009   The fantastically amazing and banal Badbartopia RSS Feed
Mar 31, 2009   Neil Gaiman's Blueberry Girl
Mar 30, 2009   My Amazon mis-order turns out to be not so annoying as previously expected...
(AKA the Dr Horrible soundtrack)
Mar 23, 2009   Stephan Pastis & Richard Thompson have me looking forward to the 2009 SD ComicCon
Mar 19, 2009   Dr Horrible's Sing-Along Blog,
The Guild
Mar 08, 2009   The Wonderful Wizard of Oz comic adaptation,
Neil Gaiman's Sandman: The Dream Hunters
Mar 04, 2009   Little Brother
Mar 1, 2009   Pete & Pickles
Feb 11, 2009   She & Him
Flakes
Pushing Daisies
Jan 26, 2009   The Scourge of God,
When You are Engulfed in Flames
Jan 14, 2009   On the Road = hippy nonsense
Jan 12, 2009   One-by-one, my fish have met their maker
Dec 26, 2008   My Azeroth-avoidance continues
Dec 23, 2008   Nothing to see...move along
Dec 15, 2008   New scribbles
Dec 10, 2008   The Oct-Nov-Dec reading shelf
Dec 1, 2008   Shalimar the Clown
the economic impact of the events in Mumbai
Nov 21, 2008   Star Wars: Allegiance
Nov 20, 2008   Daredevil Black Widow: Abattoir
Nov 17, 2008   Travel Team
Nov 16, 2008   A new comic adaptation of The Wizard of Oz
Nov 14, 2008   Berke's Books:
The Last Basselope
Edward Fudwupper Fibbed Big
Mars Needs Moms
Opus: 25 years
Nov 13, 2008   Return to Azeroth?
Nov 12, 2008   Goodbye, Opus
Oct 29, 2008   Halloween costumes of 2008
Project Superpowers
Marvels
Ruins
Oct 23, 2008   The Graveyard Book
Interworld
Oct 16, 2008   Nation
Oct 10, 2008   The Joy of Programming
My foray into Ajax
Oct 9, 2008   My Saturn Scare
Opus ends
Terry Pratchett's condition
Oct 3, 2008   The Hitchhiker's Guide, Book 6...by Eoin Colfer?
Oct 2, 2008   Media master - music online
Sony builds a "better" camera
Sept 24, 2008   The September reading shelf
Sept 17, 2008   Still missing Randall
The Fish tank...again
The Graveyard Book
Sept 15, 2008   Slacking...as usual
The Sasquatch Dumpling Gang
Sept 9, 2008   The dearth of Opus strips
yes, I meant to say "dearth"
Sept 8, 2008   A new monitor goes bad...but it all ends happily
Sept 3, 2008   A Boy and His Dog,
Richard Corben,
H.P. Lovecraft's Haunt of Horror
Sept 2, 2008   A slightly newish look
(aka "why I will never be a graphic designer")
Aug 11, 2008   Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull in all its incarnations Mike Kunkel's re-imagining of Shazam
July 29, 2008   San Diego Comiccon 2008
July 24, 2008   Neil Gaiman
July 17, 2008   Chris Isaak!
June 30, 2008   The Woman Who Wouldn't
Legends II
Mouse Guard Fall 1152
the Jetta's latest round of repairs
fishtank overpopulation
June 10, 2008   The Reading Shelf
Fish tank jungle
Attack of the bees
June 3, 2008   Missing Randall
May 9, 2008   My French Whore
Apr 28, 2008   Fish tank fatality
Flight of the Conchords
The Dangerous Alphabet
Mar 5, 2008   Gene Wilder book signing at Borders
new fish tank
subpoenaed!
Jan 11, 2008   The Jetta Strikes back!
The Plucker
The Anubis Gates
National Treasure II
Nov 8, 2007   San Diego on Fire,
A clean break from WoW,
UCSD Extension Java I graduation (kinda)
Making Money
Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim
Oct 2, 2007   Back to school, Java class at UCSD
AT&T's Uverse
new sketches
Blockbuster movie pass
August 28, 2007   Mandy Moore concert!
Aug 19, 2007   ComicCon 2007 - Neil Gaiman, Iron Man and all the usual suspects
May 22, 2007   World of Spamcraft (and other spamalicious topics), forum fun...gus, the woes of being a contractor and PIRATES!!
Apr 5, 2007   I'm a conservative - bite me!
Timbaland? Dumb!
Marie Antoinette - snaggle teeth and teasing glimpes. Sweet!
John Q - a lesson about fatherhood or a liberal-propoganda film?
