Powering an Alternate Past
Zombies, time travel, pirates, Romantic-era poets, Egyptian gods, vampires and the ghost of a famous inventor all color the works of Tim Powers '76 (B.A. English), whose novel "On Stranger Tides" was used as the framework for the fourth "Pirates of the Caribbean" film, released in May 2011.
"On Stranger Tides" featured a band of pirates, the infamous Blackbeard included, seeking out the mythical Fountain of Youth. Disney optioned the book for the big screen, sending Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow along for the ride. "It is great fun," Powers said. "You figure lots of people are hearing about my book that wouldn't otherwise. You get to imagine that maybe Johnny Depp will read it."
Prior to penning tales of buccaneers, Powers, along with friends James Blaylock '72, '74 (B.A., M.A. English) and K.W. Jeter '73 (B.A. sociology), fathered the science fiction sub-genre, steampunk. Steampunk places technology that would not otherwise exist into the Victorian era, powering it with steam, essentially building off of the works of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells.
"When we were writing stories in those days, we wanted to mess around with that era, loosely speaking," Blaylock said. "None of us had the idea that we were writing in some variety of sub-genre."
Steampunk has since exploded in popularity, breaking into movies and television, with conventions hosted all around the world dedicated to the genre.
While at Cal State Fullerton, the three budding authors became great friends with noted author Philip K. Dick. "All of us kind of hung out together," Powers said. "We would get together and drink scotch and smoke cigars, and though you'd think, with Phil Dick, and Blaylock and me and Jeter that it would have been a lot of writing talk, but in fact it was not. Sometimes we'd say, 'Oh hell, I got a rejection letter from Ballantine,' and Phil Dick would always say, 'It's just as well; there are too many books in the world already,' which we'd take comfort from."
The Pollak Library houses part of the Philip K. Dick manuscript collection and all the first editions of his work.
Apart from authoring books, Powers also teaches creative writing to aspiring young writers at Orange County High School for the Arts.