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Birthday Reviews: Tim Powers’s “Through and Through”

Thursday, March 1st, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Phil Parks

Cover by Phil Parks

While 2018 isn’t a leap year, that doesn’t stop us from celebrating authors with that very particular birthday.

Tim Powers was born on February 29, 1952. Other authors who were born on leap day include Patricia McKillip, Howard Tayler, and Sharon Webb. Powers has frequently collaborated with James P. Blaylock, occasionally using the joint pseudonym William Ashbless, which is not only a pseudonym, but a poet both authors have referred to in their works.

Powers has won the Philip K. Dick Award for his novels The Anubis Gates and Dinner at Deviant’s Palace. His novels Last Call and Declare have won the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel and he won the Collection award for The Bible Repairman and Other Stories. Anubis Gates also won the Prix Apollo and Geffen Award, Declare earned Powers an International Horror Guild Award, and The Stress of Her Regard won a Mythopoeic Award and Ignotus Award. A translation of the story “A Soul in a Bottle” won the Xatafi-Cyberdark Award. In 2014, LASFS recognized Powers with the Forry Award.

In 2003, Subterranean Press published an anthology by Tim Powers and James P. Blaylock called The Devils in the Details, which contained a story by each author and a collaborative effort. Powers contributed “Through and Through.” The story was included in his collection Strange Itineraries and again in Down and Out in Purgatory: The Collected Stories of Tim Powers.

“Through and Through” tells the tale of a priest doing a stint in the Confessional shortly after a woman committed suicide in his church. He had received her confession, but was unable to give her absolution. A week after her funeral, she returns to receive the penance he refused her the first time.

In other hands, the priest might have suffered from a crisis of faith, however Powers priest is grounded in the secular world, while easily accepting that the woman’s ghost can be in the confession. At the same time, he is trying to balance the changes that have been introduced to the traditional priesthood and sacraments he embraces, and those the Church is currently promoting.

The story creates an interesting tension between two conflicting worldviews, one which espousing the doctrines of the Church, even if the priest doesn’t appear to believe in the more spiritual aspects of the religion, and a world in which ghosts exist.

Reviewed in its original publication in the anthology Devil in the Details, edited by Tim Powers and James P. Blaylock, Subterranean Press, 2003.


Steven H Silver-largeSteven H Silver is a fifteen-time Hugo Award nominee and was the publisher of the Hugo-nominated fanzine Argentus as well as the editor and publisher of ISFiC Press for 8 years. He has also edited books for DAW and NESFA Press. He began publishing short fiction in 2008 and his most recently published story is “Big White Men—Attack!” in Little Green Men—Attack! Steven has chaired the first Midwest Construction, Windycon three times, and the SFWA Nebula Conference 5 times, as well as serving as the Event Coordinator for SFWA. He was programming chair for Chicon 2000 and Vice Chair of Chicon 7. He has been the news editor for SF Site since 2002.

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