Mar 30, 2007   Things that make me grumpy-er,
employed again at last,
Finn and assorted other ramblings
Feb 8, 2007   The search for employment continues..and the unemployment benefits are NOT pouring in!
Jan, 22, 2007   Freed from the bondage of employment, a very brief review of a few books and films
Dec 17, 2006   Sad excuses, The Innocent Man, 1776, THe Man in High Castle, Absolute Sandman, Wintersmith, garage sale treasures: Ghost in the Machine
Aug 20, 2006   Writers of the Future XXII/Tim Powers, more movie reivews
July 20, 2006   San Diego ComicCon 2006
July 15, 2006   Superman Returns, inconsiderate morons, Peewee's Playhouse returns, my plea for more pirate movies
July 8, 2006   Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, Wild Animal Park critters, site remodeling
Jun 27, 2006   The good, the bad and the mediocre (a bunch of movie reviews in the new forum).
June 15, 2006   Because of Romek - A Holocaust Survivor's Memoir
May 21, 2006   The DaVinci Code, Aeon Flux, Everything You Want
May 12, 2006   World of Warcrack, the Office, Coraline, my apologies...
Jan 24, 2006   Christmas Vacation 2006, Syriana, Traveling Pants, Wish You Were Here
Dec 19, 2005   Festive Neighbors, the death of Olivia, Media Misinformation surrounding Brent Wilkes/ADCS, Make Love the bruce campbell way
Nov 15, 2005   Microsoft Technet 2005 launch party, Lexmark printer problem, a bad, bad day, changing dentists.
Oct 22, 2005   Thud!, Anansi Boys, Where's my cow
Oct 18, 2005   Terry Pratchet Thud! signing, Neil Gaiman Anansi Boys signing
Oct 15, 2005   A very, very late Comiccon 2005 report.
Jun 23, 2005   The black hole of Warcraft, The Years of Rice and Salt, After the Sunset, Madagascar, Mr and Mrs Smith, Taxi.
Jun 3, 2005   All is quiet on the PM Front, War of the Worlds (the novel), Kingdom of Heaven, Sahara, Star Wars Episode III, Flight of the Phoenix
May 9, 2005   The program managers strike again, More of my horrendous sketches, Spanglish, A Lot Like Love, Elektra, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (the film)
Apr 9, 2005   Stuck in Corporate Hell, a few of my recent sketches, Miss Congeniality 2, Collateral
Mar 21, 2005   Revenge of the Jetta (car problems), a Newegg purchase, a few new drawings, more Opus
Feb 13, 2005   The Mail mystery solved, more of my crappy sketches, A few new photos of the girls, bill-bert (introducing the new Project Manager), sweet phone skills, Opus, Dungeons and Dragons, In Good Company
Jan 27, 2005   Mystery mail, new photos of my beautiful kids, some new sketches, an Episode 3 spoiler, Opus, Going Postal, The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, Ubik, Remember the Titans, Lemony Snicket`s A Series of Unfortunate Events, Dodgeball
Jan 7, 2005   Christmas 2004, Update to the site, Elf & King Arthur revisited, National Treasure, Opus, Blade Runner
Dec 18, 2004   A new Stephanie sketch, another Target web page goof, the SD Union Tribune confirms Greg Bear`s research for Vitals, Miramar VW proves my dealer service assertions wrong, neighborhood Christmas fun, Opus
Nov 24, 2004   More of my mediocre drawings, nw russian mail-order coins, Star Wars toys, a big green spider comes to visit, Opus, Dies the Fire, Digital fortress, The Incredibles, Twisted, Van Helsing
Nov 03, 2004   Some thoughts regarding the 2004 election, rants about the environment, a memory rebate update, new computer issues, Opus, The Lone Drow, Deception Point, Roswell season 2 on DVD
Oct 12, 2004   An interesting quiz, mal-in rebates, a parrot joke, my new computer, thoughts on frame removal, web logs, Opus, Vitals, Star Wars trilogy on DVD, Ladykillers
