Taking another break from award winners, here’s a look at novels published in 1979 that did not win any awards.
C.J. Cherryh published Hestia, a stand-alone about an engineer, Sam Merrit, who travels to the title planet to build a damn to help the human colonists. Upon arrival, Merrit realizes that the dam will not only prove to be the panacea that is sought, but would also destroy the local indigenous species. Cherryh uses the novel to explore personal and ecological responsibility and the sense of entitlement the colonists have.
Jerry Pournelle’s novel Janissearies is the first of the similarly titled trilogy, although it is also set in the wider world of his Co-Dominium universe that began with his novel King David’s Starship. The novel follows a group of American soldiers who have been rescued from an ambush in Africa and given the chance to put their talents to use in a medieval level society among the stars. Although Pournelle’s main character faced mutiny, he wins through in the end, establishing himself as the undisputed leader of the force.
Kindred, Octavia E. Butler’s time travel novel that shuffles Dana, a twentieth century African-American author, between her own time and the antebellum South was published in 1979. The novel offers a look at the sort of compromises Dana must make to survive as a slave as be able to continue to exist in her own time. Butler offers a complex view of slavery and race relations in the novel, partly because of the way she has caused Dana’s own existence and fate to be entwined with that of Rufus, the plantation owner. …
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.
Extolling the virtues of Tim Powers to this audience is probably preaching to the choir, but if you haven’t yet read On Stranger Tides, get thee to Amazon. It was the first Powers I ever read. It’s still my favorite.
The fourth Pirates of the Caribbean movie, neither based nor inspired but rather “suggested by the novel by Tim Powers,” is so-so. It has a clumsy first act, full of cameos and nudge-nudge references to the original film; and the leaden action and fighting choreography is wound into slow-motion by the editing. The biggest problem is POV: the story shouldn’t have had Jack as the main character but rather should have, like Curse of the Black Pearl, focused on the straight man (here, the missionary Philip) whose path intersects with Sparrow’s. That said, it’s not as bad as some of the reviews say. I found the mermaid sequence in Whitecap Bay delightful and I’ll gladly pay $9 to watch Geoffrey Rush channel Robert Newton (or to listen to Penelope Cruz’s accent) anytime. The film’s biggest stars are actually the percussive guitars of Rodrigo Y Gabriela who, along with Hans Zimmer, give the score a Spanish Main emotion missing from the previous installments.
If only the filmmakers had adapted Powers whole cloth! In the 1987 novel, 18th-century puppeteer John Chandagnac — or Jack Shandy, as he becomes known — accidentally falls in with pirates and thereby enters a heretofore unknown world of sorcery and West African animism. The buccaneers of the Caribbean, it turns out, are magicians who can manipulate spirits. Blackbeard himself is a master warlock, but having become infested with vodun loas, must seek out the Fountain of Youth to banish them; he keeps them at bay by drinking gunpowder and burning slow matches in his hair. And he’s not even the main antagonist. Shandy must meanwhile race to save his love from a horrific plot involving zombies and body swapping.