Sep 23, 2004   My "Heath" sketch for Mark Oakley, an update on my a PNY rebate check, the fictitious AWNA Act, Browser Issues with the site, Opus/Pickles, The DaVinci Code, Garden State (Natalie Portman), Man on Fire
Sep 11, 2004   A new drawing: "Stephanie", redneck wisdom, my salary to hourly reclassification, funny video: news from iraq, an update on my mail-in pny rebate, a new rebate through Costco, Ella Enchanted, Highlander Endgame, Princess of Thieves, The Whole Ten Yards
Aug 27, 2004   Fun with my VW Warranty, Opus, Harry Potter & The Order of the Phoenix, The Land of SokMunster, The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Wedding, Napoleon Dynamite, Hidalgo, Chasing Liberty, Out of Time
Jul 23, 2004   San Diego ComicCon 2004, the family summer vacation, Bruce Campbell, Opus, Nanny Ogg`s Cookbook, Angels & Demons, Folk of the fringe, Bourne Supremacy, i robot, Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen, Cody Banks 2, Hellboy
Jul 19, 2004   *** PNY Rebate fun, IE Patch, Linux and socialism, liberal scum, Opus, BIM, timeline, master and commander, tad hamilton, stuck on you,cold mountain, 50 first dates, the terminal, spiderman 2, king arthur, a hat full of sky, the thousand orcs, meditations on middle earth
Jun 20, 2004   Memorial day pictures, Duplex, Mark Oakley/Heroes, Wild Animal Park Dinosaurs, B-52s concertman, Say After Tomorrow, Big Fish, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Eragon, A Hat Full of Sky, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
May 08, 2004   Pat Tillman, LOTR Toys, 13 Going on 30, Mean Girls, Tolkien Miscellany, Last Juror, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Pork Tornado
Apr 06, 2004   Roswell season 1 DVD and a some other mindless drivel
Feb 19, 2004   Highlander site contest results, new downloads, princess gallery updates, lord of the rings toys, harry potter, underworld. lost in translation, the hunted, a tolkien miscellany...
Feb 09, 2004   Murder at 1600, Radio, Cheaper by the Dozen, King Arthur, Spiderman 2, Van Helsing, Harry Potter, Tolkien Miscellany, Mark Oakley, massive snow in Idaho...
Jan 28, 2004   Swat, Uptown Girls, Somethings Gotta Give, Along Came Polly, Seabiscuit, Ashley Judd Marathon, Van Helsing, Harry Potter, Science Fiction Bok Club, Nanny Ogg`s Cookbook, RA Salvatore, Mythology (Alex Ross), Fastner & Larson, Best page in the universe, etc, etc...
Jan 07, 2004   Clint`s rules, X-Men 2, Holes, Pirates, Two Towers, Freaky Friday (Haley Hudson), new drawings, Thieves` World, Playskool Star Wars, new Interest section
Jan 02, 2004   nothing all that interesting...
Dec 21, 2003   Nemo, Highlander page, Christmas vacation 2003, star wars kid
Dec 12, 2003   E.T. (Erika Eleniak), new drawings, Opus, Santa Claus 2 (Elizabeth Mitchell), Legolas toy/pics, How to Deal (Mandy Moore), Myth update, Last Samurai
Nov 27, 2003   Another Fine Myth, Elf
Nov 22, 2003   Dude, Where`s Bill & Ted
Nov 18, 2003   Not much to say
Nov 15, 2003   Disneyland, Astronaut`s Wife, Dumer and Dumber-er, Monstrous Regiment
Nov 10, 2003   Terry Pratchett, Matrix Revolutions
110103   School of Rock, Terry Pratchett signing, Darth Vader MBNA bust, San Diego fires
Aug 17, 2003   Johnny English, San Diego Comic-Con
Jun 17, 2003   Assorted ramblings
May 28, 2003   Not much to say
May 24, 2003   Almost nothing of note
May 17, 2003   Matrix Reloaded, Pirates
Mar 23, 2003   The Police, Pirates, Lord of the Rings grievances part II
Mar 16, 2003   Lord of the Rings grievances part 1
Super auld stuff   A big list of old submissions with boat loads of broken links

I'm really trying to make at least a modicum of effort to share my impressions for any book I've read now. Not that I think anyone else cares what I think - but I've found it useful for reference to see what a book was about or approximately when I read it. That said, here's a long overdue look at Down and Out in Purgatory.

Down and Out in Purgatory the Collected Stories of Tim Powers

I stumbled across a Tim Powers novella called Down and Out in Purgatory on Amazon a little over a year ago. It was a hardcover and I didn't notice the length of the book in the Amazon listing so I was surprised when the book arrived and it was a lot smaller than I expected (both the length and the physical dimensions of the book). As I recall, it didn't cost as much as a full-sized hardcover so that assuaged any disappointment or annoyance I may have felt.

This isn't a commentary on that little novella of a book.

But, before I continue, I did want to mention that Tim Powers signed both books with his own trademark upside-down title page personalization. So that's fun.



A year or so later, I became aware of another Down and Out in Purgatory (also a Tim Powers book) when I received an email about the Tim Powers signing for Down and Out in Purgatory at the Mysterious Galaxy book store. This version of the book is confusingly a collection of short stories with the same title as the earlier novella. The novella mentioned above is actually one of the many stories contained within the collection. After purchasing the book for the signing (and taking both versions of Down and Out in Purgatory to be signed), it took me a couple of months to get around to reading the collected version (I'd read the novella long before) because I had a bunch of less-imposing books on the reading shelf that had been there longer. Many are still there. And have new neighbors as I've been routinely adding new books to the shelf. But enough about my overloaded reading shelf and on to the stories of Down and Out in Purgatory...

The supernatural plays some part in just about every Tim Powers story I've ever read (sadly, the many Tim Powers books I've read are beginning to blend in my memory with the many non-Tim Powers stories I've read, so even though all of TP's stories probably do involve the supernatural, my defective brain can't commit to that statement). The short stories of Down and Out in Purgatory amp that up. A lot. Most of the stories involve ghosts in one way or another - the title story included. One of my favorite stories in the collection, The Way Down the Hill, is more of a non-traditional vampire story (not the neck-biting variety of cross-fearing night walker) set in some vague not-too-far-in-the-future time - judging by the robot in the story. The story reminded me of Highlander in a weird way. And also a little of the gods from Norse mythology.

All the stories in the collection are good, but my biggest problem with short stories is that they're over by the time I start to figure out who everyone in the story is and why I should care. So I'll never love a short story that doesn't include characters I'm already familiar with1 (one of the short stories, Nobody's Home, involves characters from The Anubis Gates, but I've either never read that book or I read it so long ago that I've forgotten the characters because they weren't very familiar to me). Making each short story even more interesting is a note from Tim Powers at the end of each story that details what inspired the story.

Here's a breakdown of the collection's stories (from Amazon - these are not my summaries and some are more accurate than others):

  • Salvage and Demolition: A book collector discovers a manuscript that results in a time traveling adventure to save the world.
  • The Bible Repairman: A psychic handyman, who is currently semi-retired and paid to eliminate troublesome passages of the Bible, is asked to return to the work he used to do and save the kidnapped ghost of another man's daughter.
  • Appointment of Sunset: A group of men try to change the past and save one man's life by making the ghosts of anyone who interacted with him, in any way, relive the events on his death day to change the present. But saving him is just a side-effect of what they're really planning...
  • The Better Boy (with James P. Blaylock): "A scaled-down horticultural version of Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea, with a tomato instead of a marlin."
  • PAT MOORE: A chain-mail letter promising good luck after you send it on to ten friends is more sinister than it seems.
  • THE WAY DOWN THE HILL: A we'd-all-be-better-off-dead story about a family of immortals who jump from one host to another.
  • ITINERARY: a time traveling ghost story.
  • A JOURNEY OF ONLY TWO PACES: A man settles an old friend's estate which requires a trip to a strange apartment building.
  • THE HOUR OF BABEL: A group of men need help time-traveling to June 21,1975, the night when "God vomited on Firehouse Pizza."
  • WHERE THEY ARE HID: Inspired by the Fritz Leiber novella, "You're All Alone." A chrono-jumper has undisclosed plans.
  • WE TRAVERSE AFAR with James P. Blaylock: A grieving man has an encounter during the Christmas season.
  • THROUGH AND THROUGH: A ghost comes to a confessional and wants absolution from the priest.
  • NIGHT MOVES: An imaginary playmate tracks down a boy, no matter where he moves.
  • DISPENSATION: two men encounter kittens and a ghost.
  • A SOUL IN A BOTTLE: A man meets a ghost - and falls in love with her.
  • PARALLEL LINES: The surviving elderly sister grieves the loss of her twin, who is trying to communicate with her.
  • FIFTY CENTS with James P. Blaylock: A man is searching used book stores for a particular book when he encounters some supernatural trouble.
  • NOBODY'S HOME: A prequel for the character of Jacky Snapp from the novel The Anubis Gates.
  • A TIME TO CAST AWAY STONES: A story about Edward Trelawny, a real historical figure; "a liar who eventually came to believe his own melodramatic fabulations."
  • DOWN AND OUT IN PURGATORY: A man vows to kill the man who murdered the woman he worshiped from afar.
  • SUFFICIENT UNTO THE DAY: A family's Thanksgiving feast takes a dark turn as the invited ghosts of relatives past accidentally draw soul-stealing demons into the family television set.

I'm not really drawn to horror. I've never read Dean Koontz and the only Stephen King novels I've read have been his non-horror efforts: The Stand, Cell, several of the Dark Tower books, and The Eyes of the Dragon. Even though Neil Gaiman's books are a little sinister and scary-ish, I wouldn't consider any of them "horror." And to be honest, despite the prevalence of the supernatural and ghosts, this is less of a collection of horror" stories than just a collection of really well-told stories. For me, it really comes down to an author's skill with stringing words together, fleshing out characters and story lines, and keeping me engaged. Tim Powers is definitely an adept story-teller who can engage the reader even if the content isn't exactly in their wheelhouse. That said, some of the short stories in the book were more enjoyable to me than others - The Way Down the Hill, Nobody's Home, and A Soul in a Bottle were my favorites.

Here's a brief excerpt from The Way Down the Hill that introduces you to some of the characters and the creepy world they live in.

I shrugged. "If a thing's worth doing, it's worth doing thoroughly," I allowed.

Archie looked across the room and got to his feet. "Ah, I see Vogel is out of akvavit. Excuse me."

Most of us choose to die at about fifty, to ride the best years out of a body and then divorce ourselves from it by means of pills or a bullet or whatever strikes our fancy, so that our unencumbered soul can - though we rarely talk about it - dart through the void to the as yet unfirmly rooted soul of some unborn child, which we hungrily thrust out into the darkness, taking its embryonic body for ourselves. It sounds horrible baldly stated, and there's a mournful ballad called "The Legion of Lost Children," which none of us ever even hums, though we all know it, but it's hard to the point of impossibility to stare into the final, lightless abyss, and feel yourself falling, picking up speed...and not grab the nearest handhold.

Sam Hain, though, seemed to be an exception to this. He was born in mid-1796 and never died once after that, somehow maintaining his now one-hundred-and-eighty-five-year-old body on red wine, sashimi, tobacco and sheer will power. His physical age made him stand out among us even more than the obscurity of his origin did, and being patient, kindly and wise as well, he was elected Master at our 1861 meeting.

Up until then the Master post had meant little, and carried no duties except to provide a house and bountiful food and liquor for the five-yearly meetings. I was Master myself for several decades in the early part of the sixteenth century, and some of the clan never did find out -or even ask - who the host of the meetings was. Sam Hain, though, made changes: for one thing, he arbitrarily changed the date of the meetings from the thirty-first of October to November first; he began to cut back on the several vast, clan-owned corporations that provide us all with allowances; and he encouraged us to get more out of a body, to carry it, as he certainly had, into old age before unseating some unborn child and taking its fresh one. l believe it was Sam, in fact, who first referred to us all as "hermit crabs with the power of eviction."

I looked up from my drink and saw Marcus enter the bar and signal Archie. The alcohol had given me some detachment toward the whole business, and I admitted to myself that Marc had certainly drawn a good body this time-tall and slender, with cascades of lustrous coppery hair. I could no longer be attracted to it, but I could certainly see why I'd been so entranced at the street fair.

It ends confusingly if you haven't read the earlier events of the story, but if you really want to know more, you should just buy and/or read the book.

The author's note at the end of the story gives you a glimpse into the events around the time TP wrote the story, but not much insight into what inspired him.

AUTHOR'S NOTE

This is my first published short story, and it appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in 1982. I'd had three novels published previous to that, and I wasn't intending to write a short story, but George Scithers, editor of Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine at the time, asked if I'd like to do one, so I did. Scithers was also editor of the fanzine Amra, and I'd sporadically had drawings and limericks published in it since I was seventeen.

As it happened, Scithers didn't like "The Way Down the Hill" - he said the world didn't need another we'd-all-be-better-off-dead story - but I thought, Oh, I bet there's room for one more, and I sold it instead to F&SE, and Scithers and I continued to have an amiable relationship.

For Sam Hain's house I was thinking of the Muckenthaler Mansion in Fullerton, California, though for the story I moved it to the Whittier Hills. I had been in an amateur production of Lysistrata at the Muckenthaler in I974 - I played a senator; a role that required me merely to stand in the background and nod or frown - and it struck me as an appropriate place for the old patriarch to live.



Here's another short excerpt, this one from the prequel to The Anubis Gate, called Nobody's Home. There's a brief ghosty-interaction in this excerpt, but it's more subtle than many in the book.

Another false trail.

Her cold hand went to her chest, and under the fabric of her shirt she felt the glass cylinder she wore on a ribbon around her neck. I won't give up, Colin, she thought - I promise.

The umbrella below her was still hopping back and forth on its eight-step course, and it occurred to her that the person holding it might be playing hopscotch, jumping through the pattern of squares in the children's game. Alone, at midnight, in the rain. Jacky had only arrived in the city a couple of weeks ago, but she was sure this must be uncommon.

She pushed her wide-brimmed hat more firmly down onto her cut-short hair and prodded the false moustache glued to her upper lip, then leaned out from the first-floor window ledge to grip the wet drain-pipe by which she had climbed up to this perch; it still felt solidly moored, so she swung out and slid down the cold metal till her boots stopped at a bracket. From here she could stretch a loose-trousered leg sideways onto the granite sill of a ground-floor window, and a moment later she had dropped lightly to the street.

The figure under the umbrella was a girl, facing away now, her wet skirt flapping around her ankles under the hem of a dark coat as she hopped forward on one foot.

Jacky had decided simply to steal away in the other direction, toward the dim silhouette of St. Paul's cathedral dome, when the umbrella abruptly began to glow; in the same moment it was tossed aside and Jacky saw that bright flames had sprung up on the girl's shoulders and in her hair.

Jacky leaped forward and drove her shoulder into the girl's back, and when the girl tumbled forward onto her hands and knees on the wet gravel, Jacky pushed her over sideways and leaned in over the burning coat and tried to roll the girl's head into a puddle. The heat on Jacky's face made her squint and hold her breath, and her hands and wrists were scorching, and the glass vial had fallen out of her shirt and was swinging in the flames.

And another person was crouched beside her, trying to push her hands back; Jacky swung a fist in the person's direction, but it connected with nothing but cold rainy air. Finally she was able to roll the girl over onto her back, extinguishing the coat, and with stinging hands splash water onto the girl's head.

The author's note at the end of the story shows just how little Tim Powers needs to inspire his very fertile imagination.

"He is not here; but far away
The noise of life begins again,
And ghastly through the drizzling rain
On the bald street breaks the blank day."
- Tennyson, In Memoriam
AUTHOR'S NOTE

Bill Schafer at Subterranean Press asked me if there was any story left to be told in connection with the characters and events of my novelThe Anubis Gates - and it occurred to me that the character Jacky Snapp had not got all the attention she deserved, in that novel. So I wrote this personal prequel for her. And since it's a prequel, you don't need to know anything about the novel when you read it.

My wife and I saw the London Stone, on a visit to England, and it's such a disappointment these days that there's almost a kind of rewarding irony to it - it's now just a melon-sized hunk of rock in the window of a convenience store. And it's at ankle level, so to see it you have to crouch down on the sidewalk or go into the store and step behind the magazine rack, and crouch there. If we hadn't been looking for it, we'd no more have noticed it than do the hundreds of Londoners who must walk past this little piece of British history every day.

Almost all Tim Powers stories take place somewhere in California. Most of the seem to be set in the LA area, but at least one in this collection is in the Bay area. A Soul in a Bottle is set right in the heart of Hollywood, which I really enjoyed. If you've been to Hollywood in the past few years, you know just how much of Hollywood's glitter has been rubbed away by the passage of time (and the encroachment of the multitudinous tattoo, t-shirt, and souvenir shops). This story does a great job of combining the awfulness of current-Hollywood and the magic of Hollywood from its golden era.

THE FORECOURT of the Chinese Theater smelled of rain-wet stone and car exhaust, but a faint aroma like pears and cumin seemed to cling to his shirt-collar as he stepped around the clustered tourists, who all appeared to be blinking up at the copper towers above the forecourt wall or Smiling into cameras as they knelt to press their hands into the puddled handprints in the cement paving blocks.

George Sydney gripped his shopping bag under his arm and dug three pennies from his pants pocket.

For the third or fourth time this morning he found himself glancing sharply over his left shoulder, but again there was no one within yards of him. The morning sun was bright on the Roosevelt Hotel across the boulevard, and the clouds were breaking up in the blue sky.

He crouched beside Jean Harlow's square and carefully laid one penny in each of the three round indentations below her incised signature, then wiped his wet fingers on his jacket. The coins wouldn't stay there long, but Sydney always put three fresh ones down whenever he walked past this block of Hollywood Boulevard.

He straightened up and again caught a whiff of pears and cumin, and when he glanced over his left shoulder there was a girl standing right behind him.

At first glance he thought she was a teenager - she was a head shorter than him, and her tangled red hair framed a narrow, freckled face with squinting eyes and a wide, amused mouth.

"Three pennies?" she asked, and her voice was deeper than he would have expected.

The author's note provides a brief glimpse into the inspiration for the characters and events of the story.
AUTHOR'S NOTE

This story originated in my frustration that the poet Edna St. Vincent Millay died two years before I was born. The character Cheyenne Fleming ended up deviating widely from Millay - certainly poor Fleming's sonnet can't hold a candle (lit at both ends or not) to Millay's! But I think Millay was the best sonnetist since Shakespeare, so I guess Fleming shouldn't feel too bad.

My wife and I did encounter a balloon seller one day in the forecourt of the Chinese Theater, and he did snatch a cigarette out of my wife's mouth; the man was wearing a top hat, and she knocked it off. The used-book store, Book City, isn't there anymore, unfortunately. Not in the present, anyway - you can still find it in 2000, if you can get there.

It seems like a shame not to provide entertaining excerpts from more of the stories, but I don't know if anyone would be interested enough to keep going if I did.

I had really planed to talk about the Happiest Place on Earth, a couple of CDs I'd purchased recently, and a few other things, but this is already a way longer rant than anyone could possibly be bothered to read. Even me. So I'll share that stuff next time. Maybe.




1 One that comes to mind is The Monarch of the Glen, a short story in Neil Gaiman's Fragile Things collection - which tells of the further adventures of Shadow from American Gods. Fragile Things is another book I've mentioned a couple of times, but have never really talked about at any length.



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